Today, I’m pleased to welcome Joshua David Bellin (aka The YA Guy), as he discusses one of my favorite subjects: MONSTERS. I have so much I’d like to put into an introduction, but I’d start rambling and digress from young adult to adult…and clowns, AHHH! I have to stop. Here’s Josh.
YA Monster Mash
By Joshua David Bellin
I love monsters.
Always have. My all-time favorite movie is King Kong (the 1933 stop-motion classic, not the 1976 desecration or the
2005 CGI-fest). My first book (written when I was about six) was an illustrated guide to monsters, a page of which I reproduce here:
When I grew up (physically), I published a book on monsters, taught classes on monsters, and doodled monsters in my spare time. Here’s a rendition of Medusa, based on the 1981 Ray Harryhausen epic Clash of the Titans:
So yeah, I’m into monsters.
And I’m also into YA, where monsters are particularly hot!
I don’t mean “hot” as in “overflowing with sex appeal.” That kind of monster is omnipresent in YA, thanks to books like Twilight and Shiver.
But I’m a traditionalist. I like my monsters scary. Bizarre. Get-under-your-skin, freak-you-out creepy. Not all suave and soulful.
Fortunately, those kinds of monsters are hot in YA too.
So here, for your reading pleasure, are the ten best monsters I’ve encountered in recent YA novels. The list is in alphabetical order, so take your pick; if you’re as into monsters as I am, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list.
1. The Beasts. Children who’ve become bloodthirsty killers in Bethany Wiggins’s dystopian novel Stung, the Beasts got to me the way monstrous children always do. Maybe it’s because there are so many child “monsters” in real life (kids killing their parents, shooting up schools and neighborhoods), or maybe it’s because, as a father, it creeps me out to think of something malign developing from something so blameless. Whatever, I read Stung with a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
2. The Fade. These creatures of darkness and shadow haunt the ruined world of Josin McQuein’s post-apocalyptic novel Arclight. They have silver eyes, shroud-like body wrappings, and the ability to blend into their surroundings. They’re not what you think they are (ghosts or ghouls or zombies), and that’s one of the things I liked about them.
3. The Forsaken. I found these creatures, which populate the slums of J. Barton Mitchell’s Midnight City, among the most original I’ve read in recent years. They’re human beings that have been transformed into oily, shape-shifting predators through contact with alien viruses–but merely describing them doesn’t come close to doing justice to the scene in which a tidal wave of the things tries to overwhelm the novel’s heroes. It’ll blow your mind.
4. The Grievers. You’ll find these nasties in James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. I can’t really describe them; they’re part mechanical, part animal (kind of like slugs, from what I can tell), and all vicious. They like to kill the teenagers trapped in the Maze because. . . . Well, because that’s what they like to do! I can’t wait to see how they’re translated to film in the upcoming adaptation of Dashner’s book.
5. The Inferi. Maybe it’s not accurate to call J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince “recent” (or even YA). But man, when those reanimated corpses rose up from the lake where Harry and Dumbledore were seeking the Horcrux, my daughter and I (who read all the Harry Potter books together) nearly jumped out of our skins. It’s a real shame the cinematic adaptation of that scene was so brief, muddled, and un-scary; it should have been and could have been great.
6. The Locusts. What’s so monstrous about locusts? Nothing, unless they’re the ones in Chris Howard’s novel Rootless. They’ve survived a holocaust that has stripped the earth of trees, and though they’re unable to consume the genetically-engineered corn that’s the only food left on the planet, they’re more than happy to eat anything else. Like, for example, human flesh.
7. The Mutts. Or mutt-ations, mutated abominations from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Each book has its own mutts, all of them disturbing, but the ones in the first novel, wolf-creatures with the eyes and (maybe) souls of the children who died during the Games, totally freaked me out.
8. The Nix. I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance, for the reasons aforesaid. But I happened to pick up Ruth Frances Long’s The Treachery of Beautiful Things, and I found it pretty cool. The monsters are based on traditional English folklore and tales of Faerie, so there are redcaps and Green Men and so forth. But I was particularly drawn to the Nix, an underwater demon that traps the heroine’s soul in a golden cage. Weird, freaky, trippy stuff.
9. The Shadows. The greatest thing about Leah Bobet’s urban fantasy Above is that you’re never totally sure if the events are real, fantasized, hallucinated, or something else. Same with the monsters. Maybe they’re actual, animate shadows that infest the sewers beneath the city where the novel takes place. Or maybe they’re echoes or memories of the horrors some of the characters suffered while committed to a nightmarish psychiatric hospital. Whatever they are, they’re not to be messed with.
10. The Skaldi. All right, I’m cheating here a little. The Skaldi are monsters from my own forthcoming novel, Survival Colony Nine, which won’t be published until Fall 2014. But trust me on this one. Horrific creatures with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts, they’re not for the faint of heart!
So there you have it. I’d love to hear from readers who have other favorite YA monsters; I’m always looking for more! Thanks, Eric, for having me on the blog, and happy monstering to you all!
JOSHUA DAVID BELLIN’s debut novel Survival Colony Nine comes out in 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. Josh has also written Framing Monsters (2005), a survey of classic and contemporary monster movies, and a bunch of short stories in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, most recently “Scarecrow,” a retelling of the Oz story available from Untreed Reads Publishing. Josh tweets @TheYAGuy and blogs at http://theyaguy.blogspot.com/. You can also catch up with him on his website, http://www.joshuadavidbellin.com/.
We’ll Josh, you’ve certainly opened my eyes to some great monsters I may have otherwise missed. I look forward to Survival Colony Nine next year, and maybe you’ll like some of the monsters I’ve thrown into Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud. Please use the comments section below to open discussions about great YA monsters.