Sorry, guys! I meant to post this last week, and I got very, very sick so I ended up posting none of the things I meant to. But I’m back now! After really enjoying the first in the Fear Street relaunch, I decided to give the second one a try, and let’s just say this one shows a little more of R.L. Stine’s traditional style.
Here’s what I like about the cover (stolen from Goodreads): it plays into the central conceit of the story, which is It’s Scary to Be a Babysitter. I like the pop of red from her sweater, I think the colors are spooky, and while there’s still a weird filter over it, I overall enjoy this. I think the figure at the window is the least scary thing they could’ve chosen, especially because the weird brick wall behind it is distracting and looks like they paid a dollar for it off Canva. I don’t feel like it captures the tone of the book, which is not clueless babysitter is unaware of the danger she’s in. Lisa is constantly on edge and constantly feels like she’s in danger when everyone tells her she’s not. But otherwise a fairly good cover.
In the dead of the night, the evil one awaits.
Um. I feel like my complaint about the taglines was heard too clearly. This is not your generic tagline. This is very specific, and it still doesn’t really have anything to do with the story. I guess it kind of does, but you don’t figure out who “the evil one” might be until after you’re led through six other red herrings. It feels more like Satanists are going to come after her or something. I guess they tried. I’ll give them points for that.
We are introduced to Lisa in the worst opening line ever not written by a thirteen year old goth girl:
My name is Lisa Brooks and I’m a twisted psycho.
I guess Lisa’s supposed to come off as sardonic and slightly broken from her ordeal. She’s a bit of a bad girl in the not-prologue, meeting up with her friends when she’s supposed to be home studying. She’s not even doing anything bad, but her parents treat her like she broke a covenant. Anyway, we’re introduced to her friends and boyfriend, Nate, who’s an acrobat much like Corey was. He’s into scary movies and talks about his friend Saralynn a lot. Both of these things will come up later. They’re served cheeseburgers at Lefty’s by Rachel from the previous volume, restarting the ancient Fear Street tradition of recycled extras. She and her friends do a weird ritual where they pile their phones on the table, and the first one to ring has to pay for dinner. I’m not a hip cool teen, but do teenagers call each other anymore? Isn’t all texting and snapchatting? I do like the line where Lisa complains about her parents leaving her voicemails, because who listens to voicemails?
Saralynn mentions she has to do a video for a class, and she asks Nate if they can use all his horror stuff. He’s a huge movie buff and lists Evil Dead II as his favorite of all time, which I actually agree with (fight me nerds). Their friend Isaac, who’s in a Metallica cover band, offers to get blood from his cousin who works in a medical lab. They’re interrupted by Lisa’s parents showing up, and her dad demands she comes home with him right now. It’s mostly regular concerned parent stuff, but he does take it a little far dragging her out of the booth. It’s unclear if Lisa’s ever done anything to deserve this. She says she dated a guy with tattoos, but that doesn’t seem enough to warrant this. Anyway, he drives her home, and the whole family argues, until dad careens into another car and is instantly killed.
Lisa does not do well after the accident. The family dog ran away, and she has hallucinations sometimes, as well as vivid dreams. She runs outside at night thinking she hears her dog and sees a strange inhuman monster, but her mom pulls her inside and tells her she was sleepwalking. Concerned, her mom sends her to Dr. Shein. On her way to her appointment, Lisa thinks she sees the creature again, but it’s only Nate in a costume “used in an old Universal horror film back in the fifties”. Which, like, if this kid actually has the costume from the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a) his family is probs rolling in it, b) this kid’s horror credentials went through the roof, and c) why the flip is he wearing it outside? The kids are nice to Lisa, clearly aware she’s still struggling, and they invite her over to watch horror movies, though Lisa declines. Isaac asks her if she wants to see his band play, and Nate and Saralynn share a weird moment that makes Lisa a little jealous.
Lisa goes to see her doctor, who tells her that hallucinations after the accident aren’t uncommon, especially since she might have a minor amount of brain damage. Dr. Shein affirms that she is making progress, even though Lisa feels like she’s getting worse. Doc tells her to go back to school, thinking it’ll help her get re-adjusted, and she sets her up with a babysitting job so her off hours are taken up too. Lisa’s happy about this, until Dr. Shein mentions the house is on Fear Street. You don’t have a problem with Fear Street, do you, Lisa?
