It’s summer in Fear Street! Summer in Fear Street is all beach parties, boat rides on the lake, working summer jobs, and getting chased by madmen and ghosts!
This cover (pulled from a Pinterest page) is pretty alright. I feel like there’s so many red herrings in this book and there’s one on the cover with what looks like a monster man (there’s no monster man in this book and that makes me very sad). The girls on the cover feel very 70s horror and I can appreciate that.
There’s no vacation from the terrors of Fear Street!
It’s not bad, especially since this is the first super chiller.It’s one of those that preface you know what Fear Street is, which bothers me some but not a ton.
We’re introduced to Jan, who’s up in her attic doing witchy business. She’s trying to summon a ghost to talk to, using pentagrams and candles and whatever it is we thought witches used in the 90s (what do we think witches use now? lots of sage probably). She thinks she’s close, when her friends interrupt her. Cari, Craig, and Eric are surprised to see Jan in this position and even more amused to find out she was looking for a ghost. Jan is notably ticked off at the implication that ghosts aren’t real, but everyone’s distracted by the fact that they’re off to Piney Island! The four wrangled summer jobs working at a hotel on the beach there thanks to Jan’s aunt Rose, and they’re excited for the opportunity to work all day and play all night. Jan is extra excited because the inn is super old, and there’s definitely going to be ghosts.
The day comes, and they all get in the car with Aunt Rose, who’s taking them to the hotel. They’re going to the Howling Wolf Inn, an ominous name for sure, but the kids are too distracted yelling “Party summer!” every five minutes to think much on it. Their excitement is stopped when Aunt Rose gets a sudden pain in her side so bad she can’t drive anymore. She tells them she doesn’t want to see a doctor because she doesn’t believe in hospitals (a sure sign this is not a responsible adult), so they take her to her sister Aileen who lives nearby. Aileen agrees to take care of Rose while she’s sick, but Rose doesn’t want the kids to miss any of their party summer. She tells them to go on ahead to make the launch to the island, and she’ll catch up when she feels better.
The kids are expecting great things when they reach Piney Island, but they immediately take a great dive when the owner, Simon, doesn’t show up to greet them, and the gate to the hotel is locked. When they finally make it in, they find the place run down, without electricity, and kept by a creepy old servant who yells at them to go away. They’re confused and consider turning back, but luckily Simon Fear shows up! No, not that Simon Fear! He’s Simon Fear the Third, named for his great-uncle the original Simon Fear, who built Shadyside. It turns out the hotel had some construction troubles, and their entire construction crew left, which meant they were unable to reopen in time for the summer. Thanks to the phones being down, he’d sent a letter to Rose explaining all this. Currently the only people there are Simon, his brother Edward, and the housekeeper Martin, who was the one who greeted them so rudely. Martin is instantly trying to get the kids out, telling them they should leave and that the hotel is dangerous. The kids don’t seem to care at all. They offer to help with the construction, since they’re here anyway, and it’s not like there are any summer jobs left in Shadyside. They want to call Rose, but Simon warns them the switchboard is down, meaning they won’t be able to call out of the hotel for a day.
So it’s four teenagers, alone in an abandoned hotel, with no way of contacting the outside world, with only a magnanimous old man named Simon Fear and a creepy butler for company. None of these kids seem bothered by this. Which, there’s not much they can do that night, but not a single one is like, Oh, I’ve seen this horror movie. Let’s not. All four agree to stay and do work for the chance to use the beach and relax. Like most horror movies, Shadyside exists in a universe where no other horror movie has ever been made, and no teenager had to live through the great 70s and 80s massacres of their peers.
