The cover (via Paperback Swap) doesn’t do much for me. It’d be nice if we could see something she’s actually supposed to be afraid of, but it just looks like a girl running through the woods. The moon’s a kind of cheesy effect. I just wish they’d made the girl more ensconced in shadow or something.
It all happens in the dark.
This is a great tagline. It doesn’t give away any plot and it plays up the fear of the dark. It’s pretty good.
Much like the Dead Lifeguard, this book features letters written to someone who’s already dead, who went by the name of Chief. I guess it doesn’t immediately say that Chief is dead, but since I’d read the Dead Lifeguard already I just assumed. The best part of the letters is how they’re signed to keep the mystery alive, which is: “Yours forever, Me.” Imagine just signing a letter as From, Me.
Anyway we jump to Holly Flynn getting settled into her bunk at Camp Nightwing. Her Uncle Bill begged her to come out and be a counselor at camp despite the fact that Holly hates nature and is terrified of bugs and snakes. The implication is sort of that she isn’t getting paid for this, that she’s doing it as a favor, especially since the camp is pretty close to getting shut down. At least her best friend Thea Mack is there to help her out, especially since Holly’s enemy Geri Marcus is also at camp. See, Geri and Holly used to best friends, until Geri started seeing a boy a few years older than her that her parents didn’t approve of. While Geri was sneaking around, Holly was supposed to lie for her, but Holly’s terrible at lying and accidentally let slip that Geri was out. None of this is really important except that Geri’s going to do everything she can to make Holly’s life harder than it already is.
Immediately the camp is plagued with problems. A filing cabinet is knocked over onto Uncle Bill (it’s what everyone calls him), pinning him until the girls get it off. Holly finds a red feather at the scene but doesn’t think much of it since it is a camp and there are arts and crafts everywhere. Then a girl’s bunk bed collapses in on itself, and there’s another red feather found there. Holly becomes suspicious but isn’t sure about bringing it up to her uncle.
The counselors are introduced around the campfire, and since I know there’s going to be a murder in this book, it reads like a lineup of suspects. First Holly meets Debra, who is beautiful and mean and her senior counselor that she’ll be working under. Debra’s been told all the shit by Geri, so she instantly mistreats Holly and screams at her whenever she does anything wrong (which is often). Mick is introduced writing a bunch of letters home (suspicious) and he kind of hits on Holly in the weirdest way. He also has a pointed conversation with Holly about Friday the 13th and how she should absolutely see it. Geri is seen making all the friends and probably turning them against Holly. Kit is a goofer, and he’s introduced jumping out of the shadows wearing a hockey mask and holding a hatchet. He’s clearly friends with Geri as well. Sandy gets up and introduces himself. Thea points out that he’s quiet and keeps to himself mostly. Holly thinks he might be shy, but he’s also clearly rich and still working here. Thea points out John, the boy she likes, who doesn’t really make eye contact with anyone. Uncle Bill makes a specific rule that campers can’t date counselors, and I assume the only reason it’s mentioned is because it’s going to come up again later. It’s also mentioned to Holly last year some kid died, also probably relevant to the story.
Suspects introduced, camp established, we jump ahead to the next day where Holly wakes up early to help Mick with the canoes. They’re surprised to find all but one of the canoes are tampered with and sunk into the lake. The holes in the canoes were clearly purposeful, and Holly finds with them another red feather. Holly tries to take it to her uncle, but he’s way too busy, and he sends her off. On her way to breakfast, Holly sees Debra and tries to talk to her, asking her not to yell at her in front of the kids and to maybe not be such a raging bitch all the time (my words, not Holly’s), but Debra immediately bites back. Thea finds Holly and tells her to meet her at the lake after the kids go to bed, and they’re interrupted by Kit, who tosses a snake at Holly. Holly flips out until she realizes the snake is rubber, and Debra screams at her some more.
The day goes fairly well after that. Holly goes to meet Thea by the lake, and Thea lets her know Geri and Debra are friends, which is sort of treated like big news, but seems pretty self-explanatory. Thea lets her know Geri also had a thing with Mick last summer. Holly tries to tell Thea about the feathers, but Thea is distracted because she’s also waiting for John to show up. Holly leaves and runs into some campers trying to sneak out. As she walks them back to her cabin, she runs into Mick, who gets kind of aggressive about her going on a walk with him. Having read so many of these books now, I figured he’d probably end up being the love interest, since dudes with no boundaries and aggressive tendencies still come out on top in these books. Holly gets him to back off though, and then she runs into Sandy, who is much sweeter and calmer, and more likely to be the villain. He mentions he’s an only child, and that this is his first time at Camp Nightwing. Holly finally makes it to her bed, where she finds a real snake waiting for her.
Holly thinks this might be a warning from whomever is trying to ruin the camp, and she goes to Uncle Bill again. This time he listens to her, but he clearly doesn’t believe her. He says those red feathers are probably everywhere and tells her every incident is probably his own bad luck. Holly is still determined and thinks the culprit is probably one of the counselors.
She spies on them as the kids play baseball. Kit tries to get close to Geri, John keeps to himself and doesn’t talk to anyone, and Sandy chats with Debra. She spies on Mick too, who notices and talks to her after the game. He invites her out to the lake at night, and she agrees, mostly to get some more information out of him. He gets annoyed that she’s not there to make out with him, gets super aggressive again, and then storms off. Holly walks back to her cabin and sees Geri, who warns her to stay away from her man.
