Now that we’re in the thick of the Halloween season, it’s time to dust off those old books that gave me nightmares back when vampires were scary and werewolves were blood-thirsty fiends. Let’s face it, the YA “horror” genre ain’t what it used to be. Sure, glittery vampires and lovelorn ghosts are amusing, but do they give us goosebumps? Eh, not so much. So this year, I’m revisiting some old titles that set those little hairs on the back of my neck on edge when I was a mere sprig of a girl. Here’s a sampling of some of my most favorite Halloweenie reads from the days of yore.
Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick
Here’s an oldie but goodie. Back in seventh grade, I clearly remember reading this thing from cover to cover – in between classes, on the school bus, in detention, and under the sheets with a nightlight. That was the year when I realized that I didn’t have to deal with reality. Thanks to this author, I hit the pause button on junior high life and immersed myself in an alternate world of spooks, haunted houses and dreamy ghost boys. Like all her other novels, Richie Tankersley Cusick uses her tried-and-true formula: Girl moves into a haunted house under tragic circumstances. Girl crushes on cute, mysterious boy. Girl discovers dark secrets about her new home. Girl and boy team up to conquer evil. Throw in a spooky backyard cemetery and a demonic stalker, and you’ve got yourself a fun little Gothic ghost tale for a dark and stormy night!
Beware by R.L. Stine
How could I leave out R.L. Stine – the great master of YA macabre? I remember that fateful day at the mall bookstore when I begged my dad to buy me this book. Considering my dad’s a total sucker, it didn’t take too much to get him to relent. Oh how I miss those days when I’d spend an afternoon at the mall with my dad eating corndogs and buying books. Come to think of it, whatever happened to mall book stores? Don’t mallrats read anymore? But I digress…this is a fun little compilation of R.L. Stine’s favorite short stories by an impressive assortment of literary greats – from Bram Stoker to Shel Silverstein to Ray Bradbury. My favorite, of course, is Ray Bradbury’s “The Black Ferris,” a spine-tingling story about an evil carnival that “came to town like an October wind, like a dark bat flying over a cold lake, bones rattling in the night, mourning, sighing, whispering up the tents in the dark rain…”
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Remember that kid at the slumber party who insisted on telling scary stories and playing Bloody Mary? I was that girl. Yep, I was to blame for that ubiquitous sissy who cried for her mommy in the middle of the night. I was responsible for the “Mad Molly” nightmares that kept all the girls shivering in their bunks at summer camp. All of those morbid stories were spawned by Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Even to this day, I will not show up at a campsite without this trusty collection of dark and spooky tales. Some are silly and downright hokey, but a few stories still chill me to the bone. The story about “Harold,” a demonic scarecrow with a thirst for human blood, always gives me the creeps! But what scares me the most about this book are the morbid illustrations. It’s hard to believe those images of bloody hands and impaled scarecrows would cut it in the children’s section. But hey, I’m not going to complain! I turned out perfectly normal…right?
The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith
Forget the WB show and its complicated plotlines. Seriously guys, after the third season I was so done with the tangled web of ancient legacies, vampire/werewolf hybrids and traitorous vampire hunters. Miss one episode and you’re totally lost. If it wasn’t for the eye candy, I doubt I would have made it past the second season. But don’t fret, you can still get all the enjoyment out of the Vampire Diaries without the whiney younger brother and convoluted subplots by reading L.J. Smith’s trilogy. If you’re looking for an action-packed vampire love triangle with intricate plot threads, you should pick up something more contemporary. But if you’re in the mood for a good old-fashioned vampire love story with lots of teeny angst, give this series a shot.