Hey, folks! In the past I’ve thrown up a Paypal link for y’all to donate to help me get Fear Street books, but I’m trying out a new thing. To help support this blog, along with my writing blog and my old west horror serial, I’ve created a Ko-Fi page. A lot of my extra income is going to a completely new project I may be posting about here soon, which means that extra five dollars I need to get the next book may be less available. If you’re enjoying these recaps and want to make sure I still have books to read, click the link below. Thanks for reading guys, and I’ll see you soon!
The cover (borrowed from Young Adult Revisited) is, um, bad. It has the same weird colors and high contrast of the redone covers, and a stock image of a shadowy figure that looks more like an alien than a murderer.
Camping can be murder…
Generic but servicable. Inoffensive.
Three friends–Ellen, Beth, and our protagonist Maria–are planning for a camping trip. Ellen is a bungee jumper, hang glider, and experienced rock climber, Beth similarly plays sports and climbs, but poor Maria is going for the first time. She looks around the camping store flipping out. Her friends are having fun, at least. Maria’s also a little shaken up because she just broke up with her boyfriend, meaning this is supposed to be a girl’s weekend, though Beth views boys as much a sport as anything else she does. Maria gives them mommy’s credit card to pay for everything, and as they scuttle off, she runs into Bret “the Freak” Freitell.
Bret gives her a hard time in the store and picks up an axe. He starts telling her this would do the job, asking where they’re going camping, and then flips out when he thinks she’s calling him stupid. He swings the ax at her, stopping inches above her face. And then when she storms off he calls her a wimp. No one calls security or does anything else about this. Just another day in Shadyside.
The girls head out to the trail. Maria says they can’t talk about guys, which to Beth means the only other thing to talk about is shopping. I wouldn’t call the Fear Street books a bastion of feminism, but they aren’t usually this. Anyway, Bret nearly runs the girls off the road, and when they get out to yell at him, he suddenly changes demeanor, apologizing and saying he didn’t know the curve was so sharp. The girls stop at a mini-mart up ahead and decide to get some snacks and relax for a minute. There they meet Will, Andrew, and Daniel, also going camping that weekend. Daniel flirts with them a little and offers to help them out on the trail, which sends Beth and Ellen, the two experienced extreme sport enthusiasts, into giggle fits. Maria reminds them this is a no boys weekend, and the two relent, telling the boys they’re fine on their own. They pack up their cars, still chatting with the trio, when something falls out of Daniel’s pack. Maria thinks it’s a gun, but he shows her it’s a flare gun.
The girls head out on the trail as a rainstorm rolls in. Seems like someone should’ve checked the weather, but okay. As they start down the trail, they hear someone near them. A shot rings out. They flip out and see two hunters coming towards them. They apologize, saying they got lost, but, uh, there’s hunting in public camping grounds? That seems ridiculously dangerous. They also have to be close to top of the trail, where the most people would be, which either means they’ve wandered in from a very long way or they’re hunting people.
It starts raining as the girls get going, and they find their way blocked when a creek fills up with water. They debate hiking further up the trail or camping here until the rain stops, when they’re interrupted by a bear sound. It’s just the boys, being boys. Maria’s flipping done and shouts at them. Daniel offers them a beer. The boys have a raft with them, and they offer to help them cross the creek so they can continue onto their camping site. Beth and Ellen cross okay, but when Maria and Will go across, they lose the rope. The raft starts following the wild current, and they’re knocked into the water. Maria has already told us she’s a strong swimmer, and even in the current she manages to stay up until she finds Will, and she helps him to shore. Daniel yells at him for losing the raft. Maria is just happy to be alive.
They continue up the trail, which is just slush with mud. And they still plan to rock climb in this? I don’t know a lot about anything, but I’m pretty sure it’s dangerous to do that in a rainstorm. And this is Maria’s first time, so she’s already exhausted and tired of the mud. She trips and starts sliding down the path, hitting her hand into a rock. Will reaches her first and checks the wrist, making sure she can move it. The girls build a splint for the sprain, and Ellen asks if she wants to turn around. Maria almost says yes, but Daniel makes a snide comment about her not being able to handle it, and she once again feels like a wimp in a scenario where most people would be miserable and happy to turn back. So she says she’ll shoulder on. Will, at least, tells her it takes a lot of guts to keep hiking. He stands up to Daniel for her too, when Daniel gets annoyed that she wants to rest.
Daniel gets them to keep going by saying he knows a great camping spot that’ll be on dry ground. Maria’s relieved, until they reach the end of the trail, with only a steep gray wall in front of them. Beth assures Maria that she won’t be climbing, not with that wrist, and the others will pull her up. Without too much incident, they all get up on the ledge, where a large overhang protects them from the rain, and they can finally relax.
The girls set up their camp and immediately cook some dinner, while the boys remain bros, at least Andrew and Daniel. They down beer instead. Will comes over to sit with the girls a while, and he admits he didn’t know Daniel before today. He’s Andrew’s brother, and so today’s been nearly the nightmare for him as it has for Maria. The girls settle into their tent, exhausted but happy to be dry and warm, until Maria wakes up in the middle of the night. Gentle, on the wind, she hears a sound. Whimpering. Moaning. A wail. She waits and realizes the boys are playing a joke on her. She refuses to stoop to their level, and goes back to sleep.
Maria’s the first to wake in the morning, and she spends a few minutes enjoying the scenery. Then she notices Daniel and Andrew have already packed their tent and were putting their supplies together. They barely acknowledge her. She asks where Will went, and they tell her he wandered off after an argument he and Daniel had. Instead of being instantly suspicious of this, Beth gets distracted by a bunny she wants a picture of and gets the girls to heard it. This places Maria next the edge of the cliff, and she can see below Will’s dead body. Andrew and Daniel insist they didn’t hear anything last night, but Maria remembers that she did. He must’ve been laying there for hours. Bleeding out. Begging for someone to help him.
Ellen insists on checking on the body, even when Andrew and Daniel tell her not to. She climbs down to the ledge his body landed on and lets them know he is, in fact, dead. She also discovers huge bruises on his body, not from the fall, but like he was beaten. Ellen yells this to the people above her, which is fantastic. She also finds Daniel’s walking stick broken in two. And instead of quietly keeping this to herself to give her friends a chance to escape, she lets everyone know, so Daniel can freak out right away.
Basically, for the next twenty pages, Andrew and Daniel go back and forth. They’re going to cut Ellen’s rope! Except they want her to climb to the top. They’re going to shoot Maria with a flare gun! But it needs to look like an accident. The girls promise to tell everyone it’s an accident! But they can’t trust them. They’re going to toss them over the ledge! But they might live.
Finally, Maria convinces them to take her hostage, use her credit card to buy a raft to escape, and then the boys say they’ll tie her to the raft and let it go over the falls. They bring the other two along as well, so they can’t get to a ranger or any help. She says they need her to sign for the credit card, but even if it did flag for fraud, it’d be a minute before anyone realized what had actually happened. Luckily, these boys are not real thinkers.
They get to the raft place, and Maria goes inside alone. She chats with the guy, who gives her all the safety information, and she uses the time to try to figure out an escape. But the boys have her friends hostage right outside. As she goes to pay, instead of signing her name, she writes: “Help. Brothers holding us hostage. Killed someone already.” Behind her Daniel walks in. The man doesn’t even glance at the receipt and just tosses it in the register. I will say, this man probably sees a hundred signatures a day, but I think I’d notice if someone wrote a full sentence instead of the usual scribble.
Daniel and Andrew force them into the boat. They tie up Ellen and Beth, but when they reach for Maria, she punches them instead. They’re already in the rapids, and the raft starts to rock wildly with the water and with the fight onboard. Maria desperately holds onto her friends, who can only bounce along with the current. She gets a Telltale moment, where they’re coming on a big boulder, and she has to choose which friend to help, so she leaps at Beth, while Ellen is tossed into the water. Maria reaches into the water and manages to pull her out as the raft gets past the rapids into calm water. Maria lunges for the flare gun, which goes off as she struggles with Andrew. With the water calm now, she leaps over the edge and swims for shore, Daniel following after her.
Maria gets to dry land, where she books it. She runs into the road and flags down the first car she sees, which–of course–has the Freak in it. Bret calms her down until Daniel bursts from the trees, and the two start chatting like old friends. Daniel openly admits to Bret that he did a murder, and he needs to murder these three girls, Bret is like, anything you need man. Daniel says if they’re not back in about five minutes, Andrew will kill the other girls anyway, so Bret helps him drag Maria through the forest. He grabs his pack first, promising there’s something good inside.
It’s pretty obvious what Bret is doing, but boy does he go along with it. He helps them get all the girls in the raft, and he pulls out the ax to threaten them. He convinces the boys to untie all the girls, and when he gets ready to chop the rope, he hits Andrew instead (with the flat side, I guess, so no one actually dies). Daniel tries to stab him, forcing him to drop the ax. Maria jumps out of the boat and grabs for it. She gets her friends out and then stands there watching Daniel and Bret fight with actually doing anything about it. Daniel comes out on top and starts towards her, but she gets him into the boat, letting the raft go, and watches him fly down the river.
Just in time for a park ranger to arrive! The guy at the boat rental did read her note! Everything’s okay! Even Bret isn’t as big a creep as we thought he was! The girls go home, and Maria is ready to relax, only to find her parents in her living room, ready to take her camping. Cue laugh track, freeze frame, fade to black.
Andrew glanced at his brother. “She’s right, Daniel. It’s bad enough that we killed Will. We can’t kill four people.”
“Why not?” Daniel asked.
“For one thing, it’s daylight.”
Fear Street Trends
There’s not too many, since most of the story takes place on the camping trip. None of the boys have an earring to let us know they’re dangerous but cool. In the first scene, Beth pulls out a Lycra catsuit that’s just for sale at the camping store? And calls it cute? And Ellen’s reply is, “We’re going camping in the mountains, Beth. Not to the country club.” UM, I don’t know if country clubs are all about shiny catsuits. She then convinces Ellen to try on a pair of spandex shorts, which are actual things someone might work out with.
This book is just kind of flat for me. I will say it’s short, straightforward, with only one real “twist”, if you can call it that, which is kind of nice. Still, the actions of the murderers don’t make a ton of sense, and it might’ve been more thrilling as a “chase through the forest”/”run for your life” narrative rather than having the girls be held against their will. I’ll give it two blunt axes out of five.
The cover (borrowed from its GoodReads page) is pretty good, actually. There’s lots of things I like about it. The romantic pose is really nice (though that girl is ridiculously skinny), with the full ocean and the moon behind it. It’s got a good “romance, but spooky” vibe.
It’s the kiss of death.
Pretty similar to the previous one, but I like it. Vampires are weirdly romantic, and it plays into the whole “sex and death” thing they usually have going on.
We open with a scene that’s sort of the inverse of the first scene in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Diana and Eric are walking on the beach, and it leans into Diana being a vampire without saying it. Eric tries to leave before the sun comes up, but she drags him beneath a beach umbrella and tells him her sister died last year thanks to vampires. Eric tries to attack her. She impales him with the stake for the umbrella, and he turns to dust, which is also a very BtVS, though obviously Stine writes of it in more loving detail.
We are then introduced to Billy and his friends Jay and Nate. Billy is returning to Sandy Hollow, bringing with him the memories of his last girlfriend, Joelle. Nate also has a little sister named Lynette who tags along with them. She’s the exact sarcastic little sister character that’s in every 80s movie, but I like her okay. Billy also mentions he’s had a rough year spent in a hospital. This will be important later.
As they walk along, they see hundreds of bats flying from Vampire Island. Billy mentions a story where some kids went out there on a dare, the exact dare being to “find the vampires and destroy them”, which is kind of extreme for your average high school dare. Anyway, they set a coffin on fire, and vampires killed them. Everyone agrees the story is dumb. Lynette turns around and sees two bats trying to carry off a small dog, which is a crazy image. Also, eighteen pages in, and there’s your dead animal.
