I like the cover. The girl looks lonely, though she’s dressed a little matronly for fun college weekend. The man shape is sinister, though the building just sort of fades away and its relation to that bench is questionable. Still, a good cover.
She was just dying to visit her boyfriend…
It’s pretty plain, but not less than I’d expect. I might’ve played up the isolation factor, but this is just fine.
There is a completely unnecessary prologue to start us off. Josh and Tina are talking on the phone, with Josh being kind of distant, and they discuss their plans for the weekend. There’s kind of a mislead about Josh and Holly disliking each other, but since we never see Josh throughout the whole book, it doesn’t come into play. It seems like a tone setter, but it really should’ve been removed entirely.
Tina and her cousin Holly are on the train into Patterson College. Holly is supposed to be her chaperone, but she’s here to party and meet college boys, meaning Tina is the good influence. As they get off the train, the whole place is abandoned. They ran an hour behind, and the train was already coming in late, so it seems Josh ditched them while waiting. They see someone outside and run to them, but it turns out to be a drunk shifter who accosts Tina for her money. They’re saved by Josh’s roommate, Chris, who scares the guy off.
Chris tells them Josh went on a geological camping trip with their friend Steve and their car broke down, meaning they were waiting for the mechanic to fix it and probably wouldn’t be home until midnight. Chris drives them to the dorm, and Holly babbles about all the colleges she’s visited in a genuinely funny dialogue. Chris has some obscure band that Tina loves playing in his car. He talks to her about modeling, since he’s a photographer and that’s her dream. His uncle is Rob Roberts (definitely not a placeholder name), who is some famous photographer. Chris offers to shoot some pictures of her, and she’s like nah bro I’m spending the whole weekend with my man.
Chris drops them at the dorm, where Holly and Tina get comfortable while they wait on Josh. Tina gets nostalgic over Josh’s stuff, seeing all his geology things and a prom picture of them, but she notes all of the photos she sent him aren’t there, even though Chris mentioned them, and the prom photo isn’t the one she gave him, since she wrote him a note on the back and it’s now erased. She’s feeling kind of skeeved when a girl comes in the room and shouts at Tina, “I can’t believe it!” This is Carla, who tells Tina she looks just like (dramatic pause) someone and then gets cagey about it. She’s dating Steve, and Tina knows them from Josh’s stories. Carla went to high school with Chris and Steve, and she trashes Josh for flaking on Tina. She’ll continue to do this through the whole book to a point where it gets a little weird.
Holly asks Carla about Chris, and she tells them his high school girlfriend drowned in a boat accident. He’s never really gotten over it, it seems, though it did happen last summer. Chris comes back into the room, saying he forgot something, and Carla invites them out to a party. Holly’s ready to go out, and Tina agrees that it’s boring waiting around for Josh. Tina goes into the closet to change, and she sees Josh’s hiking boots still sitting there.
Chris drives them to the party. Tina tries to get in the back so Holly can sit up front, but he asks her to sit with him. She mentions the boots, and he tells her Josh had just bought new boots with money from his new job, none of which Tina knows about. She’s mildly embarrassed that Josh seems to be keeping things from her so she doesn’t push. They get to the cool college party, where there’s girls with nose rings and tattoos, which makes Tina feel like a dumb high schooler. Carla takes Holly to talk to some of the theater kids (her perspective major), leaving Tina and Chris alone. A slow jam comes on, and they dance. After getting claustrophobic and going outside, Chris totally makes a move on her, and they kiss. Carla interrupts them, and Tina runs back inside, deciding it’s time to leave. She looks for Holly. Searching for her, she thinks she sees a bunch of dudes on motorcycles driving away with her cousin.
She runs to tell the others, but Carla plays it off, telling her she left with some girl named Alyssa Pryor, who they know from Shadyside. Alyssa must’ve taken her to the drama building to show her off, which confuses Tina, but Carla treats it like no big deal. Tina also presses on Carla not to tell Josh about the kiss, and Carla’s just fixated on the fact that Chris is finally into someone after his girlfriend’s death. Carla also tells her that kissing other people while dating someone is totally vogue, man. I don’t know what Stine thinks goes on in college, but I love it.
