This one I’ve been putting off for a while for a few reasons, but my low bank account and a pile of Fear Street books donated to me by a friend meant this time around I went old school and read a real physical book (and ran out of sticky tabs doing it). Get ready for some hospital horror…
The cover (taken from a Buzzfeed article, bleh) is alright. There are things I like about it. I like the element of “something hidden going on at the hospital”, or the sweet innocent girl chatting with what should be a normal man, but the colors are just too bright and pastel. I think there’s a more dynamic way of having this image without it just being a man with a knife behind his back. Definitely could be better.
In this hospital people are dying–to get out!
It’s an obvious choice and I don’t hate it. I think a “what goes on under the knife” might be better, though there’s no actual surgery element to the book. It’s just kind of meh.
There’s an unnecessary prologue where Laurie is running through an unconstructed area of the hospital with a man chasing her. She’s grabbed, and her thought is “where is the knife”, which is a bonkers thought, especially when we get context later, but it’s a title drop.
We cut to one week earlier where Laurie and her friend Skye are playing candy striper in the kids wing on the ninth floor of Shadyside Hospital. They note the new wing under construction thanks to a big donation by Franklin Fear, descendant of the Fear family,and the wing will be named Fear Wing, which seems like a bad idea for a hospital, but whatever. Skye tells her she’s bringing more toys for a sick kid in one of the rooms, and there’s a running joke that he’s constantly getting new presents. As Laurie goes to run her errands, she hears crying in room 903 and finds a sick little boy named Toby. His room is bare, no balloons or toys or anything, and he doesn’t talk at all. She comforts him a little after reading that he has pneumonia, when one of the nurses walks in and tells her to get out. The nurses are all portrayed as mean and snappy, but there’s also a lot of mention going into how overworked they are. It’s a little weird, and I think Stine just didn’t want us to think he hated nurses or something when he made them all so mean.
Anyway, Nurse Wilton says the boy doesn’t talk at all, but Laurie is pretty certain he’s pleading with her, and not just because he’s sick. When she sees Skye again, she asks her if she could steal some balloons out of the other kid’s room so she can bring them to Toby, and Skye says the kid probably won’t even miss them. They also talk about a raffle for a red Mercedes-Benz that Franklin Fear is putting on to help pay for the wing, which is used as a plot point later on. We get some more girl talk. Skye makes plans with multiple boys and then decides who to drop last minute, while Laurie has been dating the same boy, Andy Price, son of the hospital director, who she’s trying to figure out how to dump. There’s a weird jab about Dr. Price being his step-father, which I think is meant to exonerate Andy later in the book, but we never really see the two of them interact, so whatever.
They’re interrupted by a handsome man entering the cafeteria. Rick is constantly described wearing loud t-shirts, and today his shirt says WRONG WAY GO BACK. He’s also a student volunteer, but he’s also in his second year at college, which will make his later flirtation with Laurie kind of creepy. He says he’s going to medical school, but a code blue gets called and he’s confused by it, and the girls explain it to
the readers him. Laurie thinks the code is for room 903, and she runs off, hoping that Toby is okay.
She runs to the room, and Toby is flailing under the care of Nurse Wilton, but it’s only because she’s trying to get blood from him for a test. The code was for room 503. Laurie offers to help, saying she can calm Toby down, but the nurse tells her to get out. Laurie walks back to the nurses station and overhears the nurse there talking to Toby’s mom, Mrs. Deane, who wants her son out of the hospital. Nurse Girard lets her know Toby will likely be going home the next day, but they have to be sure he’s out of danger. Laurie sees Nurse Wilton leave the room, and she sneaks back in. She tells Toby what the nurse said, and she holds his hand until he’s asleep. As she leaves the room, she sees someone enter the restricted construction zone and realizes it’s Rick.
Laurie goes home, to her aunt’s house. Her parents are dead, and she lives with Aunt Hillary, who’s a big name accountant and often works late. While she’s feeding herself, alone in the house, she gets a phone call, and like many phone calls in these books and other horror media, it’s just breathing on the other end. She starts to hang up until she notices the wail of an emergency vehicle in the background. The phone rings again, and this time it’s Rick Spencer, who asks why she left the cafeteria so quickly. She tells him a little bit about Toby, and then asks him why he was wandering around on the ninth floor. He tells her he wasn’t. He then asks her out on a date, but she tells him she’s already taken. In the background, she hears the siren again. When she asks how he got her number, he says Skye gave it to her, and she quickly gets him off the line. Out of curiosity, she calls Skye next, asking her directly if she gave out her number to Rick. She says no, and in true friend fashion asks if she should. All this proves is that Rick is a big fat liar.
