The cover (pulled from its Goodreads) is really good. I like the high school setting of the pictures taped up in a locker with the blood valentine. The girl leaning away from it looks good too, though I wish she had a hand over her mouth or something. The only real issue I have is the placement of the tagline, which is kind of forced into the only blank space it can find.
Valentine’s Day can be a killer.
I don’t love it or hate it. It functions, which is more than can be said for a number of the Fear Street taglines. I do appreciate the double meaning to it.
Erica McClain is in the backseat of Melissa Davis’ blue Firebird with her two sisters, twins Josie and Rachel McClain. They’re on their way to go horseback riding, and Erica’s excited to be invited along. She’ll enter high school after the summer, while her older sisters and Melissa are already part of the scene. The girls set up their romantic relationships so you’ll be surprised when they change after the timeskip. Josie’s dating a guy named Jenkman, though she mentions being bored of him already. Josie’s established going through boys like tissue paper. Rachels’ with her boyfriend Luke, who she’s been dating since they were freshman, and Melissa goes out with Dave, one of the boys Josie dated and dropped.
They arrive and get on their horses, but Erica gets too nervous. She tells them she has an upset stomach, and the girls tease her. Rachel rides out without a helmet on, which is not foreshadowing or anything. They ride out, chatting about school and boys and each other, when Rachel loses control of her horse. It runs forward, until a dog runs in their path, spooking the horse, and Rachel is thrown. Josie screams that she landed on her head, and then it’s smash cut to February.
Melissa wakes up from a nightmare where she’s the one falling from a horse. Her mom wakes her and they talk about the accident. Melissa mentions she doesn’t talk to Josie anymore, but she tries to see Rachel, who is left addled by the accident. Melissa admits Josie blames her for the accident, though she doesn’t specify why.
Josie is in the middle of a snowball fight with her boyfriend Steve. They walk into her house, where they’re greeted by Muggy, Josie’s dog. Josie’s surprised that she still likes Steve after going out with him for five months, and as they makeout in the front hall, she sees a valentine for her. When she opens it, she finds a death threat instead. Steve thinks it’s just a joke, but it freaks her out. She assumes her ex Jenkman did it, since he’s never gotten over her. They start kissing again, and in true Shadyside fashion, a pair of hands reach out and start choking Josie. It’s Rachel, playing a joke, but at least she has brain damage to excuse her behavior. Erica’s not far behind, nor is Luke, who’s been loyal to Rachel even after she’s lost some brain function. Erica asks Josie to look after their sister while she studies, and Josie blows her off, causing Erica to get really mad. Steve tries to help out, but Josie tells him to shut it, and Luke gets into it as well. Josie storms out.
Erica and Luke are super pissed that she’s not pulling her weight with Rachel, who can’t be left alone and they can’t afford care during the day. Luke starts growling about how he can’t believe Josie would abandon her own sister, especially because he blames her for the accident, since she fastened Rachel’s saddle, which is pretty meaningless when a horse is bucking. Erica thinks that Luke might’ve sent the valentine.
Erica finds Josie after school and tells her it’s her turn to take care of Rachel, since she has play tryouts after school. Josie brushes her off and Jenkman, who chases after her to say hi. He gets mad when she ignores him and curses at her. Erica shouts at Josie that it’s her fault Rachel is this way and immediately regrets it. Josie doesn’t respond, because she’s hit in the back of the head by a snowball. She sees Melissa and Dave and shouts at them, then storms off, leaving Erica with Rachel.
Melissa tells Dave to stop being a jerk, and he says he hates Josie. Melissa says Luke told her Josie doesn’t take care of Rachel anymore, and Dave calls her out for dumping people, including Melissa and her own sister. They watch Jenkman break some windows and discuss all the people that hate Josie.
