If you’re looking to indulge in a YA horror about the twisting alleys of revenge, Chandler Baker‘s High School Horror series might just be for you.
Cassidy Hyde is NOT having a good year in Teen Hyde. Not only was her cheating boyfriend murdered by a serial killer in Teen Frankenstein, but Cassidy suffered an assault that has thrown her into a depressive spiral. That’s where Sunshine comes in. This new experimental drug makes Cassidy feel like everything is good and she’s the golden girl once again. A little memory loss feels like a small price to pay to get her life back. And the fact that boys are once again going missing (boys who Cassidy does NOT want to remember) has NOTHING to do with anything. Right?
Retelling classic stories in the same small town in Texas sounds fantastic. What inspired you to pen a series of retellings of classic stories with young adult protagonists in the same town?
I wanted to create a series of monster origin stories and loved the idea of one character’s origin story pinballing into another’s until, by the end of the series, what you have is a world that has begun to teem with darkness beneath the surface. I think it’s a lot of fun and, as a reader, I also love the fact that you don’t have to start with Book 1. You can start anywhere, read in any order, and you’re fine. There are Easter eggs for those that read the other books, but it’s a series that’s very accessible because of the structure.
Teen Frankenstein was the first in your YA horror series. What motivated you to purse Jekyll and Hyde for the second installment? Was there something particularly compelling about Jekyll and Hyde in the setting of a high school that drew you to it?
As far as classic monster stories go, Jekyll & Hyde is my own personal favorite. I love any horror stories that involve a character’s mind as the antagonist. I think there is something so terrifying about the question of: Am I going crazy? Then combine it with high school, somewhere I think societal pressures are amplified because of the confined community. If a character had something to make them snap, I thought it’d be interesting to give them an alter ego that absolutely did not feel or fit into those societal pressures.
There are a few out and upcoming YA novels that deal with revenge for sexual violence (The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis, is one example). What was your motivation to have Marcy’s motive for killing the boys be revenge, or rather, justice for sexual assault?
I saw the genre as an opportunity to handle the weighty issue of sexual assault through the heightened lens of a horror story. I hope this type of story will appeal to a new audience who may not otherwise pick up a more traditional “issue” book, of which there are numerous contemporary, must-read examples. Cassidy’s narrative is not only a dark, twisty story, but a fantastical — albeit all too real — look at survivor trauma. The real horror, though, is that the inciting incidents in the book are not far off from true-life events that have happened across our high school and college campuses in recent years.
Not many YA novels mention subjects like morning after pills and periods. Why was it important to you to mention them, even in passing, in Teen Hyde?
The short answer is because they both felt true to the character and the situation in which the character found herself. But the reason they felt true to the character is because they are real things with which teen girls are familiar and grapple on a regular basis. It’s just that the societal “we” don’t talk about them. I think it’s still considered a bit unseemly. And how frustrating because they are both gender specific health issues. By not talking about them, it makes them seem somehow embarrassing, thus putting up a social norm barrier to keep girls from seeking information that could be important to their lives and health. Bringing morning after pills and periods onto the page is a small thing, but it’s a start.
Teen Hyde is told from two viewpoints, both of which are untrustworthy narrators. How was it getting into the headspace of two characters with missing memories and vastly different motivations?
One of the things that drew me to the story is that each “character” is the protagonist of her own story and the antagonist of the other girl’s story. The trickiest part was making Cassidy (the primary personality) have her own goals that were not simply reactionary to the nighttime escapades of Marcy (her alter ego).
What would you like young girls reading this to know about sexual assault, and Cassidy’s experience with coming to terms with it?
A few things: First, as girls we are taught to be polite. But if you are in a situation where you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, just extricate yourself. Don’t worry about whether someone will like you or whether you are pleasing others. Just go. Second, if you do find yourself a victim of sexual assault, I want to say that I recognize there are a thousand different reasons for not reporting it. But if you choose not to report it, that doesn’t mean that you can’t seek out resources for support. Cassidy realizes too late that maybe she could have talked to someone, she could have sought support. Her reason for not seeking support is that she sees her reputation as a liability. She wouldn’t be believed and in fact, blames herself for what happened. So on one side of the equation, I think it’s important to work on believing each other. On the other end, sexual assault isn’t the victim’s fault. It’s no one’s responsibility not to be assaulted. (For support or for more information, please visit the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network or call their hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.)
What’s next in your High School Horror Story series?
Next up is Teen Phantom! And we get to follow Lena, a character from Teen Hyde. I just turned in the first draft and love how it’s shaping up.