They get back to the dorm. Tina’s still nervous about Holly, and Josh isn’t back. Chris offers to take her to where he’s crashing, but she just wants to go to sleep. He leaves, but calls again ten minutes later, letting her know Josh called and the car trouble means they’re staying overnight and won’t be back until tomorrow. She goes to sleep angry, and in the middle of the night she’s woken by a strange sound, like the door opening, and a weird clicking noise. She gets up and turns on the light, but no one’s there.
Distracting herself, she cleans up Josh’s desk and finds his keys still sitting there. This confuses her, and when Chris shows up, she asks him about it. Holly’s still missing too, and she calls information for Alyssa’s number, but it comes up with no listing. Chris tells her sometimes the drama kids crash at the theater, and she’s probably with them. They go over to the theater, but it’s empty. Chris takes her to the student directory, and when she calls she gets the answering machine. The voice is strange though, and she tells him it’s not Alyssa. Chris plays it off. The campus carnival is setting up, and he tries to convince her to go, but Carla shows up and tells them Josh and Steve called. Carla’s going to go pick them up, and when Tina offers to come with her, she flips out and says no. She explains she has a two-seater, and Chris offers his Jeep, but when he mentions waiting for Holly, Tina realizes her place is here. She starts suspecting Carla, though, and that maybe she’s trying to get with Josh.
Chris tells her she has to relax, and they go rent motorscooters (???? is this a cool fun thing?) and drive up to Lookout Point so he can take pictures of her. They drive back to the carnival after all, and they’re having fun together, though Tina misses her boyfriend. She runs into a friend from high school, who asks her about Josh. Chris gets kind of weird. When she mentions Holly and her running off with Alyssa, her friend tells her Alyssa transferred to a college in Seattle. Tina starts flipping out, assuming Holly is kidnapped or in a ditch or dying, and Chris tells her they can’t go to the police yet, and even if they did her parents would get really mad, and Tina doesn’t know what to do. Chris buys her a frozen banana and takes her to the Ferris wheel. Tina hasn’t really calmed down, and she looks out over the crowd, trying to spot her cousin. Chris takes a few more pictures of her, and the ride sticks at the top. He takes the opportunity to kiss her some more. For a second Tina is into it, but she remembers her boyfriend and pushes him off. When he goes for it again, she tells him to stop, and he gets angry. He starts rocking the cab, scaring her, calling her a tease, and she feels trapped. She thinks she’s falling, but luckily it’s the wheel turning again.
Chris starts apologizing and asking if he scared her. Tina tries to play it off but she’s super freaked out. She tells him she wants to go back to the dorm, and he drives her back, except they’re going the wrong way. When she complains, he tells her he’s taking her to his studio so he can get some more pictures in. The studio is in the basement, and it is this moment I basically start imagining the end of Life is Strange. Tina’s still kind of freaked out, but she wants to be photographed by a real photographer with connections. She goes through his portfolio, and he seems to do good work, but she finds a picture of a girl who looks almost exactly like her, except with dark hair and green eyes. She also sees a picture of the boat, and when she asks about it, he gets cold and angry.
She starts putting on makeup, and he helps her. It gets weirdly intimate as he does. When she goes to get her outfit, she finds all the dresses and clothing are in her size. They take a few photos, and she’s starting to enjoy herself again. She asks after the dresses, wanting to buy one, and he gets distant again. He tells her they were all his dead ex-girlfriend’s, and that skeeves her out. She suggests changing, but he starts ordering her around more, getting more pictures. He takes a wig and places it on her head and then focuses the camera, but he isn’t taking pictures anymore. He starts calling her Judy, and now Tina is legit scared. He talks to her like she’s his dead girlfriend, so grateful she’s back. Tina sets him straight gently, and he seems to snap out of it, but he still wants to take pictures. She tells him no, she doesn’t want to do it, and when he starts getting mad again she decides it’s easier to play along. He gives her a dress that belonged to his great-grandmother, which in context of his dead girlfriend raises too many questions.
