The stories we read to frighten ourselves say a lot about what we want and what we fear. What the big horror books of the moment imply is that we hope for long relationships with fictional characters, especially if they're teenage girls; we prefer evil to be uncomplicated and unspeakably awful in familiar ways; and above all, we long to go to the movies.
Two of this season's paranormal novels--Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Boys (the first of a four-volume series of young-adult books) and Justin Cronin's The Twelve (the second volume of a trilogy, following 2010's The Passage) are built on familiar formulas. The Twelve is set in a world where the apocalypse has arrived in the form of death-row prisoners transformed by government experiments into vampires (called virals) and a spunky, permanently teenage heroine has devised a cunning plan to save the world from fascistic, vampiric patriarchy. It's like Stephen King's The Stand with a desexed Buffy the Vampire Slayer angle and a little Handmaid's Tale thrown in.
The Raven Boys is a flirtier kind of horror-fantasy, aimed at teens clutching tattered Twilight and Sandman paperbacks. Blue Sargent is this book's spunky teenage heroine, who amplifies other people's psychic powers although she's not psychic herself. Her doomed paramour may be one of a cluster of handsome, rough-edged, outrageously wealthy prep-school lads. The plot involves a sleeping king and speaking trees, while Stiefvater's quirky prose has ample nerdy pleasures.
Both books were clearly written with a film franchise in mind. The big action scenes in The Twelve in particular read like descriptions of storyboards. What both lack, crucially, is a human dimension to their antagonists. We can handle flesh-shredding vampires and walking corpses, but apparently it's still too frightening to imagine that anyone could disagree with us without being a monster.