Billy tells everyone that vampires are real, and his girlfriend Joelle was killed by them. The others argue there’s no proof of that, and when Billy admits his last year was spent in a mental hospital, which makes them pretty dismissive. Jay and Nate try to calm Billy down and remind him they’re here to party, not destroy vampires. Billy is unsatisfied, but let’s it drop.
Cut to April. You remember April. She died in the last book, turned into a vampire. She’s here now, watching as two vampire bats essentially do a Sims costume change and spin into people. They immediately go to attack April, but she yells at them that she’s an immortal. They rehash that Gabri is the one who turned her. Irene and Kylie are our new vampires. Irene is more thoughtful, but Kylie is obsessed with nectar and is hungry all the time. She also doesn’t want to cloud people’s minds, since she thinks she’s attractive enough to snag her prey either way. They roll up to the boardwalk and see the three boys, immediately deciding to drink from them. They do the usual flirtation, and April is amused to see Billy pull away from Kylie.
April invites the boys to be in a play! She explains the local theater group is putting on Night of the Vampire, and they always need more boys to be in it. Rehearsals and performances are always at night, because “a lot of us can only make it at night”. Which sort of makes it sound like a vampire troupe is putting this together, which I kind of love. Also, I know these girls are cute, but I don’t know if I’d want to sacrifice my summer doing bad theater. I can do that anytime.
The boys leave. The girls argue about nectar. A bet is made. Instead of drinking them dry, the first one to turn their partner into an immortal wins. This bet is made a lot, I’m noticing, which is sort of ridiculous. I think more suspicious than people dying on the beach are the number of people turning into fecking vampires.
Billy goes to the tryouts, which I was genuinely surprised to learn were real, which I think just justifies my new theory that it is 100% vampires running this show. Jay reads and does pretty well. Kylie comes over to creep on Billy. His absolute disinterest in her is the best. Kylie goes up on stage and overacts, while a girl named Mae-Linn whispers commentary to Billy. They click really well and are laughing together already. When she goes up to read, she kills it. As Kylie comes back to flirt with him some more, he blows her off, saying he already promised Mae-Linn they were going out. Kylie is clearly angry. As Billy and Mae-Linn walk along the shore, they see April and Jay in the sand. Mae-Linn says goodnight, and Billy has to remind himself why he’s here this summer.
We cut to a scene of Irene and Nate making out, and she’s just about to go for it when Lynette interrupts. She leaves quickly. Meanwhile, Billy has weird dreams about vampires and is woken up by the police. They tell him Mae-Linn was missing and he was the last to see her. He takes them to the spot where they were walking, only for them to find Mae-Linn’s body. Billy vomits, as you do, but he does notice on her neck two small puncture marks.
The vampire girls argue about killing Mae-Linn, and Kylie insists she didn’t. Billy goes to see Jay, only to learn that he’s incredibly sick. Billy is now pretty sure April is a vampire. He goes to Nate next, and Lynette jumps out at him. Billy and Nate walk to rehearsals together, where everyone is talking about Mae-Linn. But the play continues with Kylie in the starring role, and she runs a scene with Billy. Billy, a lost delivery boy, runs into Kylie, a beautiful vampire. She pretend bites him, and he freaks out. The group decides to head out after practice, but someone runs into April and recognizes her. April shoves him somewhere private, and in her absence, Billy tries to get a look at Jay’s neck, but he shoves him off.
Kylie takes Billy out and clouds his mind so the whole thing feels like a dream. Kylie starts to bite down on him when two vampire bats attack. She fights them off, and Billy is impressed. She teases they should go to the island, and he says he can get a rowboat no problem from the guy he works for. As they climb into the boat, Kylie lols that she loves to do stuff like this because she’s just so weird and crazy. We get it, Kylie. You need attention. Billy just starts to think this might be a bad idea as they row up to the island.
I guess Kylie’s plan is to get him alone (and on her turf), while Billy’s plan is to scope out the place. They wander around the dark, lush forest. Bats fill the sky, and dog growls are heard. They find the remains of a burned out house and Kylie drags him inside. Hundreds of bats are inside, hanging from the ceiling. They leave, but almost immediately Kylie disappears, leaving Billy alone. A large black wolf jumps out at him and attacks, and Billy has to fight it off. He finds a table leg and stabs it into the creature. No blood. It isn’t alive. It falls over and crumples up. Billy has killed his first vampire.
Kylie finds Billy and they leave, only to find Rick, the boy April was talking to earlier, dead in the water. The next day the whole group meets, and Billy studies Jay, who’s exhausted and can barely keep his head up, and April, who’s distraught over the death. April says she can’t eat anything. Billy tries to force her to eat a slice of pizza, and Jay cuts him off. Later, Billy goes to tell Jay he’s pretty sure April is a vampire, and Jay says he needs to tell his parents he’s having these thoughts, since he’s clearly not over whatever he went through last year. He goes to find Jay and April and runs into Nate and Irene instead, along with Lynette. At the arcade, he sees another boy, one he recognizes instantly. Jon. Jon, who promised to look after Lynette that night. Jon, who killed Joelle. Jon, who’s dragging Lynette out the door into an alley right now.
Billy races to save her. They fight. Billy makes his second kill. Lynette is knocked out, and Nate runs up behind him, immediately blaming Billy for Lynette’s condition. In a less kind way than Jay said it, Nate screams that Billy is sick and needs to go back to the hospital before storming off with Lynette. Kylie finds Billy wandering alone and tries to bite him again. He leaves and finds Jay, who’s completely out of it. He sees the puncture marks on his neck and tries to convince him, but Jay won’t have it.
After they find the body of the drama teacher with bite marks in her neck, Billy tries one more time to convince his friends that vampires are real. He convinces Jay to go along with it, and on a double date with Kylie and April, they enact a plan. While out, a storm starts up. Billy ditches Kylie and follows April and Jay to the theater. They hang out there until dawn, lying to April about what time it is, telling her that the storm is still going. It’s not a great plan, but it’s working. Billy grabs April and forces her upstairs into the rays of the sun. And, nothing happens. Jay immediately snaps at Billy, but April is only angry that her plan is ruined. April reveals that she’s not April at all, but Diana. April was her cousin, who was turned into a vampire and returned to Shadyside only to throw herself into the sunlight. She’s back for revenge.
The two vampire hunters decide to do something about this. It’s still raining as they row out to the island with stakes they crafted. They split up immediately, which is dumb, but okay. Billy finds a house with coffins inside. He lifts the lid only to find clothes inside, like swimsuits and short skirts. I love the thought of vampires using coffins as storage. It just goes with the decor. He lifts another lid and finds Kylie sleeping there. He raises his hammer and stake but hesitates. She’s not a person, he reminds himself. She’s a monster. But Kylie and Irene wake up before he can finish it, and he’s quickly overwhelmed. Irene is staked, and Diana rushes in, killing Kylie. They leave quickly after that, even though there’s probably a hundred more vampires on the island.
Diana and Billy celebrate with some pizza. Billy is messing with a knife when he accidentally cuts himself, and Diana freaks out when she realizes there’s no blood. Billy admits he wasn’t in a hospital for the past year, but in a coffin, being a vampire. He killed Mae-Linn because he was so hungry, and Rick too. He needed revenge, but now he just needs nectar, and Diana is the closest neck to him…
What should I do? Billy wondered. Should I tackle him? Rip off his shirt?
Fear Street Trends
These are some fashionable vampires! When Billy opens the coffin, he “picked up a short skirt, a midriff top. He rummaged around, sifting through bathing suits and jeans.” Kylie wears cut offs and halter tops and straight ponytails, which is very early 2000s of her. Tourists are seen with Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts on. Love it. Love all of it.
Like many summer reads, Shadyside only gets a mention. Diana and April are from there originally, obviously, though I don’t think they’re Fear Street residents.
I still liked this one above average of a Fear Street read. Vampires living in the modern day are always fun, and you can kind of tell Irene is older while Kylie may have died in the last decade and April is fresh. If the plot twist had happened halfway in the book instead, with Diana and Billy teaming up, as a human-pretending-to-be-vampire and vampire-pretending-to-be-human, I might’ve really enjoyed that dynamic. But last scene plot twists is the way of the world in 90s youth oriented horror. I’ll still give it three crumbling corpses out of five.
And we’re back. I should be on a regular schedule again, and I’ve queued up a number of books to read for the summer, so hopefully there won’t be any more hiccups.
The cover (borrowed from this Fear Street blog) has the same problems as the previous one, and I’m not going to rehash how bad the “knife/axe/scissors into stock photo” thing is. The colors are meh, though that sickly Goosebumps green does have its nostalgic factors.
And there’s NO WAY OUT!
I like this. Plays into the title, ominous, very good.
Kenny Klein is our senior of focus, saying goodbye to his girlfriend Jade, who’s off to do SAT camp in California for some reason. Kenny and Jade I do not remember from the previous book, though I’m sure they were there. Jade asks Kenny to be true, and she says she wants them to stay together through senior year, which is a big ask from a bunch of high schoolers.
After Jade leaves, Kenny starts his job at the day camp over in the Fear Street woods. Dana and Debra are there to remind Kenny that he does have a girlfriend and judge him for his choices. Kenny doesn’t really pay attention while his boss talks to the counselors, instead musing on the camp being exactly the same as when he was nine, and then Craig pulls him aside to mention the “troubled kid” that’s in Kenny’s group. Kenny does not really ask any follow up questions to this, or ask if he’s qualified to help a troubled youth. He instead goes to put away some equipment, running into a counselor named Ty, and the two begin a friendly game of tetherball. Well, Kenny thinks it’s friendly, but he notices Ty is really into the game. And then Kenny punches the ball so hard it hits Ty in the face, causing blood to gush out of his nose. Ty is not a good sport about this.
Kenny, not to be deterred from the summer camp experience, immediately meets a beautiful girl described in ghostly terms. Her name is Melly (not a real name). They have flirty conversation, and then Melly warns him that Ty is cruel. Kenny asks if she met him before, and she says yeah, before she drowned. No wait, before she left town, she corrects. I’m so sure, Melly.
Kenny is sent to help Ty clean up the volleyball equipment and store it. They struggle to close a trunk, and they start pushing on it to close. But Kenny gets distracted by Melly walking by, and Kenny slams the trunk on Ty’s hand. The quickly take him to the infirmary, where the nurse says it might be broken, but they won’t know for sure until they get him to the hospital. Craig says Ty is the swimming instructor, and with a broken hand, he’s not much use. Kenny steps outside, feeling like garbage, and Melly runs up to him. He tells her what happened, and she gets confused. That’s not Ty. He doesn’t look anything like him. And then the buses arrive before she can say anything else.
Kenny gets his group of kids, and they’re a bunch of rowdy boys. Already two of them are wrestling, and he has to break them apart. Craig brings Vincent to him, a young, shy boy who wears a ski mask all of the time thanks to an accident. Vincent is kind of unsettling behind the ski mask, with only his blue eyes focused on Kenny. As the kids explore the camp, they find a cave, and Vincent runs in. Kenny tries to stop the others from running in after him, only to hear Vincent cry for help.
The chapter does that thing where it breaks to another scene, and the characters explain, oh no, it was a simple misunderstanding. Vincent was faking, probably for attention. Kenny is having pizza with his friends, and they dish all the dirt on your favorite Fear Street Seniors. And, in my desire to recap everything for you, I’ll repeat it here: Debra broke up with Josh who’s now with Clark (the vampire) but they still hang out apparently and Mary O’Connor was caught shoplifting and is supposed to be dating Gary Fresno but we all saw him dancing with Trisha at her murder party and they’re still ribbing on Josie for getting a D in math.