The next day they hang out on the beach a while. Jan can’t get a hold of Aunt Rose, but no one seems very worried about this. Jan gets mad at the boys because they keep making fun of her for believing in ghosts. Cari tries to play nice with her friend, but she’s also busy flirting with Eric. They see Simon walking towards them on the beach, and he tells them Rose wasn’t on the ship to the island. He mentions his brother Edward, who’s holed up in a room somewhere, definitely not suspiciously. Simon tells them the ugly story behind his namesake and what happened to the Fear Mansion, and I have to put the description in because it’s so gruesome to think about:
One day, Simon’s two little girls went out to play in the woods. They didn’t return. That night and into the next morning, a frantic search ensued. The story goes that their bodies were found in the woods more than a week later. Their bodies–but not their bones. Their skeletons had been completely removed.
Which is honestly bonkers. Like did the search party find two piles of squishy flesh, organs, and viscera bearing the two young girls’ faces? It sounds more like aliens zapped their bones away than what actually happened. (It’s worth noting that the Fear Street Saga was written two years after this book came out and dang dang dang am I disappointed this little factoid wasn’t kept in the canon.)
Their campfire stories are interrupted by screaming from the hotel. They all race to see what happened and they find Jan screaming her head off about a ghost she saw. A woman in all white with coal black eyes came out of the walls to haunt Jan. Cari’s freaked out by this, and at night she can’t sleep thinking about it. She thinks she hears chains in the walls, and then she hears someone whisper her name. She tries to find the source and ends up in front of Simon’s room, where she hears him arguing with a woman. The woman screams that she doesn’t want the party to happen, and Cari hurries away. She goes to Jan’s room and tells her she heard the ghost. She and Jan decide to go ghosthunting and find ectoplasm on the doorknob, which is honestly the fakest thing a ghost hunter could find. Cari even asks, “Like Ghostbusters?” because it is the fakest thing they could find.
The next day they try to figure out the voice that Cari heard, but as far as they know Cari and Jan are the only women on the island. They ask Martin, but he tells them there hasn’t been a woman around since Greta, Simon’s wife, died. He is suspiciously curt about it and tells the kids to get to work on the walls of the hotel. At lunch, the kids take a break, but Cari decides to keep going, which is how she runs into Edward. He’s wearing a safari outfit and carrying a rifle, and he is immediately intimidating. Cari wishes her friends were back and for a second thinks Edward might try to hurt her. But he tells her to do a good job and stalks away.
Cari’s kind of freaked out because of the exchange, and Eric takes her for a walk around the beach, where they kiss. She think she sees someone watching them, and they go back inside, where she locks her door. The next day they’re working again, and when the scaffolding falls down almost hurting the boys, they find a secret door that leads them to some secret tunnels. The tunnel is super gross and filled with spiderwebs and rats and giant bugs, but they go exploring anyway. This is also why it’s super shady that Simon was like oh yeah four teenagers can totally do the work of a construction crew no problem. Teenagers get distracted by absolutely everything and don’t want to do actual work. Terrible plan.
They find a weird room in the tunnels with red walls and a skull on a table. Jan finds more fake ectoplasm, which freaks everyone out. They try to get back out, but the door’s been blocked. They’re trapped. Cari screams for help, but they decide not to wait and instead go back through the tunnels, trying to find a way out. Eventually they see sunlight and end up back on the beach. When they return to their work, they see the scaffolding has moved to block the door, which means someone tried to lock them in there.
They decide to tell Simon at dinner, but Edward attends instead. He’s curt and gruff, and when he leaves the others joke about him. Martin appears and gives them a cryptic warning, telling them to get out now, but Edward appears and scares him off. Simon appears later and tells them he went to the mainland to see Aunt Rose, claiming that she’s fine and went to a spa for a few days to recover. Jan tries once again to summon ghosts in her room, and then disappears the next day.
The others work all afternoon before going to check on Jan and finding her room empty. They search and consider calling the police. They go to Simon first and hear arguing again, between Simon, Edgar, and some mystery woman. They hear Simon scream, and then a gunshot. The kids are frozen, uncertain what to do, and Edgar bursts out claiming Simon had an accident while holding a still smoking rifle. He gets frenzied, pointing his gun at Cari, and Martin comes in, shouting at the kids to leave. Edgar claims he killed Simon and Martin berates him. Edward pulls the gun on him, but Martin talks him down and takes him downstairs.
