Scholastic debuted Point Horror as a series in 1991, originally by repackaging several previous books under the new banner. The mission was simple: create solid horror stories for teens. And it worked, with the jagged, spattered lettering and haunting covers becoming staples on young adult bookshelves throughout the ‘90s. New books were
published through 2005 from authors like Christopher Pike, Caroline B. Cooney, and Diane Hoh.
Here’s one of those—the chilling tale of The Snowman.
The tone for the entire book is set in the first few chapters. We open on Heather talking to her Uncle James as he patches a leak on their snowy roof. He verbally attacks her repeatedly until, fed up, she knocks the ladder over, leaving him to freeze. Only the next chapter reveals she was only imagining this scenario and she rethinks the scene, choosing to not bump the ladder until Uncle James is already climbing down, causing him to topple down and, presumably, die.
Which is all a bit intense, but then the next scene shows Heather has actually been making out with her boyfriend, Ben, in his car … while fantasizing about murdering her Uncle. She then openly admits this to Ben. It’s awkward and a bit silly, but then, so is the rest of the book.
Heather might have dreams of murder, but that doesn’t keep her from being banal. The opening chapters suggest someone with pluck and cunning, but she spends most of the book confused and brooding. But it isn’t all her fault—she is as R.L. Stine wrote her. This does allow her some growth as the book progresses, but she remains passive, with most of the action occurring despite her. Her primary concerns are how much she hates her job at the coffee shop in the local mall and the fact that Uncle James refuses to let her touch her considerable trust fund.
Then He Walks In
Pure white hair. Cleft chin. That’s about as interesting as Snowman, the boy Heather meets at the cafe, gets.
Lies, All Lies
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. He lies a lot and it’s clear he immediately begins deceiving Heather. He claims he recently moved to their town and attends her high school, but then struggles to name his homeroom teacher. Heather has never seen him in school before, but brushes this aside, and her ability to believe blatant untruths plays rampantly throughout the book. It’s a frustrating character flaw.
She accepts his frequent excuses for why they never meet at school.
She accepts that he lost his wallet and can’t ever pay at the coffee shop.
She even accepts that his brother suddenly needs $2,000 for a mysterious operation.
The only time she doesn’t believe him is when he tells her he killed her Uncle until she sees the body. Snowman claims that he strangled Uncle James with a soft wool scarf, so it will appear he died of a heart attack, and Heather also accepts that. Of course, she does have a lot on her mind at that point, trying to figure out how to get out of this mess.
The Rest of the Gang
This is a quick read, but Stine manages to cycle through a cast of characters that don’t do much to move the plot. Kim is the closest person Heather has to a friend, and her descriptions are unfortunately cringe-inducing. Stine seems to think the most interesting thing about her is that she’s “chunky”.
Then there’s Ben, Heather’s boyfriend, and the one character who she appears to exert some influence over. He’s a stock boyfriend, playing up the Good Boy image against Snowman’s Homicidal Boy. After Heather begins actively dating Snowman, she initially approaches Ben about opening their relationship because she wants them both. Ben is probably the most sympathetic character, though based on none of his own actions.
Aunt Belle mostly wrings her hands at Uncle James’s torment.
Some of this could seem negative and even snarky, and The Snowman certainly does have problems. Heather plods through the action with complete naivete and Snowman crashes through with the subtlety of a melodrama. However, this book is exactly why I love paperback fiction of the ‘90s. It’s clunky and quaint with just enough bizarre originality to keep me engaged. No matter the plot holes, it’s never boring with the bones for a great suspense novel.
“I’m a living mummy. A living snow mummy. But not for long. Soon the air will be gone. Soon I’ll be a dead snow mummy.”
Title: The Snowman
Author: R.L. Stine
Series: Point Horror
Publication Date: February 1991
Classification: Horror, Young Adult