Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gateway drug

Most people just don't start off loving something like reading. There are those kids who seem to have their noses in a book from day one, but even they didn't just come out of the womb loving to read. I mean maybe they did and simply couldn't express it right then, but I somehow doubt that is the case.

Every kid who grows up to be a book lover started off with something that made them love reading. Whether it was the books their parents read them before bedtime, Dr Seuss, or something they found when they got older, there was something that sparked that love.

I have heard the Harry Potter and Twilight books referred to as a gateway drug of books. It is something soft and fluffy that kids can fall in love with and develop their passion for reading on. It is that step up from kids books and a step into real literature. I of course being an avid Harry Potter fan would argue that they are more than gateway books, but that is a personal thing for me.

For me reading was not and instant love. In fact for me it was a struggle to say the least. After years of being that kid who couldn't read with the genius like brother, I just couldn't make myself have that passion for books. I did not want to read.

Then it happened. I can't even recall how it happened, it just did. I had to have been in late 5th grade or early 6th grade when I discovered what would be my gateway drug to reading; trashy teen horror novels. Yes that is right, I found my love for reading with R.L. Stine. I think the first book of his I read was one of his horror books that was pre Fear Street, but my obsession was with the Fear Street books.

I had been reading some other books in 5th grade that were mystery and suspense books that I enjoyed but I wasn't going out of my way to find more and read them. In 6th grade I started reading books that I loved and moved me, like Where the Red Fern Grows. I read that book until it fell apart. Still I wasn't really seeking books out. I enjoyed the few I had, but I didn't want more.

Then I found the Fear Street books, and I just couldn't stop. I remember in 7th and 8th grade my best friend was also obsessed with these books. She and I would swap books all of the time. I would buy one and she would buy one and then we would switch. Twice the book for half the price. We would sit up late at night giggling and talking about what we had just read and how we wanted to go get another book. I was hooked just like that.

I stopped reading those books shortly after I started high school. I don't know if it was my taste in books maturing, or me thinking it was more mature not to read trashy teen horror and instead read Catcher in the Rye and 1984 in my free time, but they just slipped out of my reading rotation. Every once in a while though I would pick one of them up off of my shelf and stay up until the small hours of the morning reading them again like old friends.

As the years have passed my love for reading hasn't diminished in the least. I read a wide variety of books now never really sticking with any one genre. There are some things I gravitate towards more than others, but nothing really stands out as my favorite. Horror and suspense though have never really featured in my reading life since those early days when I was finding my passion.

Sometimes I wonder if it is because I just outgrew the genre, or if perhaps I somehow don't want to read it again and not have it live up to my fond memories of what the books were like. I am almost afraid to read them and walk away rolling my eyes at how bad they are and wonder how I ever developed into my current reading habits.

Yesterday we were browsing through Barnes and Nobles, not really looking for anything new to read, but mostly just killing some time. I had been looking for a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars series, but they only had volume 2 in the cover art I wanted. I am actually a person who cares about the cover art, but that is a completely different post.

A little disappointed that they didn't have the book I wanted, I wondered over into the teen section. I have really enjoyed some books that fall in the Young Adult genre, and I am always on the lookout for something else I might like. My eyes lit on the shelf labeled 'Not your average Fairy Tale' and plopped down on the ground to see what they had. I am in a big fairy tale phase recently and was immediately taken in by Red Riding Hood, which is either the book the recent movie of the same title was based on, or it was based on the movie. I can't tell yet.

I was pleased with my selection, and as I was about to haul myself off the floor I realized that the other floor level shelf in front of me was the new teen horror shelf. There in front of me, just by where my hand rested, was a largish white book with a bleeding apple on the cover and the word Temptation in large letters. Below that was clearly printed R.L. Stine.

I sat there a moment staring at this name from my past. All of a sudden all of those old feelings and memories came creeping to the surface. The thoughts of laying awake in my bed all night, turning each page with anticipation for what was going to happen next, riveted by every word that lay before me, caught in the spell of the book filled me up again.

I felt as though my hand was trembling as I picked up the hefty volume, which contained three books, and began leafing through the pages. Would I think it was trite and trashy and place it back on the shelf? Would I find that it really was a juvenile fancy that could no longer hold my attention? Would I be disappointed in the love of my youth no longer holding any spark for me?

This was a new story to me. It was a book of his I had never heard of. I wasn't even aware he was still writing, and the last thing I saw from him was a Goosebumps book. I never actually read but one of those books as he started writing them when I was well out of the intended age range. Of course I am well out of the intended age range for the book in my hand, so that probably shouldn't matter.

I began to read the first page and as I flipped to the second I realized something. I still love his work. I don't know if it is that his writing style, his voice, is so familiar and comforting, or if perhaps I will always love trashy teen horror because it was my first love, but it was something I wanted to read. No I needed to read.

If the husbeast had not found me at that moment I probably would have sat there and read all afternoon. Needless to say the I purchased the book along with the Red Riding Hood book that I had already picked out. I have plenty of other books ahead of these two on my 'To Be Read' list. I am actually already in the middle of three books so I shouldn't be getting to this any time soon.

Somehow though I see myself sitting curled up in bed long after the husbeast has fallen to sleep, turning each page in anticipation, until the story is done. Like any good drug, sometimes you just can't wait for the next fix. It has been far too long since I had a taste of this particular one. 


  1. Makes my heart soar!

  2. Catherine ChambersAugust 1, 2012 at 2:20 PM

    I love you my fellow bookworm!

  3.  Us bookworms have to stick together. And to let you know, these books are not terrible but they aren't exactly good either. I can see though how 12 and 13 year old me would have found them gripping and so amazing. I am glad I can still appreciate them for that.

  4.  You did good in that raising us well thing.