The next day, Laurie talks to Andy a little bit, and despite her saying she’s looking for a way to break up with him, they seem to get along fine. She sneaks off to work early and buys a teddy bear for Toby, but when she gets up to his room, it’s empty. At first she flips out and assumes he’s dead (I don’t know why), but the second she walks to the nurses’ station, she sees him with Mrs. Deane. She notices Rick is the one talking to Mrs. Deane, and Toby runs over to her while his mom is distracted. She gives him the bear, he thanks her, and says his first words when she tells him to head back to his mom, those words being, “She’s not my mommy.” Laurie is stricken by this, especially when Toby says she’ll be mad if he tells her who she really is, but Mrs. Deane calls Toby back over before Laurie can ask more questions. They walk out, and Laurie asks Rick why he’s on the children’s floor and what he was saying to Mrs. Deane. He makes up a bunch of excuses and asks her out again, and she starts to tell him no when the phone rings. As she reaches for it, she sees a box of surgical knives open on the desk, and it freaks her out a little. Rick answers the phone, writes a note, and then picks up the knives, pocketing them. Laurie is shaken.
Laurie wants to know why Rick is lying to her, but she more importantly wants to figure out who the woman who took Toby away is. She sneaks into the patient record room and finds Toby’s file, copying down his address which is, you guessed it, on Fear Street. She tries to think of an excuse for going over there and remembers that she’s selling raffle tickets for that car in the lobby. It’s the perfect reason to knock on the front door. She starts to leave but sees Nurse Wilton right outside the door. Unsure how to escape without being seen, she thinks to wait her out, and when that proves it isn’t going to happen, she just makes a run for it. Nurse Wilton sees her, and she escapes to the elevator on the far side, letting the doors close in Nurse Wilton’s face. She’s shocked to see a person lying on a gurney beside her, monitoring equipment jutting out of the sickly woman, and the orderly demands she get out. She ducks out on the next floor, which says restricted personnel only.
She looks back at the elevator, but it’s moving up again, and she’s worried Nurse Wilton might’ve seen what floor she got off on. She runs through the unfamiliar halls and ducks into the first room she finds. It’s freezing cold, filled with metal tables, and when she puts her hand down on one she realizes she’s touching a corpse. It’s the anatomy lab, where medical students dissect corpses, and they are everywhere. Outside she hears a jangle of keys and realizes she’s been locked in. She starts to slam on the locked door and accidentally knocks over a skeleton, gains her balance by grabbing onto the first thing she finds, a hand that ends at the wrist, whirls around to see a severed head with its skin peeled back, and as she slams her fists again on the door, she thinks she sees something moving behind her. When nothing does, she makes herself breathe, realizing hysteria is getting to her. Calmly she re-examines the door and finds the deadbolt, manages to unlock it, and runs back into the hallway. She runs back to the elevator and stops again, this time seeing Nurse Wilton talking with Dr. Price. At first she thinks Nurse Wilton is complaining about her, but she realizes even she couldn’t be crazy enough to take a minor problem to the head of the hospital. Too traumatized to think about it, she finds another set of elevators and gets the fuck out.
When she meets up with her friends later, Laurie tells them what happened, and they joke about it with her. She asks if they’ll come with her to Fear Street, since she’s too scared to go alone. Skye makes them agree to go with her, though Andy is unexcited, and while they joke about it, when they actually get there, they’re all quiet. Since the houses don’t boast numbers, they split up the raffle tickets, and Skye and Laurie go up to the house they think is the Deanes. Mrs. Deane answers the door and seems annoyed by them, but to get them out of her hair she goes to grab her purse and make them leave. Laurie hears someone crying from inside, and when Mrs. Deane doesn’t return, she barges in. She sees Toby on the stairs and starts to talk to him, but he doesn’t seem to recognize her, and then Mrs. Deane shows up, yelling at him to go back to his room. She throws the dollar at Laurie who runs off, and the others demand to know what happened.
