I don’t know about you, but fall has always meant Halloween season to me–not back-to-school. While other teachers are out shopping for school supplies, I’m literally hiding skeletons in my closet before my boyfriend can reprimand me for bringing more decorations in the house. So October for me means pumpkin spice everything, draping cobwebs all over the house, and reading as much horror fiction as I can. For this October, I’m presenting to you Katie Alendar’s The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall. It’s the perfect horror novel for high school readers!
Put on your cozy flannel, turn up Alice Cooper, and curl up with an age-appropriate scary story.
(Psst! Want more ideas for spooky classroom activities? Then this blog post is a must-read!)
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Why a Horror Novel for High School Readers?
Personally, I’ve had an increase in my high school readers begging for a good horror novel. (I blame the It remake!)
So when I stumbled across The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall it was an easy buy for me. The cover is blatantly horror-related and the title reinforces the obvious creep-factor. I figured it would be an easy sell to my fear-loving students.
Ok. Maybe it was an easy sell for me. I’ve always loved the macabre, so the blood-sputtered cover art spoke to me.
But that student that wears the Nightmare Before Christmas sweatshirt every single day? Yeah, they’ll gravitate towards it too.
Horror is engaging. Fear is universally relatable.
When a student can’t put a book down because of extreme suspense and terror, they’re going to consume more books. More book consumption means stronger readers. Period.
If ghosts and gore are what it takes to get my kids reading, then I’m all in!
(Plus, having a variety of horror novels available to your high school readers means more examples of foreshadowing, suspense, and tension building from which to pull when you teach any kind of creative writing!)
What Makes Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall The Perfect Horror Novel for High School Readers?
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall starts like any other horror. The book opens on a family road trip to see the home Delia has recently inherited from her grandmother.
Except, when the family arrives, the house isn’t just a house. It’s a mansion. And of course, the mansion just happens to be the former home to an all-girls mental institution–lovingly nicknamed “Hysteria Hall” by locals.
Immediately, the mood is set by the dusty and cavernous halls of the empty Piven Institute. As Delia walks through her inheritance, you’ll have chills running down your back. The abandoned mansion is so creepy, Delia’s parents don’t even want her exploring on her own.
But this is young adult fiction, so she does anyway.
It becomes clear that while the institution may be closed, the house refuses to let its patients leave. Dead or alive.
When Delia arrives, the house only sees her as one more naughty girl to be institutionalized.
There’s no way it’s going to let Delia leave.
While the beginning of the novel has the horror motifs that we all love–creepy old house, mental institution, random bursts of cool air–it takes an unusual twist early on. It’s this twist that, for me, makes The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall stands out from other books in the genre.
As a horror novel for high schoolers, it is this twist that allows the book to stay true to the genre without becoming predictable.
Which High School Readers Will Love This Horror Novel?
This book is definitely going to attract the students in your class that love horror. It’s well designed to catch the eye of anyone looking to be creeped out.
You’ll probably also find that young women will gravitate towards this book more than the guys. I think this often happens with books starring female protagonists, but much of this story is about how society has viewed women in the past. This makes it especially relatable for women.
While The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall checks a lot of horror boxes, your die-hard gorefest lovers might be left disappointed. The novel starts out creepy and there’s definitely some supernatural spookiness, but it’s not going to give anyone nightmares.
This is part of the appeal for the book to me; it’s not scary enough that parents will complain, but it should fit the horror genre enough for fans to appreciate it. It’s a great horror novel for high schoolers.
That said, if you have a student who just craves bloodshed, this is not the novel. It’s a touch creepy, but not gory.
With a high-interest Lexile score of 690, this text should be very accessible to most young adult readers. It only took one of my strongest readers a couple of days to get through it.
With spooky season upon us, I recommend book talking this one and putting it out on display with other horror books. You may even want to read an excerpt that describes the mansion. It will give students a feel for Alender’s storytelling and the mood of the tale.
A Final Word about Choosing a Horror Novel for High School Readers
If you’re looking to add more horror to your high school classroom library, I can’t recommend Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall enough.
It’s riveting, spooky, and tense. But it’s also appropriate. This is one of the difficulties in finding the perfect horror novel for high school readers–horror novels are often filled with too much sex, violence, or gore to bypass any public education standards.
If you’re looking for more appropriate and engaging novels for you students, I have you covered!
Looking for other horror novels?