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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!
Y’all, I want to apologize in advance for this one. I actually read this in October with the intention of writing up a recap then, but this one was so bad I couldn’t justify it. I’ve honestly debated skipping it because it’s that bad, but I set out to read every Fear Street story, and that includes this one.
The cover (taken from Simon & Schuster’s website) I actually like. The contrast is on point, the delicate woman next to a rose dripping blood is classic, and while the creepy doll is out of place, at least it’s something. It depicts a woman being consumed by darker things, and I appreciate that.
She learned to love, honor… and fear.
I also really like this! The ellipses are unnecessary, but it plays into the themes of the novel without revealing too much. A great start to a terrible book.
We open in Blackrose Manor, where an ancient woman rambles on about how she misses her home in Whispering Oaks. She murmurs her story to absolutely no one, but starts the tale of Savannah and Victoria, and how they met Tyler Fier. She mentions that both girls were in love with him, which I think is to keep us on our toes on which sister survives???? except Victoria at no point is like “he’s evil but I’m still into it”.
We start our story proper on the Whispering Oaks plantation in 1861. Remember how I was mildly uncomfortable in the last book because it was sent in the south during the Civil War, which meant all our characters’ loyalties belonged to the slave owners? So in this book, the main characters are slave owners, and Tyler Fier comes from the north, which puts us in a fun wacky “who’s the real monster” kind of mindset (It’s still Tyler). The previous book managed to avoid it by having no real mention of the Civil War except in scene setting and Stine not pulling a Django Unchained, but the main plot of this book sort of hinges on that, so like.
Which is to say, it’s Savannah’s birthday! The slaves are setting up for the party while Savannah waits for her brother Zachariah and his friend Tyler to return from their ride. She’s sort of how Scarlett O’Hara presents herself, and when she suspects the boys are coming back, she goes inside to gather a parasol and make herself a grand entry. She’s stopped by her mother, who asks about her sister Victoria. Savannah’s worried about her sister because she “was fascinated by the dark arts some of the slave women practiced”. Oofadoof. But she ignores her mother’s request to find her sister and greets Tyler. The two of them take a walk together into the woods, where they start macking. He says he must leave soon, and she’s heartbroken until he asks her to marry him. They’ll announce the marriage at the picnic. But Savannah hears something behind her and sees her sister darting through the trees. She follows her into the slave quarters and hears something squeal in terror, and whens he pushes open the door, Victoria is covered in blood.
The word voodoo is never said, possibly because Stine knows as much about voodoo as your average non-practitioner, but we see Victoria holding a piglet in a half circle of candles. She takes the blood of the piglet and sprinkles it on the candles, saying words we recognize: Dominatio per malum. She brings a knife over the piglet, but Savannah knocks her over. Victoria is still in her trance as Savannah tries to wake her, and Victoria shouts that Tyler is cursed, that all the Fiers are cursed, and they will be cursed if Savannah marries him. Savannah’s pretty sure Victoria’s just jealous, to which Victoria repeats that his presence only means death. Savannah’s not convinced otherwise.
As they leave the shack, they see Tyler and have an exchange that might be the best in any book:
“I want to make your sister happy,” he told Victoria firmly.
“Then leave her.” Victoria walked away without another word.
Drop the mic Victoria! The two lovers turn to each other and say they’ll be together forever right as a rider gallops towards them screaming, “War!” Also holding up a newspaper? Someone will have to fact check for me the rate of information travel, but that feels a bit much for me. He tells them that Fort Sumter has been fired on, and Savannah realizes with dawning horror that her beloved is now officially a soldier. He asks if she’ll wait for him, and she says of course, and he’ll fight alongside her brother, to which he responds no. He’s from the North. His loyalties lie with the North. He offers to marry her today, and then they’ll leave for his home in Massachusetts, and Savannah becomes livid. Her home and family is in the South. She can’t just leave that. Her rejection makes him angry, and he demands that she come with him one more time. Savannah runs away. But Tyler screams at her once more that she’ll regret choosing her home and family and everything she knows over him, and that he is a man who keeps his promises.