Josie comes home, her mom gone, her dad out of town, her sisters upstairs. Luke’s waiting for her and calls her out for refusing to take care of her own sister. She gets mad at him for the lecture, shouts at him for acting like her dad, and tells him he’s not even part of this family. He lunges at her with a letter opener and slams it into the table instead. He kind of acts momentarily like he has no control, screaming no and whispering, “Almost.” For half a page I was wondering if this was going to turn into a weird Jekyll and Hyde thing, but the second a character is presented as an obvious murderer, I stop suspecting them, especially this early in the book. Erica calls them on the intercom and asks Josie to come up, and she tells her maybe later. She then finds another threatening valentine.
Josie’s woken up in the middle of the night by Rachel on the intercom, and she goes to check on her. Rachel is fast asleep. It happens a few more times, and then she thinks she hears breathing on the intercom and can’t sleep. Erica’s taking care of Rachel the next day, and Rachel wonders if Josie doesn’t like her anymore, then shouts that she hates Josie. The phone rings, and Erica picks it up. Jenkman on the other end asks if Josie got his valentines, to Erica’s shock.
Melissa and Dave go in for a math exam. Dave’s really worried about it, since he’s doing bad in math, and he’ll be kicked off the wrestling team if he doesn’t pass his classes. Melissa tries to reassure him while Josie brushes past to her seat. During the test, Josie gets up and whispers to the teacher that Dave is cheating off her test. Melissa overhears and realizes how much trouble Dave’ll be in, which comes to pass at the end of clas. He comes out of the room swearing because now he’s got a zero on the test, which is half his grade. He physically grabs Josie and shouts at her, who shouts back that he was leaning all over her to cheat. He slams a locker and storms off.
Josie meets up with Steve, too tired because Rachel calls her all night, unable to go home because Erica and Luke will be waiting for her, scared because of these threats. She admits to Steve that she can’t look at Rachel because she feels so guilty, and Rachel will always be like a child now, who needs the help of her family, and she feels as helpless as her sister. She’s mad because Erica makes it worse, always trying to guilt her. She loves her twin sister, but she can’t stand to see what happened to her. She shows him another valentine, and Steve wonders aloud if Jenkman is the one sending them. For a moment, she think she sees someone watching them from the food stand, and she asks if they can leave.
Josie’s dropped off at home, and as she walks in, she sees a dark red puddle on the ground. At first she tells herself it’s cranberry juice, but as she sees the shape on the floor, she recognizes Muggy, stabbed to death with a letter opener. Erica comes down when she hears her scream, as does their mom, who calls the police. Rachel sees the dog and starts smiling and laughing. Melissa sees this from across the street after letting in Dave, who’s still complaining about Josie. They see the police pull up, and two officers walk in.
Josie tells Erica she knows who did it. She blames Jenkman. Erica lets her know Jenkman explained that Jenkman’s been sending her romantic valentines because he’s never gotten over her. Erica thinks it might be Luke who’s doing this, but Josie calls him a wimp, despite the fact that he nearly stabbed her the other day. They go put Rachel to bed, and Rachel sings that, “Somebody hates you, Josie.”
There’s some more red herrings, but Valentines Day arrives. Steve takes Josie to the ice skating rink. Rachel’s still singing that somebody hates Josie, and Josie blows her and Erica off, but not before seeing Luke sitting alone in his car in front of Melissa’s house. They leave, Josie clearly in a bad mood. We then cut to Erica waking up at 2am to find that Josie isn’t home yet. She calls Steve, who tells her he left Jose hours ago, after they had a big fight, and she left with a bunch of friends. She’s interrupted by a knock at the door and opens it to find the two policemen. They get her mom, and they let them both know that Josie’s been murdered. Rachel seems pleased about this.
The next day, Melissa gets a call from Dave, asking her to meet him. They go to the Corner, and he confesses that he’s the one who sent Josie those valentines. He was angry at Josie for ruining his life, and Melissa is appropriately horrified by this. She asks the obvious question: Did you kill Josie? Dave insists he didn’t, but his writing is all over those valentines cards that the police are definitely going to find. She asks him where he was last night, and he says he was cruising around after ten, to which Melissa replies he has no alibi. They try to figure out if she kept them, and Melissa says Erica hasn’t talked to the police, that she’s in a state of shock. Dave says they’ll be at the funeral tomorrow, and he’ll have to break in and take the valentines, which would definitely not be a super suspicious move. I don’t know why Melissa doesn’t offer to go and try to find them under the guise of reconnecting with her grieving friends, but then the rest of the book wouldn’t happen.
