If you were a teen horror reader of the 90s, you’ve probably read R.L Stine. Many see him as the definitive YA author of the genre and era, thanks to the huge success of Fear Street and, later, Goosebumps. However, for me, Christopher Pike books will always have a very special place in my heart. He’s the author who inspired me as a kid to become an avid lifelong reader!
My enduring love for Christopher Pike
I grew up on Mr. Pike. Back then, I binge read nearly every book he churned out, and was always ecstatic when he released something new. You might even call me a super-fan.
Now an adult in my 30s, and having read many authors since then, it’s easier for me to nitpick at some of Christopher Pike’s writing flaws. Regardless, I still think there’s something really special about the way he crafts teen horror that hasn’t been replicated since.
Christopher Pike often straddled the line between traditional YA and darker adult themes. He pushed genre ‘safety’ boundaries, even venturing as far as to write about teen murderers (The Lost Mind, The Wicked Heart), shower voyeurism (Die Softly), and terminal illness (The Midnight Club). Put simply, he didn’t dumb things down for his young audience, which is something I greatly respect.
Of course, like most prolific authors, Pike did have his fair share of duds. Gimme A Kiss, for instance, hasn’t held up well over the years. In addition, he sometimes relies on unintended stereotypes that seem dated by today’s standards.
However, when firing on all cylinders, Pike truly impresses with his imaginative ability to meld disparate sci-fi and horror themes into thrilling – and oftentimes, unexpected – narrative wholes.
Christopher Pike didn’t just write YA fiction…
In the 90s, the enigmatic author was my perfect transition into Stephen King, to which I became a full-blown adult horror fan. However, I still ventured back to read several lesser-known Christopher Pike books – in particular, those marketed to a more grown-up audience.
To my delight, I found his adult-themed novels, such as The Season of Passage, to be just as spellbinding as the YA books I grew up on – if not more so! Nostalgia aside, I still think of them as among the most enthralling books I’ve ever read. No small feat, considering how many I’ve taken in over the years.
That to me is the hallmark of not just a great young adult writer, but an all-round gifted author who, in my opinion, remains woefully underrated by the masses.
My Favorite Christopher Pike Books
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Here is my list of 14+ of the best Christopher Pike books I’ve ever read (i.e. there’s a plus sign, because a few are actually a series of novels). They aren’t ranked in any particular order, and of course, have been chosen based on my personal taste. I’ve also included a mix of his YA and adult books, just to be more complete.
If you’re a long-time fan, this list will bring you down memory lane, big time. And, if you’re new, I implore you to pick up one of his books – and not be dissuaded by their age. Christopher Pike changed my life as a reader, and I hope he’ll inspire you, too!
I admit, I’m not sure teens these days will understand what snail-mail ‘chain letters’ are, what with emails and digital technology being so ubiquitous.
Regardless, I’ve recently re-read Chain Letter. And, let’s just say, I find this to be easily among the most thrilling of Christopher Pike books, even now, and despite its flaws.
The story starts with Alison, who receives a mysterious chain letter of unknown origin. A harmless prank, maybe.
Only thing is… this anonymous harasser knows all about the fateful night when Alison and her six friends committed a terrible crime in a Californian desert – a secret unbeknownst to others.
And now, the anonymous writer of the chain letter is seeking deadly revenge, forcing them to do increasingly dangerous tasks – or else!
Christopher Pike also published a sequel to the original book. However, of the two, I far prefer the first Chain Letter, which to me remains a true YA classic. While still a great page-turner, I find the second one to be quite far-fetched, essentially turning a suspense thriller into something supernatural.
Overall, Chain Letter isn’t the most complex nor nuanced Christopher Pike book. However, it still makes for a very enjoyable read that’ll keep you guessing how things will play out. A simple yet highly entertaining premise!
Fall Into Darkness
Fall Into Darkness is a soft rewrite of Gimme A Kiss, the latter of which Pike himself feels “was too rushed”. I agree, and find the former to be the superior book from him.
