Supernatural Literature for Junior and Young Adult Readers
Supernatural literature encompasses a diverse range of fiction, from tales of ghostly intrusions to stories of cosmic terror. Many such works have now attained the status of classics, and characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are now familiar to millions, many of whom may never have read the original works […]
Supernatural literature encompasses a diverse range of fiction, from tales of ghostly intrusions to stories of cosmic terror. Many such works have now attained the status of classics, and characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are now familiar to millions, many of whom may never have read the original works which gave these characters to the world.
As a devotee of this macabre branch of literature, I began by acquainting myself with the works of celebrated modern practitioners such as Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell before delving into the past of the field and discovering the tales of the old masters such as M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft.
Recent years have, alas, seen many large publishing houses carry a diminishing number of such authors on their lists. So it has been gratifying for me to discover that supernatural fiction, like Count Dracula himself, refuses to be consigned to the awaiting open coffin, and certainly thrives in today’s fiction for Junior and Young Adult Readers, and indeed has been doing so for some years now.
For example, Alan Garner’s chilling The Owl Service tells the story of Roger, Gwyn and Alison who, one summer in a Welsh valley, find themselves haunted by the tragic events which occurred among two men and a woman in the same place many generations before. In the midst of bizarre and ominous intrusions from this troubled past which engulf the inhabitants of the valley, the three teenagers seem compelled to re-enact an ancient and tragic love triangle. Garner’s award winning novel, a many-layered and at times terrifying story, is equally adept at capturing the pains and struggles of teenage life, and has attained the status of a modern classic.
The Scarecrows by Robert Westall, is another modern classic, where, like the best of much modern horror fiction, the horror emerges from a troubled psyche. In this book, thirteen-year old Simon struggles with the death of his father, his mother’s remarriage, and his ensuing feelings of rage and isolation.
While the story involves malignant forces unleashed from a nearby abandoned water mill, and succeeds brilliantly as a tale of supernatural terror, it is also a perceptive and touching study of the pain and confusion of a troubled teenager as the complexities and difficulties of the adult world impact on his life.
Tim Bowler’s Apocalypse is a savage and disturbing story set almost entirely on a remote, desolate island. This uncompromising tale begins with a brutal murder on an offshore rock, followed by the sound of a strange, eerie moan emanating from the sea. Kit, a teenager, is sailing with his parents when he also hears the moan. Shortly after, he sees a man in the sea who closely resembles him.
Kit and his family soon find themselves stranded on the island after a storm. Here they will face danger from religious zealots, hear intimations of impending apocalypse, and encounter the mystery of the man who so resembles Kit. While the supernatural elements in this novel are not so overt, they contribute to a haunting and powerful work that cannot fail to leave the reader untouched.
So, when next you wish to seek out a tale to chill, frighten, or unnerve its reader, don’t neglect to visit the Junior and Young Adult section of the library – shadowy terrors may lurk among the shelves!
By Alan Dunne