The cover (pulled from its Amazon page) is less than nothing. What is this even supposed to be? A blank red texture, a knife, and a stock photo? Y’all couldn’t even try? Also it took me a while to notice that this is “episode one”.
You’re invited to… DIE!
Y’all couldn’t even try. The ellipses aren’t even in the right place!
What? Does this book come with a fully stocked cast of characters page shaped like a yearbook???? You know it does! I carefully photographed them with my phone like a professional and put them below. Peruse at your own leisure.
It’s the last day of junior year! Bell rings, kids get out, and they’re now officially seniors! (Is that how it works? I wouldn’t think they’re technically until school starts in the fall, but we have to get this party started.) This is where we meet our impressive cast of characters. Josh is our main, and he passes by Dana and Marla, Mickey and Gary, Matty, Debra and Clark. Mickey and Gary are bullies, as is Josh, who passively sits by and calls people nerds, and Matty’s the fat kid who makes jokes at his own expense to keep in with the cool kids. Marla and Dana are the hotties, and Debra is Josh’s girlfriend, who he sees necking with Clark, the local goth. He wears all black and keeps his hair slicked back, so everyone calls him Count Clarkula. This’ll be important when Josh goes off the deep end.
Josh walks up to his girlfriend as Clark descends on her neck. He shouts her name, and both of them turn around, looking super suspicious. Debra tells him Clark was only helping her get something out of her eye, the absolute worst lie anyone’s ever told, but Josh is willing to believe it. Clark stalks off, and Josh tries to talk to Debra, who’s clearly uninterested. Sorry Josh. Leave her to the goths. But Josh thinks Clark is too big of a geek for Debra to be interested in, so he let’s it drop.
It’s okay, because Josie, Josh’s step-sister, comes running into the scene to break the tension. She’s livid because she got a D in trig, even when she did a ton of extra credit. It’s mentioned here she needs to get on honor roll for her parents to get her a car, but later her teacher says she has Bs and Cs in other classes, and I’m like, Josie. Maybe you’re just a bad student. Josie screams that she’s going to kill him and then storms off to talk to him. Thanks, Josie, for your contribution to this scene. Then their friend Trisha runs up and immediately collapses in front of them. They both run over to help her. Trisha tells them she had “the most horrifying flash”. Yup. Trisha’s a psychic. She’s also super rich. Her dad built the mall in Shadyside, which I think how everyone who’s rich in Shadyside got their money. Trisha tells them she saw the whole of the Shadyside seniors laid down in their coffins, dying one by one. Debra tells her that’s not true, that she’s just stressed, but Trisha clearly believes it. Josh tries to lighten the mood by reminding them of the killer party Trisha’s gonna throw, and she tells them she’s canceling it. She had another premonition of a girl sprawled out on her floor dead during the party. Josh and Debra tell her it won’t come true, and Josh tells her to have the party anyway, that nothing bad could possibly happen.
There’s another scene with Josh and Mickey that’s really unimportant except it reinforces the whole “Clark might be a vampire” subplot and also I think Mickey’s like a little gay for Josh? Just a little? Much like in Goodnight Kiss, Josh comes to believe in vampires over something completely innocuous, this time a wire sculpture of a bat. Josh also gets a threatening phone call from someone saying they’re gonna drain him dry. I also forgot this book is separated into parts, even though they’re totally unnecessary. (Did I add that to Fear Street bingo? I don’t remember anymore.) Part One consisted of five chapters. Part Two takes place on the same day, now starring Josie, and also takes place over about five chapters, though it feels more like two thanks to the length of them. I know YA as a genre is still new and innovative at this point in our history, but considering some of the door stoppers destined to come out during the height of the YA boom, these books feel incredibly juvenile.