The plot follows Sharon McKay, a girl who stands accused of killing her best friend Anne McFarland – even though no body was actually found. With a guilty court verdict all but likely, Sharon is in a race against time to prove her innocence. But nothing is quite as it seems as she unravels a mystery drenched in unexpected hate and vengeance.
Fall Into Darkness is on its own a splendid YA thriller mystery novel. However, what I love most about the book is its subtler themes of friendship, love, grief – and most of all, obsession. Pike’s characters are well fleshed out, some of whom have quite a bit of sass and bite. In addition, the plot takes you to places you won’t expect, which is a joy to read.
Fun fact: Fall Into Darkness was adapted into a little-known TV movie – of which Pike simply remarks “I hated it”. I feel the same. Regardless, the book itself is tons of fun.
Remember Me 2 & 3 were alright, I guess. But I still regard the original to be not just a great Christopher Pike book – but one of the best young adult fiction novels ever written. There’s a hint of The Lovely Bones here, before that book was even published. This is Pike at his YA writing peak.
Shari Cooper awakes to find herself at home. However, strangely, her family doesn’t seem to be able to see her. She soon realizes she’s actually dead – an invisible wandering spirit.
Things escalate quickly when Shari finds out she didn’t just die – she’s been murdered! She then embarks on a ghostly investigation to find out who killed her, all while trying to escape the other-worldly clutches of The Shadow.
While already into his works, Remember Me is the novel that turned me into a lifelong Christopher Pike fan. Beyond the surface ‘whodunit’ and supernatural twists, I believe the book’s true heart lies with its emotional storytelling. You’re drawn so deeply into Shari’s world – of pain, love, anger, and regret – that you’ll find yourself filled with heartfelt empathy by the time it’s all finished.
This is a perfect example of Christopher Pike’s unique relation to his young readers. He basically treats them (us, if you were reading during the 90s) as coming-of-age adults able to feel and appreciate their precious bonds with others.
In short, Remember Me is a true Pike classic not to be missed.
Thirst / The Last Vampire series
Prior to today’s plethora of teen vampire novels, The Last Vampire series really felt like a breath of fresh air. These Christopher Pike books were filled with intriguing characters (humans and bloodsuckers alike), a rich supernatural mythos, and a plot that steers you in unexpected directions.
Due to recent market demands, The Last Vampire has since been repackaged as Thirst – with newer installments still being published.
This lengthy series follows a 5000-year-old vampire, Alisa, who suddenly finds herself hunted by her long-lost creator. She befriends Ray, a teen whom she teams up with to uncover the truth as to why she’s being targeted. Alisa soon falls for Ray, which greatly complicates matters.
The Last Vampire / Thirst admittedly starts off generic, but eventually evolves into a full-blown thriller packed with government conspiracy theories, mythical lore, existential dilemmas, and much more.
Like most sprawling stories, the series has its fair share of highs and lows. Of the latter, there are moments when, for example, Alisa’s mindset swings oddly between a time-trodden immortal (as she should be) – and a juvenile, angst-ridden teen. The plot also gets a bit convoluted in some places, perhaps due to Pike expanding the series further than he himself originally intended.
Yet, despite such inconsistencies, I absolutely love the series as a whole! It’s a mistake to compare these books by Christopher Pike to the unabashed teen romances of Twilight. Instead, The Last Vampire / Thirst threads its love themes amid a broader, more nuanced fabric of theological discourses. There’s depth that comes with the action, which helps to expand its appeal to slightly more mature audiences.
In short, if you’re even remotely interested in vampire fiction, give these books a try!
(Speaking of which, you can also check out my list of other vampire romance books worth reading.)
The Midnight Club
The Midnight Club has stuck to my mind all these years. Yet, compared to most Christopher Pike books, this release offers very little in the way of traditional thrills and spills.
But what it does have is a lot of heart. The book is, in essence, a powerful and thought-provoking drama about death, interconnection, and what it means to be alive.