The group decides to go swimming in Fear Lake. It’s a great time, and then Kenny sees Melly there. She kisses him and pulls him away from his friends. She points to a high boulder and says they should do a high dive, which makes Kenny nervous, knowing there are rocks in the water below. But a pretty girl said so, and who is he to refuse? He jumps and immediately hits his head on the rock, only to be rescued by his friends. They yell at him for jumping, but he notices that Melly isn’t around anymore. He freaks out, thinking she’s drowned, but they say they didn’t see anyone else at all. It was just him. He jumped alone.
Kenny goes to the office the next morning, hoping Melly is there, but it’s only Ty. Ty does let him know he saw Melly, and then kind of threatens him. Kenny goes to greet his kids, only to find Graydon and Charlie shoving each other, and Vincent being a creepy kid. Ty tries to be nice to Vincent, and he sends them to arts and craft, where Melly is supposed to be the counselor, but she’s missing. He looks for her, running into Dana instead, who reminds him he has a girlfriend who is also Dana’s friend. They both hear a scream from the arts and crafts cabin and run back. Vincent is on the floor covered in blood, but the other boys point out he’s breathing, and Kenny realizes it’s paint. He tells them no more pranks or stunts and orders Vincent to go get himself cleaned up. Melly arrives a little while later, and Kenny’s just glad she’s alive.
Kenny and Melly agree to meet after work, and as Kenny walks the nature trail to find her, he also remembers that he has a girlfriend and feels kind of bad about cheating on her. He debates whether to tell Melly or not, but runs into Dana and Debra instead. Dana says again that Jade is her friend, and she’ll call her to tell her what’s up if he doesn’t stop. When Kenny finds Melly, he decides he can’t tell her about Jade, not if he wants to keep seeing her. So. That choice is made.
Melly takes him back to the cave where Vincent ran into, claiming it’s haunted by the ghost of a little boy. She runs ahead, and Kenny tries to follow her in the dark, only to fall down a hole. Melly appears and chides him for not being careful, and he points out that he could’ve died. He still can’t get mad at her though, and she starts to kiss him when they see a ghostly presence. It’s Graydon, left behind in the office. Kenny takes him back so Craig can call his parents, and as he leaves he sees Ty there. Ty says Melly is crazy, and when Kenny presses him on it, Ty shows him the scratch marks around his neck, from where Melly tried to attack him.
It’s overnight time! The boys are gathered around the campfire, telling scary stories. Kenny made sure Vincent couldn’t sit next to him, and now the boy is pouting. Kenny goes for a little walk and runs into Melly, and he decides to ask her about attacking Ty. She says she bumped into him, and that Ty started yelling and grabbing her, so she scratched him to get away. She asks him to meet after lights out, and he heads back to the kids. He sees a snake sliding between them and like a super cool dude snatches it off the ground. He takes it to the rec hall to put in one of the animal cages there, which is actually very nice. Graydon runs around pretending to be a snake and yelling “Snap!” at everyone. He pushes Vincent, and Kenny tells Graydon not to do that, which isn’t satisfying enough revenge for Vincent. Instead Vincent pulls out the Doom Cards, which are like tarot cards except you die I think. He pulls out three skulls for Kenny and claims that it’s instant death.
Kenny puts the boys to bed before they get too wild and gets a phone call from Jade in the office. They have a nice conversation that reminds Kenny that he loves his girlfriend but is also still going to meet Melly later. When he does, Melly’s all over him, and he tells her the truth. He has a girlfriend. He can’t see her anymore. It’s not right. Melly takes it well, but does tell him that she can change his mind. She will change his mind.
The summer gets weirder. One of the boys puts the snake back in Kenny’s bed, and he’s pretty sure it’s Vincent, since the Doom Cards are also left in his bed. Melly comes at him and he reminds her that they’re just friends now, causing her to self harm until he runs away. He finds YOU’RE DEAD written on his Jeep and goes to confront Ty about it, but Ty denies it. He decides to ask Melly about it and finds her address, only to be told at the door that he needs to leave. Someone shoots Kenny with an arrow during archery practice, and he finds more skull cards. He goes back to Melly’s house to explain himself, and the woman tells him Melly was her daughter, and she died when she was eight years old at the Shadyside Day Camp. Kenny runs into Ty again, and Ty apologizes for freaking out on him. The two are almost friends.
It’s time for the big canoe trip. The boys watch the speedboats race through the river, but Ty reminds them they’re only for the adults. Kenny sends off Vincent with two other boys in the first canoe and gets in with two more in the second, leaving Graydon and Charlie on the shore. As they fly down the river, they hear a speedboat coming up behind them, and Kenny sees the person piloting it is wearing the red and white ski mask, so it must be Vincent. It comes close to the boat, its blades slicing through the water, and Kenny gets the other two boys to jump out. Their canoe is hit, but the boys make it to shore, leaving Kenny in the water. The speedboat comes back around for him, and Kenny manages to dodge out of the way before hauling himself onto the boat. He grabs the boy, but realizes he doesn’t see the scars that poke out from under the mask. He pulls it off, revealing it was Graydon all along!
Graydon admits to everything, from putting the snake in Kenny’s bed to shooting him with an arrow. Craig reminds Kenny that he had a disturbed boy in his group. Ha! Kenny. Assuming people’s mental state by their appearances. Never work with children again. Kenny goes to apologize to Vincent about assuming he tried to kill him, but instead he sees a body floating in Fear Lake: Melly’s body! He takes a boat out to get her, but as she reaches into the water, she grabs him. He exclaims that she’s alive, and she says, no. Not alive. She died when she was eight years old.
See, back in the day, Melly had a big ol’ crush on Kenny. And there was a mean counselor named Tyler who made her go canoeing even when she was sick. Her boat tilted. She drowned. But she came back, and she stole a girl’s body from the cemetery, one she knew he’d like. Melly pulls him down, trying to drown him as well. But he sees another speedboat on the water, and Ty pulls him out. Kenny thanks him, saying she was trying to drown him, and Ty is confused. There’s no one else there. He takes Kenny to the shore and goes to get help. Now Kenny sees Vincent running at him. Melly possessed the body of a little boy too! In the struggle, Kenny manages to pull the mask free and sees Vincent’s corpse like face. Melly had to be with him every moment of every day. He grabs onto the corpse and tosses it into the spinning blades of the speedboat. Melly asks him not to forget her, and he’s like no I definitely have trauma from this.
“No name calling. Call someone a name and you lose points.”
“Points for what?” Matthew asked.
Kenny had no idea. He’d just made it up.
Fear Street Trends
They spend most of their time in their camp uniforms, which are yellow shirts and khaki shorts. No one’s described as looking like a celebrity, and they don’t even see a movie, so what’s the point? Melly is described in the same ghostly terms as Anna from the New Girl, so there is that.
The Fear Street Seniors are kind of a huge disappointment so far. Something about the concept and the yearbook in the front of the book is exciting and fun to me, but it keeps falling short. It is more supernatural than a lot of Fear Street stories, so I’m appreciative of that. I think the kid plot line could’ve worked by itself, but added on top of the weird ghost, I don’t know. I’ll give it two maniac children out of five.
There are two very fun things I decided to do this week.
#1 – I posted my Fear Street playlist to 8tracks:
In which you’ll find 90s (and a teensie bit of early 2000s) horror themed jams meant to emulate the joys of Fear Street. Feel free to toss suggested songs at me.
#2 – I bit the bullet and got back into my old love, fanfiction. That’s right, I sighed up for an AO3 account after coming up with some elaborate ideas. One of those ideas, which I’ve been mulling over pretty much since I started this blog, is my Fear Street: the TV Series idea. Obviously I’m not going to be writing scripts, but after writing over 20000 words in a document, I decided to go ahead and post the first chapter to my brand new account, which is readable here. It has some things in common with that original outline, but my goal is to create a sort of ultimate universe of sorts, focusing on our two favorite characters from across all books.
AND, as a bonus, if you donate to my ko-fi page, you’ll get to view the rough draft of this story as I write it! I’ve been going pretty ham on it the past week, and I’ll probably write an actual outline for it soon, so if you want to see it in its early stages, now is the time!
I’ve decided my updates will start again in June. I’ve got books picked out and things planned. After this month, things should go back to a relative idea of normal. Thank you guys for reading, and I’ll see you soon!
So I skipped a previous week, and it looks like my April is also going to be buck wild with how much I have going on. I think I’m going to hold off on updating this again until May or June while I sort some things out, but I sat down and read this book, so I’m going to give you the full review. I did write out which books I plan to do in the summer, and a brand new Fear Saga is set to be released in July with a dope cover, so don’t worry. I’ll definitely come back for that.
The cover (pulled from its GoodReads page) isn’t bad. It’s sort of sinister. There’s a pretty girl on it. I’m so bothered by the silhouettes in the door because they look like they were taken from a stock image of space marines or something. You couldn’t have a cheerleader standing there? There’s a hint of a blood splattered gym floor, but overall it doesn’t do anything for me.
At Shadyside High, cheerleading can be a scream!
Not bad not bad. It doesn’t give anything away, but it lends a little more to the plot than the title. Still kind of meh.
We meet Gretchen Page as she’s about to head off to Shadyside High. She just moved here after some mysterious incident, and she’s on the phone with her best friend Polly, who never really gets any dialogue. Immediately the fact that she doesn’t respond to Gretchen sort of gives away that she’s dead. Gretchen tells her imaginary friend about Shadyside and how nervous she is to join the team, since the Tigers were all-state last season. We also meet Gretchen’s mom, who’s divorced and kind of haggard, and the two do not get along. Her mom seems really against her being on the cheerleading team, which sets off Gretchen.
Gretchen goes to school on a Saturday to meet with the coach, and on the way she runs into the ridiculously named Sid Viviano. As they sort of flirt, they also run into Stacy, head cheerleader, who gets very territorial over Sid immediately. Gretchen hurries into Coach Walker’s office where Devra Dalby and her friend Courtney are hanging out. They make fun of her, and Devra lets Gretchen know the last spot on the team is already taken by her. They see Sid and Stacy kiss in the hall, and Devra gets real mad about it for some reason.
Coach Walker comes in and seems to be a reasonable authority figure. She watches Gretchen’s highlight reel of her cheerleading and decides to give her a shot. Both she and Devra can try out, and whoever’s better gets the spot. We get a scene with Devra and her dad, which is pretty much like Silent Night. They get on well but he’s very busy, and Devra complains that Gretchen stole her spot, so he offers to call the principal first.
Gretchen, meanwhile, is meeting her neighbors. Madison lives next door and plays violin in the school’s symphony orchestra. She describes herself as “some kind of prodigy”, so jury’s still out on Madison’s mental state. She asks Gretchen to go shopping with her, and they head over to the mall together. As Madison tries on a dress, Gretchen sees Devra behind the makeup counter, and her new friend lets her in on the fact that the Dalby’s own this store and are super rich. Madison calls Devra a psycho before wandering off, leaving Gretchen to walk straight into Sid. They exchange about two sentences before he pushes her up against a display table and makes out with her. Devra sees and is very angry.
The girls go to Lefty’s and talk to Rachel from the first book. They gossip about Devra and Madison says she and Sid might’ve been a thing, but now Sid’s attached to Stacy and are the perfect couple. As Madison rushes off to practice, Devra slides into the booth with Gretchen. Gretchen notices she has weird burns on her hands, and Devra plays it off, saying she was restoring old furniture. Devra actually seems to be playing nice, and she offers her a deal. Since Devra is a senior, this is her last chance to be on the cheerleading squad. Gretchen could be alternate, still be with the squad, and when Devra graduates, the spot is all hers. When Gretchen says she can’t just fail her tryout, Devra offers her five hundred dollars of credit at Dalby’s, then ups it to a thousand. Gretchen still refuses, and she snaps that she’ll let Stacy know about the scene with her and Sid. Gretchen says no, and Devra storms away.
