My teenage years were pretty awful. As a child, I was friendly, chatty, open, naïve and a little too honest, which was all fine and dandy until I began high school, a place where the local mean girls had chumps like me for breakfast. I wasn’t cool, I wasn’t chic, I didn’t say the right things, and I certainly didn’t fit in. In fact, I was completely lost.
Soon after I started high school, my childhood best friend stopped speaking to me, and the other kids started calling me names and making up lies behind my back. I was alone, lost in a sea of teenagers who either hated my guts or didn’t know I existed.
During our school’s seven-week summer holiday, not one person called on me. There were no postcards, no telephone calls, no nothing. I spent the summer at home with my family, wondering why no one wanted to be my friend.
Then I discovered another type of friend, a lifelong friend who would never turn its back on me. I discovered books.
At first, I read Roald Dahl or a bit of Sweet Valley High, but then one day I stumbled across a series that would change my life forever: Point Horror. Even when I was a tiny little girl, I’d always been fascinated by the dark side of life. My favorite bedtime stories always featured at least one wicked witch. Now, here was the grown-up version, books about teenage girls like me who were bearing witness to the macabre. I was enthralled.
Each book had me turning the pages like it was my job. I wanted to solve the mystery that was hidden in each and every one. Who did it? Would the protagonist get out alive? How would it all end? I literally couldn’t put the book down until I found out.
Books like The Accident, April Fools and Teacher’s Pet had me completely gripped, and suddenly my lonely summer was flying past at breakneck speed, punctuated only by my frequent trips to the library or book shop to select my next fiendishly good read.
The tension, the suspense, the horror—it made me feel alive. Each book would keep me up half the night, well past lights out, hiding under my covers where I could devour each book by flashlight. They took me away from my worries and fears of my so-called teenage life, and they transported me someplace entirely different.
But most of all, Point Horror made me want to write, and write I did. Short stories about murder, madness and mayhem became my thing. I was no longer stuck in the house waiting for the phone to ring; I had things to do. I was a reader. I was a writer. I was a creator. Suddenly, being me didn’t seem quite so bad.
As time went on and my reading and writing gathered speed, I was no longer the outsider at school. I found friends—nice people who liked me for being me, people who didn’t care that I talked too much and wore my heart on my sleeve. I also met a boy who, one day many, many years later, would become my husband. But most of all, I found me.
Now more than 20 years on, my Point Horror collection still sits proudly on my bookshelf, waiting to be read again. Every few weeks, my 6-year-old daughter picks them up and asks how old she has to be to read them. Thirteen, I tell her, because that’s the age she might just need them.