The Midnight Club begins at Rotterdam Home. We are introduced to a group of five young teens, all of whom suffer from terminal illnesses. To pass the time, they form a storytelling club, meeting up every night to exchange spooky tales. This eventually leads them to make a pact, promising each other that whoever dies first will try his or her best to make contact from beyond the grave.
Of course, that’s just what the blurb says. In reality, The Midnight Club actually reaches far beyond this initial setup. Pike tells stories within the main story, crafting a beautiful tale about the past, present, and future – and how everything is inextricably linked.
I know I’m being a bit vague with the storyline. This is intentional because, honestly, The Midnight Club‘s plot per se isn’t its main appeal. Rather, the book is merely used by Pike as an impetus for us to reflect on the bittersweet paradox of our ephemeral – yet, transcendental – lives.
Even in my 30s, the book still holds a very special place in my heart, touching me in unexpected ways. Many long-time Pike fans feel the same. The first time I finished it, I shed tears, sad to say goodbye to the intimate connection I had with the characters.
Don’t be discouraged by the Fear Street-esque cover. The Midnight Club is by far one of the best Christopher Pike books I’ve had the pleasure of discovering. A must-read for young and adult readers alike.
Now for something a bit more light-hearted!
Monster is Christopher Pike’s clean-cut foray into over-the-top teen science-fiction / horror. Structurally, this is one of his better works as the story flows from scene to scene in riveting and well-paced fashion.
Things start off with a literal bang. Mary Blanc walks into a party, whips out a shotgun, and blows away two people. Luckily, the police arrive to stop her murderous spree.
We then shift to Angela, Mary’s best friend, who visits her in a holding cell. That’s when Mary divulges a dark secret: the ‘people’ she’d killed were in fact not human, but ravenous monsters of some kind.
Thinking Mary to be mad, Angela nonetheless decides to probe further – and soon discovers the terrifying truth. What follows is tons of gripping action as Angela, along with her friends, fight to stop a supernatural force consumed by a thirst to kill.
This is Christopher Pike at his finest. For a book meant for young adults, Monster can get pretty brutal, with quite a bit of rougher scenes thrown in. I find this purposeful though, since it effectively adds to the novel’s visceral tone.
Angela’s development as a character is also well-paced. You really feel like you’re a part of her dangerous and self-evolving journey to destroy an ancient evil. The ending is also really satisfying, rounding off with an intense climatic scene.
Overall, Monster is a real homage to cheesy B-grade horror – yet, like most of Pike’s books, has a surprising amount of affection. It’s campy, timeless fun with heart.
The Season of Passage
To me, The Season of Passage is unequivocally Christopher Pike’s magnum opus. This is him at his very best. Twenty years on, I still find the book to be among the most satisfying sci-fi horror novels ever written. It’s severely underrated in its genre.
The year is 2004. The U.S. has commissioned a journey to Mars. Their mission: to uncover what happened to a crew of Russian cosmonauts who landed two years ago – but have since vanished from communication.
Enter main protagonist Dr. Lauren Wagner. She’s a celebrated medical officer who suspects an alien infection has killed off the secluded Russian crew. Lauren fears the same fate might happen to her own team.
Unfortunately, the doctor soon discovers that Mars holds a secret far scarier than what she and her comrades can ever fathom.
(Yes, 2004 was a severely off-base estimate when it comes to our expeditions to Mars!)
Let me set things straight. The plot of The Season of Passage, once revealed, is bats*** crazy. I mean, it’s way out there! But, in the end, the narrative ebb and flow, along with the rich cast of characters, truly makes this novel an enrapturing reading experience.
Don’t believe me? Just read the five-star fan reviews on various sites. Even with its flaws, I think The Season of Passage is sorely overlooked by the sci-fi loving masses. Which is a crying shame.
Overall, The Season of Passage is a creepy, mysterious, introspective, and exhilarating ride bound to keep your pages turning. It is an odd sci-fictional concoction, for sure, which is precisely why it’s such a delightful and unique read. Go for it!
Whisper of Death
Whisper of Death reads like Twilight Zone, mixed in with a bit of Prom Night and The Vanishing on 7th Street. Christopher Pike maxes the chill factor here with a young adult tale that, surprisingly, tackles a number of mature issues, including abortion.
