While running inventory on the contents of my hall closet last week, I unearthed a veritable treasure trove of 90s nostalgia. Contained within a box with a L7 sticker affixed to it (riot girl, I was one!) were the following: butterfly hair clips, a vintage tube of Cherry Coke Lipsmacker Chapstick, a pair of those wide leg pants from Tripp (yes, the ones with the chains, don’t judge), fingerless gloves from Hot Topic (also, stop with the judging) and a dog-eared copy of R.L. Stine’s YA novel “Welcome to Dead House,” the first publication in the immensely popular Goosebumps series, of which I was a fan.
Skimming through the book (among others), I was reminded of my then-love of all things YA, and deciding to take a trip down memory lane, I spent a good part of the afternoon reconnecting with Stine’s work, as well as the other authors whose scary tomes filled that box (the only thing scarier may be that given the decade of their publication, they could arguably now be considered “historical fiction.” Would that then make Nirvana “classic rock?” I refuse to entertain that notion, or my own apparent encroaching mortality).
So sit back, grab a box of Dunkaroos and a can of Surge, and rekindle your love for the five scariest YA book series of the 1990s.
Published by Scholastic Publishing, the series launched in 1992 with Stine’s previously mentioned novel “Welcome to Dead House” in July of that year, and collectively has sold over 350 million books worldwide, in addition to the Fox television series and successful 2015 film feature spawned from the series’ name. Spin-offs would follow, as would many, many imitators. (Trivia! Did you know filmmaker Tim Burton was initially attached to produce a film version of Goosebumps in 1998, although as a satisfactory script failed to ever materialize, he focused his efforts on Sleepy Hollow instead).
#2. Point Horror
Another series published by Scholastic Inc., the Point Horror series, which commenced a year earlier than Goosebumps, contained works by varied authors, including Stine (his story “Blind Date,” released under the Point Horror banner, helped launch his career). My favorite however was author Christopher Pike’s story “Collect Call” which appeared in the Point Horror anthology book Thirteen: 13 Tales of Horror. Similar to horror heavyweight Stephen King in tone (as well as being pretty creepy), I can recall entirely relating to the story’s protagonist of Janice Adams, an atypical high school girl with a crush on the local, leather jacket-wearing bad boy which goes horribly wrong.
Don’t they always?
#3. Are You Afraid of the Dark
My entry into this series came not from the successful and long-running 1991 Nickelodeon television program of the same name (and from which it stemmed), but from the 1995 book “The Tale of the Sister Statues” by author John Peel. As in many of the young adult series, this one revolved around a duo of high schoolers (here, siblings Dustin and Brianne) who wind up conducting their own investigation into a potentially macabre event. Kinda’ an edgier version of your parents’ Nancy Drew, except for the pre-teen Smash Mouth crowd. Kinda’.
Also from 1995 is Peg Kehret’s “Cat Burglar on the Prowl” which appears in Book 1 of the Frightmares series. Like Peel’s book, Kehret’s first entry in the eight book series revolves around similarly sleuthing teens and best friends Rosie Saunders and Kayo Benton, who launch an investigation into the theft of their feline Webster at a local cat show. Comprised of eight books in total, Frightmares often features storylines revolving around animals (Kehret’s a longtime advocate and volunteer for animal welfare, something I discovered while chatting with a YA expert in a Nick 90s club I belong to over at Gemr.) Because I’m a dork.
Lastly, prolific author M.D. Spenser got into the YA game with Shivers, a series of thirty-six horror novels for readers between the ages of eight and fourteen. Published between 1996 and 1998, this series skewed a bit too young for me at the time (full disclosure, the only book in the series which I read was “The Enchanted Attic,” which centered upon two young children and their suspicion of a malevolent force inhabiting the attic of an old home they’ve recently moved into). Still, with compilations called “Four Scares in One” being issued (which apparently featured four books in a single publication), as well as being republished this decade in eBook form on several major platforms, it’s probably high time for me to give Spenser’s scary series another look.
My children may like it.
But there’s no way I’m giving them those butterfly hair clips. Accidentally stepping on those things is scarier than any of these books, singularly or combined.