A Trip Down Fear Street: It All Began at the Book Fair
I was in the fourth grade; it was the most magical time of the school year — The Book Fair. My mom had given me some cash, and I squirmed all morning with anticipation until my home-room’s turn to head to the cafeteria/auditorium where the stage housed the movable bookshelves just brimming with entries into new worlds.
Finally, it was our turn. I subtly (at least in my mind) elbowed my way to the front of the line. I always ensured I was the first one to set foot on stage for The Book Fairs. This really wasn’t all that hard as most of the kids were either not interested or only mildly interested in The Book Fair, which I took as an indicator of their inferior intellect and my obvious superiority. (I had to compensate for being a geek somehow.)
Once there, most of the kids flocked to the books in the appropriate age range, I was clearly too mature for such things. Frequently described by the adults in my life (and as an only child this was largely the group I spent the most time with) as “precocious” and my “extensive” vocabulary praised, I had a lot to prove. I couldn’t be bothered with reading books in my actual age range so I meandered into the 8th grade section. Eighth grade — four grade levels above me! Certainly with my advanced reading and vocabulary skills, I could find something to suit my more discerning tastes.
That’s when I discovered R.L. Stine’s The Thrill Club — part of the Fear Street series.
Fear Street was Goosebumps for the more mature reader. Despite its popularity, I had never found the Goosebumps series particularly riveting. Well, it was now clear why this was so. It was because I was simply too mature for Goosebumps. (This coming from a kid who was too scared to watch Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid of the Dark). Clearly, I should have been reading Fear Street. Thus began a three year love affair that would later expand into more YA horror such as L.J. Smith’s Nightworld series (you may know her better as the creator of The Vampire Diaries; Nightworld is better), Christopher Pike, V.C. Andrews, and eventually Anne Rice, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and books on serial killers (yeah… that’s another story for another time).
And now, a new generation of geeky kids compensating for their schoolyard rejection with an overinflated sense of self will follow their own paths into the fascinating genre of horror. Stine is reviving the series with Party Games set to release this October.
In honor of the revival, I am beginning a Fear Street reread project. As there are over 100 titles in the original series, I limited my project to the ones I read (my obsession ended around 1997/1998 when I discovered the incest classic Flowers in the Attic) – which still left me at around 83. So I further limited myself to the ones I could find in used bookstores. I currently have 47 in my possession.
But then again, I’ve never met a used bookstore that I didn’t like. I will be rereading and reviewing one per week (and will combine the series such as Fear Park, Cheerleaders, etc. into one review). I will summarize and evaluate them based on general categories such as body count, 90-isms (Walkmans, comparisons to Cher, etc.), horror tropes, and the covers. Overall evaluations will be on a scale of 1-5 trolls (one of the creepiest things to come out of the 90s). Oh, and of course there will be many 90s GIFs.
Join me for my journey whether you had a similar obsession with the series, are new to them, are a fan of YA horror, and/or just want to get your 90s nostalgia on.