Try out day. Stacy now seems super nice to Gretchen? She comes over to give her a pep talk and Gretchen wishes for her enthusiasm. Devra does a routine for them which is just okay. Gretchen is unimpressed. Gretchen gets out there and does some running cartwheels and power jumps and lots of other cheerleader terms. Devra clearly knows she’s outclassed and tries to weasle in more time. Coach Walker sends her off. Gretchen watches as Sid is clearly flirting with another cheerleader. She grabs her water bottle, and after a few minutes a wave of nausea comes over her, and she throws up. She’s in a lot of pain, and Coach Walker picks up her water bottle, saying it doesn’t smell right.
Gretchen talks to Polly some more. Sid comes over and they make out some more. He also seems to think Devra did it. He tells Gretchen that he and Stacy have been going out forever and everyone expects them to grow up and get married, and he doesn’t know how to break it off with her. Some threatening text messages show up on Gretchen’s phone, saying SOMETIMES CHEERLEADERS DIE which isn’t really anything. I mean, it is a death threat, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not very clever. It also name drops GIVE ME A K-I-L-L.
Madison convinces Gretchen to show it to the principal. Gretchen takes them to Coach Walker instead, and she confronts Devra, who claims her phone was stolen. Coach Walker and Stacy go to talk to the principal about the cheerleading squad. Mr. Hernandez tells them that Devra’s father donates more than a third of their budget each year, and in order to keep him happy, they have to put Devra on the squad. Stacy is getting her first taste of the real world while Coach Walker protests, but they all realize Gretchen’s been listening in.
Gretchen spaces out talking about Devra with Madison and mentions a knife for some reason. They’re out, and they see Sid with another girl. He claims it’s a cousin, but we all know the truth. More threatening things happen to Gretchen, including getting attacked in the gym and her cheerleading outfit being filled with roaches, and then come the fire batons. There’s no way any school in their right mind would let them have fire batons, but this is Shadyside. As alternate, Gretchen is in charge of lighting the batons and handing them off, also a bad idea, since she’s brand new. They mention Sid did it before and I don’t know why he doesn’t do it now. Gretchen sets it up, and Devra is supposed to take the first baton, but she has a stomach cramp or something and walks away. Stacy takes the baton and goes to her position, only to be set on fire.
Gretchen gets questioned by the principal, and she mentions that Devra shouldn’t taken the first baton and Mr. Hernandez accuses her of attempting to set Devra on fire, which isn’t great principaling. At home, Gretchen and her mom don’t talk, and when they do, they fight. Gretchen gets a call from Madison saying she needs to tell her something urgent and can she please come over right now. Gretchen’s mom grabs her and makes her help her with some inane task that seems really easy to walk away from.
At school the next day, Madison is set to perform in front of the school with a live orchestra. Part way through her performance, she starts screaming and crying, and a wound appears in her neck, burning through her skin so that blood spurts everywhere. Madison is dead. Acid had been poured on her violin, tearing apart her neck. Gretchen remembers Devra saying she used an acid to restore furniture and is quick to accuse her.
Sid still hasn’t broken up with Stacy now that she’s in the hospital, and he gets serious when Gretchen asks him about his dad, who just lost his job. Courtney puts together a routine to highlight Gretchen talents but means Devra is the one who’ll be catching her. Devra does but it still freaks Gretchen out. Sid comes over to help Gretchen clean the garage, and they find sulfuric acid hidden in her backpack underneath some junk, which freaks Gretchen out. She decides the only way to prove she didn’t do it is to prove Devra did do it, so it’s time to break into someone’s house
They roll up to Devra’s and sneak over to the garage. They search it for furniture, but everything’s neat and put away. Gretchen thinks they might have a basement workshop for it, but if you’re working with acid and paint, I’d imagine you’d want a well ventilated place to trap yourself inside of, but whatever you crazy kids. They do in fact find a workshop and the cabinet Devra mentioned. They pick up a bottle, and it reads Muriatic Acid. Not what was used to kill Madison. Not the same as what’s in Gretchen’s garage. As they try to leave, Devra and Mr. Dalby come home, and they have to escape without being seen.
Still convinced Devra is a murderer, Gretchen piles into a bus with the team for their cheerleader retreat. Sid and Devra start screaming to each other on the bus, which is really the first time Sid has been anything other than chill. Gretchen’s mom is left home alone and starts picking up in Gretchen’s room when she finds her phone, accidentally left behind. She glances at the last phone calls made and becomes horrified. She calls the school and demands to speak to the principal, and you know what’s coming. Polly doesn’t exist anymore. She’s dead. Gretchen killed her.
Well, sort of. There was a car accident, and Gretchen had a head on collision with a van, and Polly wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. She went straight through the windshield. Gretchen started living in her own little reality after that, and even when she seemed to get better, she started picking on a girl by making herself look like the victim. Gretchen hurt herself and blamed it all on one girl. And not long after that, they found a knife in her room.
The book gets real scattered here, and I think it’s just racing towards the ending. Gretchen gets to her cabin and her mind starts racing. She lifts up a knife from her bag. Meanwhile Mr. Hernandez and Mrs. Page are racing towards the camp. They see Gretchen running with a knife in her hand and hear Coach Walker yelling for someone to stop. Then it cuts to screaming in the mess hall, where Sid is standing with Devra, a knife pressed to her throat. He admits he lit Stacy on fire, assuming Devra would grab the torch, all because Devra ruined his family when his dad was fired. He’s been the one torturing Gretchen to show Devra that he was in charge?? His motive is a little muddled. He also killed Madison because she had a video of him putting kerosene on the baton, and really this is Madison’s fault for a) not showing it to the police, b) not showing it to the principal, and c) not texting it to anyone else. Gretchen tosses aside her own knife and charges him, knocking him down so hard his head hits the table. As Sid lays bleeding out and the girls get over their traumatic experience, Gretchen and Devra share a good laugh over how Gretchen saved her life. All is well. Gretchen goes to the doctor to presumably get back on her meds, and her phone goes off. A text. YOU KILLED ME, GRETCHEN, BUT I’M NOT GOING AWAY. GFF. POLLY.
Now she was starting at Shadyside High, ten times the size of her old school, and how could she compete? There wasn’t even a Sephora in Savanna Mills!
Fear Street Trends
A surprising amount of old classics return! Devra compares her dad to George Clooney which is kind of a weird thing, but I’ll let it slide. Some kids sing “a rap song that Gretchen had heard on the radio”, which is nice and non-specific. The “rap style cheers” return as well. The cheerleaders seem kind of 90s in hair style, with bangs, crinkly hair, and side ponytails. Gretchen’s mom wears white tennis shorts. Courtney also has a nose ring which would not fly in any American high school. Lots of crewnecks and skirts over tights. Star Wars and Hello Kitty get a shout out. A bit of technology marching on, including Madison listening to “a classical music Pandora station”, and a description of Coach Walker pulling out a CD drive to plug into her computer, since we all know modern ones don’t have that anymore. Gretchen’s mom also has to go through a metal detector to get into school, which she comments on, “In MY day…” Though this is while she’s racing to school to explain that her daughter might have a knife she’s planning to use so maybe don’t get so high and mighty, my dear.
I’m… a little disappointed. It looks like this is the last of the first relaunch wave, so it couldn’t get into all the evil and history and all of that. I knew going in it wouldn’t be supernatural, which is my favorite kind of Fear Street book. It really is more of a reboot of Silent Night than the Cheerleaders series, which isn’t strictly speaking bad. The twist still felt extremely generic, though I guess it’s a double twist, which is fine. The stuff with Devra was actually fairly good, but I feel like there’s a handful of extraneous characters that don’t add anything to the story, and Courtney felt like a gun that wasn’t fired. I still want to like it, so I’m going to give it three acid soaked necks out of five.
I really like the original cover (taken from this Fear Street blog)? There’s something very classic about it, from the old photograph to lip stains on it, to the colors. It has very little to do with the plot, but that’s okay, because it’s sinister and sweet all at the same time.
The new one (taken from its Amazon page) is better than most of the updated covers. I appreciate a good skull though I don’t know why it’s wearing sunglasses? That color with that bridge crack definitely makes this skull look like a cool dude. The kiss on the forehead too is weird. I know why they did it there, but that doesn’t say “tender love turned deadly” as much as “bad Photoshop”.
Her lips were sweet and deadly.
Also a pretty good tagline. It could use an ellipses in there to really sell the drama, but I like this.
Sweet, tender, and vicious.
Not as good, but they’re nearly identical. I think vicious isn’t as sellable as deadly I think it loses something from not being a complete sentence.
We open on Vincent Milano watching Delia apply a tube of purple lipstick to her lips after a makeout session. The first three chapters made me think Vincent would be our main character, and I thought this was going in a more Double Date direction, but he sort of disappears from his own story after this introduction? Unlike other Stine books where someone’s dating two people at once (which is an alarming number of them), Vincent is pretty much just there to lie and die.
The important thing is, Vincent and Delia have just been making out super good, and we see Delia do something she’ll do a hundred times in this book: she applies her lipstick and then presses a tissue to her lips, making a perfect lip mark. Vincent’s also a pretty bad womanizer. Delia asks him about his birthday party, and he realizes both she and Karina are invited and decides to do nothing about this. He’s also invited both girls over on the same night for making out. Too late he realizes the clock in his living room has stopped and Karina might be there at any second, so he kicks Delia out without much fanfare. Literally as she pulls out of the driveway, Karina turns down his street. If you’re going to two-time two girls who despise each other, at least plan it better.
Karina arrives and chats with Vincent on his porch before they walk in, and she realizes Delia left a huge purple lip mark on his cheek. Vincent quickly backtracks with some lame excuse about helping her with her homework and that she gave him a peck on the way out. Karina proceeds to give the same speech that Delia gave about her: the two are rivals, and the one is always stealing the other’s clothes and friends and now boyfriends. Karina flips out though and shouts that she won’t let her win before slamming the door and driving off. A totally normal Shadyside reaction.
We cut to Delia hanging out with her friends on the bleachers in the gym. Britty and Gabe are discussing the Conklin Award, which is never fully explained but appears to be an arts scholarship that allows Delia a free ride to the “most expensive fashion college in New York” (you couldn’t figure out a name, Stine?). Without it, Delia’s not even sure if she can afford community college in Waynesbridge. They say seven kids applied for it, which seems improbably low for a huge scholarship that could get you into art colleges in New York, but maybe it’s a local thing? There also seems to be a talent portion that is unrelated to the actual art that the student does? Delia paints and sketches fashion, but she plays guitar for her talent, and Karina sings, and Stewart, another contender, does a magic show? I don’t know much about art scholarships but I don’t think they work like a beauty pageant.
There’s a little more about Karina and Delia’s rivalry, and Britty mentions they all used to be friends. She still hangs out with Karina and offers to talk to Delia for her. Gabe mentions they had a truce for a whole year and were nearly on friendly terms, but Delia won’t stand for her boyfriend being stolen. Which is when the doors fly open and Karina comes shrieking in. She lunges at Delia and starts to choke her! She screams that Delia’s not going to win this time, and Delia manages to shove her off. For the first time ever in a Fear Street novel a teacher intervenes. The coach takes Karina to the principal’s office, and Delia is shaken. Her friends comfort her, and Britty promises to talk to Karina to see what’s going on.
Delia and Vincent are chatting, and I don’t know why Vincent is even with Delia. He clearly doesn’t want to talk to her and would choose Karina over her in a heartbeat. As he starts kissing her, Delia realizes they’re being watched, and she sees her younger sister Sarah. The two sisters fight, and Delia snaps at Sarah that she’s just jealous because no boy’s ever kissed her. Sarah flips out and screams that she hates her. She threatens her sister, steals one of her paintings, and runs upstairs.
