My Top 10 R.L. Stine Books

Dark street with buildings at night

R.L. Stine is an undeniable legend of teen horror and anyone who grew up reading his books is likely to have long-buried nightmares caused by one of his many terrifying creations. Stine wrote so many books that no two people are likely to agree on the order of his very best, but here are my top ten stories that had so many of us checking under the bed before finally turning off our lights.

1. Switched

Until Freaky, most body-swap movies went down the comedy route, but Stine knew long ago how terrifying that high concept can be. The first of many Fear Street books on this list, Switched tells the story of Nicole and Lucy, who agree to swap bodies and, because this is Stine, the spell actually works! At first glance, Lucy’s life is everything Nicole craves, until Lucy uses her friend’s body to commit murder. 

2. Trapped

Think The Breakfast Club meets The Mist, as a group of teenagers escape Saturday detention, only to awaken something hellbent on destroying them all. While many Fear Street novels focused, in part, on high school relationships, Trapped is pure horror from beginning to end and stands up to scrutiny almost three decades later.

3. The Horror at Camp Jellyjam

Stine’s Goosebumps series turned many reluctant readers into horror aficionados and this entry is so much more than its goofy title. Never afraid to say it like it is, Stine wrote an allegory for toxic competition and hid it in a kids’ book. Like the best allegorical texts, this can be read purely for fun or studied as a social commentary on how much we push our children to always do “their best” without fear of the consequences. To say more would spoil the surprise…

4. Lights Out

With a whole new generation of fans discovering Stine through Netflix’s Fear Street horror trilogy, it is no surprise that a version of one of those stories makes it onto this list. I say “a version” because the movies were inspired by Fear Street, rather than being direct adaptations. Lights Out is set in Camp Nightwing, where Holly is working as a counselor while sinister threats lurk in the shadows. This homage to old-school slashers is very much a Friday the 13th for younger readers.

5. The Haunted Mask

Another Goosebumps entry, The Haunted Mask stems from a concept that is both ingenious and incredibly frightening. Like so many children before her, Carly buys a Halloween mask from the store. Unfortunately, this costume isn’t for one night only. When she begins to act differently, Carly realizes that the mask has become her face and she may never be able to remove it.

6. Welcome to Dead House

The first book in the original Goosebumps series, Welcome to Dead House makes it clear from the outset that Stine had no issue scaring the youth of America. From its unnerving title to its frightful subject matter, this is arguably the most ‘grown-up’ of all the Goosebumps books. When Amanda and Josh Benson move into the creepy home at the end of the street, traditional haunted-house vibes merge with zombie lore in a short, sharp read.

7. Halloween Party

When a mysterious new arrival in Shadyside invites a select few to her Halloween party, Terry and his girlfriend Niki can’t fathom why they’ve been selected alongside the jocks who are so eager to turn the gathering into a competition. But being brave on the outside doesn’t automatically mean you’ll survive if someone is hellbent on killing you. Like so many Stine stories, the twist is a doozy and the locked-door Halloween setting makes for a fun read.

8. The Prom Queen

Fresh off the success of the original movie trilogy, Netflix will soon be returning to Fear Street with an adaptation of The Prom Queen. Given the concept, that is no surprise. When the candidates for the prestigious crown are murdered one by one, Lizzie needs to stop the killer before everyone’s final dance. This is a fun mystery to solve and, with an archetypal setting, and plenty of trope-y characters, it’s an old-school slasher ripe for modernization.

9. Night of the Living Dummy

Stine’s demonic dummy Slappy may have been born five years after another nefarious toy in the form of Chucky, but he is still fondly (or should that be fearfully) remembered by many of us. This inclusion is more for the entire sub-series, rather than the first book, as Slappy became more prominent as his stories went on. Still, this is where he was introduced and we love Stine for that.

10. Cheerleaders

I’m cheating with this one slightly, as Cheerleaders began as a trilogy of Fear Street novels. Yet, much like Lights Out, it makes it onto this list as it delves deep into the legend of Sarah Fear. Telling the tale of Bobbi and Corky Corcoran, the trilogy begins with The First Evil and is arguably the closest to the events of the later movies. Through the initial three books (there were later spin-offs), we learn about Sarah’s curse and how it impacts the residents of the troubled town.

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