Dave breaks in, and it goes about as well as expected. He thinks he hears breathing in the intercom system, and when he goes downstairs, he sees blood everywhere, right as the police bust in. Erica’s been stabbed, and he’s caught holding the weapon.
Smash cut to a year later. Melissa and Luke are now dating, and she tells him she got a letter from Dave. It turns out Erica didn’t press charges, since she never saw who stabbed her, but he got shipped off to some boarding school because the whole school suspected him of murder. Luke invites her to the skating party on Valentines Day as Melissa picks up a valentine meant for her, one with the same writing and mean stanza as the valentines that threatened Josie.
Erica’s brushing Rachel’s hair, and Rachel flips out because Luke won’t becoming this year. She screams that she hates Melissa, and Erica tries to calm her down. The phone rings, and it’s Steve. Steve calls to ask Erica if she wants to go to the skating party with him as, you know, like a date, which is a super weird thing Steve you were dating her sister who also died tragically so like. Don’t. Erica tells him she can’t. She has to take care of Rachel. She returns to Rachel, feeling crummy, only to find Rachel’s run out of the house. She finds her, but she’s disturbed to learn Rachel’s been leaving on her own lately.
Melissa gets more cards and is still freaking out. She and Luke compare the handwriting to Dave’s, but in the middle of it, she gets a phone call from Dave’s mom saying he broke out of his boarding school and might be coming here. He’s coming for Melissa.
Melissa goes to sleep and hears someone at her window. A shadowy figure breaks in, and it’s Dave, here to clear his name. He’s pretty cavalier about it. He’s making jokes and treating it not very seriously when one of their friends died. He claims to know who the real killer is, and she shows him the valentines that she’s been receiving. He looks at them, sees that they match his handwriting, and he says he knows who the killer is without telling Melissa, and hops back out the window.
Some other stuff happens. Rachel keeps saying she can go outside by herself. Melissa thinks she sees Rachel outside her window. Dave is killed in Melissa’s driveway, and Rachel’s questioned by the police. Melissa finds red paint in her locker spelling out YOU’RE DEAD. Melissa and Luke go to the ice skating party and skate together. Luke drags her out onto some thin ice, and she has a panic attack, thinking he might be trying to murder her. They fight, and she tells him to skate away. A hooded figure with red hair skates towards her, and at first she thinks it’s Rachel. A knife is plunged into her side, she grabs at the figure, pulling off the red wig, and it’s not Rachel, it’s Erica!
Of course Erica is mad Josie never took responsibility for Rachel, ruining Erica’s life in the process, and she took the opportunity Dave’s valentines provided to kill Josie. She copied Dave’s handwriting and bla bla bla. They both go into the thin ice and are dragged into the water. Luke manages to pull Melissa out. Erica is trapped beneath the ice, and the whole party watches her drown.
Melissa goes to visit Rachel, and she and Luke promise to never celebrate Valentines Day ever again. It’s a happy ending after all.
Why do people want to kill people on Valentine’s Day?
Fear Street Trends
David Metcalfe and Corey Brooks make appearances as Steve’s friends on the wrestling team. Despite being a book about dating, not too many outfits are described, and no music is listed at the party. A shame. I wanted to know which hip dance crazes these kids were doing, though, to be fair, at the last ice skating party I read in these books, the kids just listened to Christmas music.
I’ll admit, this book wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was pretty easy to guess who the killer before we even hit the halfway point, but there were lots of things I liked. Rachel was probably the best red herring in the book, and Josie being unable to deal with her guilt and grief comes off as fairly genuine. It’s not my favorite, but I’m still willing to give it three red wigs out of five.