My mum keeps a bookcase outside my old room full of my childhood reads. They span a lot of my adolescence, from pre-teen to fully grown wow-man.
The other day I had a closer look at this collection, and I began to notice how bizzare the books of my youth were. The storylines were at times hostile, often judgmental and regularly hysterical. With their crazy and sinister covers featuring identical blondes giggling hysterically into the same phone, an oiled-up lifeguard posing on a chair (really, really un-sexy) and angry letters scribbled by a hand dripping in fresh blood – their contents told cautionary tales.
Frumpy characters were given the chance to become beautiful only to end up dying, whilst vivacious girls fatally lead their cautious friends into danger. It must have been exhausting being a female character in those books, mustn’t it? And who were the authors who came up with these gothic teen slash fests? Even as I write I'm conjuring up an image of R.L. Stine, the prolific Point Horror writer, sitting at his mock Victorian writing desk with a stack of Just Seventeens under one hand and a copy of the entire works of Edgar Allen Poe under the other.
For the uninitiated, here are some training-wheels standard tips on how to survive life according to Point Horror. I hope you can gleam some valuable life lessons from these, I certainly have.
1. Your hair colour defines you.
If you’re blonde you’re instantly exciting and desired. If your hair is straight and brown, you’re chubby and boring (sorry, I don’t make the rules) – but you will get into a good Uni, so it’s not all bad.
2. Boyfriends and wardrobes don’t mix.
If you catch your boyfriend hiding amongst your clothes at 3am in the morning – he’s probably going to kill you. OR, he will get killed. It’s best to just not let the two to come into contact at all.
3. If you are simultaneously being stalked and also battling some sort of bizarre supernatural entity – such as a possessed pair of trousers or an old photo that keeps speaking to you, you’re in trouble.
Best burn them both and leave town. FOR GOOD.
4. Dresses are wrong, and your favourite outfit may likely turn into your worst enemy.
As in Point Horror’s Prom Dress, where a stunning dress (the cover tells another story) causes the wearer to run into a podium and de-capitate herself.
5. You need to be prepared for your best friend to team up with a horrific sociopath and murder you in cold blood
Most probably whilst you’re getting changed after swimming one day.
So there you have it. Subliminal conditioning that George Orwell would proudly write into the most evil inhabitants of Oceania. I've even found myself dreaming up my own Point Horror titles recently, based on my own experiences, including the compelling The Cat sitter – its paws were fatal, whic comes a close second to: The digital designer – his personal outfit planner sent her to hell.
But what do you think about the books you used to read? Did you have any favourites as a teenager? And can you do better than my attempts at a Point Horror title? Weigh in below!