This is among the shortest Christopher Pike books around – but is often a fan-favorite. It’s a quick, atmospheric read that twists and turns in all the right ways.
Roxanne and Pepper, a teenage couple, head out for a weekend trip to try and resolve their relationship problems. However, when they return, they find their town mysteriously empty. Everyone’s gone.
In fact, the whole world seems to be completely abandoned!
That is until they bump into three other teens. Together, the group looks for answers to what’s really happening. Talking to each other, they soon discover they share one weird thing in common: all of them have interacted with Betty Sue, a girl they once knew who committed suicide.
And that’s when the situation gets from bad to outright nightmarish.
Whisper of Death is succinct and effective. There’s no fluff. The story moves at a thrilling pace from start to finish, making it a packed and enjoyable read.
Be warned. Parts of Christopher Pike’s writing here – particularly when he deals with characters’ views on abortion – might inadvertently rub some modern readers the wrong way. It’s understandable, though, seeing as most older fictional works are inescapably shaped by past societal norms.
Regardless, I especially love the dark, foreboding tone of Whisper of Death. It really creeps you out as you wonder how things will turn out for the five teens. In addition, I applaud Christopher Pike for taking risks with the ending – which isn’t necessarily as you’d expect.
Other Christopher Pike books worth reading
The above are some of my all-time favorite books by Christopher Pike. Here are a few more you might really like!
A thought-provoking book that invites you to think deeply about spirituality – more specifically, what it all means to you. Some fans find Sati slightly preachy. Others, like myself, thoroughly enjoyed the novel for its introspective tone.
Sati is about a girl who shows up in a small town as people around her react to her odd and inexplicably mythical presence.
More recently, Christoper Pike revisits similar themes in his YA novel Strange Girl – but I find Sati to be the superior novel of the two.
Until the End (Final Friends Trilogy)
Like many fans, I’m divided on the the Final Friends trilogy (recently repackaged as Until the End). On one hand, the final third of the series is craftily wrapped up as earlier plot lines build into a satisfying climax. It’s a solid end to an excellent murder mystery that, on the whole, I really enjoyed.
On the flip side, the first two parts (especially the second) aren’t the best Christopher Pike books. The pacing is a little off. Some characters are mildly annoying, and there are also a few dated stereotypes.
Nonetheless, if you don’t over-think, I encourage you to give these novels a try. They’ll make for fun ‘whodunit’ reads over a few afternoons.
Die Softly features a main character, Herb, who spies on girls in the shower. In all likelihood, this sets him up to be a morally dubious character.
However, against your better judgment, you’ll start to warm up to him when he discovers he’s accidentally caught a potential murder on film. That’s when Herb begins to evolve as a person as he sets out to do the right thing.
Die Softly is a popular old favorite for many Christopher Pike fans, mostly for its fast-paced and intriguing twists.
The Starlight Crystal
The Starlight Crystal covers some very evocative sci-fi themes. I see it as a blend of The Season of Passage and The Immortal, targeted at young adults.
The story focuses on Paige, an eighteen-year-old who lives on a time-bending spaceship that orbits Earth as it moves beyond light speed. However, a shocking tragedy happens, causing billions of years to pass, only for her to return to an entirely different Earth – one she’s never known.
The dialogue in The Starlight Crystal isn’t Pike’s best. Nonetheless, I think the ideas contained within are still very refreshing and, most of all, deliciously ambitious. Pick the book up and see what you think!
The Eternal Enemy
The Eternal Enemy follows Rela who, after buying a VCR, realizes she’s able to record tomorrow’s news. Pretty nifty – until one day she sees herself in the headlines, for all the wrong reasons. She then does everything she can to change her tragic fate – or die trying.
The tech in this book is obviously outdated, seeing as VCRs are mostly extinct these days. However, the story on its own is still great, albeit at times bordering on being too far-fetched (even by Pike’s standards). Still a highly enjoyable read, though!