Long before Twilight and The Hunger Games and whatever other dystopian, supernaturally-tinged young adult book series comes along next, young readers like my friends and I were spun for YA novelist Christopher Pike. To walk into a bookstore and see a shelf of brand new, neon-splashed book covers bearing Pike’s name was just the best thing on earth – it meant that once I had arrived home in half an hour’s time (I would have started powering through those books in the backseat of the car, were it not for the fact that merely reading passing billboards made – and still makes – me feel a bit queasy) I’d grab a drink and a cat and a handful of snacks and screw off to some shady, remote part of my family’s hobby farm to devour my teen thriller in one spectacular sitting.
R.L. Stein, a contemporary of Pike’s and the author of the wildly popular Goosebumps and Fear Street serials, never did it for me the way Christopher Pike did. Goosebumps skewed a bit young (it was really more for readers aged seven to 10) and the Fear Street books felt flimsy and juvenile.
Pike’s books, though, felt like works of some substance. Violent, pulpy and occasionally a bit too advanced for their target audience (The Midnight Club is a story about teenagers dying in a ritzy hospice; that’s a really hard nut to crack for an 11-year-old) Christopher Pike’s books were my introduction to genre writing, ranging all over the spectrum from supernatural romances (See You Later) and noir-ish thrillers (Last Act), to tales of Nikita-esque vengeance (Witch) and proto-torture porn (Whisper of Death.)
I think the thing I loved the most about Christopher Pike’s books, though, was they did not talk down to their young audience, nor did they round off the edges of teenage excess – Pike’s characters drank, took drugs, had sex. Occasionally they also got infected with alien bat creature virus after engaging in some very ill-advised lake nookie with the handsome quarterBAT of the high school football team and ate their nerdy best friend alive, but hey, that’s the risk you take if you’re the main character in a Christopher Pike novel (Monster.)
Years ago my husband bid on six or seven large lots of Christopher Pike books following a discussion we had about our favourite childhood novels, and then promptly forgot about all of them once he won the first. Over the next month or so, we took delivery of approximately 150 Christopher Pike paperbacks, the duplicates sometimes numbering three or even four. Every summer since then, I dig out my seriously pared-down collection and, on beautiful days and nights, immerse myself in Pike’s twisted world of revenge fantasies, supernatural thrillers and murder mysteries, gladly welcoming back those wonderful feelings of nostalgia that only come from revisiting cherished moments in your life. That we should all be so lucky. And now I’ve put them on my nails. 🙂
9 thoughts on “Summer Reading”
I FRICKEN LOVED/LOVE CHRISTOPHER PIKE! It’s so weird hearing someone else appreciate him actually as I always found no one had ever heard of him. At the time the novels were ‘above my reading age’ (I was a big book nerd and had basically finished all the books of my ‘level’ in the school library) and due to the content of some aforementioned books I had to get my parents to write a letter to say they were okay with me reading them!
I never owned any until only a few years ago when I managed to find two books in a charity shop a few years ago ‘Chain Letter’ and ‘The Midnight Club’. What is strange is that the UK books seem to have different covers, as we never had the bright colours!
Oh man, it turns out there’s TONS of people who loved Christopher Pike. When I linked to an article about him on FB, so many of my friends were like, “Holy crap, I LOVED HIM.” I had no idea!
I guess we must have had different covers here in North America. I’ve seen the ones I think you’re talking about – they’re like composed photos instead of the super pulpy drawings on ours? I once heard that Christopher Pike generally didn’t like the covers to his books – I think there’s a couple of exceptions, although I wonder which versions he was talking about.
Your parents were cool! And so were mine for letting me buy so many of those books (or buying them for me.)
Nah, they were like kinda boring black covers, with just a drawn picture. For chain letter it has a letter with a dagger stuck in it and midnight club has some candles. Maybe it was to look more edgy or dark!
They were pretty cool, or maybe didn’t realise how ‘adult’ the themes were, but I like to think I turned out alright!
YAaaaaasssss CHAIN LETTER was the one I really remember 😀
That was one of his first! I think that’s also maybe one of the first ones I read – SO GOOD! Chain Letter 2 went bonkers, though – it got all crazy supernatural and murdery. Dang, I love those books a lot. 🙂
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It’s so amazing how much everyone is speaking out about how much they love Christopher Pike. I feel like the publishing industry hasn’t given him as much as he deserves. I like the nails!
Thank you! His books ARE having a bit of a renaissance – any time I mention one to my friends, it sets off a flurry of “Holy crap, do you remember the one where…?!s” – always so much fun.
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