The second they’re gone, the kids go into the room to investigate. The room smells terrible, like gunpowder, sweat, and death, but they don’t find any blood or a body. They can’t find any sign of a woman either. At this point I’m pretty convinced Simon and the woman are ghosts, possibly even Edward and Martin, but don’t worry. The twist is much crazier than that.
The kids decide what to do. They go through the things and find an old photo album with Simon and Rose standing in front of the hotel. They’re distant cousins, and the boys wonder if Rose knew what was waiting for them at the hotel, if she set them up by faking sick and sending them to such a creepy place. Eric even accuses Jan of being in on it, and there’s so many red herrings flying around it’s hard to guess the truth. Cari decides she doesn’t care about the truth, that she just wants to call the police and let them deal with it. But Eric finds a revolving bookcase and they go into a secret study. He finds a letter that reads:
Dear Rose, I am so sorry to tell you that I fear a terrible tragedy has occurred. Your niece Jan and her three friends have disappeared without a trace, without an explanation. I have been frantic, wracked with sadness, with fear, with remorse. The police from Willow Island have combed every inch of the island without success. Without a single clue. I’ve been trying to call you night and day. You didn’t answer your phone. So I am sending this letter special delivery. So sorry to send such tragic news by mail. I am saddened and mystified.
It’s the worst letter I’ve ever read and why would you write the letter before you killed them????? It doesn’t make any sense! I know they need to find it to be aware of their impending doom, but Edward, buddy, you gotta wait on that. Also, if you did kill them, and you did want to fake all this, showing up in person is a lot better than sending this garbage letter.
But whatever. The kids are flipping out because they’re going to get murdered super hard. Craig knows how to drive a boat, so they decide to leave the island and get help. They grab their suitcases but like why bother? There are madmen chasing you with rifles! They decide to call the police before leaving in case Jan is still on the island, and in searching for one they come across a trophy room. It’s already pretty creepy, and then Cari sees on the far wall, mounted on displays, are four human heads!
The kids fucking book it now. They are out of here, no more discussion, no more questions asked. They’re still making fucking jokes all the dang time, but when they get to the iron fence around the property, they see it’s padlocked. They try to break it, but they’re unsuccessful, and on top of the fence are iron spike so they can’t climb it. They decide to back to the bay and get the canoes, heading to another island that way, but when they get to the beach the canoes are missing.
It starts raining, because the scenery sensed a need for drama. They hide in the pool house and search for a phone again. Edward Fear appears with his hunting rifle and invites them to his party, a hunting party that is, and guess who’s in season! Cari struggles with him momentarily, and the rifle goes off without hurting anyone. They knock him down and run away.They run through the trees with Edward chasing them, firing wildly, and they manage to sneak back into the hotel. They manage to find a phone, and Cari calls the operator to get the Willow Island Police. What follows is an obviously fake conversation but I give Cari the benefit of the doubt because she’s under a lot of stress right now. They’re told the police can be there in twenty minutes, and they try to hide, but they accidentally bump into Simon Fear.
They’re obviously confused and scared, and they tell Simon everything about Edward hunting them and having called the police and Jan missing. They ask him to stop them, and Simon wonders why he’d bother stopping them. Simon takes off his jacket, changes his posture, puts on an eyepatch, and adopts Edward’s voice, because Simon and Edward were the same person all along! He takes his rifle, and they try to talk to him. He lets them know he’s not going to shoot them right away. It’s only sporting to give them an hour’s head start. He shoots a few rounds just for funsies, and the trio runs away.
