The current fascination with TLC's Here Comes Honey Boo Boo proves that children, real or imagined, can become projections of adult fear and loathing. For many, cheerful little Alana appears to be responsible for the impending fall of Western Civilization. If this seems a tad unfair, and you would like to meet some truly terrifying children, try this reading list:
The Bad Seed by William March. This 1954 classic introduces Rhoda Penmark, an 8-year-old sociopath. You don't want her in your kid's playgroup.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Kevin's mom insists that something is "off" about her boy from the day he is born to the final, horrific act he commits as a teenager. Book clubs debate: whose fault is it? Winner of the Orange Book Prize. The film starring Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller is available at your local branch.
The Other by Thomas Tryon. Niles and Holland are identical twins - and yes - one of them is evil. Don't reveal the ending. This 1971 bestseller continues to creep out readers today.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. This 1898 classic is very sneaky in avoiding who or what is evil - but Flora and Miles are two very creepy kids who drive the nanny insane (critics argue that it wasn't a long drive). The 1961 film, The Innocents was based on this.
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing. The Lovatts live in domestic bliss with their four lovely children - until the birth of Ben. Lessing, a Nobel prize-winner, says she hated writing this book because it was so upsetting.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding. A plane crashes leaving a group of young British boys stranded on an island. Twelve year-old Jack wants to be the leader - by any means necessary (he is nothing like the Jack in Lost.)
"The Veldt" in The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Little Wendy and Peter are spending hours in the nursery using virtual technology to project an African veldt. What are those lions eating? Written in 1951 by one of the great sci-fi visionaries. Careful, parents: there may now be an app for this.
And if the classic sociopath fails to interest you, there are always the supernatural/demonic kiddies:
- Carrie by Stephen King
- The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
- Good Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender (first in a series)
- The Ring by Hiroshi Takahashi (first in a manga series)
Related post: Psycho Killer: Qu'est-ce que c'est?