Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Too Scary?

I've been neglecting this blog a bit this month as I prepare to hand in a new book to my publishers, but once the first of April rolls around, I promise there will be horror things galore!

But in the meantime, I overheard something yesterday which started me thinking. I was at work in the bookshop when a boy who was probably 11 or so picked up a copy of Hunger Games and animatedly tried to get his mum's attention. His mum was talking to a friend she'd bumped into, and was a bit deaf to the boy's enthusiastic cries of, "Mum! Mum! Mum! This is soooooo good!"

When he finally got some attention, I don't think it was exactly what he wanted:

Mum: Hunger Games? What's it about? It looks scary.
Kid: It's about this contest where all these kids have to kill each other.
*Both adults look aghast*
Mum's friend: Isn't that too scary for you? I think that sounds too scary.
Mum: Yes, look, you've got it from the Young Adult section. That's too old for you.
Kid: But I've already read it. I just wanted to say...
Mum's friend: No, it's far too scary. Look at the blood on the cover!
Mum: Put it back! Pick something else.
I really felt for the kid. I wanted to step in and tell his mum and her friend that Hunger Games was one of the most amazing books I'd read in a long time, and that yes, while there is violence, I don't think there's anything in it kids can't handle, especially since her son had already read it! But then I thought - well, I'm kids' bookseller. I'm not a parent. I'm not the one who has to deal with my kids waking up screaming in the middle of the night after they've read something scary. Who am I to decide?

Horror is one of those genres that unfortunately has a bad reputation with concerned parents. I suppose I can see how if you weren't a fan, it would seem, well, horrific! But as a horror fan, I can't help feeling the scarier something is, the better... after all, isn't that the point? You wouldn't have a romance book with no romance. I don't expect kids would be reading horror if they were thoroughly disturbed by it, and I think the covers and blurbs do a pretty good job of letting readers know what to expect.

What do the rest of you think? Is there such a thing as too scary in horror books? Are there lines that shouldn't be crossed? If you write horror, do you have to hold yourself back, or have you ever had any negative reactions? And if you're a lover of horror, have you ever read anything that you thought had gone too far?

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