Laurie tries to figure out what to do about this development, and while she should call child services and be done with it, she gets called into the head nurse’s office instead and is told she’s being transferred out of the Children’s Floor. She sort of tries to explain the situation, but she’s told she’s been getting a lot of complaints, and if it’s true that she broke in to look at patient records, she could be fired. Laurie’s sent to the X-Ray Department to file for the rest of her life. She decides to go talk to Nurse Wilton to explain the situation, but when she finds her, the nurse is walking into the construction zone, and Rick follows her. At first, Laurie waits for them to come out, but after a long time passes, she follows them in. The construction area is barely done, and there’s all kind of strange shadowy shapes lying around. She almost walks through a hole in the floor and stops herself. When she turns around, she realizes one of the shapes is Nurse Wilton, a surgical knife sticking out of her neck.
Laurie flips out and runs back to the nurses station, grabbing Nurse Girard and Skye. Neither of them really believe her or do anything about it for a full minute, but they agree to go with her to collect the body and call security to the ninth floor. Laurie points security to where she found the body, but then she realizes there isn’t one anymore. Skye is enraged because she thinks it’s a big joke Laurie is playing, and then a doctor arrives, asking if another doctor put the girls up to this. He tells them he’s been playing a game of gotcha with one of the other physicians, and Skye says yes, of course, this is all a big joke. Laurie is convinced Rick killed the nurse, and she’s also convinced it’s connected to Toby somehow, though I don’t really know how she made that leap in logic. She goes to the patient records office again, but this time she can’t find Toby Deane’s file. Someone has taken it.
Nurse Wilton doesn’t show up to work again, but no one believes Laurie when she tells them the truth. Laurie’s convinced something is happening on Fear Street, and she drives to Toby’s house again. She watches for a while. She sees Toby in the kitchen with another woman who sees to be trying to comfort him, and he has a suitcase with him. Mrs. Deane and a few men arrive, picking up Toby and his suitcase and putting him in a car despite his every protest. She hears another child crying inside. Laurie tries to figure out what to do next and decides to talk to Dr. Price, since it’s his hospital. At no point does ‘call the police’ enter into her thoughts. She sprints back to her car and sees a Honda drive past slowly. As soon as it sees her, it backs up quickly, and a man gets out, Rick. He starts to call her name, and she drives away.
Laurie gets home to find it empty. Andy calls her, asking if she wants to watch a movie with him, and she asks if she can talk to his dad tomorrow. He starts to initiate something, asking if her aunt is home, and if not, can he come over, and she quickly hangs up on him. Alone, freaked out, and feeling like she was followed, she calls Skye and asks if she can sleep over, but changes her mind when she hears the door open, assuming her aunt is home. She calls Aunt Hillary’s name, and with no response, she realizes the person isn’t her aunt. In a desperate attempt to pick up the phone again, she knocks everything over, but is saved when the front door open and Aunt Hillary walks in for reals this time. Laurie runs to her, tells her there was someone in the house. Aunt Hillary says she saw a car leave just now, a Volvo, which is what Andy drives, but when Laurie tells her someone broke in, she starts to call the police. Laurie stops her for some reason and starts to tell her everything, but like everyone else, Aunt Hillary refuses to even entertain the notion that she actually saw any of this.
Laurie tries to go to sleep and is woken by a phone call from Rick. He tries to explain things to her, and she tells him she saw him steal the knives. He says he did take them, that he was bringing them to a doctor on the surgery floor, and then makes a joke asking if she thinks he stabbed anyone with them. She demands to know why he followed Nurse Wilton and why he was on Fear Street tonight, and he tells her to stay away from Fear Street.
The next morning, Laurie goes over to Andy’s house bright and early and pretends she’s interviewing his dad for a project. She goes into Dr. Price’s office and quickly tells him what she saw. He’s the first person to react like a person. When she tells him she suspects Nurse Wilton has been killed, he calls the office and asks about her schedule, and is told she’s gone on vacation for three weeks, explaining her absence. She then tells him about Toby and how his records disappeared. He then tells her she must be overworked or misunderstanding things. He offers to talk to the head nurse and put her back on the Children’s Floor, as well as have someone follow up with Toby, but it’s clearly a pacifying technique. As she walks out, she and Andy get into a fight, and she tells him to leave her alone forever. This goes nowhere.
