A generation of millennials was raised on the books of R.L. Stine - first with Goosebumps, and then with his YA horror novel series Fear Street. These young adult thrillers offered up slashers, body switches, and evil cheerleaders, all within the confines of about 200 pages. And the best part about the books is they never seemed to end. Even after the series was put out to pasture in 2005, the desire to be scared by the master of young adult horror was so palpable that Stine brought back the Fear Street series in 2014.
Stine’s young adult books take place in a visceral nightmare world that's both scarier and steamier than you remember. And they’re much more than just Sweet Valley High with guts and gore - Stine loves to scare his readers, especially after they take a wrong turn down Fear Street.
- Photo: St. Martin's Griffin
Fear Street Is Full Of Slain Teens
One of the many things that set R.L. Stine's Fear Street series apart from the Goosebumps novels is the pile of slain teenagers clogging up the pages. When discussing the voluminous offings, Stine said, "I kill a lot of teenagers. It’s kind of my hobby. I was wondering why recently... And then I realized: I had one back at home. Teenagers are tough!"
Stine wasn't always allowed to work out his home life in the pages of Fear Street. He told CNN, “When we first started doing the teen horror novels, I wasn’t allowed to kill anyone… We started getting bolder, one per book, maybe two or three. Then, it’s a blood fest.”
After Stine was finally allowed to dispatch with his characters however he saw fit, he did everything he could to freak out readers. He told the Los Angeles Times his most "gruesome" scene takes place in The Lost Girl. He said, "I don't want to spoil it for anybody. It involves horses eating a guy. While his daughter watches. Yeah. I'm actually very proud of this scene."
Stine's Characters Could Be Anyone
While discussing how he so easily connects with readers, Stine explained it all boils down to not making his characters too specific. He wants everyone to relate with the teens on Fear Street, and the way to do that is to flesh them out just enough so they could feasibly exist.
Take The Secret Bedroom, for instance. Everyone's lived in a creepy house before, and most of us can't stop ourselves from venturing into a dark attic when we hear footsteps.
He told CNN, "You’re in one character’s head, and everything in the book happens through her. Everything she sees, you see. It all goes through her, every smell, every sound. You come to identify with her, and that’s how you make something really scary."
'Fear Street' Gets Intense Because Stine's Readers Can Handle It
The Fear Street novels feature heightened realities and horrifying situations that might surprise you if the last thing you read of Stine's was Night of the Living Dummy. In The Prom Queen, a girl is slain with a knife, while in Broken Hearts, a girl gets brain damage after falling off a horse. These aren't books for the faint of heart.
Stine believes his readers can handle extreme situations because of heightened elements in his books. He told The Verge, "I think if you make sure it's a fantasy world, and the kids know what they're reading is a fantasy and couldn't happen, then you can go pretty far and you won’t upset them that much."
He doubled down on this in an interview with The Daily Beast:
I’ve been doing it for so long, and you just have to know it. I have one rule with this 'scary kids' stuff, which is that kids have to know it’s a fantasy. They have to know it can’t really happen. And then once you do that, they have to know it’s not part of the real world. Because the real world is a creepy place for kids right now.
The 'Fear Street' Books Are Seriously Gruesome
Characters aren't just placed in adult situations in the Fear Street series, they're often maliciously assailed - even if they make it through to the end of the book. Stine has said he thinks fictional gore is good, and his readers are smart enough to tell the difference between something in a book and something in reality.
I think it's good for kids because it gets that out of them. Kids are very smart, and if they see a movie in which people are punching each other, and it's very [rough], they know it's movie [aggression]. If they walk down the street and two people are fighting... it's a totally different reaction...