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Thursday, February 10, 2022

Love Is in the Scare: 10 Throwback Young Adult Horror Books Perfect for Valentine’s Day

Anyone who spent a great deal of their childhood reading them knows for a fact that there is no dearth of romance in the paperback young adult horrors of yesteryear. Unfortunately those brushes with young love left behind scars; they put these pulpy stories’ teenage characters in mortal danger.

In their heyday, young adult horror lit captivated readers with tales of ill-fated flirtations and deadly crushes. And while these ten suspenseful books may not be specifically set around Valentine’s Day, they certainly capture the hazards of unrequited and forbidden love.

My Secret Admirer (1989)
Carol Ellis

Jenny Fowler is restless after moving to the Rimrocks with her parents. She makes new friends, but a late-night climb up the town’s namesake leaves her rattled as well as in trouble. Jenny heard something on that stormy night; she heard someone screaming for help in the distance. Later, one of her classmates is found in bad condition at the rimrocks. Who attacked her? Did a mutual friend do it, or is this the work of Jenny’s secret admirer?

Carol EllisMy Secret Admirer is a tense and descriptive read in spite of its deceptive developments. The title’s namesake indeed exists, but as usual in these kinds of stories, there is a twist.

Heartbreaker (1991)
Nicholas Adams

Wayne “Kaz” Kasden gets in over his head when he simultaneously dates five classmates at his new school: cineaste Marcia, singer Sally, social outlier Carol, and finally, kleptomaniac Melanie and her estranged twin sister, Tiffany. None of these young women have the faintest idea their new honey is two-timing them either. That is until Kaz’s dates start to die, one by one. And whoever is behind these murders is now trying to pin the crimes on the young playboy.

The growing popularity of Fear Street urged other publishers to put together their own young adult horror franchises throughout the nineties, and Nicholas Adams‘ Horror High was one of the earlier and more unsung series. Heartbreaker might be hard to get into because the protagonist is a complete jerk, but over time, Adams cracks Kaz’s exterior and shows him the error of his ways as someone tries to blow up his life as well as thin out the romantic competition.

Dream Date (1993)
Sinclair Smith

Shy Katie resents going unnoticed at her new school, but she feels more confident after a particular dream. There she met a handsome boy named Heath, who seems too good to be true. In time though, Katie realizes Heath means her harm; he wants her all to himself. Heath’s cruelty is not limited to the dream world either. No, he can influence reality as well.

The DNA of A Nightmare on Elm Street is all over Sinclair Smith‘s Dream Date. Although instead of a predatory burn victim exacting revenge from beyond the grave, Katie’s opponent is someone her age. This young adult horror story is alive with metaphors about toxic relationships, and a considerable portion of the book is Katie looking for tangible proof of her abuse.

Deadly Attraction (1993)
Diane Hoh

Robert Q, the “Big Man on Campus” at Salem University, makes his ex Gerrie jealous by dating a “townie” named Darlene. Hailey and her friends know exactly what Robert Q is up to, and even after he gets back with Gerrie, Darlene refuses to let him go or see his flaws. This is when grave misfortune befalls anyone connected to the situation. How far will Darlene go to prove she loves Robert Q?

Diane Hoh‘s Nightmare Hall series is set in college unlike other series, and its namesake is a notorious off-campus dorm known for its eerie goings-on. The third entry, Deadly Attraction, takes place largely on campus though, and it lacks the supernatural elements of other volumes. What this young adult horror story does well is throw the readers off until the very end.

The Stranger (1993)
Caroline B. Cooney

Nicoletta’s sadness after being replaced in the school choir leads her to Jethro, a mysterious classmate she never noticed before. When she follows him through the woods, she ends up falling into the bottomless pit inside of a cave. However, a humanoid creature saves Nicoletta before telling her to never come back. Doing so proves impossible seeing as Nicoletta has now fallen in love with the creature.