Laurie goes to the mall to meet Skye and doesn’t have too much fun shopping. She’s surprised, though, because she sees Mrs. Deane there with Toby, who cries and struggles as she pulls him into her car. She does not mention this to anyone. When she gets home, she calls the Deanes, unsure of what to do, and tries to talk to Mrs. Deane about the raffle. Over the phone she hears Toby calling her name, and then hears Mrs. Deane strike him. She hangs up and runs straight over there.
She breaks into the house and is hit over the head for it, waking up tied to a chair. Mrs. Deane is there, talking on the phone to someone, saying they need to deal with her and her aunt before it gets out of hand. Toby finds her, and she asks him to get her some scissors so she can cut the rope. She asks him about the boy who got into the car, and he tells her it’s his twin brother Terry. As she cuts herself free, she hugs Toby and tells him to be quiet, and she can get him out of here. She picks him up and runs back to her car, driving off as Mrs. Deane calls after them. She pulls over briefly to call her aunt and warn her and is told she’s at the hospital, waiting for Laurie to come pick her up.
As Laurie drives to the hospital, the radio sputters on to say a car was found in the Fear Street woods, with Nurse Wilton inside of it. Laurie thinks to call Dr. Price, certain an autopsy will reveal the true cause of death, and they pull into the parking lot. She realizes Rick’s Honda is right behind them, and she picks up Toby, racing inside. Leaving Toby with a nurse, she gets on an elevator for the ninth floor. Rick is running in after her, and she isn’t sure if he saw her as the doors close.
She runs to the nurses station where she’s supposed to meet her aunt, but she isn’t to be found. Rick then enters the floor, momentarily distracted by Nurse Girard. Laurie looks for a place to hide and runs into the construction area. Rick follows. We get a chapter that is the prologue, once more with clarity, and when he grabs her he pulls her away from the hole she was about to step into. She screams for help, and then Rick is hit from behind. Dr. Price tells her it’s safe to come out. For a moment, she thinks she sees a knife sticking out of Rick’s back and screams that Dr. Price killed him, but on further inspection it’s another of Rick’s loud t-shirts. Rick starts to wake up, and he tells Laurie not to trust Dr. Price, that he was the one who killed Nurse Wilton, and that he’s been kidnapping children and selling them. Laurie’s frozen as she doesn’t know who to believe, and then Dr. Price lunges for her, removing a gun and pressing it to her temple, and he starts backing up towards the open hole in the ground. He takes one step too many, and they both fall through, but Laurie is caught by Rick. He drags her up, and they’re both safe.
As they wait for the police, Rick explains everything. His sister was kidnapped from a hospital, and he’d been searching for her, which led him to Dr. Price. He guesses that Dr. Price killed the nurse and hid her body under a sheet, pretending to be an orderly to get her out of the hospital. Aunt Hillary says she’d been at the hospital doing some auditing of the books and found a strange extra fund that no one seemed to know about, undoubtedly related to the selling of children. Laurie and Rick kiss for some reason, he makes a bad joke, and the day is saved.
A descendant of the Fear family, Franklin shared a family trait with his ancestor Simon Fear–he liked to have things named for him.
Fear Street Trends
Skye and Laurie are both a fashionable bunch who take care in their clothing. When Laurie gets down to business, she puts on a pair of distressed jeans, and she likes cable knit sweaters for comfort. Skye says Rick looks like Tom Cruise, and his graphic tees are tight enough that they can see his muscles. Besides his knife and wrong way shirt, he’s said to wear a Batman shirt (that looks like a mouth?) and a Harley Davidson tee. He’s a pretty fashionable guy. Toby is described as wearing Oshkosh overalls at one point too, which I think was supposed to add to his innocent look. Skye has that “skinny girl looks good in everything” look going on, and is mentioned to make even their volunteer uniforms look good.
I’m wobbling on this one a little. I ended up liking it a lot. It’s less repetitive than the other Fear Street books, and there weren’t as many “gotcha” scares. Just about every scene moves the plot forward, and the hospital setting was probably helped by my just finishing a replay of Silent Hill 2, so I was in the mood to be creeped out. Despite it’s strange plot, I think it is one of the better and creepier Fear Street books, so I’ll give it a four dissected corpses out of five.