On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

Last week, I noticed a large book on my best friend’s coffee table: Remember Me, the trilogy. Despite the fact that she’d bought it several weeks earlier with me at her side, I still squealed when I saw it, quickly scooping it up and clutching it tenderly to my chest. “Oh…” I sighed. “Have I told you how much this book means to me? I love Christopher Pike.” She’d already heard this story at least three times, but since her mother was in town and sitting next to me on the couch, I continued gushing for five straight minutes about an author who happens to be my ultimate hero.

You see, long ago, I was a little girl with a taste for books that exceeded my love of ice cream (and that’s saying a lot). All I did was read, read, read, and in doing so, I rapidly outgrew the books in my age range. My friend Carrie had a similar problem, and one afternoon when we were ten, while my mom sang along to the car stereo and we talked quietly in the back seat, Carrie handed me a brand new paperback and leaned close to my ear.

The cover that caught my eye—and started a long-running reading obsession.

“You can’t tell your mom,” she said. I grabbed the book, a brightly colored paperback with a dead girl on the cover and the most interesting, violent-looking font screaming the title and the author’s name across the cover.

Christopher Pike. Remember Me.

“I like his name. What’s it about?” I flipped the book over, scanning the blurb on the back before I gasped aloud. “Oh wow! This looks so neat!”

“He’s great,” Carrie said. “But I think it’s supposed to be for older kids. My mom didn’t want me to read it, so I bought it. I have more, too.”

I smiled, sticking the book in my bag so that I could start reading it as soon as I got home. Carrie had already introduced me to V.C. Andrews—an author whose work was most definitely NOT for kids—so I kept this little secret between us.

That is, until I decided Christopher Pike was the most genius writer I’d ever come across, and then I just had to tell my parents about the amazing plots he created. Thankfully, they knew I had a good sense of right, wrong, and reality, and since my mother had a love of scary movies, it all worked out pretty well. (I still kept the V.C. Andrews to myself.)

Within about six weeks, I’d read all six of Pike’s previously published books. I carried them with me everywhere, terrified by the thrill-ride on every page and yet delighted with the themes written upon them. Here was an author who wrote about teens in a mature, honest manner, but in an unusually addictive way. He never dumbed down the content; instead he let all his characters run wild in completely shocking plots. They lived on the edge—they drank, they smoked, they had sex (or they knew about other teens having sex, because their virginal naivety actually managed to be their fatal flaw). I rooted for every character, even the seriously bad ones: there were teens torturing their loved ones, teens who found monsters while drinking in the woods, teens who somehow found a mental link to ancient goddesses, teens who happened to be ancient creatures, and teens who had mythical origins and thus transformed into clawed predatory beasts! And of course, there were some plain old classically terrifying teens who just killed their classmates.

It really didn’t matter what they were doing—Pike wrote his teens from an adult point of view and let them do bad stuff, while still crafting a compelling and well-written story.

I was so enthralled with his concepts I kept right on reading, eagerly awaiting every next book’s release date. Some of them were so good, I read them twice in a row. Chain Letter (1986), Spellbound (1988), Scavenger Hunt (1989), Witch (1990), and my absolute favorite, Whisper of Death (1991) were some of the titles I wouldn’t stop talking about. Somehow, the man wrote three or four books a year (!), and I collected them like candy, enjoying the long row of paperbacks across my bookshelf; each of them had the same neon-colored binding and scratch-style font that had captured my heart, and I treasured my collection all through middle school and into the start of high school. I even wrote fan mail, telling Mr. Pike how superb I thought he was, and that I loved him. I might even have offered to marry him.

Whatever I said in those letters, I do remember what he made me feel: an excitement for reading, an unparalleled transfixion to every work, and most importantly, a passion for the art of writing and an inspiration to start writing on my own. Christopher Pike is, after all, the very reason I have a young adult horror manuscript tucked safely away in my fire safe box, awaiting the day I might decide to continue working on it.

In the 90s, Pike released some adult stories that I also read—Sati and Season of Passage, to name a couple—but his true voice really echoed with teenagers. He wrote a collection called Spooksville for a younger audience that I never read, but not surprisingly, the books in it were also a big hit. At some point I learned a little more about Mr. Pike, which is actually not that much: his real name is Kevin Christopher McFadden, and he is incredibly elusive and private about his life. Even while researching for this post, I didn’t find much else on him except for a plethora of fan bloggers—and there are tons of us, all inspired by a vast collection of incredible books we read in our impressionable youth.

As an adult, I get tingles whenever I pass the work of Christopher Pike at the bookstore. I run my fingers over the spines, hoping that today’s readers are enjoying them at least half as much as I did. No matter what your age, if you’ve never read a Christopher Pike book, I highly encourage you to do so. You can find a complete listing of his works here: Works by the Amazing Christopher Pike

I’ve reread a few pieces over the years, and have also kept up on the occasional adult novel he’s released—but now that my friend has Remember Me, I’m tempted to move my entire to-read stack aside and instead reread every book by the man who inspired me with his phenomenal thriller work.

That said, I think I’m going to pick up an old classic from Barnes and Noble this weekend. 🙂

Happy reading, everyone!

About Eva Rieder

Eva Rieder is a speculative and contemporary/mainstream fiction author. By day, she masquerades as a high school Math and English teacher. Though she adores teaching and her students very much, when Eva returns home she reglues her fingertips to the keyboard to pursue her alter ego’s destiny. She currently lives and writes in Northern California with her two keyboard-savvy cats. View all posts by Eva Rieder

3 responses to “On Christopher Pike, Young Adult Thriller Extraordinaire

  • rebeccaoftomorrow

    Don’t you just LOVE rereading your favorites? I always see something new that I hadn’t seen in them before!

    • Eva Rieder

      I do! I actually haven’t reread many favorites in a while, but since I just reordered several Christopher Pike books the moment after I wrote this post, I think it’s safe to say it’s coming! 🙂

  • Syed Haider

    Hi Eva, I grew up outside the US in the early-mid 90s, and I was just drawn to Christopher Pike books. More than the pure, unadulterated horror; what drew me the most into his books was the emotional component in them. I remember “Wicked Heart”, and feeling remorse for the killer at the end of the book. I remember “Midnight Club”, and felt empty at the end of the book. And my favorite, “Die Softly”, because I had idealized my first crush as well the way Herb did with Alexa, and would do anything for her just like Herb did for Alexa; only for the bittersweet ending. Alexa has intrigued me till this day, I am still a sucker for love and infatuation; and that was something that drew me to Christopher Pike’s books as well.

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