At school, Delia is caught off guard by Stewart, who she says is the stiffest competition for the Conklin Award. She’s clearly into him and forgets for a second that she even has a boyfriend. Stewart asks her out, but she sees Vincent coming down the hall, and she tells him no. Stewart seems genuinely disappointed, which is a little sad. But later on she hears someone talking from within a storage closet, and she sees Stewart and Karina inside, talking quietly. She thinks maybe they’re plotting against her. She runs into Britty, who tells her that there’s no real reason for Stewart to help Karina, and it’s more likely that he asked Delia out because he likes her. They watch Stewart leave, but Karina doesn’t. Delia asks Britty to talk to Karina, to explain that she’s with Vincent, and she’s willing to be cool so long as Karina doesn’t come for him. Britty seems reluctant, but as they see Karina leave, she goes to greet her.
Britty gets Karina to stop walking so Delia can listen in. Britty asks her what happened the other day at the gym, and Karina blows it off. Britty is rightfully upset that she doesn’t see a strangulation as a big deal, and she tries to lightly bring up that she’s acting out of control. Karina gets real menacing and says Delia won’t win the Conklin and won’t win Vincent, and then she calls out to Delia in the hall before storming off.
Delia is all nerves as the competition starts for the Conklin Award. She dreams about Karina covering her in her Midnight Wine lipstick (less fun than it sounds). Delia chose to go last in the competition and regrets it, since she has all the time in the world to get nervous. Karina sings as someone plays piano, and Delia notices her sister sitting away from them, watching Delia. Delia runs backstage, her nerves getting to her, and she picks up her guitar case. The judges call her name, and she’s saved the embarrassment of playing an original song she wrote about Vincent when she realizes all her strings are cut, and a dead rat has been stuffed into its hollow center. Gabe helps her off stage, and she accuses Karina of messing with her. The judges again present themselves as reasonable authority figures and tell the girls that they’ll investigate what happened and decide from there.
Delia gets home to find a note taped to her door from Vincent, inviting her out to Red Heat. She decides to get some clothes that Britty borrowed from her back, and when she arrives at Britty’s house, she finds she and Gabe are making cookies for her. It’s genuinely sweet how these two support Delia, and they chat about Karina and eat cookies together and it’s great. As Delia drives back home, she sees Karina and Vincent kissing. She tries to slam on her brakes but hits the accelerator instead, and then a patch of ice, and then she’s spinning out of control. Karina helps her out of the car, and the two share an awkward moment. Delia admits she didn’t know Vincent was dating both of them, and Karina tells her he’s been lying. Karina apologizes for going berserk in the gym but swears she didn’t ruin her guitar, and she asks for a truce. Delia reluctantly agrees, and then Karina gets the fuck out of there so Vincent can arrive. I’m not 100% sure what happens next, but we cut to Vincent on the phone with Delia clearly the same night, telling her that he can’t go to the Red Heat after all, which is fucking crazy. He tells Delia that Karina was lying and kissed him against his wishes and, like, dude. If you’re going to keep playing this terrible game, at least go dancing with her tonight to reinforce it. Also she almost died getting an outfit to look good for you so you can at least show up. He doesn’t even wait for Delia to respond before hanging up on her. As he hangs up, he cuddles up to the next girl on his couch: Sarah.
The next stage of the Conklin Award appears to be presenting what you’re actually going to school for. Delia waits with her paintings. They’re all also artists and appear to be pretty good, so again, I don’t really know what the the requirements are for this scholarship. Stewart continues to be sweet to Delia and soft asks her out. But Delia’s called in, and she removes her paintings from their portfolio, only to discover they’ve been smeared with Midnight Wine lipstick. Delia flips out and immediately goes to find Karina, who is making out with Vincent.
Britty and Delia talk during an elaborate display of Britty pulling out salsa, jalapenos, and black beans and rice, which I guess is meant to tell us that Britty is Latinx, but it sort of comes out of nowhere? I’m not sure what Stine’s thought process was with this. Delia tells her she’s going to see Vincent, and Britty tells her to drop his ass. But Delia won’t let it lie, and she goes to Vincent’s house, only to find him making out with Sarah. Vincent tries to write it off, but Delia doesn’t even seem to care. She’s worried about Karina, and she makes him promise to talk to her before she gets too out of control.
And now it’s time for something completely different. Britty and Gabe appear to be helping Vincent set up his party in an abandoned house in Fear Street. I’m not 100% why either of them agreed to help or would show up with Delia, but narratively it needs to happen. Karina arrives instead, and Britty and Gabe vacate. Vincent doesn’t even seem to want Delila at his party, and when Britty comes up to him later saying she’s worried, he blows it off. He refuses to be worried about it at his own party, though he still seems kind of worried about it. Britty is getting snippy with him and says that they’re stopping by Delia’s on the way home, not that he cares. But as they start to leave, Delia arrives, making her grand entrance. Her heels are snapped, her dress is torn, her arms are scratched, and blood is on her face, and she collapses right there in front of everyone. They all gather around to see if she’s okay, and Delia points an accusing finger at Karina. She says Karina invited her over to talk, and then tied her up on her bed. She demands to know what Karina’s plan was after the party. Was she going to kill her? Karina screams that she didn’t do it, and when Delia says they can go to her house, she tells them no. Vincent tries to talk to Karina, but she screams at him and runs off.
The next day, Delia seems fine, which is probably the biggest red flag. She won’t go to the police, and she’s applying her makeup like normal. She and Britty and Gabe go over to the house to clean it, but they wait outside for Vincent first. When he doesn’t arrive, they check inside, only to find his body there, his body stabbed, and a purple lipstick mark on his cheek. The police take Delia in, and Gabe tells her not to accuse Karina, in case that makes her sound guilty, but the current story is that Karina ties up people to her bed so like mention that I guess. The detectives leave Delia with their murder board which doesn’t seem appropriate protocol. She watches as they start putting pictures of evidence on the murder board. They come out and tell her they took her lip print (????) and compared it to the print on Vincent’s body and found it a match. We don’t get the scene where a bunch of grown men in police uniforms force a teenage girl to kiss something to get her “lip print” and for that I’m thankful.
They do tell her not to talk until her attorney arrives, but she decides she can prove it wasn’t her. She does a full Mythbusters and says that if it was truly her lip print, the print would be reversed on Vincent’s cheek (?????). She does the thing where she presses a piece of paper to her lips and shows them the print, and then points out that this must’ve been pressed to Vincent’s cheek. I’m not a scientist, or a biologists, or an artist, but I’m pretty certain this is not how lipstick marks work. I don’t know if I could tell the difference between a direct kiss stain and a reproduction. Also, Delia, how much lipstick are you globbing on that your tissue paper blotting can reproduce a full lip mark after use. I feel like Stine maybe thought up this part first and then wrote us a story to get here. It’s written like a real Sherlock Holmes moment, but it doesn’t make any sense.
Anyway, the police go to search Karina’s house and find a saved sheet of lipstick marks. I’ve avoided talking about the homoerotic tension between Karina and Delia but man oh man could I get into some stuff. Karina flips out when Delia accuses her and tries to attack her again. Her mom promises to get her help, and Delia feels it might finally be over.
Cut to senior prom, sort of. Gabe and Delia are going together, but they stop by the psychiatric hospital to see Karina first, I guess to make her feel extra bad? Gabe mentions he’s been coming every week, though I don’t know why. He tells Delia he’s proud of her for winning the Conklin Award, and she says this isn’t how she wanted to win. She then proceeds, with no prompting, to tell Gabe exactly how she dug a dead rat out of the trash to wreck her own guitar, and ruined her own paintings, and she got so mad when she caught Vincent with Sarah, so she faked her own kidnapping, planted evidence in Karina’s house, and then killed him. She kisses Gabe and begs him not to tell anyone, and then comes the worst ending to a book I think I’ve ever read:
Gazing over Delia’s shoulder, he saw a white coated doctor standing grim-faced in the doorway.
“I heard the whole story,” he told Gabe. “I’ll phone the police.”
And then it’s over. What? It’s such a clumsy exit.
“You’ve been out in the ozone somewhere since we got here.”
Fear Street Trends
So many! Thank goodness! Karina and Delia are clearly meant to be opposites, and they dress like it. Delia constantly mentions finding her clothes at thrift shops, and she wears loud colors and crazy designs. We see her wearing an orange shirt dress embroidered with yellow flowers. The outfit that almost kills her is a black suede miniskirt with a matching black suede fringed vest (ugh) with a purple lace bodysuit (what!) and platform red boots. Her “artsy” outfit for the second part of the competition is a braid with stone studded silver earrings. And her trademark purple lipstick. Karina is only described a handful of times, but Vincent says she looks like Michelle Pfeiffer (I’ve missed you celebrity descriptions!). She dresses more conservatively with pleated pants and a pink sweater.
This one is bad. It’s the only real word for it. The book is mostly bloodless and the unreliable narrator could’ve been cool if we were given more reason to distrust her. There’s a few red herrings but none of them are played up. The ending’s the worst part, and I think if she’d gotten away with it in the end, I would’ve forgiven this book some of it’s faults, but I guess Stine didn’t want to pull another Best Friend. I’m giving it one rat filled guitar out of five.
I did not mean to take January off, but my schedule got kind of crazy with things freezing over, taking trips, and working odd weekends, but I’m back! Since February is a month of love, I chose some books to really illustrate the dangers of dating.
The original cover (pulled from this Fear Street blog) isn’t bad. There’s no background to it, which feels exceptionally lazy, but the posing is well done. It kind of reminds me of First Date, but the people in this are actually looking at each other and the knife to the back is subtle enough. The updated cover (taken from its Amazon page) is so, so sad. Why they do they do that negative exposure thing to all these books? Was that ever popular?
Dream date… or nightmare?
Pretty good, pretty good. Plays into expectations, makes a play one words, but doesn’t reveal too much. I can appreciate this one.
Breaking up can be murder.
Um, what? I guess there’s a subplot about breaking up with someone in this book, but that’s not the central conflict. This seems very out of place.
We open with a prologue! Brady Karlin and his beautiful girlfriend Sharon Noles are hiking up the tallest hill in Shadyside after a major blizzard burst through their town. Miller Hill slopes down in front of them, and Sharon’s nervous to sled down it. She keeps pointing over to the other hills, but Brady’s insistent they go down Miller Hill. He kind of pushes Sharon on her sled before she’s ready and follows after, and they’re sledding down, avoiding thornbushes and tall pine trees, flying so fast. Brady’s loving it, but Sharon starts screaming. She slams into a tree and goes flying. Brady chases after her, being casual about it at first, even though she’s not answering, and when he finds her body, there’s nothing left of her face.
Cut to a year later. Brady is hanging out with his friend Jon, possibly the most likeable guy in Shadyside, talking about cute girls. It seems like every girl has a crush on Brady, and Jon has to remind him he’s currently dating Allie Stoner. He seems a little upset when Brady mentions he’s been thinking about breaking up with her, and while it doesn’t come up, I’m 90% sure Jon has a little crush on her. Their conversation is interrupted when Brady sees a girl he describes as “perfect”, totally gorg, pouty lips and all. Jon again reminds Brady he has a girlfriend a she gets up to go talk to her. She introduces herself as Rosha Nelson, and her name normally wouldn’t make me bat an eye thanks to all the weird 90s names that get tossed around, but the characters bring it up themselves that it’s kind of weird. They chat, flirt, make plans for a date, and then she pours boiling hot coffee on his hand.
At school the next day, Brady runs into Allie, who reminds him they were going to the basketball game together on Saturday and invites him out for pizza that night. Brady plays her off and starts to break things off with her, but he gets cold feet on it. He lies instead, saying he has to babysit his cousin, and she seems to buy it. She asks if he’s still coming over Sunday to study with her and Jon, and he promises he’ll be there. But Brady’s distracted and only wants to think about Rosha. For the first time since the prologue he thinks about Sharon, and then quickly dismisses her for Rosha.
