…with a crate-load of Point Horror books in the passenger seat of my hot rod. Because there were still totally hot rods in the nineties. Leave it alone–this is my dream.
Actually, hot rods never figured in my teenage daydreams (and still don’t in my late-thirties), but any number of Point Horror protagonists did. Would I choose Sexy but Dangerous or Sexy but Safe? Well, the only thing I could be sure of is that at least one of them was out to kill me, but that didn’t stop me from trying to outsmart them all…in my head. Unsuccessfully.
But I do still think about Point Horror, occasionally and fondly. Being a girl who loved horror and had pretty much devoured the full raft of Victorian, Edwardian and early (and many late) twentieth-century ghost stories by age fourteen, I found myself looking for something a bit closer to home. Of course I read all the Stephen King novels and Ann Rule true crime books on my mother’s shelf, but as an early teenager in the nineties, stories of single mothers in peril or real adult men committing heinous acts–along with the almost de rigueur sexual violence against women–didn’t satisfy my desire for inclusion. Those books were arguably less scary, less meaningful to me because I couldn’t see myself in the protagonists’ shoes.
Enter Point Horror. I can’t remember the exact moment I first found a Point Horror novel on the library or bookshop shelf and decided to give this unknown a go, but I can remember spending my summers plowing through volume after volume with absolute pleasure. (I will always and forever associate scary stories with lazy days and sunshine.) This was also the time I started getting seriously into music; the radio was constantly on (CFNY Toronto, anyone?), and I began buying tapes and CDs of my own choosing. Even now, when certain songs come on the radio or in the pub, I am instantly transported to a scene from a Point Horror book, and I may not recall the details with clarity, but I always remember the feeling. And it is good.
Point began life in the early nineties as a division of Scholastic and published paperback originals from a host of now-notable authors, including Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine (one of his first was a Point book). They were geared towards teenage girls–unusual in itself for anything horror-related–and were very popular with their target demographic. They are, it seems, well remembered for the most part, although some criticism has focused on the representation of their female characters and the dearth of practical problems. Point Horror stopped publishing in 2005, although there was a mini-revival in 2013.
Twenty-plus years later, I’m interested, mostly, in whether the shine of Point Horror has dulled. I’m no longer the target audience, of course, and though contemporary at the time, the nineties are long gone, long enough for clothes from that era to be deemed ‘vintage’ (gross). So Point may very well just not be for me anymore. But is it true, as Will Davis wrote in the Guardian, that as an adult I’ll feel embarrassed I ever read ‘this trash’? That Point Horror failed because ‘today’s kids [writing in 2008] have higher standards’, and that the books’ escapist nature prevented them from treating real-life issues that would appeal more to contemporary teenagers (just like Twilight…oh wait)? Davis was ambiguous on that last point, but I’m firmly opposed to it. Do thirteen-year-olds really need the drudgery and despair of everyday life shoved down their tender throats, and if that’s truly what they desire, why are they fleeing headlong into the arms of sparkling vampires and boy wizards? Is escapism such a bad thing? Is Point Horror, well, pointless? Let’s not be so hasty with our adult-shaped judgments in hindsight here.
The point to this Point is that I just found out Open Road Media has republished ebooks of a number of novels from my fave fave fave ever Point Horror author, Richie Tankersley Cusick (you won’t find much on her author website–technology doesn’t seem to be her strong point). I’m a bit late to the game on this one, but hey, it’s new to me. So I’m going to read my way through all of Cusick’s Point Horror books that are available in ebook–and try to source any that aren’t–giving my thoughts and memories beforehand, which might not be much (it has been a quarter of a century since I read them, after all), and then revisit my position after. Does the legacy persist untarnished? I don’t know. Will I emerge disillusioned and ashamed of my teenage self? I highly doubt it.
At least I was reading.