A Fear Street Christmas Special – The Snowman

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I was trying to figure out what to do for the last update in December, especially since last year I burned through the best material. Luckily, I work in a library, and just about every day we get book donations, and sometimes an R.L. Stine book appears in that mess. So today’s sampling is not from Fear Street, but rather from the Point Thrillers series, which had a number of YA horror writers submitting books for it, including my second fav Christopher Pike. (One day I may have to reread all of the Last Vampire series, but saints help me on that day.)

The Cover

the snowman

This cover (borrowed from YA Revisted) is actually very good. I’m a little disappointed I could only find the high contrast images of it, because I feel like the softness is lost, and that’s part of what sells it. The headless snowman is a cliche but good image, and the footsteps leading to it hint at something sinister. I think what sells the beheading is the scarf standing just above, hinting at what would be a neck otherwise. Overall, a good image.

Tagline

A cold-blooded killer.

Also a good tagline! Dang, this book is killing it. Short, sweet, sinister, gives nothing away. Like with the cover, it’s minimal, but that makes it good.

Summary

We open on a familiar scene to any Fear Street reader. Heather fantasizes about murdering her Uncle James in various ways, from letting him freeze in the snow, to tossing him off a roof. She imagines this while making out with her boyfriend. Their makeout session is interrupted by Uncle James himself rapping on the window. He shouts down at Heather, tells her she needs to head off to her job, and tries to humiliate Ben, who skedaddles. Heather’s so mad she shouts that she hates him before driving off to her job at the mall.

Heather reveals that her parents died, and she was left a large inheritance, but her Uncle James is her guardian and refuses to allow her to touch it. She suspects he’s stealing from it, as he’s made a few big purchases lately in cash,  but since he doesn’t let her access her accounts, she can’t know. She keeps her job to have money to spend, mentioning that she has three thousand dollars in her bank account, but her uncle doesn’t even let her use that. She works at a greasy diner in the mall and hates it, but she needs the money.

As she works, she meets a boy with tanned skin, brown eyes, and snow white hair. She seats him, and they chat a little. He tells her he just moved to town and introduces himself as Snowman. They get flirty, and Heather can’t stop looking at him. When she brings him his check, he pats down his pants and realizes he doesn’t have his wallet. Heather’s cool about this and offers to cover it, and he offers to make it up to her on Saturday. He asks her on a date, and she’s eager to say yes. It’s not until she walks to her car and sees Ben that she remembers she has a boyfriend.

Heather makes up a lame excuse for why she can’t go out with Ben on Saturday. We cut to her getting ready for her date as her uncle shouts at her. Snowman comes to the door to pick her up, and her uncle is extremely unpleasant and kind of racist? Snowman tells her uncle and aunt that his name is Bill Jeffers, and Uncle James refers to him as “just a mutt”. Uncle James bullies him with questions, all of which Snowman breeze through, until he brings up his dad. Snowman lets them know he’s dead now, and when Heather gets him out of the house, he tells her his dad was way worse than her uncle, and he knows just how to handle him. On their way to go dancing, Snowman gets paranoid and thinks a car is following them, pulling over to the side. He mentions to Heather that his family is struggling, and he doesn’t have any money, which she’s very cool about.

At school, Heather looks for Snowman in class, but she doesn’t see him. She runs into Ben instead, who says he called on Saturday night, and her uncle told him everything. Heather feels more upset that her uncle ratted her out than guilty that she snuck around behind Ben’s back. Ben quickly cements his place as the nicest boyfriend anyone in these books has ever had. He tells her he can’t stop her from seeing someone else, but he thought they were supposed to trust each other, and he’s disappointed.

Heather does feel bad when Ben dumps her, but she sees Snowman some more, and she learns more about him. His mom works two jobs, his brother is sick, his dad died suddenly, and he struggles a lot with money. The pair of them find a secluded spot in the park and build a snowman, and meanwhile Heather finds a black car following her home. She thinks Ben might be stalking her. Snowman insisted on having dinner with Heather and her family, which is going as well as you can expect. When Snowman mentions his mom is a nurse, so it’s hard for her to have dinner ready for her kids, Uncle James makes a jab about how she’s not doing her job as a mom. He makes fun of Snowman for eating too much, and then tells him he’s not going to get any of Heather’s money. Snowman looks like he’s going to fight him before he storms out.

Heather chases after Snowman and repeats her refrain of, “I could kill him.” Snowman says no problem. He’s stressed out because his little brother is sick and needs a major surgery that costs at least two thousand dollars. Heather is so struck by his struggles that she offers him the money right then and there. She has the money in her bank account, and it’s not like she needs it. He struggles with this and leaves, saying he has to think about it.