Lisa goes to Isaac’s band rehearsal, and it’s cringe worthy. He warns her away from Fear Street, and mentions they’re taught about the Fear Street curse in sixth grade history, which isn’t totally bonkers but is a little weird. Suddenly he kisses her, and she pushes him away, right as Nate walks up. Nate just tells Lisa they need to get going, and never mentions the kiss. Lisa knows he saw it, but she doesn’t know how to react to his no reaction. Nate doesn’t buy into the Fear Street paranoia and even mentions that Brendan Fear is a cool guy. They come up to the house, and Lisa goes in for her job interview. She meets Brenda Hart, who seems a little tired and a little young. She tells Lisa that for three days a week, she needs someone to pick up her son Harry and stay with him until she comes home after 9. She offers to pay Lisa three hundred dollars a week, which is a major red flag for me. Lisa mentions that she’ll have to work to earn her way into college, especially after the bad luck that’s been following her and her mom around. Brenda takes her to meet Harry, who’s a sweet looking boy with curly blond hair. He begs Lisa to let him stay up late, and she amuses him, but as Brenda takes her back downstairs, she warns her never to let Harry stay up late.
We cut to Lisa and Nate making out as Lisa recounts the story to Nate. The doorbell rings, and Saralynn and Isaac walk in, Isaac complaining about his band. There’s still some tension as Nate and Isaac joke with each other, neither acknowledging the obvious elephant in the room. The phone rings, and Lisa picks it up to hear Summer Lawson on the line, a previous girlfriend of Nate’s. She tells Lisa she’s in major trouble, and she has no idea about Nate, and then she hangs up.
Babysitting goes well. Harry loves having Lisa around, and he’s a pretty easy kid. After putting Harry to bed, Lisa chats with Nate, who’s kind of vague, and she wonders if he’s thinking about Isaac kissing her. She hears a noise and goes upstairs to see a monster darting from the house. She flips out and runs to Harry’s room to see if he’s okay. He’s nowhere to be found, and she starts tearing off his covers and looking under the bed. She finds him in the closet, and he tells her that someone came into his room. Lisa lies and asks him if it was a nightmare, and that seems to calm him. She gets Harry back to sleep, and Brenda comes home. Lisa doesn’t tell her what happened. Like a dummy.
Lisa tries to tell her mom what happened, but it’s clear her mom doesn’t believe her, and when Lisa accidentally knocks something over while she tries to convince her, her mom says she’s out of control. I’m starting to suspect Lisa didn’t have very good parents in the first place. Lisa returns to Dr. Shein, who suggests medication, and she continues to say this isn’t unusual, which sounds like a lie. Lisa gets a happy moment with the return of her dog, though, so maybe things are looking up.
The gang goes to the club to see Isaac play with his band, and again mention is made that you can be eighteen or older to buy beer. I’m completely certain that every state now has the drinking age to 21, but what do I know. The teen club is called the Hothouse now, though it sounds more like they let under eighteen in until a certain point. Nate goes to buy them drinks with a fake ID, and Saralynn offhandedly mentions he got caught last year, and says to Lisa that she doesn’t know everything about Nate. Lisa is mildly weirded out by this, if only because it makes Saralynn sound jealous. Isaac and his band go on, and they are terrible. Lisa goes to get another drink and runs into Summer, who she describes as “beautiful, like a goddess”. She warns Lisa that she’s in trouble, and when Lisa tries to get her to say more, she disappears into the crowd.
Lisa goes to babysit Harry again, and while she’s reading up on her science assignment, she gets a call from Summer. She lets it go to voicemail and tries to get back to her homework, when she hears a thud. She goes to the kitchen and finds Nate standing there. He says he was on his way to pick up his brother and decided to swing by, offering her a ride home. She hears Harry calling for her, and he’s crawled out of bed. She puts him back to bed, comes downstairs, and Nate is gone, but she hears noises again. She sees the creature on the staircase. She screams at it, it spits at her, and she charges it. She thinks she chased it out of the house, and then she hears a high, shrill scream. Lisa runs outside, sees nothing, and then runs back upstairs to check on Harry. He seems to be asleep. Brenda comes in, and Lisa debates telling her what happened, when Harry appears on the stairs, announcing that he stayed up late by faking sleep. Brenda is annoyed but sends him upstairs, asking Lisa if she’s okay when she sees her trembling. For a moment, she considers telling Brenda what she saw, but Nate honks his horn outside. Nate has scratches all over his face. Suspicious. He tells her he fell into a rose bush. They see something weird across the street, and Lisa goes to inspect it, discovering the body of a dead girl. Summer Lawson.
