Bites

monsterPublished: July 1, 1994
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Rumors are flying around Salem U. Stories about a monster roaming the campus. Tales of students viciously attacked in the dead of night.

Abby McDonald thinks it’s all nonsense. A fraternity prank. A drama major giving an unusual “performance”.

She has too much on her mind to worry about a monster.

But she should be worried.

Because the truth about the monster is even more horrible than she could have imagined…  (goodreads.com)

I liked MONSTER.  It was creepy and cheesy and spine-tingly and it hit right for old school YA horror.

I just want to know who’s taking chemistry as a 100/200 level class if they don’t actually have to?  Talk about torture.  Another bid to my thinking that the Nightmare Hall books don’t really know whether to be high school or college.  While I’m sure chemistry’s offered at college level no one would actually subject themselves to that unless it was required for a major or minor.  Ick.

So a monster is supposedly stalking the campus and attacking people but most don’t really believe it.  Until someone in their circle of friends is attacked and he swears it was really some kind of beast that did it.  Soon “proof” starts turning up in the form of clumps of coarse fur but even then Abby can’t be bothered with it too much because she’s spread herself out a bit too thin as it is.  On top of stuffing herself full of school in order to maintain her scholarship she’s working part-time in the cafeteria and her boyfriend of multiple years is slipping away from her because she doesn’t make time for him.  So much on her plate!

I really like Hoh’s ability to build suspense.  It feels natural and organic to the story and she’s good at misleading you down one path to the truth when really it’s another path entirely.    I’m sure the more Nightmare Hall books I read the more formulaic this will get but for right now it’s refreshing and lends itself to the scare factor of the story.

With MONSTER you do get a supernatural element to it and it’s kind of neat.  Different but recognizable once that twist is revealed.  It’s even mentioned by another character, the familiar part to it, so you can’t miss it if you don’t immediately recognize it yourself.  There are a few possibilities for who could be doing this but over the course of the story those suspects get whittled out and I think that lends itself to a greater level of suspense.  WHO’S LEFT?

MONSTER is what I think of when I think of YA horror.  It’s cheesy, yes, but it embodies teen life (at least in the 90s), it has a heavy dose of suspense, a supernatural element, and a twist ending that you may or may not see coming.  I didn’t see this one coming although, really, things aren’t all that subtle in hindsight.  Isn’t that always the truth?  Still, I really liked MONSTER for what it was.  The characters were believable; they weren’t caricatures of teenagers and how someone thinks they might interact.  Abby is a genuinely good character that has too much on her plate but her intentions are nothing but admirable.  Unfortunately things don’t always work out for her.  I actually felt for them in the too-short story and yeah, it was creepy too.

4.5

thenightwalkerPublished: March 1, 1994
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Quinn Hadley is sure she must be the only sleepwalker at Salem.  It’s so embarrassing, especially since she never remembers where she was or what she was doing.  But it’s never been a problem.

Until now.

Because someone is roaming the campus, attacking people in the middle of the night.

No one knows who the crazed stalker is.

But all the clues point to Quinn.  (book back blurb)

A different sort of cheese but something a little more robust, I think.  Hoh’s characters are a bit more fleshed out, have better personalities, aren’t crappy people to each other.  So already things are looking up.

What I will say against the Nightmare Hall books as a whole is that sometimes it can’t decide if it wants to be in high school or college.  Talk of being in home room (not a thing in college) and just the general feel of the setting a lot of the time felt more high school when directly related to the classes themselves.  It really wasn’t too sure of itself in that regard.  And then it would talk about roommates and the campus and off-campus housing and it felt a little more college there but then SCHOOL would come back up and it would flip flop again.  It made for a kind of jerky read from a setting standpoint.

As for the story Hoh does a good job of setting up suspense.  All signs definitely point to Quinn doing these things while she’s sleepwalking but the only thing we don’t have is why and you’re left to claw through everything to figure that out while more people get attacked.  Once other clues start getting dropped that work against Quinn, the suspense around her sleepwalking starts to crack and before long that theory is disproved.  Even then that opens a whole new can of worms because who could it be then and still, WHY?

I wouldn’t say NIGHT WALKER was so much scary as it was suspenseful.  People got hurt but no one actually died, there was never any kind of supernatural element to the plot, and all you had was, essentially, a murder mystery without the murder.  Which is fine.  I didn’t mind that at all.  But it’s not horror.  It was creepier when the potential was on Quinn possibly doing these things in her sleep and not knowing about it, or why she was doing it.  Once that dissolved the suspense kind of went with it.  It tapered off after that for me and once all the clues clicked into place to reveal who it really was it was just kind of meh.  Standard fair, really.

THE NIGHT WALKER is still better than the later Fear Street books just because all of the characters are better and more realistic but I definitely wasn’t scared reading it.  Suspenseful, sure.  But not scary.

3.5

June 1, 2015

cheesesummer

It’s scary!  It’s terrifying!  It’s downright cheesy.

This summer, in a bid to unload a chunk of my books from my TBR pile, I’m holding the Summer of Cheese.  What is cheese, you ask?  Other than something incredibly tasty that goes well with nearly anything?  Well, kids, cheese is my love (that kind of cheese too).

Cheese is Fear Street.  It’s Christopher Pike and RL Stine and Diane Hoh and Richie Tankersley Cusick.  It’s Point Horror and Nightmare Hall and everything in between.  It’s 90s teen horror in all its gooey glory!  And I have two towering stacks of these books and since they take no time at all to read, why not plow through them?

Usually I associate horror with the fall but these books . . . these books scream summer, whether at camp, by a body of water, around a fire, an amusement park, whatever.  These glorious pieces of horror are all about summer and now so am I.

Starting June 1 and ending August 31 I will be reviewing nothing but these old school YA horror books (mostly, excepting any review books that crop up that need to go out in a timely fashion).  All cheese, all the time this summer on Bites.  Keep tabs on the Cheese Summer menu option under Extras above for all the collected cheesy awesomeness.

Be prepared to get munstered.

December 3, 2011

Title: Nightmare Hall: The Voice in the Mirror
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: November 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

Annie is terrified when she learns the truth about her friend, whose split personality includes an evil half that believes every girl he meets is the reincarnation of a girl he once murdered, and Annie may become his newest victim. (amazon.com)

The plot alone sounds a bit schizophrenic. I like it. Just not the mirrors. I hate mirrors. Shit lives on the other side of that reflective surface.
November 19, 2011

Title: Nightmare Hall: The Dummy
Author: Diane Hoh
Published: October 1995
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Summary:

Participating in a fun skit for a school Halloween bash, a teenage girl decides to liven up the act by using a ventriloquist dummy, with horrific and deadly results. (fantasticfiction.co.uk)

Seriously. What have I said about dummies and dolls? Nope. Not reading this one. Not sleeping for the rest of my life is not an option. Nope.