Holly learns the next day she’s going to be one of the counselors going on the overnight wilderness trip. The thought terrifies her, but she’s distracted by seeing Thea and John arguing. John apparently ditched Thea because he told her he had to write some letters home. Holly gets screamed at some more by Debra, she has some more anxiety about the wilderness, and then as she’s walking back to her cabin she’s grabbed by Kit. He drags her into the woods where Mick is waiting, and for a second I got real scared for a different reason, and then Geri shows up and tells Holly she’s going to make all her nightmares come true. The boys hold her as Geri dumps a bucket of leeches onto Holly. Kit plays it off as initiation into the counselors, and Mick tries to get Geri to stop when he thinks she’s gone too far. Holly thinks she sees Sandy watching but can’t be sure, being covered in mud and leeches and everything. They finally leave her alone, and she treks back to her cabin when she hears someone shouting in the woods. She sees John maybe chasing someone, but he plays it off to her. Well, actually he shouts at her to leave him alone. Holly is too frustrated and just walks back, and then she learns that Kit, Geri, and Mick are going on the wilderness retreat with her.
At dinner they notice Debra is missing. Since it’s not like her to be late, Holly goes looking for her. It’s also worth noting at this point Kit is wearing a gorilla mask, has climbed onto the ceiling, and is throwing down banana peels. How this boy is still at camp is a mystery. Holly notices John isn’t at dinner either. She goes to the arts and crafts cabin where Debra should be, and when she opens the door she sees blood everywhere, and Debra’s face left against the potter’s wheel, which has ground her face down into a bloody pulp. This has to be horrifying for anyone to see, and Holly is in shock. It looks as though Debra’s necklace had gotten caught in the wheel, but Holly notices that boxes of craft supplies had been pulled down as though there was a fight. Also in the necklace is a red feather. John walks in on her and then leaves her there to get Uncle Bill. I guess they don’t want any kids walking in on it, but I wouldn’t leave a single person to guard this carnage. Poor Holly.
The police come. Holly tries to tell them about the feathers and the accidents, but they don’t really listen. The next night the counselors are telling ghost stories, which seems pretty rude since a gruesome death just happened. Holly is mostly suspicious of John and uses the chance to sneak away and snoop. She goes to the boys’ cabins and goes through their things. Kit is actually a neat freak and has all his prank stuff bagged and labeled, as well as a box of stationary and letter writing stuff. John has a locked box. She tries to find the key to the box, but John shows up and asks what she’s doing. She gives one lame excuse, and when that doesn’t work she tells him the truth. He tells her to leave and then kind of threatens her. She walks past Mick’s cabin and sees some shakers that are tied with red feathers.
Holly tries to bring her suspicions to Uncle Bill, but once more he shoots her down. She goes to get ready for the wilderness trip, and she finds out John joined at the last minute even though he hates canoeing. Holly gets paired with Mick, who complains about it. They spend the day paddling down the river until they get to the camp spot. As they’re setting up the fire, Holly thinks she hears someone crying. She chases the sound and runs into John with a knife. John threatens her one more time, but a girl camper runs up and tells him to stop. See, he’d been sneaking around this whole time because he’s seventeen or eighteen and a senior camper is fifteen. His locked box was full of love letters and pictures, and he didn’t want to get caught. Courtney and him had been fighting because she didn’t want to keep secrets. John has a knife because they thought Holly was a bear. Reasonable explanations all around! It doesn’t give John the right to be a huge bag of dicks the whole time, but at least he’s not a murderer.
With our best subject gone, the narrative starts focusing on Sandy, so you know what’s coming. Sandy wakes Holly up really early to plot out the river with him. They get in the canoes and agree on going to the rapids. Sandy starts getting strange in the canoe and talks about his brother and camping out in Camp Nightwing, two things he’d been lying about. He tells her she’s been stupid and admits to murdering Debra because last year she’d been in charge of his brother while canoeing, and he’d died. He tells her everything, and then tells her she knows to much because he told her everything, and then he tries to murder her. She hits him with the paddle, and he goes down. The canoe is out of control, and she jumps out into the water and manages to make it to land. She starts walking back to the campsite assuming she’d murdered a man, but don’t worry, Sandy gets back up. He chases her, managing to injure her leg. Holly hides in a cave filled with snakes and throws one at his face, and then she runs into Mick. She assumes he’s there to murder her too why not, but he grabs her and they run back to camp together.
Police show up, Sandy is taken away, Mick admits he liked Holly all along despite being also a bag of dicks. Holly forgives him and has conquered her fear of snakes. Camp Nightwing may not survive the bad press, but it’s a happy ending anyway.
“I think I’ll write to my mom that you and I have gotten to be very close–very close friends.”
Fear Street Trends
The summer reads haven’t actually been that good for trends, but Stine’s got our back. Mick looks like Kevin Bacon (I feel like it’s been so long since we’ve had a celebrity impersonator), and Debra is introduced where an all denim romper (described as a short jumpsuit). There’s a long conversation about Friday the 13th and it’s many, many movies. Sandy wears $200 Porsche sunglasses which doesn’t sound like a thing but probably is. It’s pretty deliciously 90s.
This is one of the better summer reads, but that isn’t saying too much. The title is a total non-sequitor, especially since most of the attempted murders take place during the day. I kind of liked the string of red herrings. I’ll give it three red feathers out of five.