Therefore, I'm here to take you all on a field trip down my own Memory Lane, to introduce the first YA horror books I ever read. These books were not only awesome, but they also had a seriously heavy hand in inspiring me and many other horror lovers to keep on indulging in the genre.
Back when I was in elementary school, middle grade horror was huge, thanks to the original Goosebumps series and the Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark series. In first and second grade, I flew through as many Goosebumps books as possible, thrilled silly with the dark tales of possessed ventriloquist dummies and cuckoo clocks of doom and things that came from beneath the sink.
The public library was across the street from the school I attended. And since my mother didn't get off work until five, I opted out of the school daycare in fourth grade and instead requested that she pick me up at the library. I was so excited to read as much as I wanted for two and a half whole hours a day! ("Screw homework" was definitely my mantra.)
Anyway, within a couple of months, I had exhausted myself with the Goosebumps. I knew how they all ended and the scares were more nostalgic for me then actually scary. So I explored the shelves for more books with that little red skull sticker on the binding that indicated horror.
This is how I discovered the original Fear Street books. They were written by the same man who'd penned my beloved Goosebumps, but right off the bat I knew the books were different. The covers were much more macabre than their middle grade cousins, and soon I learned why.
These books were like Goosebumps on roids. The characters were in high school, and not only did scarier things happen to them, but they actually DIED, something that never happened in the kid-friendlier series. Which, of course, was all too delicious and creepy and intriguing to scare me away. I ripped through most of them, but these were my favorites.
(**Minor spoilers included in the descriptions.**)
1) The Perfect Date
This book sticks out in my mind because of how violent the intro was. A terrible sledding accident leaves one of the characters with a busted open head that was like a "cracked eggshell" gleaming in the sun, and I remember my mouth dropping as I read the grotesque description. Cracked eggshells have since become one of my favorite descriptions EVER, especially when pertaining to a busted skull. Lovely, right?
2) 99 Fear Street: The House of Evil (a three book series including The First Horror, The Second Horror, and The Third Horror)
This series featured a wonderfully spooky haunted house that ATE CHILDREN AND DOGS. Okay, not literally, but sort of, since a young kid and his new puppy disappear in the first book and show up later in the series as skeletons in the wall. I remember reading the first book and waiting for everything to be resolved; the scary things had happened, they were amazing, and now it was time for the MCs (a pair of twins) to either figure out how to get out of the house or get it to stop haunting them.
That didn't happen. The ending of the first book was so dark, which was a cool rarity for children's horror, and that alone had me clamoring for the next two.
3) Fear Street Cheerleaders: (a three book series including The First Evil, The Second Evil, and The Third Evil)
I never expected to enjoy a series about cheerleaders so much, and maybe that's why this one made my Most Memorable list. I got the series in full as a Christmas gift and got through them before the leftover pie was gone. (A very short period of time in my household.)
Besides having a truly creepy possession storyline, this series offered some seriously interesting insight as to the lore of Fear Street itself, and why so many terrible things were always happening on it. Also, the series stood as another example of how no character was safe in these "big kid" books. More than one main character died, and the deaths really hit me where it hurt!
Horror in YA has since changed quite a bit, both in content and popularity. Looking back on these classics gives me some serious hope that we'll start seeing more terrifying tales in this genre. Until then, and until next time, friends....
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!! *Vincent Price laughter*