The old woman babbles some more. She says the slaves ran, their parents died, and the two began to starve in their home. They have no money left and no one to tend the fields, so the pair struggle to find food. There’s a scene where they eat worms that comes across as more comical than horrifying, which kind of undercuts the whole “slowly starving in our decaying mansion in the South” thing but it’s probably fine. Savannah sleeps uneasily and hears a noise in the hall. She opens the door to see Zachariah, but he smells of gunpowder and bleeding profusely. He opens his mouth to speak and blood pours out, and Savannah wakes. She half-tells Victoria her dream, not wanting to scare her, and notices a dark stain where Zachariah was standing in her dream. This does nothing and never really comes back, except they receive a letter from Tyler saying Zachariah’s dead and he saw it happen, making him realize she’s more important than any war. Victoria’s heartbroken about their brother, but Savannah is scared for Tyler. She begs Victoria to do some magic to see if he’s alright.
Victoria takes her sister to her room where she prepares a ritual. She holds up a pair of chicken feet for Savannah to kiss, which she does. Victoria then paints them in blood and makes markings on the letter. The room gets ice cold as she picks up the letter and burns it, sparking outrage from Savannah. She still thinks her sister is jealous, but Victoria tells her that Tyler Fier will destroy her if they allow him back. The old woman is back and says they’d be so much happier if they never received the letter. A bluebird flies up to her, and she tears its head off. I don’t know why.
It’s now 1865, and Savannah and Victoria have managed a small garden. Savannah’s working on it when a soldier approaches her. He tells her the war is over and he is going home. Savannah races up to Victoria’s room to tell her, only to find her sister rocking back and forth and talking to Tyler Fier, threatening to destroy him. When Savannah tells her the news, Victoria says that no one will be coming home to them. Only Tyler Fier. She hands Savannah a pouch to ward off evil. Savannah tells her she doesn’t need it. After a few weeks, destiny comes for them, and Tyler Fier arrives at the manor. He asks her again if she’ll marry him, to which she says yes, and he tells her he can’t wait to take her to Blackrose Manor. Savannah’s uncertain to leave behind her home, but last time it ended kind of badly, so she agrees.
They arrive at Blackrose Manor as a storm threatens them overhead. They enter the grey stone manor and see rows of portraits, though Stine refuses to elaborate so I can tell where Tyler fits into this weird family. They also meet Mrs. Moreland, who runs the house. Victoria is nervous, but Savannah’s certain they’ll settle in. As Victoria rushes into her room, Mrs. Moreland tells her she’s wise to hide, and that the two girls should leave while they can. Savannah refuses to be scared and tells her she can return to her duties. After exploring the house a little, Savannah goes to find Tyler, only to find him in front of the portraits, screaming at them to stop staring. He stabs one over and over again. He moans to Savannah that they don’t understand what he did during the war, and she comforts him. They hear screaming and run to the staircase, where we meet Lucy.
Lucy’s never really explained properly. She was the ward of Tyler’s parents, I guess, and he treats her as a little sister. She acts like a child and flings herself into Tyler’s arms as Victoria chases after her. Lucy stole her pouch of protection, and Tyler forces her to give it back and apologize. The ladies go upstairs to prepare for dinner. It’s a strange dinner, worthy of any unsettling Crimson Peak-esque melodrama if written well, with Lucy getting upset that Victoria took her spot and being obsessed with the candles, Savannah and her sister dressed up again for the first time in ages, them enjoying a meal with real vegetables and spices. Lucy gets upset when she’s chided by Tyler and knocks over the candelabra, screaming fire. When she’s scolded by Victoria, she tells them fire is so pretty and she likes the way it dances. They all decide the day has been too exciting and head up to bed. Savannah is woken by a maid and she asks her to press her dress, but they both find it torn and slashed. Lucy comes up behind them and shouts that the dress is ruined. Savannah says she doesn’t want to tell Tyler, and Lucy seems pleased to be given a secret, so she offers to show her the dolls.
We are led to Lucy’s room, which is painted black and as gloomy as the rest of the house. It’s filled with dolls: porcelain, cloth, on the dresser, on the bed, all with black hair and dark eyes. Lucy says they can’t be friends because they’re sisters, which fills Savannah’s heart. She tells her she’s always wanted another sister. Lucy asks her to pick a doll, and the one Savannah lifts up has been smashed. When she asks Lucy what happened, she tells her that she killed it. The other dolls were happy when it got hurt. They were so happy Lucy got hurt. All the dolls are named Lucy.
