The cover (borrowed from rogersattic) is fantastic. Lily’s face, the teacher’s reaction, the only thing I don’t like about it is the tie, which looks like he’s getting blown back by some wind. I suppose they’re going for disheveled, but if he pulled away from her like that it’d be in front of him. This cover is the main reason I chose this book next. It’s too good.
Will Lily get an A in murder?
This is a fantastic tagline. Everything about it is delightful.
Lily Bancroft is talking to Mr. Reiner, a young handsome teacher who’s giving her a B in his class. He’s one of those teachers that demands more work than asked in order to get an A, which is such bullshit, and he’s kind of rude to Lily when she tells him she needs to bring her grade up. When he refuses to raise the grade, she imagines choking him to death and storms out of the room. She runs into her BFF Julie and says she wants to murder him, and Julie gets really sad because her brother was murdered. Julie’s also way into mystery books, possibly unrelated. They see Alex, Lily’s boyfriend, when they’re at the library, and he’s kind of a jerk? He gets mad really easily and always thinks Lily is mad at him. They also run into Scott, who is the editor for the school literary magazine. They talk about the paper a while, and Lily leaves to go to work.
See, both Lily’s sisters graduated valedictorian, and she feels massive pressure to do the same, and she needs scholarships to get into college. She works a lot of hours to cover extra expenses. Her main rival is Graham, Julie’s cousin, who drives expensive cars and doesn’t think about things like affording college, which makes it all the more annoying that he’s beating her out for valedictorian. He’s also her main competition in a statewide trivia contest to which the winner is afforded a five hundred dollar prize. He’s kind of a jerk to Lily. This will be a theme.
At work at her uncle’s drug store, she tries to do her homework at the desk, when a dude comes in and pulls out a gun, demanding all the money in the register. Uncle Bob comes in, and Lily remembers that Julie’s brother died in a robbery. She freezes up, and Uncle Bob comes over under the guise of getting out the money, but instead he opens up another drawer that has a pistol in it too! This is like a Shadyside thing, where people just keep loose guns in drawers anyone can get into. I live in Texas and this is not an issue I’ve ever experienced. Uncle Bob manages to scare off the robber just as Rick, another employee comes in. Lily calls the police while Rick chases after the robber.
The police come, Rick comes back, they’re all questioned. The store’s still open I guess because Lily goes back to the counter and tries to concentrate on her homework which seems impossible now. Rick kind of hits on her, and she tries to get him to leave her alone. Finally Lily gets to go home, and she’s scared by every shadow. Alex greets her and tries to hang around, but she brushes him off for homework, and he gets angry again but agrees it’s important. They’re clearly not that great for each other, which makes their eventual breakup all the more obvious. Lily’s parents come in, make sure she’s okay, and then sick mom starts laying on the pressure to do good. Lily stays up to work on her homework when she gets a phone call that’s just a breathy voice repeating her name.
The next day Lily goes to school early, thinking of ways to convince Mr. Reiner to give her a better grade. When she gets to his classroom, she finds him behind his desk, blood everywhere. Smash cut to his funeral. It seems like rumor got around that Lily was really mad at Mr. Reiner, and since she was the one who found him, people are suggesting she might’ve done it. It is a little telling that when they get back to class and Lily learns she has a few more chances to raise her grade, she immediately feels better. When Graham implies to her that she’ll get an A now that he’s dead, she does flip out on him, and when she gets another strange phone call, she assumes it’s Graham and shouts at him some more.
Lily goes to the literary magazine meeting where she talks to Scott some. He compliments her a lot, and then Stine copy-pastes his notes about how a printing press works. They decide on the cover, and Alex comes in as Lily chooses one. He’s openly jealous of Scott, who he’s certain has a crush on Lily. Like I said, doomed relationship. Lily goes off to work, and it’s jerks all around because Rick is there, giving her a hard time about the teacher dying, and making a joke about her giving him a push. She gets really mad about that, and when he hits on her again she tells him to buzz off. She starts suspecting the phone call might not be Graham, but Rick instead, since her life is currently filled with an excess of jerks.
The trivia contest happens, and it’s down to Lily and Graham. All the questions are about Shadyside, which seems weird in a statewide competition. Graham makes snide comments while she tries to answer, throwing her off her game. He lets her know he’s got all As in all of his classes, putting him in top spot. She gets really mad, especially when she sees how much fun he’s having. She needs this money to pay for school, and he’s just doing it because he can. Lily bungles the last question, meaning she places second and does not win the prize money.
Lily, despondent, walks home and runs into Rick. He creeps on her some more, and she asks him if he’s been calling her house. He admits he has, and she flips out on him, telling him to leave her alone. She’s second in the rankings at school, she can’t get anything right for the magazine, and all these jerks are in her life. She’s feeling pretty crummy when she goes after work to see the printing press. When she gets there, she’s early, and the place seems empty, except for the dead body crammed in the printer. She sees Graham there and straight up faints, which makes it all the more suspicious when her friends show up and find her next to the body.
