This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kay Brooks
When the topic of favourite reads from our teenage and childhood years was first raised, I was whisked back to a time of reading under the covers by torchlight. I remembered being so frightened, vividly making sure every part of my body was covered by the duvet and holding my bladder to bursting point until I heard one of my parents coming upstairs to go to bed. The thought of experiencing that fear again was too much to resist. After spending half an hour online searching for places to buy one of the notorious Point Horror books and finding they can only exist second-hand now, I ended up with two collections (three novels in each) being delivered the next day. I couldn’t wait. Would they still scare my socks off?
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R.L. Stine is the main author that comes to mind when Point Horror novels are mentioned. He was always my favourite from the Point Horror authors and continues to write scary and humorous novels for younger readers, so it seemed only fitting that I read the most popular titles by him. I started with The Babysitter: Jenny and her mother are saving up for Christmas and the extra income brought in from babysitting twice a week would really help. When Jenny saves cherub-featured Donny Hagen from falling in a fountain at the mall, his overly-protective parents offer her the position straight away. Jenny accepts despite knowing that there has been a spate of violent attacks on babysitters in the area recently. The Hagen house is stereotypically large, old-fashioned and spooky enough to scare any young girl alone at night, but combine that with threatening messages, strange phone-calls and a lingering neighbour and you have the perfect ingredients for a terrifying time.I also read The Boyfriend, The Girlfriend and Beach Party by R. L. Stine, each providing similar scares. Never doubt that I am thorough with my research!
I also re-read Diane Hoh’s The Invitation in which five school friends, usually denied access to the elite parties thrown by rich, popular girl, Cass, receive invitations to the party of the year. While Maggie and Ellie are excited, Sarah is more suspicious and rightly so. Her friends are looking forward to the entertainment, but they don’t realise they are destined to be part of a cruel game where their fear will provide the entertainment. A Bates' Mother’s Helper was perhaps the most unusual of the novels. Becky has been hired over the summer to help look after baby Devon Nelson while his mother seems to be hiding from someone. Becky was looking forward to a beautiful summer on the secluded island but Mrs Nelson is becoming increasingly secretive and Becky is starting to feel more and more like a prisoner. She has to find out just who or what her employer is hiding from before it is too late and they are all in danger.
Having read all six short novels in a week reminded me how easy they are to fall into. The plots are simple. For example, a girl witnesses an accident or a boy messes around with a girl behind his girlfriend’s back and realises he has made a mistake. Despite being written well over a decade ago, teenagers can still relate to the events. It’s the typical Point Horror twists that keep the reader up at night. The authors successfully explore the extent of human malice and show that sociopaths are all around us, keeping us guessing until the very end just who the true villain is.
Are they dated? It would be silly to deny this and that’s probably the reason for them not being printed anymore. The lack of technology being used in the teenagers’ lives shows just how useful it can be in moments of danger. In Beach Party Karen asks herself, ‘How did people ever communicate before fridge magnets?’ Despite this, the novels managed to take me back to a time without mobile phones, when I myself was an unsure teenager constantly worrying over how I was viewed and whether I’d done the right thing. Many of the novels written for teenagers now are so harrowing and deliberately shocking in the pursuit of pushing boundaries that it was a welcome return to simple resolutions and happy endings too. I do wonder how they would be perceived by modern teenagers. When my eldest son saw the R.L. Stine’s name on a cover, he said, “Oh, he writes the Goosebumps books I like. Can I read that next?” So, hopefully I won’t have to wait too long to find out!
We’re re-reading childhood classics all summer long as part of The Nostalgic Summer Re-Read. Join us! Were you a fan of R. L. Stine? Check back tomorrow for a goosebumpy giveaway.