Savannah’s pretty hardcore in denial at this point, saying all they need to make this place better is some new paint. Victoria’s gone the other way and won’t stop screaming about evil. Victoria points out that Lucy has a big ol’ crush on Tyler, which Savannah laughs off, until Victoria tells her that Lucy is really seventeen and wants Tyler for herself. Tyler keeps giving Savannah gifts, including a horse named Whisper, Lucy tells Victoria Savannah said she always wanted a different sister, Savannah feeds her breakfast to the cat and watches it die, indicating it was poison, and then someone sets her room on fire. She tells Tyler someone is trying to kill her, and he responds by moving up the wedding date.
The servants get killed one by one, even Mrs. Mooreland, whose death forces Savannah to wonder if Victoria is behind it. She goes to find her and sees Victoria holding a knife to Tyler’s throat. He laughs at her and wonders aloud if Savannah would still be so loyal if she knew Victoria was behind all the fire. Victoria screams that she must end the curse, but Savannah rushes her and knocks her to the floor. In the struggle, the knife goes into Victoria. Savannah wails as her sister dies in her arms and promises to return her to Whispering Oaks. Tyler comforts her by saying she saved his life. He still wants to marry her. Savannah says she’s tired of being unhappy, and they plan to wed after burying her sister.
The day after the funeral, Savannah is married in black. What should be the happiest day of her life is filled with longing and regret as she remembers all the family she’s lost and how they should be here. After their wed, Savannah tells Lucy they’re really sisters now, and Lucy makes her swear to never have children, lest they also suffer the Fear curse. As the couple goes to their wedding night, Lucy screams at the both of them. Tyler still treats her like a child and never allowed her to grow up. She says that he should’ve married her instead. Tyler manages to pacify her and takes Savannah to their bedroom. When she tells him what Lucy told her in the church, he tells her that Lucy killed her parents. He thinks it’s time she’s taken away, that she might be dangerous.
She’s not taken away soon enough. Savannah finds her dead at the bottom of the stairs and rushes to tell Tyler. Only he seems to be in a laboratory of some kind, with Lucy’s hand amid vials and potions. He tells her that he killed Lucy and Mrs. Mooreland and Zachariah for good measure. He did all that for… reasons and is now going to kill her. Savannah to her credit bashes him over the head with a torch and that stabs him with a pair of metal prongs, to which he laughs and announces he died at Gettysburg. Zachariah killed him, and he managed to figure out how to live forever. He planned to come back for Savannah and live with her forever. Tyler boasts that he’ll never tire and is immortal right as Savannah bumps into his table, knocking over his vials. One breaks in Savannah’s hands, and he screams that he needed that! He needed that to be undead! So now he has to kill Savannah. He grabs her, they struggle, and then he just kind of falls over? And is dead?
Cut back to the old woman, who reveals the person she’s been talking to all along was the skeleton of Tyler!!!! Aaaaah!!!!
Tyler is now a solider, she realized with sickening dread. And soldiers die!
I’m actually a huge fan of Southern Gothic so this could’ve been interesting, following post-war South as two girls struggled to make ends meet, being visited by a wealthy northerner who at first seems altruistic but slowly reveals his true intentions. It definitely shares elements from a lot of gothic literature, from the weird kind of but kind of not incestuous relationship between Tyler and Lucy to the strange servants who warn of danger, but it doesn’t actually go anywhere. Like the previous book, the whole North-South conflict is glossed over. Tyler and Zachariah are said to go to West Point, and I don’t know much about the lives of military men before the Civil War, but these things don’t happen overnight. You think there’d be some conflict there before war is broken out. A lot of things are super glossed over in this book.
Like I said, I don’t like this book. Everything from the characters, the plot, the subject matter, and the pacing was totally and completely off. I’ve enjoyed the Fear Sagas so far, especially where they expanded on the Fear family, but who even is Tyler Fier? Who even are these ladies? Where does this fit into our timeline? It’s bad, I hated it, and I’m going to have to give it one creepy doll out of five.