Where to start rereading Fear Street? As much as I’d love to dive right into the Cheerleader series, I realized there’s a dense history here. Fear Street locks into itself, creating a town so filled with horrors it’s amazing they haven’t burned it to the ground and salted the earth. So why not start with #1? Where did it all begin? Did the first Fear Street novel deliver all of the horror promised? Will future generations be passing around these books, claiming it to be spine-chilling and nightmare-inducing?
(Probably not that last thing, since I can’t find 90% of them in my library, but who knows! Maybe there will be a R.L. Stine library one day, and kids can enjoy their spookums to their heart’s content.)
I bought the Kindle version of this (that’s right folks! I paid eight whole dollars for it!) which came with a different cover than the updated version or the original, so for comparison:
The New Girl in its original 1989 edition (pulled from its Wikipedia page) is pretty solid. Scared looking girl seems to be disappearing. It’s got a good 80s Final Girl vibe to it and probably does a lot more to hide Anna as the true villain. Apparently these books were updated in 2005 (to be covered below) with these covers, and I gotta say I’m disappointed in the print edition (pulled from its Amazon page), which is a little too sexy. I get it, girls are dangerous monsters who will lead you down a path of darkness, but the schoolgirl plaid is a little too much for me. Is she carrying a tiny briefcase? Is it a lunchbox? Who knows! Meanwhile the edition I paid money for (pulled from the publisher’s website) is a better update. She’s coy and shy, but still has a hint of sexuality, which hints more at Anna’s true nature. Also she’s disappearing again, so you still think she’s a ghost.
He has to learn her secret — or die trying!
Honestly, terrible. Very much a first pass. This is the sort of thing written on fake movie posters on a TV show.
These books are so tiny. This book is a hundred some odd pages. The prologue is two pages long and features an unknown narrator screaming, “Anna is dead!” It’s incredibly unnecessary because everyone else will be screaming this through the rest of the book, but I guess you need some good chills so you know you picked up the right book.
Cory Brooks is a regular high school boy with a cute female friend and a handful of bros. He’s a gymnast for no reason other than so Stine can have him do some sick flips later on in the book. He’s introduced to us proving he can do a handstand while eating his lunch, which is only slightly less bro-y than if he was introduced doing a kegstand but still totally believable for a teenage boy to do. His bros are Arnie and David, who do absolutely nothing except high five the whole time. (Is their slashfic for Fear Street? These two are definitely going to make out during a party in college is all I’m saying.) Cory’s BFF is Lisa, who is described as looking like a movie star. She’s ridiculously cool and asks out Cory like thirty times before he figures out she might be into him. It’s like Abe and Joan in Clone High except not a joke.
Cory meets beautiful and mysterious Anna, who is so pale she might as well be transparent, who seems to float around everywhere, who no one else seems to notice except him, and appears, and I quote, “hauntingly beautiful.” (Italicized in book, in case you didn’t get it.) Cory goes out of his way to find her house by talking to an operator who is terrible at their job, and when he gets there he meets Brad, who’s got a weird face and is super intense and likes screaming “ANNA IS DEAD” given any opportunity.
So Anna’s a ghost, right?
Wrong! Through a series of wacky antics, including a dead cat stuffed into a locker, Cory doing a sweet flip out of one window only to land in the one below it, and a creepy dude with a rottweiler who does nothing but say menacing things and add a few creeps, Cory discovers that Anna is not dead at all! She’s Willa, Anna’s sister, who pushed Anna down the stairs in the prologue because she was so jealous of her beauty and looks. Brad has been taking care of her and didn’t realize how wildly out of control his sister has gotten, and chose to take action by being as menacing as possible. Anna tries to slit their throats with a letter opener, but luckily she’s pretty small and not very strong and is thus easily subdued. The day is saved! Brad calls the police on his sister, ensuring she’ll never get the help she needs, while he goes back to an empty house because all of his family has serious issues, and Cory and Lisa hook up at the end. Happy endings all around!
“This must what it’s like on the moon,” he told himself.
Totally Radical Updates
There were so many! I’ll be honest, I did research before picking up this book. I knew I’d be getting the updated edition, but I did not realize how jarring those updates would be.
Cory goes over to Lisa’s house to hang out.
She walked over to the counter under the TV and held up a DVD box. He gave her a double thumbs-down. “I’m not into Lord of the Rings.”
Admittedly not the worst, but knowing this was re-released in 2005 it’s hilarious to me that someone had to sit down and rename a movie, and they just chose whatever made major money recently. If someone has the original version of this and would like to tell me the original movie named, I’d be delighted to have that information.
Also a fun addition, computers!
The computer lab. They have all the local papers from all over the state on LexisNexis there. I use this room a lot to do research for articles I write for the Spectator.
Again, not terrible, though I don’t know a single teenager who could tell me what LexisNexis is. I went to library school and even I don’t really get LexisNexis. But times they are a’changing, and it isn’t really hip with the kiddos to go through old newspaper catalogues.
(That being said, do any public libraries actually keep local papers? I’ve never worked at one that did. And in 2005 they definitely would not be ready to digitize like that yet. /librarytalk)
But Jimmy, I hear you say, these are all pretty tame. Computers exist now! It’s a whole new world in 2005! What more could be said? Well, reader, you haven’t gotten to the school dance, or its hip new playlist.
The floor vibrated to the music, a Missy Elliott album with a driving, machinelike drumbeat and pulsating bass that nearly drowned out the singer’s voice.
…Cory asked, shouting over the music, a new album by Kanye West that was extremely difficult to shout over.
Okay, here are some things. First of all, if R.L. Stine can name a Missy Elliott song, I would be genuinely surprised and delighted. I mean, Kanye West will be famous forever, so dropping “a new album” isn’t too far fetched in this modern world, but do you know what songs would not get a pass at my high school? We definitely couldn’t play Missy Elliott at school dances, much less a Kanye song. Some intern just googled popular albums and jammed some words in there. And again, if someone wants to tell me what originally went there, I’d drop in the original quote and everything.
Edit: I did manage to track down someone’s review who’s using a few of the same grading categories I am. Lisa and Cory watch Star Trek together on VHS, and it’s Phil Collins playing at the dance. Shout out to the Fear Street Book Club on Tumblr for keeping track of these dated references for me.
The prose is pretty basic and nothing special, and the scares and tension are pretty minimal. It’s Fear Street #1, and according to Wikipedia one of R.L. Stine’s first horror books, so it’s a little rough around the edges. I’ll give it two dead cats out of five.