Tina puts her clothes on underneath, getting ready to run. While changing, she finds more pictures, including one from last night, while she was sleeping in Josh’s bed. He orders her around some more, and then she asks him for a soda. While he goes to the fridge, she makes a run for it. She manages to unlock the first door, but Chris made her go barefoot, meaning she cuts herself on a large piece of glass, and when she gets to the top of the stairs, that door is locked too. Chris marches after her, shouting and calling her Judy again, and he threatens to kill her again. He drags her back down, and now he’s just pantomiming taking pictures. He doesn’t even have a camera. Tina decides enough is enough and tries to fight him, but he’s too big. He throws her in the dark room, locking her in. She manages to find something to wrap her foot with, and she turns on the light, only to find every picture in the room is of her. Some of them are the pictures she sent to Josh, others are just parts of her body enlarged. She finds the prom picture, the original, and Chris had scratched out Josh’s name and replaced it with his own, and the ones he’d taken since, including one of her scared as the homeless man accosted her. She finds a metal cabinet, and when she pries it open, Josh’s dead body falls out.
Josh’s whole biz is mad wrecked thanks to Chris throwing some chemicals on him. Chris comes back into the room, still calling her Judy. He says they’re going somewhere. Tina tells him people will search for her, that he’ll get caught, but he tells her people don’t search for the already dead. She grabs a tray of chemicals and throws it in his face, but it turns out to only be water. He throws some chemicals at her, scarring her arm. She distracts him by saying Josh is getting up, and when he turns, she grabs a heavy metal tripod and strikes him over the head.
Chris is now down for the count, and Tina’s focused on getting out. She hears a noise from another door and opens it, only to find Holly tied up and scratched up. Holly did come back to the dorm around four, but Chris jumped her and trussed her up. They both go to get out, but Chris is back on his feet, waving scissors around. The girls run and are stopped as the door opens, and Carla and presumably Steve come in. Chris yells at Carla to stop the girls from running away. Tina begs Carla for help, and Carla ignores her, going to Chris instead. Steve is equally concerned. The girls shout that Chris killed Josh, but Carla tells Chris they’ll help him. She tells him that they’ll get “Judy” to pose, and that they can even take a picture of him with her. When he goes to get his camera, Carla takes the scissors from him, and then shouts at Steve to hold him down. Steve does so, and Carla tells the girls they were only playing along until they could safely hold him. They call the police, and while they wait, Carla tells them Chris had lied to her, telling her that Josh was seeing another girl, which explains her behavior all weekend (though not why she lied about Holly but whatever). Steve knew that was a lie, and when Carla told him, he set her straight. Luckily they got back just in time. Tina remarks she’ll never be able to remove this weekend from her memory, and then smash cut to credits.
“I know I’m going to be different when I go to college. I’m getting my nose pierced, definitely. And maybe a tattoo.”
Fear Street Trends
I was a little worried this book, like many of the summer reads, would be disconnected from the rest of Fear Street, and it was. Luckily it made up for it in major fashion choices, and the overly long descriptions of Chris’ excess.
Carla is introduced wearing tight jeans over “a beige bodysuit” which sounds like an awful look. Bodysuits as fashion have showing up elsewhere in Fear Street. Was this a thing in the early 90s? I honestly don’t remember it. It could have been. Weirdly, when changing for the party, party girl Holly puts on a tight red sweater and jeans, which is a very 90s look, but also not a very sexy party girl one, especially when a paragraph later Tina is describing the skintight dresses and miniskirts she brought. At the college party, cool girls have piercings and are wearing minidresses with thigh high stockings.
Chris’s over the top richness is perhaps my favorite part of this book. His Jeep has a top of the line CD player and a car phone. Car phones had to be such a flash in the pan, and I’m not sure anyone actually had one. Honestly half this plot would be impossible after the prevalence of cell phones. How did people communicate with each other before that? How did you go to a party and lose your friend and then just deal with it? I love living in the future. Chris also has “a color MAC with CD-ROM and a laser printer” which may be the best thing I’ve ever read in a book. He also offhandedly mentions having a calling card in the same breath as pulling out ten credit cards, so I think that might also be a rich people status thing.
I ended up enjoying this way more than I expected. Chris was very creepy, Tina was a good protagonist, and the end scene was really strong. I’ll give it four acid-eaten faces out of five.