Brady meets Rosha at the mall on Saturday, nervous he’ll get caught by one of Allie’s friends. At first he thinks he might get stood up, but she shows, and they head off to Waynesbridge to see a movie. Rosha, up to this point, has refused to tell Brady where she lives, meeting at a second location instead, hasn’t given him her phone number, and has clearly lied about why she wanted to meet at the mall. She’s also incredibly cold, and Brady seems supernaturally attracted to her, to the point that he starts stalking her later. She also does that thing crazy girls in Shadyside do, where they ask for the keys to their boyfriend’s car, and then drive it at 90 miles an hour down dangerous streets. Going home from the movies, she plows through some ice, spinning them out, and getting Brady’s head smashed into the windshield. When he comes to, she quickly tells him to get in the driver’s seat since she doesn’t have her license, and when the police arrive, she’s already gone.
Brady goes to meet Jon and Allie for studying, and he and Jon talk about his crazy night. Brady got off surprisingly easy for crashing his dad’s classic car, but maybe the concussion is punishment enough. Allie is a good girlfriend and fusses over him, and Brady gets annoyed and disappears for a bit. He realizes he doesn’t have Rosha’s phone number. He opens up a phone book and looks for the Nelsons before realizing there’s a lot of them, and he doesn’t know her parents’ names. He decides to ditch his friends and blames his head injury before heading home. As he walks back, he sees a police cruiser in front of his house, and the officer hands him back Rosha’s purse she’d been carrying the night before. He opens it, hoping there’ll be a phone number or some way of contacting her, but finds it completely empty.
Brady ditches his girlfriend some more and starts calling Nelsons in the phone book, only for his phone call to be interrupted. He answers, and a voice on the other end tells him to stay away from Rosha before hanging up. This makes Brady only wilder for seeing this girl he has no way of contacting and remembers she mentioned going to the private school in Shadyside. He drives over to the school, but not before talking to Jon, who calls him out on his shitty behavior. Brady’s just pissed, and he races to the school as the students are leaving. He chases down a bunch of blond girls, none of which are Rosha, and goes to the office, demanding her phone number, until they remind him they can’t just give out student information. He sees a boy waiting for the bus and asks him if he knows Rosha, and when he says no, he flips out on him and knocks him to the ground. As he wanders the school, looking for her, he sees this girl on the football field. He saw her on their date at the movie, this blond girl with these horrible scars all over her face. She just stares at him, and Brady starts running, straight into Rosha.
Rosha listens to his story and realizes he was essentially stalking her. She flips out and asks if he’s checking up on her, calling him weird and a jerk. Brady apologizes, and she apologizes for crashing the car. He hands her the purse, and she gets nervous when he mentions the police, but he assures her he didn’t tell them anything. They get a coffee, and she gives him a phone number and an address. She also asks him to go dancing with her Saturday night, and, even though he knows he has a party to go to with Allie, he agrees.
Brady practices breaking up with Allie, but he gets a phone call from the mystery person, telling hm to stay away from Rosha. He figures out it’s the scarred girl. He and Jon talk while lifting weights, and Jon pushes on him to dump Allie before she finds out he’s two-timing her. Brady is lifting weights from the bench, and he sees through the window the scarred girl staring at him, surprising him so he drops his weights on his neck. Jon pulls them off, and he points out that the girl was right there. Jon thinks he’s freaking out because she reminds him of Sharon, and he admits that’s probably true.
Brady decides to ask Rosha if she knows anything about the scarred girl, but when he calls the number she gave him, it’s disconnected. He freaks out and drives over to 7142 Fear Street to talk to her face-to-face. He drives slow down the street, reading the street numbers, and he sees the graveyard where Sharon is buried. He gets up to 7136, and after that there’s no houses. Just the woods.
Brady’s at his house now, thinking about Allie and Rosha and what he’s going to do, especially since he can’t contact Rosha. Luckily, she shows up at his house, and he lets her in. He points out her address was bogus and her phone doesn’t work, and she quickly comes up with some excuses why and then gets mad that he would even question her. As they’re starting to calm down, Allie arrives, and Brady flips out. He tries to get Rosha to go out the back door, and on her way out she trips, plunging a letter opener into his side so badly he nearly passes out from the blood. Allie walks in and flips out, and the two girls get him to the hospital.
Brady wakes up in the Shadyside Hospital, not really awake and only seeing blurry shapes. He’s visited by the scarred girl, who tells him she’s trying to help, warning him that Rosha tried to kill him, and when she almost reveals Rosha’s true identity, she’s shuffled out by hospital staff. Luckily, Brady is taken back home quickly, and Allie’s his first visitor. She says that Rosha told her everything about their dates, and yells at him for lying, and tells him goodbye. Brady’s having a pretty bad day, and it gets worse when Jon calls him, saying he talked to the scarred girl, and she told him the truth about Rosha, and can he please come over, and he almost tells him who Rosha really is, and Brady interrupts him like a dumb potato because his call-waiting is ringing. When he gets back over to Jon’s line, it’s dead. Brady thinks Jon sounded really serious, and he goes to his house, only to find police there and Jon with his windpipe broken, which leads to a very strange timeline. Presumably, Jon wasn’t attacked until Brady interrupted their call, and then Brady got in his car immediately and drove six blocks to his friend’s house. Chocking someone isn’t that easy, even with the help of a marble candlestick. That’s definitely not enough time for anyone to call the police or even notice something is wrong, and not enough time to clean a scene of evidence. I doubt Rosha made it down the block by the time the police arrived.
Brady is still being a dumb potato and wonders if the scarred girl killed Jon, not that it really matters, because Rosha is literally the only thing he cares about. I assume some supernatural thing is going on to make him obsessed, but it’s never really addressed. Anyway, Rosha left him a message on his answering machine telling him to go to Miller Hill and meet her. Brady, having just seen his best friend’s body after being murdered, who was desperately trying to tell him Rosha was bad news, his parents not even home yet, is very excited to get this phone call. To be fair, he phrases it in that he’s going to ask her questions about the scarred girl, but he still races up the hill to see her.
He meets Rosha at the top of the hill, and she asks him if he remembers the last time they were here together. Brady’s confused, but she reminds him that he killed her. She’s not Rosha at all! Rosha Nelson is an anagram for Sharon Noles! She tells him she borrowed a body, because it was the only way her plan would work, and then she starts to choke him to death. But the scarred girl shouts at Sharon to stop and demands her body back. The two girls argue, and then the girl launches at Sharon. They fight in an almost comical way. At first it’s regular catfight pulling hair kicking and all that, Brady sunk into the ground, too close to death to do anything, and then the girl grabs Sharon’s arm and tears it clean off! And then Sharon tears off her leg! They’re throwing limbs in the air, and they both grab each other’s necks, and both their heads are ripped clean off, sending their bodies tumbling down the hill. And then they vanish? So that solves that problem.
In the epilogue, Brady trudges back to his house a full day later, the text tells me. He walks to Allie’s, ignoring people calling his name, or kids throwing snowballs, or any of the obstacles. He’s freezing. He needs to get warm. He finds her shoveling snow from the driveway, and he apologizes for being a jerk. He begs her to take him back, and she agrees, until he puts his hands to her face. He’s freezing, and he tells her the truth. He’s dead now, Allie. Rosha killed him. He’s so cold and so dead, and won’t she please take him back? And then it ends as Allie screams. So I don’t know if he stole her body, or if he plans to be her zombie boyfriend, or what actually happened. At no point is the bodyswapping or dead-to-life thing ever explained, it just is to make the plot work. The end!
He staggered toward her. “Okay, Allie? Take me back even though I’m dead. Okay? Okay?”
Fear Street Trends
It’s winter time in this book, but these girls know how to look good! Rosha wears some skintight black leggings and tight jeans, and lots of pants disappearing into boots. Allie dresses a little more casual, and in the last scene she’s wearing blue snowboots and a fisherman’s jacket. The boys refer to Rosha as a “Major Babe”, and I’ve never seen that with the capitalization. Is it supposed to be a title, or is she a babe in the key of major? Linguists can inform me. Brady refers to the girls’ “bods”, which is everything we need to know about Brady. The movie they go see in Waynesbridge is a Brad Pitt movie, but it’s a horror film? I think he’s done some thrillers, but I can’t off the top of my head think of what that might be. And, of course, Brady uses a phone book to try to track down Rosha’s address, which paints such a clear divide between cell phone age and before.
The twist of this book I saw coming from a distance, and I think it could’ve been interesting, but there’s just no reason for it. It’s never explained how Sharon came back from the dead, or why Brady did as well, and the deaths are treated so lightly it can be jarring. It felt like ten other Fear Street books and doesn’t do anything special. I’ll give it two peeled off faces out of five.
I was trying to figure out what to do for the last update in December, especially since last year I burned through the best material. Luckily, I work in a library, and just about every day we get book donations, and sometimes an R.L. Stine book appears in that mess. So today’s sampling is not from Fear Street, but rather from the Point Thrillers series, which had a number of YA horror writers submitting books for it, including my second fav Christopher Pike. (One day I may have to reread all of the Last Vampire series, but saints help me on that day.)
This cover (borrowed from YA Revisted) is actually very good. I’m a little disappointed I could only find the high contrast images of it, because I feel like the softness is lost, and that’s part of what sells it. The headless snowman is a cliche but good image, and the footsteps leading to it hint at something sinister. I think what sells the beheading is the scarf standing just above, hinting at what would be a neck otherwise. Overall, a good image.
A cold-blooded killer.
Also a good tagline! Dang, this book is killing it. Short, sweet, sinister, gives nothing away. Like with the cover, it’s minimal, but that makes it good.
We open on a familiar scene to any Fear Street reader. Heather fantasizes about murdering her Uncle James in various ways, from letting him freeze in the snow, to tossing him off a roof. She imagines this while making out with her boyfriend. Their makeout session is interrupted by Uncle James himself rapping on the window. He shouts down at Heather, tells her she needs to head off to her job, and tries to humiliate Ben, who skedaddles. Heather’s so mad she shouts that she hates him before driving off to her job at the mall.
Heather reveals that her parents died, and she was left a large inheritance, but her Uncle James is her guardian and refuses to allow her to touch it. She suspects he’s stealing from it, as he’s made a few big purchases lately in cash, but since he doesn’t let her access her accounts, she can’t know. She keeps her job to have money to spend, mentioning that she has three thousand dollars in her bank account, but her uncle doesn’t even let her use that. She works at a greasy diner in the mall and hates it, but she needs the money.
As she works, she meets a boy with tanned skin, brown eyes, and snow white hair. She seats him, and they chat a little. He tells her he just moved to town and introduces himself as Snowman. They get flirty, and Heather can’t stop looking at him. When she brings him his check, he pats down his pants and realizes he doesn’t have his wallet. Heather’s cool about this and offers to cover it, and he offers to make it up to her on Saturday. He asks her on a date, and she’s eager to say yes. It’s not until she walks to her car and sees Ben that she remembers she has a boyfriend.
Heather makes up a lame excuse for why she can’t go out with Ben on Saturday. We cut to her getting ready for her date as her uncle shouts at her. Snowman comes to the door to pick her up, and her uncle is extremely unpleasant and kind of racist? Snowman tells her uncle and aunt that his name is Bill Jeffers, and Uncle James refers to him as “just a mutt”. Uncle James bullies him with questions, all of which Snowman breeze through, until he brings up his dad. Snowman lets them know he’s dead now, and when Heather gets him out of the house, he tells her his dad was way worse than her uncle, and he knows just how to handle him. On their way to go dancing, Snowman gets paranoid and thinks a car is following them, pulling over to the side. He mentions to Heather that his family is struggling, and he doesn’t have any money, which she’s very cool about.
