A Chain Letter from Fear Street.

20 04 2012

I can’t remember the occasion or if there even was one. Most likely, it was one of those “I saw this and thought of you” type of moments. The gift in question was a box set containing four books that would become my very first exposure to the world of young-adult thrillers. It was given to me by a family friend who knew I had a fondness for ghost stories and reading. Four books. Christopher Pike’s Remember Me, Last Act, Spellbound, and Scavenger Hunt. I list them in that order because I distinctly remember them being arranged as such in the box. They would always be put back in that same order… even when my collection grew to massive proportions on my bookshelf… those four remained lined up just so.

Die SoftlyGoing to Google Images and searching for images relating to either the Christopher Pike books or Fear Street series brings back a flood of memories. There was no mistaking that neon candy-colored font that was scawled to look like a cross between dripping blood and being written in lipstick or chalk.

The teen characters portrayed on the covers all had that typical 90s flare to them. The girls had voluminous hair with teased bangs, baggy sweaters, and tight jeans. Varsity jackets told the reader that the male protagonist was the boy-next-door jock type whereas a motorcycle or distressed denim jacket let us know that he was a bad boy with an attitude to boot. The oft-reserved female lead would always have the best girlfriend who was funky and spunky. If the story had a body count that made it past tertiary characters, the outspoken BFF would turn up dead somewhere in the third quarter of the book. Of course, we always had the weird, quasi-nerdy guy who would play the role of the story’s red herring for a good portion of the novel.

My library grew more with each Scholastic book fair that came to my school. Pike and R.L. Stine hogged most of the shelf space but there were also a few titles from Diane Hoh (Funhouse) and Caroline B. Cooney (The Fog, The Snow, and The Fire), to name a handful.

My creative imagination was always encouraged when I was a child. That, coupled with the sheer horror of what was written on the pages, was a type of rush that I couldn’t get enough of. I learned the art of speed reading from these books. Weekend evenings would see me up until the pre-dawn hours, eyes burning from ingesting page after page. Study hall in school became the perfect time to check in on the latest stalking or murder in Shadyside (the town in which the Fear Street series takes place). When Pizza Hut began their Book-It program and I found out I was going to receive free pizza for reading (something that I was clearly doing as often as possible), I thought I had died and gone to heaven. If memory serves, I recall having a teacher write “Try reading something different” on at least one book report in 6th grade.

You never questioned the logistics of the stories. You never wondered about forensics or the details that they dwell on in shows like C.S.I. or the array of other slow-moving cop dramas. You never questioned why, after all the unfortunate mishaps, people kept throwing parties at that creepy house on Fear Street or why camping trips would take place at that abandoned campground or why a terrorized and stalked baby-sitter would continue to take calls to sit for kids. You suspended disbelief. You enjoyed the ride and rush of adrenaline as the story unfolded.

The Wrong NumberLooking back now, I think the greatest aspect of these books were the worlds that were built within the pages. Shadyside could easily have been any suburban town in America. Growing up in the neighborhood in which I did, it was easy to visualize the places the characters spent their time. Their school was my school. We were the kids that had to solve these mysteries or deal with these supernatural occurrences. We were the geek. The baby-sitter. The jock. The cheerleader. The plain but pretty girl-next-door. The bubbly best friend. The odd new kid in town. The punk with the bad attitude. Being left home alone for a night suddenly became its own addition to the Fear Street series as did receiving a chain letter in the mail or a prank phone call during a slumber party.

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2 responses

21 04 2012
zachbissett

Wow classic! Love this kind of article Great stuff.

23 06 2012
fieara

I had this childhood too, Pike was my favourite, and I read R.L Stine, Diane Hoh, Caroline B. Cooney and other Point Horror books from 9-13 especially 9-12. I started off with Spooksville and Gossebumps and progressed to the YA stuff.

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