Through my childhood and very early teens I read Point Horror books. Not Goosebumps, Point Horror. My principal tried to tell my mother they weren't suitable for someone my age, but Rosanne replied that since I wasn't an idiot, I could read whatever the hell I wanted. I did feel a bit nauseous when R.L Stine had his killer garrote one of the characters with a piano wire, but honestly I don't think it's left any permanent damage on my mind. I actually think it's just made me more street smart. Won't see me hanging around a pirahna filled pond any time soon, no siree.
So, what of today's teens? What key skills are they learning from their reading to help them in their future lives? Here's 5 key lessons I've taken from reading these novels:
1. You will fall in love with your soul mate faster than you can metabolise cheesecake. It could take anywhere between one second and one week, any longer than this and you're not meant to be. You must be inexplicably drawn to each other, like two lonely magnets, who once attracted, cannot be prised apart. This is going to be difficult for everyone else to process. They think you should have to do all the normal, incredibly boring 'get to know you' stuff: awkward dates (the kind that don't involve drinking, cos you're under 18 remember), meeting the friends, meeting the family, analysing every character and emoticon in his text messages until they're nothing but hieroglyphs to your tired eyes. Forget it. You're skipping the entire first two years of that crap.
2- Your beloved and you will have a connection that others will never understand. Mind reading, uncontrollably attracted to the others scent, love in a past life...any number of totally plausible reasons you are destined to be together. Sure, you potentially have nothing in common, but since people keep trying to kill you, you always have a lot to talk about. And hide from. You have to be prepared that after a while, most people you know will stop talking to you. You're not going to get invited bowling with the gang any time soon, so don't hold your breath. Don't worry though, because you'll decide you don't really need a support network in your life, just your spooky, pale lover. He's about as warm and friendly as a Pap Smear, but he probably has super strength to protect you with.
3- You're gonna have to be willing to die for your love pretty much immediately. I personally struggle to cancel a hair appointment to make time for people. 'I'm not setting my alarm for 4am to take you to the airport, I'm not watering your plants while you're out of town and I'm not doing your sister's formal makeup for free. We met in a Starbucks two days ago, are you kidding me? Remember when I told you it was going too fast for us to get matching tattoos? The same applies for dying on a fiery altar at the hands of your nemesis. Oh don't pull the 'I almost killed myself when you got stung by the bee and I thought I was going to lose you' crap. I'm not even allergic.'
4- Physical intimacy is pretty much off the cards. Either you will literally burst into flames at his touch, or your beloved might accidentally kill you in the throes of passion. He's also potentially so freaking old he's got 100 years worth of performance anxiety to combat. Forget your normal worries: you don't like your naked body, you haven't shaved your legs, your underwear is so carbon dated it should be studied and put on display in a museum. You're probably gonna die. No amount of Bacardi Breezers is gonna take the edge of this situation. Miraculously though, when you find a way to marry, you'll probably be OK.
5- Beware the supernatural Love Triangle- more mysterious and mind boggling than the Bermuda Triangle (is that still a thing? Or have people just stopped flying over it?). No matter how 'plain' you claim to be, your beauty is intoxicating and dudes want, nay need, to fight over you. I mean, how else would you know they REALLY loved you? They could show it by allowing you to make your own decisions based on careful analysis of your wants and needs. They could bow out gracefully when you choose the other guy because he's less likely to get angry and rip your face off. But allowing women to choose their mate for themselves is for sissies. They know you really need them to face off and beat the crap out of each other, let the strongest man win. That's how lions do it. You might pretend you don't want this, but deep down you know you're totally vulnerable on your own and in need of constant protection. The best thing you can do is kiss both of them, to make them good and angry, so it'll be a proper fight. It's not real valour unless someone is prepared to lose an eye.
But you know, these books aren't aimed at adults. I should really read something for my age group that's about empowering women and finding real, lasting love based on mutual respect. I heard there's a book out now called 50 Shades of Grey. Maybe I'll give that a try.