Summer Scares 2019 Resources

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

31 Days of Horror: Day 10-- Kelly Powers on Horror’s Appeal Including Her Easy to Use RA Interview Flowcart

Today I have a phenomenal guest post by Horror Writer and School Librarian Kelly Powers. You can read more about Kelly and the work she does as a Junior High Librarian in California in this post from the general blog.

I gave Kelly free reign for her guest post, asking her to share something useful she has done with her students in regards to horror. Well, I am glad I didn’t tell Kelly what to do, because what I got is awesome and useful to every single one of you out there, no matter what age level you work with, and I never would have “assigned” this.

Below you will read Kelly’s post about trying to figure out exactly why “scary books” were so popular at her library. After working with students and colleagues she went through her collection, pulled out the best “scary” books they had, and made this flow chart allowing her to walk herself through the RA interview for a potential horror reader. She has included the questions, and then depending on the answer given, leads you to a possible title.

While these are all YA titles, they can also be enjoyed by adults. But more importantly, you can use this flow chart to help you to conduct your own RA interviews.

Use this link to download a PDF for your own use or see the embedded image below.

Here is Kelly to explain it all....

As a Junior High Librarian, the number one theme I get asked for is "scary books." At first, I wondered why this was. I'm in a fairly good sized library with fiction and non-fiction spanning all genres and subjects, but still, students of both genders seem to be drawn to the dark, scary, and sometimes gory stories. One day, I decided to ask a student about it. She’d blazed through Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series and was on book two of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Her response was to say that she, "likes them because it helps her forget about other stuff.”

Now, that was a vague response, but it was just detailed enough for me to draw my own conclusions. My school's demographics is 85% Latino, 10% white, 3% African American, and 2% Asian. The school is in the heart of gang territory and we are constantly working to combat the cycle of drugs, homelessness, and violence these kids see on a daily basis. If I take a moment to look through their eyes, I see a world that is floating in a sea of uncertainty. That feeling is compounded if you take the current state of our nation’s administration into account. It is then I understand that for them, a work of fiction which deals with problems or villains much scarier than the ones that my students face every day, can and does work as a window to escapism.

In speaking with a former librarian and current English teacher, he said that the horror genre helps teens feel. Helps them emote and feel compassion. It is why they reach for both horror and “sad books.” They want to feel. They want to emote. Well written horror or drama invokes a deeper response which in turn leads to compassion and hopefully, a love of books.

With these understandings in mind, I set out to educate myself on the various levels of horror novels available in my library. We have quite a few. 170, to be exact, but quantity is not the same as quality when it comes to horror. And understanding the depth of the “scariness” involved is essential for getting the right book into the right student’s hands. For example, I don’t want to recommend A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand to a student who has nothing scarier (or gorier) than a Goosebumps novel in mind!

There are different themes in horror that make the reference interview challenging if you don’t know the genre well. With that in mind, I put together a flow chart of YA horror novels that are some of my personal favorites out of my collection. It is compiled of the questions which I ask students when I get the (daily) question, “You got any scary books?" I hope you find it useful too. The novels I used are:

  • Beware: R.L. Stine Picks His Favorite Stories by R.L. Stine and other authors
  • Scary Out There edited by Jonathan Maberry
  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Stephan Gammell
  • Under My Hat: Tales from the Calderon edited by Jonathan Strahan


  • Bad Girls Don't Die (Series) by Katie Alender
  • Anna Dressed in Blood (Series) by Kendare Blake
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Caroline by Neil Gaiman
  • Gone (Series) by Michael Grant
  • Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
  • Rot and Ruin (Series) by Jonathan Maberry
  • Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel
  • Ten by Gretchen McNeil
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Fear Street (Series) by R.L. Stine
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Series) by Ransom Riggs
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Series) by Carrie Ryan
  • Unwind (Series) by Neil Shusterman
  • A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
  • The Night Parade by Kathryn Tanquary
  • I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells 

Post by, Kelly Powers
Contributor to The Joe Ledger Companion

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