I figured that since today is R.L. Stine‘s 70th birthday, I’d revisit what is quite possibly my favorite series ever. (Okay, as I said that, I thought about Harry Potter, but are they really in the same league? I’ll qualify my statement: Fear Street was my favorite series when I was the proper age to be reading it. There.) I don’t know what happened to my vast collection of those books, but I do have one: a copy of The Knife that I found in a box of giveaway books when I was teaching in Coushatta. I didn’t read it (though I’m sure I read it when I was a kid), but it’s sitting on a bookshelf at my house, and I smile every time I see it.
And do I have a Fear Street story:
I was twelve or thirteen and was in the Denver airport by myself. I’d been skiing at Aspen with my family, but I had to leave early to get back to school after Christmas break. My dad had decided that I was old enough – and had flown enough – to make my way through the airport, find my gate, and get on the plane. I would have done all of those things successfully if not for R.L. Stine.
I went up to the ticket counter, got my boarding pass, and got through security. I made it to my gate and sat down, facing away from the gate itself, but well within earshot of any announcements. There would be a bit of a wait, so I started reading. I wish I remember which Fear Street book it was. No headphones were involved – I thought I was being smart about this alone-in-the-airport thing. I read for a while, and when I looked up and around toward the announcement board by the gate, my plane’s boarding time was gone. I have no idea how long I’d been reading. I stood up, grabbed my backpack, and rushed to the gate, only to find out that the plane had just left.
I thought my dad would kill me.
I went to the nearest pay phone (it was the early ’90s!) and called my dad. He wasn’t quite as angry as I thought he would be. He told me to go back to the ticket counter. When I’d been there the first time, a really nice lady had helped me. I was just over the age that I’d have to be escorted everywhere, and I’d been kind of proud of doing it on my own. She told me that if I had any problems to come straight back to her. Instead, I stood in the long line, praying that I ended up with someone else because I was so embarrassed. After waiting quite a while, I ended up back in front of her because that’s always the way things go. She told me that the next plane out was 6 hours later and that I’d have to land in New Orleans instead of Shreveport, which was fine because I could stay with my sister for the night. She also asked if I had money for a meal and gave me a voucher when I explained that I’d spent all of my money on a Denver Broncos sweatshirt for my cat. (I’ve never been a Broncos fan…)
After that ordeal, I ate, found my new gate, and sat right in front of it, facing it this time, and stared forward until it opened, hardly blinking. I made it onto that plane and eventually got home.
These days, it appears, R.L. Stine is better known for his Goosebumps series, which was aimed at kids younger than I was at the time. I don’t think I read any of those, and I wasn’t a fan of the TV series, though I can’t help but post that ubiquitous meme photo here:
I stand by Fear Street.
This series made up the bulk of my reading between ages 11 and 14, which is funny because I don’t read anything like them anymore. I don’t like horror novels, and I generally don’t like pop fiction series (Game of Thrones is a notable exception, of course. And Hunger Games. I’ll shut up now.). I must have read other books around that time, but I don’t remember any of them. Before Fear Street was The Baby-Sitters Club, and before that was…what?
My parents tell me that I read a lot.
This nostalgia-fest almost makes me want to dive back in, but I know that would be a mistake. I loved Fear Street so much when I was a kid, but I bet I’d lose my fondness for them if I read them again. They make a good story, though.
And happy birthday, R.L. Stine!