They decide to hide in the secret passages they found earlier. They think they find another telephone, but it’s dead, and they realize all the phones go through a switchboard, which means their earlier call to the police didn’t go through to anyone but Simon/Edward. They hear noises and see a closed door with light coming through it. Cari thinks it’s the ghost woman, but when they break down the door, they find Jan and Rose! Rose came the very next day after she got ill, but Simon was waiting for her and kidnapped her, locking her in the tunnels. Jan finds out she’s related to the Fears and her friends are like catch up Jan Jesus we got bigger problems to worry about now. Jan lets them know that the ghost stuff was all a trick she was putting on, since she was mad they didn’t believe her. She found the tunnels sooner than everyone else and snuck around, placing ectoplasm and whispering people’s names. They try and explain what’s going on, but Rose is weak, and they take them up to the kitchen to make sure they have the strength to get out.
Martin comes in and tells them to get out. Rose demands to know what’s going on, and he tells her that Simon’s been very ill since his wife Greta died. I love Rose in these scenes because she’s such the oblivious adult. Martin’s saying all these cryptic things and she’s like What is going on around here Why isn’t the hotel open Why is Simon in the woods at night and the kids are just like WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. Martin reveals the human heads mounted on the wall were wax since Simon became obsessed with hunting people. It’s not really a normal obsession and I’m not sure exactly how it sprung from his dead wife (who died in a hunting accident). Maybe it’s like a Ravenous thing and he accidentally ate human meat and now he craves it?
Their conversation is ruined when Simon busts in. He’s gone full Edward, but Rose stands up to him and demands to speak to Simon in what is a pretty baller move. But Edward doesn’t listen and shoots Martin instead. Cari jumps up and demands that Edward shoot her first before the others. This confuses him, and she tries to convince him to give her the rifle, but then he shoots her (in a chapter titled Edward Shoots Cari, so no suspense there) but Cari takes it like a champ and keeps demanding the rifle. He fires again, but she manages to stay up, and he screams about her being a ghost. He tries to shoot the others, but before he can, a woman tells him to stop. They all realize the woman’s voice is coming out of his mouth, that Simon doesn’t just have two identities inside him, but three. Simon argues with Edward and Greta until Simon breaks free, apparently oblivious to the chaos he’s caused.
Some time later the group is returning to the mainland, seemingly unharmed. They ask Cari why she didn’t die when she was shot, and she tells them she figured out Edward wasn’t firing real ammunition. Since Martin was in the hunting party but clearly wasn’t enthusiastic about it, she figured he’d replaced his ammo rifle with blanks. The blanks trope is such a thing and it’s still being used (Until Dawn did it, and that’s two Wendigo references in one review bam) but like if you’re shot with a blank at close range it can definitely still cause bleeding and can even kill. I think that’s also a trope but what isn’t these days. Anyway, the teens sail back home and don’t seem to have any emotional trauma to deal with whatsoever.
“He’s such a nice boy,” Mrs. Taylor said quietly. “But isn’t Eric the one with the ponytail?”
Fear Street Trends
Cari describes herself as “willowy and beautiful as any model on the cover of Sassy or Seventeen” (though she wishes she was bootylicious like Jan, my words not Stine’s). Eric, of course, is a cool kid with a ponytail and one earring and wears silver sunglasses and is described as wearing a Hawaiian shirt. Craig is more casual in khaki shorts and white tennis shirts (your average white people clothes). Jan, despite her gothy nature, wears pink and bikinis, though her interest in witchcraft and ghosts might be genetic. No other characters appear, but Simon Fear’s backstory is given a little here (to be expanded on in the Fear Street Saga), and I’m super interested in the all these Fear descendants running around. I’m not sure if Sarah Beth from the Cheerleaders books is ever heard from again. I’d like to see what more of the Fears are up to now.
I was pretty hype for some Fear Street beach reads, and this seemed to have a lot of elements in it that I got excited for, but the ultimate twist was kind of meh and some of the sideplots are wrapped up poorly. I’m going to give it two wax human heads out of five.