The police rule it an accident, but Lily feels like everyone suspects her of a second murder. At the funeral, she imagines Graham’s corpse accusing her, and she feels like Julie is very cold to her. Lily gets very upset at the funeral and goes home, where she finds Graham’s glasses in her purse. She throws them at the wall in horror, and someone knocks on her door. Scott shows up to comfort her, and when she tells him about the glasses, he tells her knows she didn’t murder Graham, because he did!
Scott goes full stalker, telling her he loves her and he killed Graham for her after Mr. Reiner’s accident, because he wants her to have top spot. He planted the evidence in her things so she couldn’t go to the police about it. He expects her to love him back, but he’s not stupid. He tells her if she calls the police, he’ll tell them she planned the whole thing, and they were in on it together. She says she needs time, and that seems to make him leave, but she doesn’t know what to do about any of this. This is the point I’m checking page count, because I still have half a book to go, and we’ve already got our twist.
At school, Scott tries to get Lily alone, but the rest of the magazine crew comes in. Scott tells them they’re dedicating the issue to Graham and that they’ll all write pieces about him. Lily is disgusted and leaves before he can say anything to her. Julie drives her to work, and Julie tells her she’s sorry about being cold to her, and that she’s convinced Graham’s death was a murder. Lily, despite being the smartest kid in school, is a huge dummy and has no idea what to do with this. She doesn’t lead Julie to Scott, and she doesn’t really try to convince her otherwise. When Scott calls her that night, trying to convince her to break up with Alex, she tries to come up with an excuse not to and blurts out that Julie suspects murder. Scott threatens her, obviously, and she agrees to go on a date with him so he’ll stop.
Lily runs into Alex right before her date with Scott, and it’s super awks. She convinces Graham to drive somewhere outside of Shadyside for a movie, and somewhere even further for dinner. They end up in a pool hall that’s kind of run down. Lily has absolutely no idea how to play into this or how to bide her time, which I guess is true of many teenagers. Rick comes in and sees them and has almost a pleasant conversation with Lily before Scott ruins it. When he drops her off, he awkwardly kisses her, and she shoves him away before running inside.
If Lily was expecting Scott to play it cool, she was messing with the wrong psychopath, because the first thing he does when he’s in a room with her and Alex is drop that they went on a date. Lily tries to play it off, and he’s like nah dude we hooked up. Alex demands an explanation, and Lily can’t give it to him. They break up, about damn time. Lily goes to work, and Julie calls her to tell her she knows who murdered Graham. She kind of tries to convince her she doesn’t know anything, but it’s half-hearted. She’s horrified when Scott comes in, and she’s openly abrasive to him, which makes him mad. He tells her they’re together forever, and she shouts at him that Julie’s figured everything out, which is the dumbest thing a person could do. Now he has to kill her.
Lily tries to tell him they can talk her out of it, but he tells her to call Julie to meet them at the printing plant. Lily takes the gun from the register drawer and threatens to shoot him, but he takes it from her and holds her at gunpoint. They drive to the printing plant to meet Julie, and when she walks in, Lily shouts at her to run. Julie’s also kind of a dumb and just stands there. Scott tries to convince her that Lily helped him murder Graham, and Julie gets confused and sad. And, like everyone who’s ever held a gun, Scott tries to get as close to Julie as possible to shoot her. There’s a struggle, Scott shoots her, and in a rage Lily takes the gun from him. She demands he call the police, and he tries to talk her down as Julie’s corpse somehow rises up from the floor. She picks up a metal bar and cracks it over Scott’s head.
The police show up, as does Uncle Bob, who’s the first family member to respond to Lily’s call. He tells her the gun is fake, a starter pistol meant to look like the real thing, which is how Julie survived. Rick is there too, and Julie instantly starts flirting. Lily tells everyone she’s done with school, everyone laughs, freeze frame, credits roll.
Lily hesitated, thinking about her homework. Then she thought, Hey, I was nearly killed tonight. “Good idea. Let’s get some pizza!”
Fear Street Trends
There aren’t as many trends, but there are a few awkward moments of Stine trying to keep up with the times. Julie is mocked for liking mystery novels instead of watching MTV, and Graham’s first greeting to Lily is “Hey–whussup?”. Lisa Blume makes a larger than average cameo and is portrayed as a gossip mongerer who may be the reason the rumor about Lily spread so far. The movie Scott and Lily see stars Winona Ryder. Graham drives a Porsche which probably isn’t outside of the realm of possibility but feels a little like, “Hey, what would a rich guy drive?”
I wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I did. The twist came too early, the blackmail wasn’t very persuasive, and Lily’s just not a fantastic protagonist. Three bloody newspapers out of five.