Caroline B. Cooney‘s dark love story has strong hints of Beauty and the Beast. The lyrical writing is astounding from start to finish, and readers will be swept up in the protagonist’s impassioned state of mind.

Be Mine (1994)
Jane McFann

Bethany is an average high-school senior with a not-so-average problem. When she and her boyfriend Starling are not looking after their former teacher, who recently suffered a heart attack, they are investigating a series of anonymous love notes addressed to Bethany. She finds them flattering at first, and watching Starling panic is amusing as well, but soon these gifts present a bigger issue: who is sending them? As graduation nears, so does the chance of danger.

Jane McFann‘s Be Mine is a thoroughly enjoyable post-Valentine’s Day thriller. What sets this apart from others is the humor; Starling alone steals multiple scenes with his personality. The characterization here is higher than average, and the outcome is also unusually heartfelt.

The Admirer (1994)
Debra Franklin

After a bad breakup, teenage Morgan receives mysterious gifts on her doorstep. She learns these tokens of affection are from a classmate, who she immediately begins dating. However, Morgan’s ex is not happy about this development, and he plans to do something about it.

This 8-book collection of standalone thrillers was published under Kensington’s genre imprint, Zebra. Although Debra Franklin‘s The Admirer looks like a Valentine’s story based on the cover, and it was released shortly before February, this twisted tale is actually set around Spring Break. Misleading, yes, but this was common practice. While the mystery in The Admirer is not too hard to figure out, how it all comes together is, in a word, wild.

My Bloody Valentine (1995)
Jo Gibson

In this small and rural town, everyone knows everyone. However, Amy has no idea who “Cat” is. When Amy and her friends plan a Valentine’s Day dance, someone suggests they let the students vote for a king and queen. This is when Amy, her close-knit group of friends — Colleen, Jessica, Gail, and Michele — and frenemy Tanya start to receive menacing Valentine’s notes from the aforesaid Cat. One by one, the candidates for queen, including Amy, are terrorized by this Cat figure, who only wants the best person to win the title.

While Jo Gibson‘s My Bloody Valentine bears no connection to the 1981 film of the same name, the young adult horror book is a slasher. Leaps in logic are abound as the characters come up with excuses to keep the king-and-queen contest going after candidates start to die. The school library really needed those new books.

Love and Murder (1998)
Laurie John

Jessica Wakefield’s best friend Lila Fowler has gotten herself into serious trouble after making the moves on her new T.A., Damon Price. Their whirlwind romance quickly brings on a series of frightening events involving what seems to be restless spirits reliving their trauma through the young lovers.

The Sweet Valley series is no stranger to occasional bouts of thrills and chills. Once the principal characters, including the Wakefield twins, aged out of high school and enrolled at the local college, Francine Pascal‘s classic YA series became SVU (Sweet Valley University). Aside from the more standard stories were these suspenseful ones collected under the Thriller Edition banner. Love and Murder, written by Laurie John, is a total page turner that proves Sweet Valley is not as sweet as its name suggests. John’s terrific writing compliments a weird but engrossing tale of the uncanny.

Sweetheart, Evil Heart (1998)
R. L. Stine

Shadyside High senior Ty Sullivan is a womanizer; he is dating several classmates behind his girlfriend Phoebe’s back. On top of that is a secret admirer who may or may not be a ghost from the distant past. As Ty tries to juggle all his dates around Valentine’s Day, his anonymous devotee makes it very clear she will not tolerate sharing a boyfriend. And she will do whatever it takes to have Ty all to herself.

After the original Fear Street series came to a close, R. L. Stine created spin-offs including Fear Street Seniors. Unlike past books, these twelve volumes were all connected; they shared a single cast of characters, namely one particular senior class at the local high school. Every book chronicles their last year before graduation… if they even make it that far. The Valentine’s-set entry Sweetheart, Evil Heart is a short and simple tale of sharp comeuppance.

The post Love Is in the Scare: 10 Throwback Young Adult Horror Books Perfect for Valentine’s Day appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

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