I’ve finished recapping the Horror High series, or at least the original eight books attributed to Nicholas Adams. Let’s take a look back at some of the best, and worst.
Ranking the Books
#8: Sudden Death
Its unbelievably self-centered protagonist, odious characters and a plot that’s completely ridiculous even by the standards of ’80s-’90s YA horror put this one firmly at the bottom for me.
#7: Mr Popularity
While the panther is fun and makes this one stand out, I can’t shake the creepy feeling around it. Brad is bad enough, but there’s also the way that Jake’s entitlement towards Cassie and pretty much stalking her are treated as care and affection that deserve to be rewarded by her falling in love with him. And Brad’s father wanting to keep a 12-year-old as a sex slave.
When all is said and done, I’m not interested in reading about a sleazy playboy who cheats on five girls with each other and plays blatant, horrible mind games with the most vulnerable one. Also, certain elements are way too contrived in order to drive the plot forward. That could be fun in a better book but yeah, not this one.
#5: Resolved: You’re Dead
I find this one pretty boring, to be honest. Lisa is whiny, no one’s really likable, the plot is dull, generally it doesn’t have a lot going for it. But it is not egregiously bad, it lacks the glaring flaws of the books further down the list, and its twist of there being two killers lifts it out of the doldrums a bit.
#4: Pep Rally
Although the first half is slow, the second half picks up the pace. It’s silly, but its premise of a homicidal secret society comprised of nerdy hackers and popular bimbos is fun. The protagonist is somewhat sharper than others in the series and thus less of a drag to read about.
#3: Final Curtain
A few twists and turns in this one that subverted my expectations, making it a fairly enjoyable read. It at least tried to do something new with the format, with its first-person narration and introducing the possibility of supernatural elements.
#2: New Kid on the Block
Has the refreshing difference of a villain protagonist. Although Stephanie’s callousness and trashy “bad-girl” persona are exaggerated at times, she’s given some genuinely sympathetic qualities and written in such a way that the reader can appreciate her frustrations, not least because Elizabeth sucks.
#1: Hard Rock
Written with a witty turn of phrase and some well-used dark humour. Cathy is also the most engaging, fun, and proactive protagonist in the series. If all the books in the series were this good, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be writing about them.
The Face Behind the Curtain
As I’ve mentioned before, “Nicholas Adams” doesn’t exist – it was a pseudonym used by several different authors. So who wore the Adams mask in each book?
Clay Coleman: Wrote “Mr Popularity”, “Resolved: You’re Dead”, “Heartbreaker”, “New Kid on the Block” and “Hard Rock.” The first three books aren’t great, to be polite; but there’s a definite tonal shift from “New Kid on the Block” onwards, and Coleman seems to have got into his stride after a while. Actually, “Clay Coleman” is a pseudonym too. His apparent real name is Nicholas Pine, and he wrote the ’80s YA horror series Terror Academy under that name.
Bruce Fretts: Wrote “Sudden Death.” I’m not sure if this is the same Bruce Fretts who was a regular Entertainment Weekly contributor and sadly died earlier this year?
Debra Doyle and James D. MacDonald: Co-wrote “Pep Rally.” Their repertoire seems to consist mainly of fantasy novels and some officially published fanfic for TV series.
Sherwood Smith: Wrote “Final Curtain”. She too seems to have written mainly fantasy novels and officially published fanfic, although she also has a number of short stories to her name along with essays and books about the craft of writing.
Recap of Cresswell Lore
Cresswell neighbourhoods include the Lower Basin (shitty rough area with high crime), Upper Basin (middle-class) and Gaspee Farms (the rich area.) There are also some very wealthy suburbs.
Porterville is the neighbouring town, an hour away by bus
Cresswell High apparently has high staff turnover. Its school secretary is the amusingly-named Mr Cooder. Despite there being several rich students, the school is apparently not well-funded. It has a theatre dating back at least to WWII and has rehearsal and music practice rooms backstage. Each year it gives a prize towards college tuition to a graduating senior on the debate team; said prize is now called the Masterson-Lawing Award in honour of the two boys murdered during Resolved: You’re Dead
Extracurricular activities at Cresswell High include cheerleading, debate team, various sports clubs, Hacker’s Club, drama club, a glee club and art club – the latter two aren’t important to the plot of any book but are mentioned
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev apparently planned to visit Cresswell during a state visit to the USA, although we never find out if he did
So, what’s next? We’re going to look at the UK continuation of Horror High (yes, it exists) along with the Dare to be Scared series aimed at younger kids. Buckle in, folks. It’s gonna be a rough ride.