At school, Heather looks for Snowman in class, but she doesn’t see him. She runs into Ben instead, who says he called on Saturday night, and her uncle told him everything. Heather feels more upset that her uncle ratted her out than guilty that she snuck around behind Ben’s back. Ben quickly cements his place as the nicest boyfriend anyone in these books has ever had. He tells her he can’t stop her from seeing someone else, but he thought they were supposed to trust each other, and he’s disappointed.
Heather does feel bad when Ben dumps her, but she sees Snowman some more, and she learns more about him. His mom works two jobs, his brother is sick, his dad died suddenly, and he struggles a lot with money. The pair of them find a secluded spot in the park and build a snowman, and meanwhile Heather finds a black car following her home. She thinks Ben might be stalking her. Snowman insisted on having dinner with Heather and her family, which is going as well as you can expect. When Snowman mentions his mom is a nurse, so it’s hard for her to have dinner ready for her kids, Uncle James makes a jab about how she’s not doing her job as a mom. He makes fun of Snowman for eating too much, and then tells him he’s not going to get any of Heather’s money. Snowman looks like he’s going to fight him before he storms out.
Heather chases after Snowman and repeats her refrain of, “I could kill him.” Snowman says no problem. He’s stressed out because his little brother is sick and needs a major surgery that costs at least two thousand dollars. Heather is so struck by his struggles that she offers him the money right then and there. She has the money in her bank account, and it’s not like she needs it. He struggles with this and leaves, saying he has to think about it.
Heather sees Snowman after she leaves work the next day, and he says he does need the money for his little brother. She writes him the check with little prompting. After that, she doesn’t see Snowman for a few days, running into Ben instead. Immediately she realizes she misses him, and they have a friendly conversation. Leaving work, Heather sees Snowman again, and he runs up to greet her, clearly in a good mood. She asks him what happened, and he tells her he paid her back. He killed her uncle.
Heather is a aghast, and Snowman says he’ll prove it. He gets her to drive him to her house, where they see police lights. Her aunt is crying on the front lawn, and Snowman immediately starts comforting her. Snowman claims he strangled her uncle with a wool scarf, which leaves no marks, and there’s no way for me to search if that’s true without ending up on someone’s watch list, but a brief survey leaves this inconclusive. The paramedics tell Heather it was a heart attack anyway. Once the police and paramedics clear out, Snowman hangs out to help around the house. Heather is freaking out, and when she finally gets a chance to confront him, he pulls out the check she gave him. He says this is his insurance, that if she goes to the police, he’ll tell them she paid him to kill her uncle. Which is kind of insane? It’s not like she put in the for line: assassination. And he never puts it in his account, which technically means she didn’t pay him, and I think is more suspicious if an assassin doesn’t take the money. Anyway, he tells her that he doesn’t have a little brother, and this was all a set up, which is also kind of insane. Snowman sticks around, even attending the funeral with the family.
After the funeral, the car that followed Heather pulls up in her driveway, and two men in suits get out. They introduce themselves as FBI agents, which Heather actually is wary of and suspects they may be fake, but she answers their questions anyway. They ask about William Jeffers and if she has any information on him. Heather lies and tells them she met him at the restaurant but didn’t see him anymore after that. They keep emphasizing this old fashioned coat he wears, and I can’t tell if it’s meant to be distinctive, or if secretly Snowman is way older than he says, which makes this more disturbing. They give Heather their card and tell her to contact them if she learns anymore, and on their way out, she asks what he did. They tell her he murdered his father.
Snowman confronts Heather about the FBI, but she didn’t tell them anything. He promises she’ll get rid of him forever if she gives him another check for $2,000 and asks her to make it out to cash. She has access to her trust fund now and does it, sending him off. But she’s shocked when he shows up at her house for dinner that night. When she corners him, he tells her he needs five thousand dollars now, and then he’ll be gone for good. He needs cash right now, and so she takes him to her bank, where she gets $5,000 in cash, which I don’t think banks are super keen on doing. Heather leaves, grateful to never see him again, only to learn that he’s rented the extra room in her house, meaning he’s going to stick around.
At this point Heather doesn’t know what to do, so she goes to tell Ben. We don’t really hear Ben’s reaction to this news and just sort of cut in after the explanation, and he’s extremely calm?? I’m waiting for the twist that he’s involved as well (like he actually did pay Snowman to kill her uncle, since literally right before her uncle dies, he asks about his health, but this never comes up). When she cries that it looks like she gave him nine thousand dollars to kill her uncle, he points out only the first check is made out to him, the rest is cash. Which, again, I thinks it’s more damning to take out huge amounts of cash for no known reason, versus a check made out to a person, but I don’t know anything about hiring assassins. They decide to sneak into Snowman’s room and steal the first check and tear it up, so he has nothing to show the police.
They sneak into the room and are almost immediately caught. Snowman clubs Ben with a tire iron and drags Heather into a car. He knocks her out with I think a needle, but it’s unclear, and she wakes up in a cold dark space. She realizes she’s packed in snow, building her inside a snowman inside the same park, which I have problems with. She’s tied up, which hinders movement, sure, but she’s worried about suffocating and can’t push the snow at all. Now, I’m from Texas, so I have no real knowledge of how snow works, but this seems ridiculous to me. Googling it lets me know Snow Immersion Suffocation seems to be a real concern to skiers, but it essentially seems to be drowning in deep snow. It’s possible to pack and sculpt snow into some sort of oubliette, but I can’t believe trapping someone in a snowman couldn’t be undone just by them wiggling around a little too much. Anyway, Heather’s Chekhov’s lighter manages to light and burns her way out of the snowman, only to find Snowman waiting for her on the other side. He comes at her, and somehow, by waving her lighter at him, she lights his coat, and he starts to burn. Police show up with Ben hobbling behind them, and he says he was following her that day they went to the park and figured this is where he’d take her. Snowman’s arrested, Heather and Ben are probably going to get back together, and her uncle’s still dead, which is a general gain for everyone.
“Okay, let’s bomb out of here!” he said enthusiastically.
Fear Street Trends
No Fear Street this time around, but it’s still a book written in the 90s. The above slang pops up on occasion, and at one point Heather says Snowman looks like “a Smiley button”, which I think she’s referring to this. A lot of attention is paid to Snowman’s “50s style coat”, but he also wears corduroy pants to the funeral. I’m still convinced it was supposed to be that he was much older, but we’ll never know for sure.
This book is not quite the usual Stinian fare. It’s definitely got his writing style and tropes he likes to use, but the chapter break jump scares are infrequent, no unnecessary twists, and it builds steadily a single narrative that actually works fairly well. I liked the Snowman. It was a refreshing breather in the occasional slog that is these old books, and being removed from the Fear Street mythology let the book be its own thing. This book came out in 1991 and seems so much cleaner than his other series, and I wonder how much of the goofiness of Fear Street is his hectic writing schedule and a franchise’s need to stick to formula. Anyway, the Snowman gets four headless snowmen out of five.
Bonus: I already got some Christmas presents and my brother-in-law got me the 25th anniversary Goosebumps set along with some Fear Street books!
I’ve been looking forward to do Wrong Number 2, so look forward to that in 2018!
This cover (pulled from this Fear Street blog) isn’t strictly speaking bad. Trapped on a ski lift isn’t a bad horror idea, and the girls look scared by… something. But thanks to the ski lift, they’re just sort of hanging around in the middle of nowhere, and their poses don’t look natural at all. The bright orange jacket and headband isn’t doing anything for me. Maybe a good pose was already taken up by The Overnight and Ski Weekend, which I think might be more sinister for a game of truth or dare.
It started as a game… and ended in death.
Not bad. It’s not much, but it’s relevant without giving away the plot. I’m forgiving this week.
Four teens are being carried up a mountain by a white stretch limo, which seems like a bad choice for mountain driving, but I guess the lack of cars will be relevant later. Inside that car is Ken and Jenny, lovebirds and joined at the hip, April, our protagonist, and Josh, the boy nobody knows, very quiet, Definitely Not a Murderer. April and Josh have that sort of “he makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know why but I keep staring into his dark eyes” sort of vibe that previous Fear Street books would tell me means they get together, but there’s little romance in this book besides some background characters. They’re meeting their friend Dara at her cabin for some skiing, since she’s taking up her parents’ jeep. April lets us know that Jenny is the most beautiful girl at school in detail, and for some reason she clings to Ken. April’s jealous. Of her having a boyfriend. Sure, April, sure.
April tries to make polite conversation with Josh, who really isn’t having it. He wonders why Dara didn’t ride with them, and when they arrive at the cabin, which is really more of a private ski lodge, he talks about having been there before. Dara arrives behind them in the jeep and rushes out, talking fast and constantly. Josh tries to chat with her, but she blows him off pretty quickly. She leads them inside the house, and they quickly discover they’re not alone! They find Tony, who’s dad is a friend of Dara’s dad, making out with a girl name Carly Rae in the dark. It turns out their families share the lodge, and Tony starts telling her he was pretty certain he was supposed to have it this weekend, which is clearly a lie, and now that they’re all here they’ll just have to share. He says that last part after getting weirdly threatening. The Shadyside way.
They settle in as it starts snowing to the delight of everyone. A fire is started in the living room, and they gather around to discuss skiing tomorrow. Ken suggests to break the ice, they play a little bit of (dun dun dun) Truth or Dare. Josh reveals himself to being an alien by not knowing what that is, and the book for real gives an explanation, which Josh does not seem to get. The kids get to the good stuff right away, asking about embarrassing stuff and sexy stuff. After April goes, she asks Dara who the worst boy is she ever kissed. Dara looks at Josh and starts hmming and hawing in an attempt to tease him. He grabs a poker out of the fireplace and shouts at her to stop and then storms out of the room, but Dara convinces him to come back, apologizing. As they settle back in, Dara asks April another question: What’s a secret you wish you didn’t know about someone? April answers immediately: That girl on Sumner Island.
Jenny asks her what she means by that, and April looks to Ken to see if he knows it’s his secret she’s sharing. Before anymore details can be said, Tony sneaks up beside her to scare her. He tells them enough questions. He wants a dare. Dara tells everyone to grab their coats, and she forces them outside, pointing up at the roof of the lodge. Tony lost a Frisbee up there, and she demands he get it back. It’s starting to snow hard, the wind is rising, the roof is slick. It doesn’t take much for him to get up there, but when he grabs the Frisbee, he starts to fall. He manages to catch the gutter and, after hanging there for a moment, drops, totally fine.
The group heads back inside, but April’s worried that she’s played her hand about Sumner Island. She was working as a nanny that summer when she saw Ken on the beach with a girl that wasn’t Jenny. Every time she saw him, he was with that girl, and again, the thing April remembers most about her is the tiny blue bikini she wore. When they get in, April immediately absconds to bed, getting up only when she hears some noises. Going downstairs, she sees Dara stepping outside. Dara tells her that she’s grabbing firewood, and on the stairs back to her bedroom, April runs into Tony. Everyone heads off to bed for the night.
In the morning, it’s a full on blizzard, and the ski lifts have stopped because of high winds. Jenny makes everyone breakfast while they listen to the radio, and April notices neither Dara nor Josh come downstairs with them, despite Dara being an early riser. When she still hasn’t come down after everyone eats, Jenny and April go upstairs to check on her, only to find her room untouched. Her things are still unpacked, her bed still made. She never slept here at all. Josh’s bed is likewise untouched, and his bag left there. April goes downstairs and sees no firewood was brought in last night. They tell the others, and when they look outside, they see the Jeep is missing too.
