This summer I decided to dip into some nostalgia and revisit books from one of my favourite series’ from when I was teenager; Point Horror. Should I have left my good memories of the books in the past? Are they still enjoyable for a horror-loving adult?
Today, here in the North of England, I’m looking at blue skies following a few cold and dreary morning…
Is it Autumn yet? I hope so! It’s starting to feel like it! I’m a big fan of Autumn. It has always been my favourite season. That being said, I’ve not had chance to tell you about what I read this summer! I read through a few things, but I mainly went on a nostalgia crusade.
It started when I was discussing the kind of books I read as a teenager with a friend. Around the age of 13 I started breezing through the Point Horror series. I had read things like the Goosebumps books when I was younger, and the thriller/horror style really appealed to me. I also loved how short the books were. Perfect for reading quickly and not getting bored.
So, it turns out that my friend also loved Point Horror. We had a good reminisce about the series and our favourites. I wondered if they would be quite as enjoyable now.
One of my strongest memories of reading Point Horror is that I had a few of their three book collections, and I would take them on holiday with me. When going away for two weeks at a time, the multi-volume books were easy to pack and would last me a whole trip.
I fondly remember reading one of the volumes when I was 15 and on holiday in California, Arizona, and Nevada. After that, I have a strong association with summer and Point Horror.
This year, I wanted to read some books that were easy to dip in and out of (when I had the time) and were quick to get through. The perfect time, then, to have a go at the Point Horror books and see if they were as good as I remembered or better left in the past.
I found some cheap versions online. Again, I went for the three-book collections. Why not, when it meant getting three books for 99p?
My first trip down memory lane was (appropriately enough) ‘Collection 1’. The books inside it are Mother’s Helper by A.Bates, The Invitation by Diane Hoh, and Beach Party by R.L. Stine. I thought it was ideal to start with a collection that contained a book by R.L. Stine, because I can’t think of Point Horror without thinking of him.
Since first reading the collection over a decade ago, I have visited and fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest. Mother’s Helper is actually set there, so that was a nice way to kick things off.
After reading the three, I was little bit… I don’t want to say unimpressed, but I wasn’t blown away. In the years since my first read of the Point Horror books, I have taken to reading a lot of crime fiction. Obviously the horror and crime in the PH books is nowhere near the level of what I’ve read recently; these are young adult books, with an emphasis on the young part.
I felt a little disillusioned. To try and claw back some favour for the PH books, I moved on to ‘Collection 3’ (April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick, The Waitress by Sinclair Smith, and The Snowman by R.L. Stine), and my level of enjoyment improved significantly.
The Waitress was one of the first Point Horror books I ever read. I remember very clearly picking it out in my high school’s library. It was long enough ago that I didn’t remember the plot, or only very vague details of it. Reading it again was really nice. It was like a very gentle feeling of deja vu; comforting for being a little familiar, but almost a new reading experience again.
The last collection I managed to squeeze in was ‘Collection 7’. This was the one I remember taking to the USA with me. I can remember sitting by the pool in Palm Springs and being utterly fascinated by the three books (The Window by Carol Ellis, The Train by Diane Hoh, and Hit and Run by R.L. Stine), and I know that I came home and immediately read them all again.
One of my most treasured memories of that holiday is sitting and reading the book by a campfire. This summer, I sat and read it by our little wood burner in the garden.
I remembered a good deal more of the plots, but it was still really nice to read them again. It was like looking at an old photo album.
So, Point Horror books aren’t going to win any literary prizes, but they are fairly well written. The plots are engaging, interesting, and, at times, quite gripping. Obviously, being aimed at younger teens, there’s a lack of violence that makes it quite questionable to call them ‘horror’. It’s, basically, quite watered-down. My main issue is with the characters.
Some of the character development can be a bit lacking, and the teen characters tend to be stereotypes that are copied from book to book; there’s always a jock, there’s always a quiet and naive female protagonist, an exceptionally handsome boyfriend, etc. It’s usually female characters who are killed. Sometimes, the ending can be such a plot twist that it borders on impossible, my favourite being the ending of The Train (plot spoiler!).
It is revealed that a ‘corpse’ on the train is very much alive and responsible for murdering people, a feat achieved through cunning disguise; the murderer has dressed as her dead boyfriend’s body using make-up skills learnt whilst working on a school play. You may need to read that a couple of times for it to make sense, but, at the end of the day, it will never make sense.
Ultimately, Point Horror books fell out of fashion because young people demanded higher quality literature. I totally understand that. That being said, they are good ‘mindless’ fiction. They take little thought, and are probably better the least you analyse them. It’s a nice bit of escapism for a few hours, but it won’t excite you if you’re widely read and used to better writing, or, certainly, more ‘grown-up’ writing.
I was interested to read that the Point Horror series relaunched in 2013 with new books. Maybe they will be more like current YA fiction, and less vacuous and simplistic?
I think I’ll have to give them a go! Either way, I’m really glad I had a nostalgic summer reading some of my teenage favourites! It was nice to revisit the stories. I have happy memories of the books, and rereading them this summer hasn’t diminished that. They’re enjoyable enough, I just want more out of my reads now.
After this little experiment, I would quite like to revisit some other books from that period of my life, including things by Judy Blume.
Have you ever re-read any childhood or teenage reads?
Were they as good second time round?
Would you like to do some nostalgic reading?
Were you a fan of Point Horror or have you read the new ones?
– CK –