The horror genre for teens is a bit lacking. I constantly recommend the Rot and Ruin series, Anna Dressed in Blood, the Monstrumologist series, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, and Sweet by Emmy Laybourne, but after readers get through those, I’m pretty much out of excellent YA Horror. When I found out the favorite YA romance author, Stephanie Perkins, was writing a horror novel, I was intrigued and cautiously optimistic. I am thrilled to report that I was not disappointed.
One year ago, Makani’s parents forced her to leave her beautiful Hawaiian home and move in with her grandmother in the middle of nowhere, Nebraska. They say it was because of their bitter divorce, but Makani knows it was really because of her involvement in the “incident”. The incident that ended with her in handcuffs. The incident that forced her to change her last name to help protect her identity and give her a chance to start over in a new place. Already haunted by her past, the present gives her something new to worry about as, one by one, her classmates are being murdered in increasingly brutal ways. As Makani and her friends (including her summer hook-up and potential boyfriend, the Mysterious Loner Dude, Ollie) look for patterns in the killer’s victims, Makani begins to fear that not only could she be next but that her secret past could be revealed, as well.
I had the pleasure of attending an event featuring Stephanie Perkins where she explained the answer to the question that all fans of the Anna and the French Kiss series are asking - why write a horror novel??? She explained how ever since she overcame her extreme fear of horror movies while in middle school, she became absolutely obsessed with them. She is now an aficionado of horror films. While pondering what book to write next, after the blockbuster success of AATFK, her friend and fellow author, Kiersten White, told her to write the book she (Perkins) so desperately wanted to read - a horror novel. Not only a horror novel, but a SLASHER. See, starting with that first horror movie she watched and fell in love with (Scream), Slasher flicks have been her favorite. Other than Ten by Gretchen McNeil, she couldn’t think of one that had been written for young adults. She decided to take it on. And I’m so glad she did. Chapter one begins with the introduction of Haley’s character and ends with her murder. Chapter two begins Makani’s story and the news of Haley’s murder. Most chapters progress Makani’s story, but every few chapters or so (there’s no pattern), an entirely new character is introduced. Whenever that happens, you know another murder is on its way. I LOVE this technique. As Perkins herself said at the event I attended, she couldn’t use the same tricks used in movies like scary music, shadows passing, someone standing behind a door, etc., so she had to think of other ways to build suspense. The technique of giving each victim his/her own chapters really works. She also plays around with sentence structure, gaslighting (meaning, to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity), and increasingly gory and disturbing murder methods.
Teens will kill to get their hands on this. I’m gonna need more than one copy.
Check out this creepy teaser: