Fear Street Superchiller – The Dead Lifeguard

The Cover

dead lifeguard

The cover (taken from its GoodReads page) is alright. To be honest my primary issue is with the title, which isn’t as punchy as Stine wants it to be. The bright colors detract some from it, though I suppose they’re going for a summer thing. It’s hard to tell if we’re supposed to worry about the lifeguard who’s carrying the girl, who’s dead eyed and seems to carry her like Frankenstein’s monster does that little girl, or the girl herself, who looks like she may actually be dead. It should be provocative, but it’s not very.

Tagline

No one can save her now.

I think this is supposed to referencing the zombie lifeguard carrying her corpse. It’s pretty good considering how mediocre everything else is.

Summary

Each part is measured in how many ghosts there are in it. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character which should be interesting in a Heavy-Rain-who’s-telling-the-truth-can-we-trust-any-of-our-characters sort of way, but switching perspectives from a first person narrative is a device I find extremely annoying so we’ll see. Chapter one is the character of Mouse, who speaks on a phone to Terry. They tell bad jokes and know Terry is dead, but they talk to  him anyway, letting him know that all the lifeguards are going to pay for what happened to him.

Our main character is actually Lindsay, who’s excited to start work at the North Beach Country Club. She’s meeting up with the other lifeguards, who are all going to stay at the club, which I don’t think is actually a thing? I assume there’s a local population of teens that can go home at night and not take up resources on food and board, but who cares keep it moving. Lindsay’s annoyed because she left home in a hurry to get here, and a storm opens up over her head, her keycard doesn’t work, and then she sees a dead body in the pool. All in all not a great day for Lindsay.

It has been a great day for Danny, who seems to be head lifeguard. He seems like the typical man’s man. He describes all the girls as how hot they are and all the guys by their weight class, which classifies him as bro. He introduces us to the rest of our cast. Cassie, who’s kind of ditzy and is blond; Arnie, who is kind of a shrimp and makes the exact same bad jokes as our mysterious murderers; Deidre, who’s kind of nothing; May-Ann, who’s quiet and kind of intense; Pug, the jock who gets with all the ladies. Your typical crew of teens to be murdered off.

They all hear Lindsay screaming outside and bring her in. She frantically tells them that there’s a body in the pool, and Danny runs outside, but there’s nothing there. Lindsay feels like a freak, screaming her head off about apparently nothing, soaked to the bone, and her keycard turns out to be two years old. Danny looks for her name on the lifeguard list, and she doesn’t show up. Lindsay is of course confused by this. She got hired. They sent her the credentials. She was promised a job. May-Ann takes pity on the girl and lets her use her room to change, where we meet her mouse Munchy, who is probably only mentioned as a red herring. Lindsay doesn’t know what she saw or what’s going on, and May-Ann states simply that she saw one of the dead kids.

Absolutely no one knows what she’s talking about. May-Ann tells them the club is cursed, and every year someone dies. Two summers in a row people have drowned despite having lifeguards on duty or being lifeguards themselves. She’s convinced their ghosts haunt this place, though no one else really is. Her scary story is interrupted by Spencer, the final member of our crew. Lindsay’s excited to see him because she recognizes him. He doesn’t seem to recognize her at first, and then he plays nice. The club’s athletic director Pete arrives too in order to check everyone off the list. Danny and him talk out the list. Pete asks her some cursory questions, including if she passed the lifeguard exams, but he doesn’t actually seem to, like, ask her for proof or anything. She just says yes, and he’s like whatever we had a cancellation anyway. Lindsay gets to stay! But Lindsay starts to realize she doesn’t remember interviewing, and she doesn’t remember Pete, and she’s not sure when she got her ID and everything, and suddenly she worries she’s in the wrong place after all.

Mouse talks some more about murdering lifeguards. The club isn’t open yet, so they’re mostly goofing off, doing arm wrestling contests and hanging out around an open fire. Spencer tells stories from the past years and Lindsay asks him if anyone saw any ghosts. May-Ann uses this opportunity to obsess again, much like Jan in Party Summer, and then Cassie fakes seeing a ghost to get them all scared. Cassie also fakes the sound of a broken bone while the dudes are arm wrestling to scare everyone, so you can tell she’s a real practical jokester.

The club opens, and the lifeguards are working. Pug and Cassie are flirting, and Diedre is jealous of this, though no one else seems to care. Lindsay is getting used to living with May-Ann, who’s kind of a weirdo who’s obsessed with ghosts. They both hear a ghostly wail outside their door saying “Help me” and run outside. It’s Cassie, playing a prank. May-Ann gets super pissed and slams the door. There’s a little more goofing off and then back to work. Lindsay tries to remember Spencer some more and can’t quite. She has my favorite egotistical thought:

Had there been something between Spencer and me last summer?

Did he and I have a short romance or something?

I had the feeling we did, but I couldn’t dredge the memory up. I couldn’t dredge up any memory about him.

Lindsay cannot remember a gosh darn thing about this boy but is pretty sure they had a romance or something. Natch. Lindsay can’t quite sleep at night, and when she walks outside she sees the drowned girl again. This time she jumps into the pool and swims up to her and then pulls up her face and sees herself! The corpse decays right in front of her until she’s only holding a skull, and then she wakes up from her nightmare. But it’s not over yet! A voice whispers to her, and she decides to follow it, noting that May-Ann is gone when she gets out of bed. She follows the voice into the dining room, where the fire is still burning, and Cassie had her face pushed into it. Lindsay pulls the body from the fire and sees she’s all burned away.

The police are called. Lindsay confesses to them she heard a voice and followed it, but she isn’t able to give it a source. May-Ann seems excited, as this proves her point that someone dies every summer. Mouse sure is pleased with themself, but there’s more to go! The club is closed for a day, but it reopens and no one seems to be too down about it. Pug is instantly hitting on other girls in the true Shadyside manner. Lindsay can’t stop thinking about poor Cassie and decides to call her folks and let them know everything that’s happened, but when she dials the number, she’s told it’s disconnected. Lindsay redials, calls the operator, gets information, but it’s all gone. Her family doesn’t live on Fear Street, at least, not anymore. She flips out and borrows someone’s car and drives all the way home. She surprises a random woman in her house, who tells her the Becks don’t live there anymore, haven’t, not since their daughter died two years ago.

Lindsay doesn’t know what to make of this information. She’s pretty sure she’s not dead, but she doesn’t know why all evidence is pointed otherwise. She breaks into Pete’s office to find her records but instead finds a newspaper clipping telling her the exact same thing everyone else has. Lindsay Beck died in the pool two years ago. She is the dead lifeguard, a title drop that kind of assumes the character knows the title of the book she’s in.

Lindsay does not bring any of this to the attention of her friends, and she seems to chill out about it for a while. She’s still laughing and goofing with the others and is still pretty sure she isn’t dead. May-Ann keeps talking about ghosts, which is pretty insensitive considering one of their friends died here like a week ago at best, but everyone else just doesn’t want to talk about it. Arnie asks Lindsay on a walk and then corners her, and since he’s the bad joke telling, phone call making, kind of nerd, you sort of expect this to be the moment he tries to murder Lindsay, but I thought he was too obvious a suspect the whole time. Instead he just tries to force himself on her (kind of? it’s pretty tame, these books are still for children) and thank god Spencer arrives to stop it. Lindsay is creeped out by Arnie and thinks he watches her while she works at the pool, to which Spencer responds, “I watch you too sometimes.” The absolute worst thing to say to a girl you just saved from unwanted advances, but he rolls with it. Lindsay asks him if Spencer knew her last summer, and he says not really. She left suddenly, after all. Lindsay doesn’t remember that and asks him why she left, and he thought dialogues that if she doesn’t remember, he’s not going to be the one to tell her, but then Stine does that thing where he skips ahead to not deal with the consequences of his chapter. So I have to imagine the ridiculous excuses Spencer makes to get around answering that question.

The next day Arnie tries to apologize to Lindsay, and she kind of forgives him, but it’s clear she won’t be having anymore. A woman kind of recognizes Lindsay, we assume as the dead girl who drowned. At night Lindsay wanders around and sees Ma-Ann and Pug shouting. It’s unclear what they’re arguing about, but then Deirdre shows up and suggests they’re actually getting it on, you know, to honor Cassie’s still cooling corpse. Lindsay goes back to her room and tries to call other family members but doesn’t get an answer. She goes back to sleep and then wakes up to the voice calling to her again. May-Ann is missing from her bed still, and she follows the voice until she gets to the guest house. She sees Pug with a barbell stretched over his neck, choking him to death. Pete arrives at the same time she discovers the body, no doubt pinning her as the prime suspect.

The police arrive again. Pete gives an account of what he saw, which is clearly generous in how he found Lindsay. She tells the officers she heard the voice again, and it’s clear they’re starting to suspect her. She throws up at the crime scene anyway which I think is a pretty good way to show you’re innocent or at least averse to the idea of dead bodies. May-Ann sort of indicts her by saying Lindsay was following her and Pug around, which is not something we saw.

A few days later Lindsay goes for a drive, trying to clear her head, but Arnie pops out of the backseat. Lindsay does my absolute favorite thing which is force him out of the car and make him walk home (the only appropriate response to that prank). When she gets back, the other lifeguards are hanging out in the pool. It’s close to midnight and they’re just chilling, playing games and diving and splashing. It’s like no horrible murders took place at all. May-Ann pushes Dierdre into the pull, which triggers a memory in Lindsay, and she starts screaming that she’s not Lindsay at all. She’s Marissa Dunton, who killed Lidnsay two years ago!

Danny and Spencer take Lindsay/Marissa inside. Marissa explains that she was a lifeguard two summers ago. She and Lindsay were good friends, but they had a huge argument that got out of control. She says Lindsay fell, but it’s clear Marissa pushed her into the pool, except Lindsay hit her head on the side as she fell in, splitting her skull. She died there, and Marissa was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a long time. She started thinking she was Lindsay as a sort of way to bring her back to life. She’d taken things from their shared room and occasionally assumed her identity. She got sent home before she was really ready to, thought she was Lindsay, and came to the club to work. Spencer asks her directly why she killed Cassie and Pug, and at first she answers, “I don’t know.” But after the chapter break she jumps up screaming, “I didn’t kill them!”

Lindsay becomes suspicious of Spencer, who claimed to recognize her. He tells her he only saw the two girls involved and wasn’t really sure who was Lindsay and who was Marissa and just sort of rolled with it. Danny tells Lindsay to use the phone in Pete’s office to call her parents. Spencer comes in to see if she’s alright, and while they’re talking the phone rings. It’s Mrs. Brown making the strangest phone call. She wants them to know the reason her son Spencer never showed up for his lifeguard job was because he was murdered. Lindsay tries to ask Spencer what’s going on, but he’s disappeared. She finds him by the pool.

Spencer quickly confesses everything. He killed Spencer, just like he killed Pug and Cassie, because he’s not Spencer at all. He’s Jack Mouser, aka Mouse. He and his brother Terry worked in the kitchens, and the lifeguards were cruel and made fun of them. They put them through hell under the guise of lifeguard training and them laughed them off. Terry couldn’t take it, so he killed himself, and now Jack is going to make everyone pay. Jack was so excited to find Marissa was suffering her identity of crisis because she would make an easy suspect. He whispered to her at night and led her to the bodies, and now he’s going to kill her before she can tell the others. He starts to drown her, but May-Ann jumps in and drags Mouse off of her. The others come as well, including Arnie, and they hold him down while Marissa explains everything. May-Ann is relieved to see her roomie alright, and they hug it out, apologizing to each other for suspecting the other of murder. May-Ann confesses she was only gone at night to see her boyfriend, and Marissa runs off to let her parents know that she’s a-okay.

Favorite Line

Poor Pug. He had a real weight problem!

Fear Street Trends

The girls are described in full by Danny, though he doesn’t compare them to any celebrities. He just makes sure you know they’re all smoking hot. They most spend time in bathing suits, and only Lindsay’s bright blue one gets any attention thanks to it being a plot point. Marissa-as-Lindsay listens to her Walkman, there’s copious use of information and phone tag, a thing that probably doesn’t exist now. Arnie invites Lindsay to a Bruce Willis movie, but that’s about it for topical references.

Rating

I was expecting a little more out of the Fear Street summer reads, but this one is full of ideas Stine has used elsewhere, including people who think they’re other people, ghosts who aren’t really ghosts, and triggering repressed memories with mundane actions that are visually similar. I give it two quickly melting corpses out of five.

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