All Hallow’s Read: The New Girl

NOTE: This is the fourteenth in a series of 31 reviews of scary short stories and novels. As part of All Hallow’s Read, I will be sharing all the scary stories that I think you should consider giving to someone for Halloween. Because this is a tradition intended for people of all ages, some of these titles will be for children and young adults, while others are meant strictly for adults. Happy Reading.

So Goosebumps ruled the world. Well, before that R.L. Stine ruled the teenage horror book market with his Fear Street series, books that took place in the fictional town of Shadyside, with little else to connect them. I didn’t read them much, though I always wanted to. Their covers always got me so pumped. All of them reminded me of the horror VHS covers lining the shelves of the local video stores. Teenagers in hardcore ’80s fashion in a spooky setting, or with a grisly reflection, or hiding from something. Essentially, teens in scary situations. Regardless, I read one or two in middle school. Remember, I wasn’t a big reader.

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YA (young adult, or teen fiction) has been a comfort zone for me. They’re suspenseful stories told at a shotgun pace. I’ve always wanted to write them, but never saw much demand for it. Now that the YA field has blown up (thanks to Twilight and The Hunger Games) everyone and their brother is writing them. The market has become so saturated with YA titles that it’s become intimidating. Yet another excuse for me to procrastinate.

While working on one of my dozens of YA related projects, I kept seeing those Fear Street covers. Man, they’re so badass! I would stare at them so long that I finally decided to buy the first in the series, which would be: The New Girl.

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From the very start of the book I said, “Ah crap, Rob (Mr. Stine’s first name) why would you go and write such a predictable book?” Mind you, I hadn’t made it past the first couple of chapters. I had just assumed it would read like the Goosebumps books but with bigger words and maybe some sex talk. In those you have a pretty good idea what you’re in for from the very start. The writing was so similar that I judged it a little too early and almost stopped reading. Then the twists came. The red herrings. Soon I was breezing through the book having a blast.

To my surprise Mr. Stine managed to create a few genuinely spooky moments. Nothing major but enough to impress me. Not that he needs to impress me. Kids have been getting the chills the Fear Street books since ’89. The experience put me in my place. I’d been just as bad as any of his other critics, mistaking his simple style as a sign of incompetency.

My version of The New Girl was updated to fit in with all the modern teen thrillers out there. Kids listen to their ipods and watch DVDs but still dress like it’s the ’80s. It was just a worthless gimmick to try and stay relevant. The same thing is happening with Christopher Pike’s (the other-often considered better-teen horror scribe at the time) books, getting slapped with Twilight-y covers to stay on the shelves. I guess if it gets people reading them it’s a good thing.

Although, the cover to my copy is inexcusable. No where near as awesome as the classics.

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The New Girl is perfect for anyone who remembers the buzz of renting an old horror movie, bringing it home, setting the mood just right and trying to give yourself nightmares. I enjoyed it so much I’m considering on doing a whole month dedicated to the strange happenings of Shadyside. Hmmm. I’d better get reading them.

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