October 2006

Spine-tingling Halloween treats

By Donald R. Gallo
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Halloween used to be mostly for little kids, but in recent years teenagers and adults have embraced the holiday, not wanting to be left out of the parties, the chance to dress up and most of all, the age-old thrill of being scared. To add to the fun, this fall brings a new crop of scary collections especially for teens.

What Are You Afraid Of? Stories about Phobias is edited by Donald R. Gallo, a well-known anthologist of short stories for young readers. This collection includes pieces by some of today’s top writers for young adults, including Joan Bauer, Angela Johnson and Jane Yolen. The phobias depicted in this book are not necessarily the obvious ones that typically form the basis of horror films, such as arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, or (despite the immense attention given to a certain recent film) herpetophobia, fear of snakes and other reptiles.

Instead, several of the stories provide keen insight into the lives of real teens. The collection opens with Alex Flinn’s hauntingly realistic story, The Door, about a teen named Cameron who has been struggling privately with an increasing sense of agoraphobia. Cameron’s fear of leaving the house only intensifies when his parents leave on a trip. In Joan Bauer’s poignant story, Thin, a young woman struggles with an obsession with gaining weight. In David Lubar’s humorous tale, Claws and Effect, a teen named Randy discovers that the girl of his dreams has one unfortunate drawback: a cat named Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, Randy is deathly afraid of felines.

Deborah Hopkinson’s latest book for young readers is Into the Firestorm, A Novel of San Francisco 1906.

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