So the early Fear Streets are pretty hard to find, it turns out, even the re-released ones. I was hoping to see the series progress and characters added, but there will be some skipping around. This one was released in 1990, and it’s all about brand new technology: phones!
I really like this cover (pulled from its GoodReads). It’s very old school 70s horror movie, though the titillation factor isn’t there. The background is creepy and contrasts good with the light from the lamp.
It began as a prank… and it ended in murder!
This is so goofy and I love it. The ellipses, the exclamation point, the overdramatic MURDER is fantastic. A++ would read again.
Honest, I usually read these in an hour all in one go, but this one I ended up having to read in a couple different sittings, so I sort of forgot who people were and what we were doing. Deena is hanging out with her best friend Jade, and they start making prank calls on their phone. It’s pretty tame stuff for them, telling people they won things, pretending to be interested in boys, but it’s a fun time. My favorite part of this is it plays out pretty much how it would. No one really believes them, but they think it’s the funniest thing in the world. This mostly establishes that Deena’s dad works for the phone company, and that Deena has a big gay crush on Jade. I got textual evidence on her big gay crush. It’s all the symptoms of not recognizing her love for her best friend: being jealous of her boyfriend for some reason, pretending to like boys and then not actually going through with it, calling her beautiful over and over again. Big. Gay. Crush.
Deena’s half-brother Chuck starts living with them right as they start school, and he’s a weird character. He runs into an exploding car to save a dog, and then has a knife fight with a kid at school. I guess they’re going for jerk with a heart of gold, but he mostly comes off as two characters. On another night where they’re pranking folks, Chuck jumps on the line. He calls in a bomb threat at the bowling alley, calls a school bully and pretends to be a ghost, and then he calls a house on Fear Street and overhears a murder.
The kids rush off to figure out what happened. They don’t call the police because they think they’ll get in trouble for all their pranks, especially since Chuck has escalated it. They go to the house and find a woman murdered on the ground and a man in a mask who threatens them. They run away, but in the middle of the night the police arrive and ask them about the murder. Chuck handled the murder weapon, and he’s carted off and taken to jail. This is where R.L. Stine does his favorite thing, which is that he doesn’t know how to write a scene or push it along, so he jumps two scenes ahead and has his character remember it. That happens a lot in this book. It also means you get to leave the chapter in a suspenseful way and not deal with the consequences of that.
Deena and Jade figure out that the woman’s husband is the one who murdered her. They follow him to where he works, track down his assistant, who he’s having an affair with, and break into his house. This involves a lot of lying, wigs, stealing dead cats, and spying from cars. They continue to bring their suspicions to the police, who refuse to believe them and hold Chuck in prison. Finally they sneak into his house and find evidence that his wife was going to leave him and take her fortune with her, but the murderer comes home. They’re trapped with no way out, but they managed to block the murderer and climb out the window right as the police arrive. The police reveal that they suspected the husband all along, but they didn’t have evidence, so they let two teenage girls run around and nearly get killed several times instead of doing their own goddamn jobs. The husband is taken to jail, Chuck is released, and Deena still has a few years to figure out her own latent bisexuality.
Honestly I kept waiting for the twist on this. They figure out who the murderer is pretty quick, and then they’re menaced by him quite a bit. The police absolutely refused to believe them for it turns out terrible reasons, so I kept waiting for it to be the mistress or some rando or an actual ghost. This is like later Shyamalan movies where you expect a twist out of it but nope it’s just a regular fashioned murder mystery.
“Hello, Rob?” whispered Deena, making her voice as seductive as possible. “What’s a good-looking guy like you doing home on a Saturday night?”
“I rented some movies,” Rob said.
Fear Street Trends
No update just means old fashioned trends. So many! Celebrity alert: Deena claims to look like Kim Basinger. Chuck is wearing cutoffs and an R.E.M. shirt. Lisa from New Girl shows up again trying to do her reporter thing for her. These are the coolest kids around.
I imagine around this is when they decided to stop updating the books. It’s hard to do a prank phone call plot in the modern age, not like this. Deena has a brand new phone from her dad that’s described as looking like it controls a spaceship, and they program phone numbers into it. This is pre-caller ID. I don’t even answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, and I imagine them looking at this again in 2005 and realizing they cannot do the bomb threat subplot. Someone threw up their hands and said nah, man, there’s no way we’re doing this.
For an early Fear Street novel, it’s pretty good. It has unnecessary separation by parts, and a weird timeline that doesn’t really make any sense, but there a lot more genuinely suspenseful bits, and when I write my proposal for a Fear Street TV show, Deena and Jade’s lesbian love story will definitely be on the screen. I’ll give it three creepy phone calls out of five.