They’re brought to the police station and questioned again. They meet Captain Rivera, another striking move for diversity in the Fear Street series, tries to be friendly with the teens. Lisa’s mom tells him Lisa has “emotional issues”, and again, I’m starting to think Lisa just has bad parents. The media is calling it the Cannibal Killing, since apparently Summer had bits of her chewed up. Lisa admits she heard a scream that night, but her priority was on Harry. Her mom demands she tell the police about the creature she saw. Lisa admits to the police what she thinks she saw, and Captain Rivera isn’t a jerk about it. He asks her if it was a movie she saw, and when Lisa’s mom mentions the accident, he’s sympathetic.
Saralynn texts Lisa, but she ignores her. She’s a little suspicious of Saralynn’s relationship with Nate, and why Summer was out on Fear Street, and she’s thinking about Nate’s horror movie collection. At school, she sneaks out of study hall with Nate, and she tries to talk to him about the monster. He clearly doesn’t believe her, and he offhandedly mentions something Dr. Shein told her, making Lisa feel more suspicious. She remembers how Nate was all scratched up. But Nate interrupts her by asking about Isaac, and he tries to bring it up, but she dismisses it immediately. He offers to help her babysit on Friday to make her feel safe, and then offers to bring Saralynn too, which makes Lisa more suspicious. They run into Saralynn, who agrees to come over. Lisa walks away, not before hearing Saralynn say they should tell Lisa the truth.
Lisa goes to pick Harry up and asks about his sleep. Harry’s aunt tells her that he has a form of epilepsy, and if he doesn’t get the right amount of sleep, he could have seizures. Lisa is startled by this, but she’s promised so long as he gets his sleep, he’ll be fine. She takes Harry home. She tucks him in on time and amuses herself by flipping through the family photo albums. Photos of Brenda and her husband, family reunions, picnics, and then Lisa sees two familiar faces: Nate and Saralynn. Immediately Lisa calls Nate, but he doesn’t pick up. Brenda comes home after ten and asks Lisa how she’s doing. She wonders if Lisa is thinking about quitting the job with a murder happening so close, but she says Harry loves her, and Lisa admits she’s fond of him.
Lisa goes home and manages to get Saralynn on the phone. Lisa asks her about the photo, and Saralynn says, yeah, she told Nate to tell her, but the three of them are related, distantly. Brenda, Saralynn, and Nate are all vaguely second cousins or something. She says it was Nate’s idea to keep it a secret, getting more and more vague by the second. Lisa isn’t sure she can trust them, but Saralynn insists they want to help.
On Friday, the whole gang shows up to help with Harry. They all play Harry’s Xbox game and turn the sound down when Harry goes to bed. Lisa confronts Nate about hiding his blood relations, and he doesn’t say anything convincing. They study for a while, and Nate notes that Isaac hasn’t answered any of his texts, despite him supposed to be coming over as well. He decides to go pick him up. The girls chat for a little while, until Lisa gets up and sees the monster on the stairs. She screams and points to it, but Saralynn can’t see anything. Lisa has a total breakdown, realizing she is crazy, and Saralynn offers to call her doctor, but Lisa insists she has to check on Harry. When she gets upstairs, Harry is gone. They search the house, finding nothing, until Lisa hears something outside. It sounds like a fight, and some hissing, and general monster noises. Lisa goes outside and finds Isaac on the ground, dead.
They’re taken to the police station again. Nate says he was hunting for Isaac all over, but couldn’t find him, giving him a pretty good alibi that no one can back up. Rivera brings up her hallucinations again, and Lisa’s mom is no help. River than says he’s not accusing Lisa, but also is it possible that she’s the one doing all the murders? Lisa insists what she saw was real, but as soon as they leave, she breaks down again, saying she needs Dr. Shein, because she might actually be crazy.
Lisa gets put on medication, avoids Nate because she thinks he might be the killer, and doesn’t go back to work until Brenda calls begging her to come over, that she’ll pay her double, because she needs a babysitter. While babysitting, Lisa goes through the albums again, looking for any clue. She finds a picture of Harry with another girl in a blue sweater that’s only labeled “Joy”, though considering how unhappy the girl looks, it’s a poor description. Tucked into the pages is a letter from Joy, saying though she loves Harry, she can’t keep the job as his babysitter. The nightmares are too bad. There’s an address attached, and Lisa writes it down, determined to find Joy.
