Point Horror: Happy Childhood Memories

It might strike some as odd that I associate happy memories from childhood with horror stories, but that’s me for you. I grew up on The X-Files, was glued to the TV screen for Are You Afraid of the Dark, and I spent a lot of time with my head in a book, usually a Sweet Valley novel or something from the Point Horror series.

From the age of ten or so, I devoured every book in the Point Horror young adult series I could get my hands on. A few years ago, I wrote a short post on my Point Horror obsession and my last blog post was a review of Trick Or Treat.

My mom was a primary school teacher. She worked in the boys’ school near my own, and almost every day at half past two, I’d hurry to the library at her workplace to see what gems awaited me.

The colourful artwork and fun stories inside were perfect bizesize reads. I couldn’t make do with simply borrowing library books. I made it my mission to collect as many Point Horror books as I could.  For birthdays and Christmases my parents and relatives would give me book shop vouchers, allowing me to build my own collection, and I saved my pocket money and hunted down used copies in secondhand bookshops.

Even through my teens and twenties, I’d take a stroll to the young adult section of any secondhand book store I came across, just in case there was a Point Horror book I hadn’t read or didn’t have in my collection.

In case you never read Point Horror or have forgotten the series, I’ve chosen a selection of books below that may jog your memory.

accident

The Accident by Diane Hoh.

I actually read this one pretty recently and twenty years later, still enjoyed it. The Accident is a unique ghost story that manages to be pretty terrifying. What if you swapped places with a dead girl so she could experience a couple of brief weeks in your body as a normal teenager, but she refused to trade back?

 

roommateNightmare Hall: The Roommate by Diane Hoh

College dormitory life, psychotic roommates and murder. What more do you need in a good thriller? I’m struggling to remember the full storyline for this one, but I must have enjoyed it as I went on to pick up others in the Nightmare Hall series.

 

mummyThe Mummy by Barbara Steiner

Lana works part-time in a museum. A lover of all things Ancient Egypt, nobody is more excited than she is when her museum holds an exhibition from Cairo, which includes the mummy of a legendary Egyptian prince. It isn’t too long before Lana hears a man calling out to her in the dark corners of the museum. Everyone tells her she looks like the murdered princess, the prince’s tragic lover, but it’s just a coincidence, of course. Then why does she feel like she knows and loves someone who died thousands of years before? With a handsome Egyptian prince, a museum setting, the mingling of magic and romance, and reincarnation, it’s no wonder I loved this one.

forbiddenThe Forbidden Game trilogy by L.J. Smith

L.J. Smith wrote a fantastic story in The Forbidden Game. At her boyfriend’s 17th birthday party, Jenny and her pals end up playing a game. They build a paper Victorian house and put paper cutouts of themselves inside. The game states they’ll each have to face their worst nightmare. They don’t bargain for the house coming alive around them and trapping them inside. Fantasy, horror, sexual tension, a female protagonist with agency! How this book hasn’t been made into a TV show or movie, I don’t know. It’s probably only a matter of time.

vaThe Vampire’s Promise by Caroline B. Cooney

A group of high schoolers find themselves trapped in a vampire’s lair. This vampire doesn’t just want to suck their blood, he wants them to choose his victim. His bite won’t kill, but it will leave the victim sluggish, zombie-like and devoid of personality. The vampire in this one is a sadistic bastard, taking great pleasure in the terrible decision he forces these kids to make. The author, Cooney, never includes blood or gore in her books, but she is skilled at creating psychological terror.

babysitterThe Baby-Sitter by R.L. Stine

While I can vividly recall the cover for this one, I can’t remember reading it.

 

invitationThe Invitation by Diane Hoh

When a group of kids generally viewed as losers by the elite of their high school get invited to a party by one of the popular students, that should immediately get their warning bells sounding. They attend only to find themselves key players in a nightmarish game they never signed up for.

 

strangerThe Stranger by Caroline B. Cooney

Unusual, beautiful and sad. This story tugged at my heartstrings. Caroline B. Cooney is a terrific writer. She is one of the most gifted writers of horror in the young adult genre. I reviewed her novel The Fog earlier in the year.

 

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Have you come across any Point Horror books? What books from childhood do you remember with fondness?

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Book Review: Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick (A Haunted House in a Small Town)

Happy New Year

I’m kicking off the first review of the year with a bitesize teen book. Trick or Treat is part of the Point Horror series, books I devoured back in the 90’s. I’ve got a boxload of them currently to get through, a great find at a car boot sale last year.

trickWhile this is a young adult book, I was pleasantly surprised to find a scaryish tale that managed to on occasion give me chills. I probably read this twenty or so years ago because I definitely remember the cover, but I couldn’t remember much of the story. The setting drew me in from the start. A big old house filled with nooks and crannies and secret passageways. The kind of house a sane person would run a mile from. If the dilapidated outside, gothic architecture and too many rooms for a family of four wouldn’t be enough to put a normal person off, the cemetery in the back garden should do it.

Unfortunately for our protagonist Martha, her father adores the paranormal and is delighted when his dippy/arty new wife purchases a place so obviously teeming with ghostly presences.

The newly married couple aren’t going to be winning any parent of the year awards. No sooner has Martha started to unpack than she and her new stepbrother, Conor, are left to their own devices when their parents skiddadle off to Hawaii and leave them to fend for themselves in a sleepy new town, coming up to Halloween. A quiet, rainy, nothing town that is approaching the first anniversary of a murder that took place on Halloween night right in the very home Martha has just moved into.

Right away, Martha is afraid to stay in her new bedroom. She can’t quite explain it, but it’s much colder than the rest of the house and there’s something about the closet… The door seems to open and close by itself. She sees eerie shadows as she huddles under the covers at night. Then there are the scary, threatening phone calls, the creaks and groans of the old house and a fire that starts mysteriously. Conor’s calm suggestion that perhaps her bedroom is cold and feels different from the rest of the house because it remembers the grizzly murder that took place in that very room doesn’t help Martha’s state of mind.

Nor does the fact that according to some people in town, Martha resembles the dead girl, Elizabeth. Physical appearance isn’t their only similarity.  Martha soon draws the attention of the super athlete in town, Blake. Guess who his last girlfriend happened to be? And Martha’s new best friend, Wynne, used to be best friends with Elizabeth.  Is Martha fated to end up the same way as the previous occupant of her bedroom?

The creepy house, the sense of isolation, the location of the cemetery with its overgrown graves and mausoleum go well with the the author’s knack for creating tension, suspense, fear and dread around Martha. Martha seems paranoid, suffering from jangled nerves and is on the verge of a nervous breakdown almost from page one.

I found myself wondering how her stepbrother Conor was so patient with her. I enjoyed the story but Martha was a whiny victim with little agency. Despite being abandoned by her father in a new town in a house that clearly belongs in a horror movie, I couldn’t sympathise much with her, in fact I wished I could reach through the pages and give her a good slap. Conor was too lovely for his own good, though I do think he quite fancied his stepsister and she him. But that storyline would be a bit much to explore in the Point Horror world so nothing came of it.

If you loved Point Horror as a teen or just fancy a quick horror read, try Trick or Treat. It’s well-written with a suitably spooky atmosphere, mingling the haunted house genre with psychological horror.

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Have you tried the Point Horror series?

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