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Give your teen a safe scare with this book

When people tell Jim Gigliotti that they "aren't a fan of horror," he has a hard time believing it. Scary stories, he says, seem to be what "makes us human."

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"Dark Hearts" by Jim Gigliotti
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The scratch against your window made you jump, didn't it?

The shivers down your spine are real, caused by the terrors in the book you're reading. Yes, the frightening creatures that surround you are just words, but they're making you feel unsettled. Try to relax, though. They're only stories and in "Dark Hearts" by Jim Gigliotti, you'll meet the minds that created those monsters.

When people tell Jim Gigliotti that they "aren't a fan of horror," he has a hard time believing it. Scary stories, he says, seem to be what "makes us human," they were "some of the first stories human beings ever told." Lucky for you, they never stopped being shared.

Take, for instance, young Mary Shelley.

She didn't have a lot of "formal schooling," but she was an avid reader and a friend of many famous people in her day. One of them was a man who said that "galvanism," a sort of electrical stimulation, could bring back the dead. Mary thought about that, and created a novel about a mad scientist named Frankenstein.


Edgar Allen Poe used real stories to create horror but he really didn't have to look far: Many of the people Poe loved died early, and it led to a bit of a morbid fascination with death. Bram Stoker was a sickly child whose mother told him scary stories while he was abed, recuperating. Daphne du Maurier wrote her most famous novel, "Rebecca," as a sort of revenge aimed at her husband's first girlfriend. Shirley Jackson told people jokingly (or maybe not) that she was a witch. Anne Rice's real name was Howard; she was named after her father, and she hated the name. R.L. Stine grew up very poor in Ohio. When he was 4 years old, Stephen King witnessed the gruesome death of a playmate.

And you'll never guess who inspired author Joe Hill ...

All their lives, you've taught your child to be safe. Look both ways before crossing the street. Don't do anything that would break a limb or a skull. So why not steer them in a direction of safe danger by handing them "Dark Hearts"?

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Wild, edgy actions aren't the only things to make a heart pound; a good, scary book will do the trick and in this one, there's plenty of insight on the people who've penned the tales your teen loves. Now, granted, your kid may not recognize some of the authors in this book and some may be a far reach, but author Jim Gigliotti does a great job in presenting reasons for their inclusion: reading these biographies gives horror-novel lovers of any age a chance to truly know where the scares are coming from. They'll also find new books to devour and inspiration for turning their own experiences into a scream-fest.

If your reader is old enough to understand Clive Barker, Daphne du Maurier, or Stephen King, they're old enough to read this book, too. "Dark Hearts" is, in fact, a book anyone ages 15 and up will jump on.

Book notes

"Dark Hearts: The World's Most Famous Horror Writers" by Jim Gigliotti, foreword by Danielle Vega, is available at Barnes & Noble at Apache Mall and through online booksellers.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on the prairie in Wisconsin with one man, two dogs and 16,000 books. Look for her at or bookwormsez on Twitter.

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