Josie goes to meet her teacher, Mr. Torkelson and ask about her grade. Josie came to state her case, but she pretty much stammers out complaints and tells him she can’t have a D. When he tells her he rechecked her exam grade three times, she shouts that she had the flu during the final. He points out that Marla Newman also had the flu during the exam and got a perfect score, and gently mentions that she probably should’ve just taken a make up exam. Josie goes into a blind rage hearing about her mortal enemy, the perfect and gorgeous Marla Newman, made even worse when he mentions her brother gets good grades in math, and she fantasizes about smashing him over the head. This scene is almost entirely lifted from Final Grade, and I’m starting to wonder how hard Stine was phoning it in this book.
Josie stumbles around the school, seeing Ds everywhere she goes. She runs into Deirdre Palmer and Jennifer Fear, her two BFFs. Deirdre teases Jennifer about being a Fear, saying she casts evil spells and she’s a witch and the usual. Jennifer is clearly pissed every time she does it and she does not stop, but don’t worry. They go over to Jennifer’s creepy old house across the street from the Fear mansion, which Josie thinks is definitely haunted with the ghosts of old Fears, and they go into a room full of books on witchcraft! Jennifer’s mom flips out later when she finds them with the books and tells Josie they’re dangerous, and it’s like why even have them? Get rid of them. Throw them in a fire. Josie pulls out a book simply called The Spell Book (catchy) and flips to a page called DOOM SPELL. Deirdre insists they try it on Torkelson. In a great bit of timing, Josie tells them they need black candles, to which Jennifer responds, where would we even get those? Luckily Dierdre finds them in a carton from one of the shelves. It’s said several times that Jennifer’s family renovated the house, so this spell room had to be left in on purpose.
They start the spell. They feel wind blow in, candles flickering out, cold pressing against them, and just as the last candle is about to be blown out, Jennifer’s mom comes in. Mrs. Fear apologizes for interrupting their seance, but she looks real nervous. Hey, Momma Fear? Maybe if you found your daughter practicing black magic in a family history of that sort of thing, you say something? The girls rush off, but Josie pauses. She finishes the spell, imagining Marla and Torkelson being affected by the spell. As the last candle goes out, a figure in a red robe moves towards her, the face beneath its hood only a skull with a two-headed snake slithering in its open sockets. It reaches out to strangle her, and she’s shaken from her vision by her friends. She quickly puts the book back.
Josh, Mickey, and Josie go to the mall and run into Marla, who’s snide and condescending towards Josie. Josh gets distracted as they walk past a CD store and see Debra and Clark together. He walks up to them, and Debra quickly makes excuses, but Josh turns on Clark and asks if he’s behind the threatening phone calls. Clark tells him no, of course not, before skedaddling. Josh asks Debra what’s going on, and she tells him vaguely that she’s “drawn” to Clark. When Josh points out that they’ve been together a lot, she snaps that she’s not his property, and she can talk to whoever she wants, which is true. But, Debra, dear, your boyfriend getting jealous because you have a male friend is a little different than your boyfriend getting jealous because you’re dating someone behind his back. One of these is valid.
Josh wanders out, thinking about how Clark is so goth, and when he gets home he gets another threatening phone call. Now there’s a shadow outside his door, and it is Clark. Returning a sleeping bag. Lame and random. Moving on. Josie wakes up the next morning thinking about how she has to find a job because Marla stole hers. Her friend gives her a call to meet her at the school to retrieve a sculpture project she left behind. When she gets there, Clarissa is nowhere to be seen, but she does see Mr. Torkelson driving towards her. He holds his hand out the window to wave right as a delivery van rams straight into him. He’s slammed into a wall, and blood is pouring out of the car like a fountain. She runs towards the wreck and screams when she sees what’s lying on the ground. His hand, severed, blood spewing from it like a river, and its fingers still reaching to her.