Tony is thoroughly unconcerned and mentions Dara and Josh used to go together, so they probably snuck out together. The others seem to agree, but April suggests calling the police, and Tony tells her no. He and Carly Rae would get in a lot of trouble for spending the weekend up here. He’s convinced Dara’s fine, and if she did go for a drive, she knows every road around here. They’ll wait another hour or two to see if she calls, then start to worry. April’s tense in the house and jumps at every noise. In the afternoon, they hear a weird knocking at the door, and every time they check, there’s no one there. Ken and April go outside to investigate and find a locker door that’s swinging in the wind, and when they try to close it, something falls out. Dara’s frozen body. An axe buried in her parka. In her back.
Now is the time to call the police, but when Tony tries, the line is dead. They’re a couple of miles to town, and with the blizzard outside, they’re sure to get lost or frozen or die before they get there. April, at first, is convinced whoever murdered Dara also murdered Josh, ignoring the obvious clue that he is also missing and so is the car, but it doesn’t take much for people to start accusing him. They go to investigate his things, and April looks at Dara’s room again, finding a note from Josh, telling her to meet him outside at midnight. Tony declares there might be a gun in the house, and they start wondering how helpful that is, but he points out that if Josh realizes he left evidence behind, he might return. And they may need to defend themselves.
At night, April tries to sleep, and she hears something outside. She walks out and is grabbed, only for it to be Tony, who says he thought he heard something too. April asks if he and Dara used to go out, and he gets a little uncomfortable and says yeah, but it didn’t really mean anything. They walk back in and talk a little longer, when they hear something at the door. They see Josh, half-frozen, slowly pounding against the glass. April’s scream gets everyone downstairs, and they let him in. Carly immediately makes him something hot to drink while the others shout at him to explain. Josh can barely put together a sentence and doesn’t know what they’re asking him, and they tell him Dara’s dead. He protests when they accuse him, but April shows him the letter. He insists he didn’t write it, and Jenny screams at him to stop lying, while Tony takes the letter back, telling him it’s evidence.
Josh tells them after Truth or Dare he really did lose it, and he really did want to kill Dara, but he definitely didn’t. He stole the keys and took the Jeep in an attempt to strand her at the lodge, but he got caught in the blizzard and went into a snowdrift. He nearly froze to death in the car waiting for someone to rescue him, so he got out and walked back. He didn’t know Dara was dead. And if he’s telling the truth, that means there’s still a murderer here.
In the morning, April doesn’t want to face anyone. On her way down, she runs into Ken, who tries to talk to her about the girl on Sumner Island, but she runs away. She goes back to her room and finds Josh going through her things. He tells her he’s looking for the pen that wrote the letter. It was written in red ink, and if he can find the pen in someone else’s things, it means he didn’t write it. This is the last straw for April, who just wants out. She runs downstairs to grab her coat but finds it missing. Everyone had thrown their things in a pile, and she remembered they were all wearing each other’s coats. And with horror she remembers the last time she saw it. She goes outside, finds Dara’s body, and that confirms it. Dara was wearing her parka, meaning the killer was after her.
April fucking books it. She’d rather take her chances in the snowstorm. As she descends the slope, she realizes she stole Ken’s coat, and when she puts her hands in the pocket, she finds a red pen. Ken tried to kill her to keep his secret. As she makes it to the bottom of the hill, she sees someone chasing her, and realizes it’s Ken. He tackles her into the snow and tells her they have to go back. It’s too cold. They’ll freeze. He asks her again about the game, and she blurts out that she saw him with another girl. He asks if she ever told Jenny, and she promises that she didn’t. As soon as they get inside, she runs from him and finds Jenny and Carly in the kitchen. I haven’t devoted much time to Carly, but she’s the best character in this whole book. She only exists as a voice in the background, and she gets this amazing exchange as April tries to warn Jenny about the murderer:
“We can’t stay here,” I told her, pulling her hand away. “We’re not asfe here. We’ve got to get away from here. I have to tell you about Ken, Jenny. He–“
Carly poked her head into the kitchen. “Secrets?” she asked.
“Yes. Secrets,” Jenny replied quickly. “Deep, dark secrets.”
“Hope you’re not talking about me,” Carly replied dryly. She took a can of Coke from the refrigerator, then returned to the living room.
She’s amazing. But she’s about to be ditched. April convinces Jenny to ski down the slope with her to get to the police. They put on more layers of warm clothes, take their skis, and start down. They see the ski lift has started again, and they find another human person, who tells them to take the ski lift to the ski patrol station. They get on, and about a third of the way up, Jenny turns to April, and tells her sorry right before she pushes her off. April struggles against her and asks why, and Jenny screams that she knows about the girl on Sumner Island, the girl she killed! Jenny stops killing her to ask how she knew, and then monologues everything. That Ken was seeing some girl on Sumner Island, that he swore he stopped after the summer, but she knew he kept going back. Jenny tracked her down, and when confronted with her, went crazy. They fought. The girl died. Jenny ran. She thought no one ever knew. When April revealed that she knew in the Truth or Dare game, she went to murder her, not realizing it was Dara. She asks April how she knew, and April says she didn’t.
Jenny gives her one more shove that throws her from the ski lift, but thankfully they’re at the top of the mountain. She jumps out to murder April with her ski pole, but then Ken shows up! He grabs Jenny and holds her until the ski patrolmen come. He tells April, next time, choose Dare, and she says, next time, we’ll play Trivial Pursuit. Freeze frame, laugh track, cut to black.
…I tried reading. But I had brought only a scary thriller to read. And I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a thriller!
Fear Street Trends
The kids mostly wear coats and parkas, so there’s not a ton of fashion, but there’s a ton of beautiful young ladies described. Jenny (and the girl on Sumner Island) are described as dark haired and perfect. April notices Josh has a lightning bolt earring in one ear, so you know he’s dangerous. Dara’s hair is crimped, and mention is made of her having a nose job to show off how rich she is. Jenny also uses the car phone in the limo to call Corky Corcoran and brag, and you think poor Corky has enough friends that are murderers. On top of the weird definition for Truth or Dare, a game so simple the title describes the rules, Ken gives a definition of a snowglobe, in case the viewer is also unfamiliar with those. I suppose if Stine is used to writing for a younger audience, he feels the need to include those, but it’s like, yeah, Ken, everyone ever has seen one of those.
I’m not sure about this one. It isn’t my favorite, but it’s actually fairly solid. There’s a ton of red herrings that actually work fairly well, and I was rooting for Tony as the murderer for most of it. The plot twist of what the actual “truth” is turns pretty well. Still, the writing’s much weaker for this one, and feels like he may have written this right after finishing a middle grade book or something. I’ll give it three hatchets in the back out of five.
I’m not 100% sure what I’ll be putting up in two weeks, since it will be Christmas Eve. I have a present I’ve been working on for y’all, but I don’t think it’ll finish in time. I’d like to finish another book, but we’ll see how much time I have in the ensuing weeks. If you’ve got some free time this holiday season, I recommend checking out my writing blog, which’ll finish up part two of my 1950s monster mash soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll be planning out the next few books to read. Always feel free to drop recommendations to me. And, if you’re in the Houston area, you should check out my LGBT pop up library, which will pop up for the first time in January.
During the brief reprieve I gave myself, I’ve somehow accumulated more projects, which means this past few weeks have been busy for me. I was originally going to read another of the modern Fear Street books, but time escapes me, and I’m out of town this week due to the holidays. I didn’t want to leave you with nothing, so I decided to rank for you what I believe are the top five book covers (of what I’ve seen so far).
5. The Stepsister
What I originally said:
The cover to the original 1990 version (borrowed from Retro Daze) is alright. I think it hits the right amount of sinister with the figure showing up to the unsuspecting reader, and I sort of like that they keep the angelic looks of Jessie, but it makes it slightly less frightening.
I do like it. There’s something very sinister about the stepsister’s reflection in the mirror as Emily leans in to read her diary. It’s a great moment in a horror movie, when someone’s creeping around the villain’s room only to be caught, and I think it’s captured well here. I think the most distracting thing in it is the lamp, and removing it could add a little darkness that it’s missing.
4. The Secret Bedroom
What I originally said:
The cover (pulled from Lexile) is’t bad. The contrast of her to the sickly green glow coming out of the door, the skeleton hand, her scared expression, it’s all pretty good. What’s killing it for me (besides the mom jeans and the terrible shirt) is that left arm. It’s so poorly attached, and the line of the shirt makes a line cutting it off, so it looks like they copy and pasted it from somewhere else. Otherwise it’s a pretty good cover.
I stand by this one. I still think the shadow on the left arm makes it look disconnected, but this is a dynamic cover. The placement of the tagline over the opening door as both arms pull adds an urgency to it. The green light might be goofy elsewhere but works here, though the skeleton hand looking like it’s pulling the door back could be changed. Having it claw at her would be a lot better. I like the slant to the door as well. It gives it an off-kilter feeling.
3. The Sleepwalker
What I originally said:
I have so many memories of just this cover (pulled from its GoodReads page). I didn’t remember the plot of the book before reading it, but I have distinct memories of holding this book and its eerie cover. I think this is beautiful. The glow of the fog, the water at her feet, the white nightgown. The only thing I might change is she seems like a dangerous figure here, which I’m not against, but I think a little more delicacy in her face and pose might’ve gone further in the ethereal design they were going for.
This cover is nostalgic for me, and I remember it stacked with my Christopher Pike books I likely purchased from Half-Price books. The fog, the water, the white nightshirt all work together to make this feel dreamlike and ethereal, and it’s a perfect selling point for the book.
2. The Surprise Party
What I originally said:
I really like this cover (pulled from this website). It’s ominous, I like the use of green, the figure is threatening, but doesn’t reveal too much. I’m a big fan of this.
This looks like a 70s horror movie cover. It should be advertising Last House on the Left or something. It’s beautifully painted, extremely sinister, and gives everything you need to know going in. The early books have some legit horror movie style covers that I really appreciate.
1. The First Evil
What I originally said:
Only one cover this time (borrowed from the GoodReads page), and I gotta say I really like it. The skull and blood in the pompom is good, and the girl looks possessed. It’s a nice, sinister cover.
Y’all knew. Y’all knew! This is straight up and down my favorite Fear Street cover. The blood in the pompom with the skull coming out? Classic. You know this is going to be a scary fun book just looking at it. A++ would read again.
What I originally said:
I adore this cover (pulled from Goodreads). It’s so wickedly delightful. Chrissy is just swinging around that cat in her longshirt pajamas having a grand old time being so gosh darn evil. The only change I might make is getting rid of the lighthouse in the background. It’s a little distracting, does not have a place in the plot, and you get enough sense of being on the ocean from the ocean outside her window.
Why even have other covers? Woman laughing maniacally with cat had never made me pick up a book fast enough. Love it love it love it.
That’s it, my friends! That’s all I have time for right now. In two weeks I’ll hopefully be coming at you with the next book, but until then, consider checking out my 1950s monster mash, which is about to finish up its second arc (meaning I have to get started on part three!). After that, I’ve got some ideas for what I’ll be doing. I’m hoping to have the next part of my old west horror serial up in January as well, but there’s still tons of research I’ve been avoiding! If nothing else, I’m going to continue my Modern Monsters series, in which the next part will focus almost exclusively on this year’s best flop, the Mummy. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched around how I do donations, and currently you can buy me a coffee if the mood takes you. I’ve mentioned before I purchase the most of these books, which are usually around $5. It’s not the worst expense I have to deal with, but with some other projects in my life, I don’t have a lot of loose change lying around.
Which brings me to my biggest announcement! With the help of some friends, I’ve started an LGBT pop up library! Renegade Libraries is meant to bring literature to queer people in Houston, TX, as well as provide programming and connect authors to their audience. Find us on twitter and Facebook, and if you happen to live in Houston, come check us out at the Montrose Center on January 14! We’re currently looking for the best way to ask for donations, but give us a holler online if you like what you see! This is something I’ve thought about for a very long time and now it’s happening, which is super exciting for me!
See you in December!