Point Horror Collection #1 by A. Bates, Diane Hoh, and R. L. Stine

First published, 1993

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Mother’s Helper by A. Bates
An interesting choice for the first story in this collection. I spent my early teens devouring Point Horror Books. I borrowed as many as I could lay my hands on from the library and incurred endless late fees because I couldn’t bear to give them back. All this is to say that my expectations were pretty darned high when I picked up this book.

Mother’s Helper is a complete story (beginning, middle and end) with some twists and turns that would have, I’m sure, surprised me when I was younger. Whether I actually read this one when I was thirteen, I can’t be sure. That was a lot of years ago. As such, I can’t really be surprised that the main character’s internal monologue doesn’t take place in italics. It might have been a nice formatting choice, just to give the reader a chance to understand who’s speaking, or whether or not they’re speaking to the reader. But maybe I was just smarter when I was a kid and didn’t need all that explaining through the use of slanted letters?

There are moments in the story where I’m sure my young self would have thought the teenager had outwitted the adult, where now I can see that although the adult absolutely underestimates the teenager, they are firmly in control. The story might be a little bit ‘soap opera’, but it ticks the boxes for a 1990s teenage horror. Anything with a doll collection is immediately terrifying to me so I’m cautiously optimistic about the rest of the book.

The Invitation by Diane Hoh
Now, this is more like it. When Sarah and the rest of her unpopular friends are miraculously invited to the fanciest house in town for the party event of the year, they experience all kinds of reactions from desperate, clawing excitement to outright scepticism. But as their siblings become jealous, and some of the mothers are almost more excited than the invitees, Sarah Drew is sure something else is happening. Cass Rockham just doesn’t spend time with her and probably couldn’t pick her out of a crowd.

“’I said I was invited, Ellie. I never said I was going.’
“Sarah heard nothing but a shocked silence at the other end of the telephone line.
“Envisioning the horrified expression on Ellie’s face, Sarah laughed. ‘Look,’ she said, sinking into a wooden chair at the round kitchen table, ‘it’s probably a mistake. One of Mr. Rockham’s secretaries must have goofed and invited the whole junior class by mistake. Cass will probably have her fired. Maybe killed.’”
P 174, Chapter Two, The Invitation by Diane Hoh

But when the magical night arrives and Sarah and her friends appear in all their finery, they can’t possibly know that what’s in store for them might seem like a childish game, but it’ll soon have deadly consequences.

A brilliant story, really well-told. I loved the characters and their angst; seemingly something went wrong at every turn and that really appealed to me.

Beach Party by R. L. Stine
And this is where memory has let me down. There is no doubt that R. L. Stine is one of the great storytellers of our time. His is the name I always associate with Point Horror and he’s long been one of my favourite authors.

But this was a proper let-down.

Karen is spending the summer in her father’s beach house with her pal, Ann-Marie who is visiting from New York. They meet a whole bunch of young people on the boardwalk and on the sand, and it isn’t long before Karen – trying to put ex Mike behind her when he won’t let her go, and toying with the idea of gang leader Vince, before falling for “good guy” Jerry.

My problem is this: Mike is clearly a stalker. During their first encounter, Vince backed up by his gang, threatens Karen and her friend with sexual assault, at the very least some form of masculine intimidation – whereupon, “She realized that she was attracted to him, the way she was always attracted to danger, to excitement, the way she often was driven to pursue things she knew might not be good for her.”
P 357, Chapter Three, Beach Party by R. L. Stine

And, lest we forget, “good guy” Jerry has a girlfriend. A mean one called Renee, who might have had a crack at drowning Karen but frankly, I’m with Renee on this one.

Are you kidding me?

All in all, this collection contains some big names and a very good example of the style of writing contained in Point Horror Books, and although I was a little let down by some of the character’s attitudes, I still plan to continue with these collections. There’s nothing quite like a healthy dose of nostalgia.

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