Josie tells her friends that she finished the spell, and now she’s a murderer. Jennifer reminds her that magic isn’t real, and Deirdre tells her it was just a goof. Josie tries to call Marla to warn her, but Marla plays her off and hangs up on her, leaving Josie alone with her guilt. Meanwhile, Josh is hanging outside the movie theater, waiting on his date. Debra stood him up. He tries calling her house. No answer. He drives around and decides to go to Clark’s house. This puts things in a weird perspective. Clearly Josh and Clark know each other well enough that they know where they live, and also borrow things from each other. But Josh treats Clark like some weirdo he never talks to. Inconsistent writing or a character history being hinted at? You decide. He parks down the street and can see the two of them in the window. At first it looks like Clark might be biting Debra’s neck, but they’re just making out. He watches for a long time, which is weird. He knows vampires aren’t weird, but Clark’s so weird, and also Debra’s been pale and tired lately. Probably from all the sneaking around.
He leaves after Debra does and finds Mickey and Matty. He’s pretty sure vampires don’t exist, he tells them, and Mickey decides they need proof. That’s right, folks! It’s time to break into someone’s house again! My only explanation for Shadyside being the way it is has to be the evil has contaminated the water supply for so long. They drive back to Clark’s house, now empty and quiet, and sneak in through the window. The evidence they find is: a black cape, a book titled Lives of the Vampire, and dirt spread across the bed. Josh is now convinced he’s a vampire. He returns home, to hear his phone ringing again. He braves up and answers it, only for Trisha to be on the other line, calling from her cellular phone (fancy), to tell him the party’s back on! After hanging up on her, the phone rings again, and this time it’s Debra, yelling at him for spying on her and thinking he owns her. Again, valid complaints under normal circumstances, but she’s leaving out the fact that she ditched her boyfriend to make out with someone else. Josh tries to tell her Clark’s a vampire, which she doesn’t believe, and she breaks it off with him. What you should’ve done forever ago, Debra.
Party time! Finally! Josh drives up to Trisha’s mansion, complete with gate and security guard. There’s food and music and the grounds are huge. He sees Mickey with a girl, tall, beautiful, redhead, but the two of them are arguing. She shoves him hard, and he shoves her back. They seem to be getting into a physical fight, and Josh starts towards them, only to be interrupted by Pheobe Yamura. They have a quick conversation, and when he turns back around, the two are gone. Well, no need to break up that domestic dispute. What a good friend Josh is. Trisha is dancing with bad boy Gary Fresno, who is also someone else’s boyfriend, and then the redhead is next to Josh. She gives him a shove, ans asks if he’s Mickey’s friend. The two flirt for a long time, and she introduces herself as Saralynn. His eyes catch Debra and Clark in the crowd, and he decides to spend the whole party with Saralynn, making her jealous, and immediately forgetting that she and Mickey are clearly a thing. What a good friend Josh is.
It’s fine, because a thunderstorm sends a downpour over the party, and they all race inside. Trisha announces this is perfect, because now they can play a murder game! She hands them all cards, either a victim, a suspect, or an investigator. Marla draws victim. Josh and Phoebe get investigator. Mickey stumbles into the party, blood marring his face. He tells them all he tripped and slammed his face into his car by accident, but Josh can’t help notice that they look like scratch marks. He thinks about his fight with Saralynn. Then does nothing. What a good friend Josh is.
Trisha tells the suspects and the victim to go into the next room and make up a scenario. They have to choose how the victim died, and who did it. So it’s less of a game and more of a theater workshop. After a while of waiting, they hear noises from the other room, and Josie screaming help. Josh immediately rushes in, and they find Marla on the ground, dead. For reals. Trisha flips out, because her vision came true. Hey, Trisha, why did you plan a murder game at your party where you had a vision of someone getting murdered, Trisha? They all panic, trying to think of who could’ve murdered her, and Josie belts out that she did. It’s all her fault. She tells everyone about the Doom Spell. Jennifer tells her it’s not her fault and tries to get Josh to comfort her. They try to call the police, but the phones are dead. Trisha’s cell phone is in the car her parents took. They agree to go to a neighbor, or maybe just leave, and they all head out into the rain. But as soon as they get to the gate, it’s padlocked. They’re locked in.
