The 1990s was a renaissance of young adult horror literature. The first decade of the “2000s” witnessed a resurgence of horror-themed work for young adults, but those who lived through both periods sense that the tide is coming from a different direction this time around. Author Danny Marks remembers the last wave of horror’s popularity, and his video, “My Big Fat YA Horror Book Project,” offers a unique take on the difference between the horror boom of the 1990s and the “horror lite” of 21st century Young Adult literature.
Mark’s argument suggests that the popularity of monster-themed Young Adult romances over traditional horror reflects a larger social phenomenon: the “ reluctance to […] allow our children to experience fear” that has “ debilitated an entire generation.” This is a strong statement, but the current attitude toward young people in our society suggests that it is nowhere near as outlandish as we might hope.
Between the original renaissance of young adult horror and the romance-centered modern wave, the term “helicopter parent” became a cultural buzzword. Both the mainstream media and the blogosphere have discussed the idea that 21st century parents are overprotecting their teens from the world’s unpleasantness. The growning number of K-12 teachers leaving their jobs due to the stress of dealing with “helicopter parents” would likely agree.
Marks points out that, “the less you feel like you have to deal with things yourself, the less able you will be to do so.” If this is true, then perhaps the Young Adult horror of the 1990s did more than give us a little Gothic fun to fill our after-school hours. Maybe stories about kids battling the monsters in the closet served as a symbolic model, showing us that we had the power to tackle the world’s darker corners and emerge victorious. If so, then the regression of traditional horror in favor of fantasy-romance suggests that the teens of the 2000s live in a society gripped by a different kind of fear: one that belongs more to well-meaning parents than to kids looking for models of what it means to push back against the darkness and win.