Fear Street #21 – The Dare

The Cover

the dare

It’s not very exciting, but there are elements I like about it. (Pulled from GoodReads.) It doesn’t give anything away. Clearly something shocking happens while these two kids are parking. I just wish there was a little more gore happening maybe.

Tagline

Some girls will do anything for a guy… even kill.

I love these ellipses, I really do. I think it’s a pretty good tagline.

Summary

What Fear Street book doesn’t deserve a two page prologue? In it we learn Johanna Wise is going to murder her teacher, though we don’t know why. And then this book kind of starts as a flashback, a How We Got Here type story, but I think it loses that thread eventually. Johanna and her friend Margaret are hanging out in a 7-11 where they see a bunch of their rich classmates causing trouble. I grew up in a town full of rich kids, and this is some pretty true nonsense. There’s nothing rich kids love more than hanging out in gas stations, Wal-marts, and various other places to make a huge mess. (I’m also just realizing how much my hometown has in common with Shadyside, including an entire graduating class cursed to die. This is to be evaluated at a different time.) Among the rich kids are Melody, Lanny, Zack (who is related to Alexander Hamilton, a reference Stine should’ve waited twenty years to make, but I’ll give him credit for foresight), Caitin, and most importantly: Dennis Arthur. He’s handsome, he’s rich, he’s entitled, he’s a huge jerk, but boy do the girls want him.

This is Shadyside, where that evil in the water supply has been messing with everyone’s heads, so it’s only a funny joke when one of the kids pulls out a real looking fake gun. Though this is a thing in Heathers too, where a kid brings a fake gun to school and it’s treated as a joke that went too far (though was his gun real but he fired blanks? Blanks still hurt, kiddos, and they can still do a lot of damage. Just say no to cliches.), and was this really an okay thing before 1999? I know the gun treatment in these books has to be shoddy for suspense and plot reasons, but it makes me more than a little uncomfortable. We’ll get to it, but Johanna’s mom just has a gun loose in a drawer.

Johanna shares a class with these jokers, who are always daring each other to do stuff, under the restrictive thumb of Mr. Northwood, who also lives next door to Johanna. Johanna gets chatted up by Dennis about what a huge jerk this guy is, and they start joking about killing him. Dennis seems to take a shine to Johanna, though he won’t let the whole ‘killing a man’ thing drop. It’s clear Mr. Northwood is deeply unfair, refusing Dennis a makeup exam and dropping grades for minor mistakes, but he also seems to be dealing with the worst class ever. Dennis needs the makeup test because he’s going to the Bahamas, and the other kids are just as entitled. It’s putting a lot of stress on the students and the faculty, and half the kids nearly get suspended before the principal apologizes. Dennis starts asking out Johanna, claiming he and Caitlin see other people sometimes, and he even brings her a gift from the Bahamas. He takes her to a party where they drink beer and joke around. It seems super lame and super high school.

Dennis finds out Johanna lives next door to Mr. Northwood, and he starts bringing everyone over to her house. By accident one day, Dennis finds the gun–again, in an unlocked drawer, just floating around for anyone to grab–and accidentally shoots Zack. While everyone is flipping out, the boys drag Zack to Mr. Northwood’s lawn, throw the gun on the front step, and call the police, claiming Mr. Northwood tried to shoot Zack. This immediately unravels, as you would expect, and they all get in major trouble for it. Now Mr. Northwood is putting the pressure on, though the fact that they are still in his class is baffling, and half of these kids need to be in therapy, but ah, the early 90s, it was a simpler time. Dennis and Johanna are still going out, and he dares her to murder Mr. Northwood, and she accepts.

And the truly bonkers thing is the whole school knows it. Literally every student is down for this. People are telling Johanna good luck in the halls, and Suki Thomas gives her a goddamn thumbs up like she didn’t experience some tragic shit involving murder. Kids are taking bets on it. It’s like goddamn Hogwarts up in here. Also, Johanna, you now have no alibi, because literally everyone you know could testify that you had intended to murder Mr. Northwood up to a week before the actual incident. You are a dummy.

The day comes, and Johanna steels herself to murder. Dennis comes over, claiming to want to help, and when she finally takes the gun and walks over to Mr. Northwood, she finds he’s already been shot. Dennis and Caitlin jump out, claiming Caitlin dared him to convince some poor sucker to murder their teacher, and they high five as the police arrive. Caitlin starts with the theatrics, Johanna is being led away, and then a police officer finds a recorder in Mr. Northwood’s jacket. See, he tapes his classes and plays them back, and he also tapes himself painting a shed I guess, so he recorded not only his murder, but Caitlin and Dennis’ entire confession! The day is saved! Johanna goes free! Mr. Northwood isn’t quite dead! The Shadyside police continue to be almost useless, and everything can go back to its horrible, horrible level of normal.

Favorite Line

“You went out with me just because you wanted me to kill Mr. Northwood?”

Fear Street Trends

There isn’t a lot of fashion in this, but Johanna pulls out a gosh darn Trapper Keeper and it’s ridiculous. The rich kids do dress in Ralph Lauren polos and sweaters over t-shirts which is very 90s. As mentioned, Suki Thomas makes an appearance, apparently fully endorsing murder.

Rating

This was a baffling read and I almost like it more for that. Johanna’s violent tendencies and the rich kids are psychopaths, but it’s just so strange. I’ll give it two loose guns out of five.

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