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From The Guide: Darkly Funny YA

When Andrew Smith’s book Grasshopper Jungle won the 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction, it was praised for its blending of catastrophic sci-fi with angsty teen-humor. The following books likewise rely heavily on dark comedy to appeal to the snarky, self-referential nature of teenagers themselves, creating an appealing subgenre for self-aware readers looking to cope with their troubles via a healthy dose of twisted humor.

—Cynthia K. Ritter
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Damico, Gina  Hellhole
350 pp.     Houghton     2015     ISBN 978-0-544-30710-0

YA  Max spends his time doing crossword puzzles, digging for fossils, and caring for his sick mother. Unintentionally digging a hole into Hell, Max ends up with a devil in his basement. In an attempt to heal his mom, Max makes increasingly dangerous deals with Burg, the junk-food-loving devil. Damico presents a darkly humorous adventure that will leave readers laughing while they cry.

Hoffmeister, Peter Brown  This Is the Part Where You Laugh
329 pp.     Knopf     2016     ISBN 978-0-553-53810-6
LE ISBN 978-0-553-53811-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-53812-0

YA  Travis’s family is poor; his homeless mother struggles with drug addiction; his grandmother is severely ill; and his best friend is assaulted by a gang member. But Travis and those around him use dark, often strange humor to help them cope. This gritty novel is honest about its characters’ emotions, but their creative ways of handling difficulties make for an ultimately hopeful outlook.

Hosie, Donna  The Devil’s Banshee
324 pp.     Holiday     2016     ISBN 978-0-8234-3650-7

YA  Team DEVIL returns as Viking prince Alfarin leads his fellow dead souls through the Nine Circles of Hell to find the Devil’s Banshee — Satan’s wife, and the only being capable of protecting everyone from his most evil imaginings. This third book uses the series’ (The Devil’s Intern; The Devil’s Dreamcatcher) signature blend of likable characters, strong friendships, dark humor, and horror to parallel Dante’s Inferno.

Leck, James  After Dark
252 pp.     Kids Can/KCP Fiction     2015      ISBN 978-1-77138-110-9

YA  Instead of spending the summer at one of his family’s vacation homes, teenage prankster Charlie is stuck helping his mom refurbish a B&B in Rolling Hills — until a “zompire” outbreak turns almost everyone in town into humanoid monsters. Horror-movie fans will appreciate the allusions to classic films in this humorous take on the genre; an open ending paves the way for a sequel.

McCoy, Chris  The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion
294 pp.     Knopf     2015     ISBN 978-0-375-85599-3
LE ISBN 978-0-375-95599-0 ebook isbn 978-0-375-89711-5

YA  Eighteen-year-old Bennett finally gets his dream girl to agree to be his prom date, but immediately afterward, she’s abducted by aliens. To find her, he hitches a ride with an interstellar rock band. The over-the-top premise works well with a narrative that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Characters manage to be grounded and realistic while still generating lots of humor.

Moldavsky, Goldy  Kill the Boy Band
314 pp.     Scholastic/Point     2016     ISBN 978-0-545-86747-4

YA  Unreliably narrated in the first person by Samantha Baker, this is the “true” account of how she and her fellow-fangirl friends came to accidentally kidnap Rupert P., a member of the famous boy band The Ruperts. A dark comedy with tons of pop-culture references and a nod to fanfiction — today’s teens will have a lot of fun with this one.

Parks, Kathy  The Lifeboat Clique
324 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2016     ISBN 978-0-06-239396-8

YA  After a tsunami hits the California coast, sixteen-year-old outcast Denver finds herself stranded at sea on a tiny boat with the cool kids, including her ex–best friend, Abigail. Through flashbacks, readers learn the history of Denver and Abigail’s relationship and its ultimate demise. Familiar high-school drama is elevated by the story’s survival premise and dark humor, and by Denver’s witty, sardonic voice.

Peet, Mal  The Murdstone Trilogy
314 pp.     Candlewick     2015     ISBN 978-0-7636-8184-5

YA  Washed-up British YA author Philip Murdstone is pressured by his agent to write something she can sell: high fantasy. Horrified at the prospect and in a drunken stupor, the old man has a vision of a Phantasy epic and makes a Faustian deal with a stranger. Clearly adult-aimed but with appeal for mature teen fans, Peet’s raunchy dark comedy entertainingly satirizes the publishing world.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Humor. These recommended books were all reviewed in recent issues of The Horn Book Guide. For more information about subscribing to The Horn Book Guide Online, please click here.

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