Friday, September 13, 2013

A Blast from the Past: YA Horror Pt. 2

So, during the 90's all three major horror franchises had short lived young adult novel series.  The one I'm going to talk about today is one of my favorites, and also probably one of the most insanely inappropriate book series ever marketed at young teens every.


The series consists of four books (Mother's Day, Jason's Curse, The Carnival and Road Trip), all written by Eric Morse. The first interesting thing about this series is that Jason never actually makes an appearance.  His mask does, but Jason never actually shows up.  No, instead his mask is the main star here, possessing people, and turning them into murderous behemoths tearing apart the local population.

And I do mean tearing apart.

These books are VIOLENT! The ending of The Carnival alone is probably one of the most graphically violent things I have ever read in a novel not written by Edward Lee.  Basically the whole carnival goes nuts after being infected with the evil from Crystal Lake, and everything starts killing people.  A tilt a whirl goes whirring into an electric fence, frying a girl's father in front of her very eyes (he was sitting with his cheap floozy of a mistress, so she didn't feel to bad).  Two preteens get deep fried by that same electric fence when they try and sneak into the carnival.  Heads are cleaved and chopped off.  Bodies are dismembered.  These books are the blood splattered gore fest that the films always wanted to be, but never could because of the MPAA.

The one frustrating thing about this series has nothing to do with the actual writing.  The books are actually very entertaining, and one or two of them are shockingly effective in creating interesting characters (one of the men possessed by Jason's mask has a truly heart breaking story that includes a history of child abuse.  I believe this was in Jason's Curse, but it has been a while).  No, what is frustrating about these books is how hard they are to find.  Unlike most YA series, these books are not cheap, with perfect copies going for $100+.  Even used copies will set you back for $15 to $20.

I read these books years ago, long before Amazon was the place to go for used books, and I remember having to search far and wide for copies of Mother's Day and The Carnival.  Back then, in my desperation, I made a good deal of money for those books.  Today, the price hasn't dropped much.

Still, for hardcore Friday the 13th Fans these books are must haves.  For anyone else, if you can find them cheap, grab them.  You won't be disappointed.

Next up will be a series within a series!  WOO HOO!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Blast from the Past: YA Horror Pt. 1

Lately I have found a new addiction.  I have been devouring young adult horror novels from the late 80's and early 90's.  Any child who grew up in the 90's knows exactly what books I'm talking about.  They had flashy covers and generic names like "Summer School" or Sleepwalker" with cheesy tag lines attached.  They also had amazingly cool painted covers featuring "teens" in peril, or looking scared.  The titles were usually written in some brightly colored, jagged font.

Growing up the bookstores were filled with these "novels" (usually they clocked in at just around 200 pages).  When I was in grade school and junior high I devoured them.  Fear Street, Christopher Pike... I couldn't get enough.  Then I got older, and the books allure started to fade.  Then they started to vanish off of store shelves, quickly being replaced with giant, fantasy epics, or romantic horror stories.  These short, quick bits of horror goodness were being replaced with books which were much more sophisticated, well written and intelligent.

Now that I edge closer to 30 I find myself drawn to stuff that I enjoyed when I was a kid, and to the stuff that I never got the chance to enjoy.  Thanks to Amazon used copies of all these books can be found for pennies, and I've been snatching them up like nobody's business.

So, I thought I would talk about a few of the long lost series that most people probably don't remember.  Fear Street was probably the most popular, and there are whole blogs devoted to those books.  This is for those series that people may have enjoyed when they were growing up, but probably don't even remember now.

SO!  Let's kick things off with one of the more shocking series from that era.


Terror Academy was a series written by Nicholas Pine (although it is unknown if every book was written by this author.  Ghost writers were used for a lot of long running series).  The series lasted sixteen books, and most, if not all, tended to follow a basic slasher film plot (a few had fantasy or sci-fi elements).  As was the style at the time, most of the books feature a female lead, and are told in the third person (unlike today, where most YA books are written in first person).

What makes these books shocking is just how inappropriate they are.  Wonderfully inappropriate.

The most noticeable thing is the sheer amount of sexual assault in these books.  Yes, you read that right.  Sexual assault.  I have read five of these books in the past couple weeks, and all but one of them has had the lead character (always female) nearly get sexually assaulted by her boyfriend or the bad guy... or someone.  One of the books, The Prom, actually has an implied rape as the major catalyst behind why the local teens are getting killed off.  Yep, a young adult rape revenge novel.

I guess to offset the sheer horror at the regular near sexual assault in all these books Mr. Pine decided to make his female leads as strong as possible.  The females in this series do not just scream and wait for a man to save them.  Oh no!  They beat the ever living hell out of their attackers.  Using their teeth, hands, cars and in one case a flock of hungry birds to deal with their over aggressive male counterparts. In the book School Spirit our lead (named Cindy Prescott no less) deals with her attacker by driving off with him hanging out of the passenger's side door of her mini van, then proceeds to drive up onto a lawn, and run him into a metal pole.  The women of Terror Academy are fighters, that's for sure, and the men... are idiots.

It is interesting to note how old fashioned the view of sex is in these novels.  The guys always want it, the girls never want, and the guys will use force if necessary to get it.  The one time I believe a character does have sex, in the hilariously offensive Science Project, the girl ends up knocked up, then knocked off by her psychotic baby daddy.

What isn't old fashioned is the confused sexual politics on these novels.  The leads, who are always female, never have the expectation of being a stay at home mom, or a dutiful wife.  No, these women are striving for college and careers.  If they aren't, they are expected to.  Never in any of these books do these women talk about "settling down".  Pair that with the oddly brutish view of sex and gender roles from the male characters, and you get... a headache.

The second thing is how extremely gory these books are.  People are decapitated, eviscerated, mauled, chopped, smashed, shot, impaled, electrocuted, crushed, sliced, diced and minced.  This is not one of those series where someone looks dead and then it turns out they are a messy eater and are covered in ketchup.  No, in this series the bad guys (and good guys) die, and die horribly.  One book, Spring Break even takes it's plot from The Hills Have Eyes, having a family face off against a gang of blood thirsty, psychotic mountain men.

Yet as horribly inappropriate as the violence and attempted rape are, these books are VERY tame in one regard.  Language.  While most young adult books from the era kept their language fairly tame, they would still occasionally use words such as bitch, damn, hell or ass.  They would use appropriate strong language when needed.  Not these books.  Nicholas Pine writes these characters as if they were straight out of a 1950's teenage delinquent film, and this causes some very awkward, and hilarious insults, such as people calling each other trash boy or ridiculous names like "Sand Face" for a character named Sandy.

Still, all that aside, the books are impossible to put down.  They aren't horribly written, and they move quickly.  Top it all off with a real flare for the over the top and tasteless, and the books are pure winners... just not for their intended audiences.

For the sheer level of insanity on display in this series, I have to declare this probably one of my favorites from the long lost and forgotten 90's YA horror craze.

Still, these weren't the most inappropriate or violent books to grace the YA bookshelves back in the 90's.  In the next Blast from the Past entry I'll be talking about one very awesome, very short lived, and very hard to find series that any and every horror fan should check out.