Some of you may know that it takes a lot to get teenagers to read. That’s why paranormal teen romances are so popular. They take ordinary teens out of this world and make fantastical things happen to them. Authors tend to add the “shock factor” to their books to keep teens hooked and reading, or they’ll make their vampires sparkly and wonderful so that teen girls swoon and start comparing every guy they know to sparkly vampires. They make them want more.
That being said, teen paranormal romances aren’t a new concept in today’s world. Stephenie Meyer may have made them popular, but rewind about twenty years and I was reading the same kind of books (without the sparkles, though). The trend in the early 90s, however, wasn’t faeries and shape-shifters and magic.
IT WAS TEEN HORROR.
Back in middle school, I devoured books written by R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike. They were the leaders of teen horror fiction during that time, with Stine’s Fear Street series and Christopher Pike’s numerous novels about everything from baby-sitters being stalked to ski weekends gone horribly wrong.
Somehow I don’t think this party ended well.
I loved these books as a 13-year-old because they were exciting. They were realistic, but unrealistic enough to not freak the hell out of me. Yes, I understand that my boyfriend could turn out to be a crazy person getting revenge for his dead ex-girlfriend, but that most likely wasn’t going to happen.
The Fear Street books were all written the same – get to know the character, nice things happen, then weird things start to happen, then really bad things happen. Each chapter ended with a cliffhanger, which kept you reading until you finished the book. And since none of the books were very long, it usually only took a couple of hours.
I would branch out a bit while I waiting for the next Fear Street book to come out (there was usually one a month, as opposed to one every 2-3 years, Ms. Rowling), reading such authors as A. Bates, L.J. Smith, Diane Hoh, and Richie Tankersley Cusick. Their books were always readily available through the Scholastic Book Club, and apparently my parents didn’t have a problem with me ordering books called Chain Letter and Funhouse.
But the Fear Street books were definitely my favorite, having reread them more than once, usually during the summer when I liked to stay up past midnight and scare myself silly. In addition to the 52 books of the original series (you can read one a week for a year!), R.L. Stine also wrote 13 “Super Chillers”, three Fear Street Cheerleaders books (which are actually ridiculously fun), and the Fear Street Saga books which, admittedly, I never read.
They take place in olden times.
There were certain Fear Street books that I tended to read more than others, those usually being the ones about Halloween or summer camps. Why? I have no idea. I was a weird kid. Some of my favorites included the following:
The New Girl – The first book in the series. Anna moves to Fear Street in Shadyside and then suddenly mysteriously vanishes. Is Fear Street that crappy? Why would she leave? It’s not like anything had has happened on Fear Street in the past…
The Halloween Party – Why were they invited? Why did the lights go out? Why does that guy have a knife sticking out of his back? And more!
The Stepsister – First Jessie takes over Emily’s room, then she starts wearing her clothes, and then she has the nerve to use Emily’s own private phone to make late-night calls? What’s she gonna do next, KILL HER?
Lights Out – Weird things are going on at Camp Nightwing, including vandalism and someone leaving around a bunch of red feathers. Holly is afraid someone is out to destroy the camp…and her. Duh duh dummmmmmmmmmmmm…
Prom Queen – Someone is murdering the Prom Queen candidates one by one…and Lizzie is afraid she’ll be next! Will Shadyside High not have a Queen this year? What’s the King going to do without a Queen? Might as well cancel the whole Prom!
First Date – Chelsea is so fricking desperate to go out on a date that she doesn’t care that the guy who likes her is a deranged killer. Well, beggars can’t be choosers on Fear Street.
After the success of Fear Street (it’s still one of the best-selling YA series of all-time, believe it or not), Stine went on to create the Goosebumps series, for which he’s probably most famous. I never got into Goosebumps because a) it was aimed towards younger kids and I was now in high school and b) it was more funny than scary. And I wasn’t into that.
Eventually my love for teen horror fiction dwindled once I entered high school and basically didn’t read anything at all until college, where I got into other types of books that had nothing to do with that genre (aka boy wizard with lightning scar on forehead). I recently read the first book of The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike, which is first Christopher Pike book I’ve read since middle school. It was written in 1994 and seemed a tad bit dated (they called each other on landlines!), but it was still enjoyable.
And since summer is right around the corner, I should put down the current teen paranormal romance that I’m reading and grab some Fear Street books at the library – that is, if libraries still carry books like that. There are so many books for teens to read these days that the little 20-year-old paperbacks that filled my middle-school bookshelf might have been pushed out to make room for vampires and werewolves who actually use cell phones.
But I’m determined to find at least a few stuck on the spinning paperback racks that are situated between the stacks of newer books. Because nothing says summer like a girl who’s being stalked by a psycho killer at summer camp!
If you’d like more information on the world of Fear Street, check out this hilarious blog.