Paranormal romance/ urban fiction is currently experiencing a surge of popularity – well, it’s kind of on its way out as THE genre, but it’s created a strong foothold as legitimate, mainstream fiction. But it’s not new. Let’s hop in the wayback machine and journey to the late 80s, early 90s to revisit Lois Duncan – penner of pre-teen riveters like Stranger with My Face, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Down a Dark Hall. She actually wrote a lot of these in the 70s, but I wasn’t reading them then – mostly because of my unborn status.
We all know the 90s movie remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer, starring a quartet of pretty, star of the moment actors. I saw it in the theatre. It’s still a ‘fun’ go-to on a cheesy movie night. But long before that super long title filled movie theatre lobbies, it was a YA book. I remember reading it, but I don’t remember if I liked it. It wasn’t one I read more than once.
Duncan was a staple in our school library. The books were on constant rotation between a small group of us that read and re-read our favourites. My friend, Andrea and I got caught up in Stranger with My Face. We dissected it, sure that the secrets to astral projection were buried in its pages. We weren’t Navajo like Laurie, but we were sure we could figure it out anyway. We used to go out into the school playground – the centre of the running track was a favourite area – and try to project for hours. A couple times, we even thought we might have done it.
My absolute favourite book was Down a Dark Hall. It was full of suspense and intrigue and music. It lived in the world of the boarding school trope – there’s a reason this continues to be popular with teens. Adventure without parents around? Yes please. Channeling spirits! Hell yeah. The main character desperate to find out what’s going on at this school that only has 4 other students? I could not get enough.
I’m sure if I went back and re-read these now, they would be awful. Some things are best left in the memory.