They make it back to the house. Josh notices some people are missing, including Clark and Saralynn, and as they walk back into the dining room, they find Marla’s body missing. As they try to figure out who moved it, Josh also notices Mickey. He’s dry while the rest of them are soaking wet. He points that out, and Mickey tries to make excuses, just as Jennifer sees a dark red stain against the closet door. They open it, and Saralynn falls out, also dead. They quickly turn on Mickey, who announces he did kill them, and he’ll kill again, before he grabs Josie and drags her into the next room. Josh races forward, knocking Mickey to the ground. They rassle. Mickey gets real close to Josh’s face, and I’m like are they gonna kiss? But no. Mickey starts laughing and announces that he can’t do it anymore.
Saralynn gets up and Marla pokes her head in, asking if the game is over. You guessed it, folks. It’s another of those classic “pretend there’s a murderer on the loose” games Shadyside kids like to play so much. Trisha announces the joke is over, and Josie’s livid. Marla laughs and asks her if she really cast a spell on her. Josie darts off, just as Clark descends the stairs, floating, cape out, fanged teeth grinning. Trisha tells him he’s too late, that the game’s already over. He’s disappointed after he did so much research and even tried to get into character by sleeping in dirt.
Josie doesn’t hear any of this. She’s in the bathroom, calming herself down. She can leave, she thinks, and be a laughing stock, or just party on. Reapplying her lip gloss like armor, she steps out into the party. Josh tries to talk to her, but she tells him she’s fine. Then the doors swing open, and a red robed figure floats in. People notice and start to congratulate Trisha on another prank, but the figure looks at Gary and tosses him against the wall, where his head splatters. Some R-rated gore and violence happen in this chapter. Trisha gets her head squeezed like a grape, Marla gets punched in the chest and her heart just falls out, Phoebe gets her head twisted off, and Josh’s arms are ripped right off.
Josie runs for it. She gets in her car and drives all the way to Fear Street, finding Jennifer’s house. She knows it’s too late to save them, but she has to try. When Jennifer’s mom opens the door, she makes up an excuse about needing a CD and sneaks past her to the library. She tries to find a reversal for the Doom Spell, but finds something else entirely. Time Spell. It can help her go back in time and stop this from happening. It’s only an hour, but it’s an hour she needs. She performs the spell and finds herself back int he bathroom, right before everyone’s dead. She tries to think of how to get everyone out and knows she can’t convince them. She goes to the doors, where the red robed figure makes its appearance, and she does, well, she does nothing. It looks at her, taps the glass, and then leaves. Cool.
The only mystery left is who made those phone calls? Josh goes up to Trisha, and she tells him it was Matty, duh. He told everyone. Josh is reasonably embarrassed by this, and he walks back to the food spread, before he treads on something. He lifts it up, showing it to Trishsa. They’re the plastic fangs Clark was supposed to wear. Never opened. He turns as Clark walks out the door with Debra. Smash cut to black. Credits. Music.
“Know who else has a crush on you? Her sister Deirdre.” Josie slapped her hands over her mouth. “Oops. Forget you heard that. It just slipped out.”
Fear Street Trends
There’s a good bunch of trends here. Debra’s described as “a clean-cut Kate Moss.” Who’s like a model. I’m not sure how much more clean cut you get than that. Marla and Josie where vests over t-shirts, pretty fashionable, and Debra wears a blue crop-top with blue shorts on her date with Clark (very matchy matchy). Mickey and Matty are playing Madden ’99, such a pull that I’m assuming that’s something Stine’s son played at the time. My favorite description is of Josie when we first meet her: “She wore a short black skirt over black tights and a black vest over two t-shirts.” Was that a thing in ’98? Were we wearing two t-shirts at the same time? And, of course, Trisha is shown to be rich and cool by having her own cell phone, with terrible reception.
This book seems pretty generically Stinian. A lot of it feels pulled from other books, from the vampire subplot to the curse ghost, to the party games. Probably the only thing new in it is the time travel, though last Halloween we saw a time traveling ghost, so even that I’m not sure. I will say Final Destination came out in 2000, while this book came out in 1998. Make of that what you will. I’ll have to give it two Mortal Kombat finishes out of five.