Lisa manages to borrow her mom’s car and drive out to the address. A woman answers the door, and when Lisa asks, she screams that joy is in the state hospital up in Martinsville. Lisa drives over there and sees the plaque that says the hospital was built by Jacobus Fear in 1911. I honestly adore the far reaching Fear family. It’s a little refreshing from the first run of the series, where they’d all disappeared. It’s a really bad depiction of a mental hospital, with people shouting random crazy phrases, sad moans everywhere, and a man licks her hand. Your usual description written by someone who’s never actually been to a mental hospital. She tells the nurse she’s Joy’s friend, and they let her in to see Joy. Lisa starts to ask her about Harry, but Joy flips out and calls him a demon and a monster. Lisa thinks she’s talking about Nate, but we all know the truth.
Lisa tries to get more information about Nate from Saralynn, who remains useless. Still, she goes to get Harry from his aunt’s house and walk him home, but she stops halfway there when she realizes his backpack is gone. She tells him to stay there and she’ll grab it, which is dumb, but it leads to Lisa going back to the aunt’s house to hear strange howls. When she opens the basement door, she sees three strange creatures that are almost human like, but hideous and malformed. She escapes, runs with Harry back to the house, and she calls the police, trying to play it cool the whole time. She gets Captain Rivera and convinces him to meet at the aunt’s house to search the basement, but, of course, when they get there, it’s empty. Lisa sulks as she goes back to Harry, who convinces her to let him stay up late. He asks her if she can guess why he likes staying up late so much, and he tells her it’s because he gets to change. She asks what that means, and then he does. He becomes that hideous monster she’s been seeing and snaps at her as Brenda comes in, shouting at the both of them.
Brenda scoops up the monster, that turns back into regular Harry. She tells Lisa she can’t leave, now that she’s seen Harry like this, and tells her it’s her fault that Isaac and Summer are dead, since she couldn’t do her job right. She monologues for a minute and then tries to stab her with a kitchen knife, and then Nate runs in and saves her. He attacks Harry, and Lisa runs for it. Apparently she does nothing about this new information until the next day, where she goes to Dr. Shein’s office. I guess she didn’t try to call Nate to see if he was okay, or ask Saralynn what she knew, or try and get the police again. She tells Dr. Shein everything, and Dr. Shein decides to put her in a hospital like the one Joy is in. Because it turns out Dr. Shein was in on it too! Lisa is calm though, because she lifts up her phone and reveals that she was FaceTiming this whole conversation to the police! How modern! The police arrest the mad doctor, and the day is saved, kind of.
Apparently the police kept the arrests and mad scientist business out of the papers, which seems ridiculously bonkers. Lisa takes up a job at a daycare center, appreciating how busy it is and how many kids she sees in a day. She’s a little sad about Nate, who did save her life, but is happy now that she’s not babysitting a literal monster. She’s introduced to a new kid, Sam, who is just Harry, who begs to be able to stay up late.
“Dr. Shein, do you see this phone in my lap? It’s connected to an app called FaceTime. Do you know what that is?”
“Yes, I know what FaceTime is,” she muttered.
Fear Street Trends
These kids get more and more fashionable. I guess because Isaac’s a musician, Stine actually googled some popular bands, so Vampire Weekend and Daft Punk get a shout out, as does a fake psychobilly band. Previous folks get a cameo, including Kerry Reacher and Rachel Martin. Lisa and Harry watch Kung Fu Panda 2 on Netflix, a weirdly specific choice, which makes me imagine Stine had to watch it with his grandkids, and Harry plays an Xbox game called “Candy Catastrophe” which is clearly Candy Crush, but on a console I guess? Lisa’s dad looks like Clint Eastwood, and her mom is a Denzel Washington fan. Harry reads a story by Willa Cather, who I googled to see if it was symbolism. I can’t tell.
Um… I don’t know? Admittedly it took me a minute longer to read this one, and the fatigue set in earlier, unlike say Party Games, where I at least felt the characters were doing something the whole time and not just milling around until the story caught up to them. It made very little sense, and it’s honestly nonsensical ending (how did the aunt move all those monsters?), I feel compelled to give it a low rating, but I’m also the one who constantly wants actual supernatural things to happen in these stories. It felt a lot more Goosebumps-y than Fear Street, which may not be a bad thing to the right person, but the thing I’ve enjoyed about Fear Street is it’s more thriller style nature, versus the kid vs monster style of Goosebumps. The death of the dad added almost nothing to the character and was only there to service the plot, and bad therapy is a major part of the Fear Street series, but it was egregious here, though I guess on purpose? I’m still going to give it two shapeshifting children out of five.
As a note, I’m taking a short vacation from this blog while I sort out the many, many projects I’ve given myself and prepare for summer reading. There will be no new reviews posted in May, and I currently have a plan for June, so we will see if that works out. I will tentatively say the next review will go up June 4 (my birthday!). Tentatively. See you then!