Heather sees Snowman after she leaves work the next day, and he says he does need the money for his little brother. She writes him the check with little prompting. After that, she doesn’t see Snowman for a few days, running into Ben instead. Immediately she realizes she misses him, and they have a friendly conversation. Leaving work, Heather sees Snowman again, and he runs up to greet her, clearly in a good mood. She asks him what happened, and he tells her he paid her back. He killed her uncle.

Heather is a aghast, and Snowman says he’ll prove it. He gets her to drive him to her house, where they see police lights. Her aunt is crying on the front lawn, and Snowman immediately starts comforting her. Snowman claims he strangled her uncle with a wool scarf, which leaves no marks, and there’s no way for me to search if that’s true without ending up on someone’s watch list, but a brief survey leaves this inconclusive. The paramedics tell Heather it was a heart attack anyway. Once the police and paramedics clear out, Snowman hangs out to help around the house. Heather is freaking out, and when she finally gets a chance to confront him, he pulls out the check she gave him. He says this is his insurance, that if she goes to the police, he’ll tell them she paid him to kill her uncle. Which is kind of insane? It’s not like she put in the for line: assassination. And he never puts it in his account, which technically means she didn’t pay him, and I think is more suspicious if an assassin doesn’t take the money. Anyway, he tells her that he doesn’t have a little brother, and this was all a set up, which is also kind of insane. Snowman sticks around, even attending the funeral with the family.

After the funeral, the car that followed Heather pulls up in her driveway, and two men in suits get out. They introduce themselves as FBI agents, which Heather actually is wary of and suspects they may be fake, but she answers their questions anyway. They ask about William Jeffers and if she has any information on him. Heather lies and tells them she met him at the restaurant but didn’t see him anymore after that. They keep emphasizing this old fashioned coat he wears, and I can’t tell if it’s meant to be distinctive, or if secretly Snowman is way older than he says, which makes this more disturbing. They give Heather their card and tell her to contact them if she learns anymore, and on their way out, she asks what he did. They tell her he murdered his father.

Snowman confronts Heather about the FBI, but she didn’t tell them anything. He promises she’ll get rid of him forever if she gives him another check for $2,000 and asks her to make it out to cash. She has access to her trust fund now and does it, sending him off. But she’s shocked when he shows up at her house for dinner that night. When she corners him, he tells her he needs five thousand dollars now, and then he’ll be gone for good. He needs cash right now, and so she takes him to her bank, where she gets $5,000 in cash, which I don’t think banks are super keen on doing. Heather leaves, grateful to never see him again, only to learn that he’s rented the extra room in her house, meaning he’s going to stick around.

At this point Heather doesn’t know what to do, so she goes to tell Ben. We don’t really hear Ben’s reaction to this news and just sort of cut in after the explanation, and he’s extremely calm?? I’m waiting for the twist that he’s involved as well (like he actually did pay Snowman to kill her uncle, since literally right before her uncle dies, he asks about his health, but this never comes up). When she cries that it looks like she gave him nine thousand dollars to kill her uncle, he points out only the first check is made out to him, the rest is cash. Which, again, I thinks it’s more damning to take out huge amounts of cash for no known reason, versus a check made out to a person, but I don’t know anything about hiring assassins. They decide to sneak into Snowman’s room and steal the first check and tear it up, so he has nothing to show the police.

They sneak into the room and are almost immediately caught. Snowman clubs Ben with a tire iron and drags Heather into a car. He knocks her out with I think a needle, but it’s unclear, and she wakes up in a cold dark space. She realizes she’s packed in snow, building her inside a snowman inside the same park, which I have problems with. She’s tied up, which hinders movement, sure, but she’s worried about suffocating and can’t push the snow at all. Now, I’m from Texas, so I have no real knowledge of how snow works, but this seems ridiculous to me. Googling it lets me know Snow Immersion Suffocation seems to be a real concern to skiers, but it essentially seems to be drowning in deep snow. It’s possible to pack and sculpt snow into some sort of oubliette, but I can’t believe trapping someone in a snowman couldn’t be undone just by them wiggling around a little too much. Anyway, Heather’s Chekhov’s lighter manages to light and burns her way out of the snowman, only to find Snowman waiting for her on the other side. He comes at her, and somehow, by waving her lighter at him, she lights his coat, and he starts to burn. Police show up with Ben hobbling behind them, and he says he was following her that day they went to the park and figured this is where he’d take her. Snowman’s arrested, Heather and Ben are probably going to get back together, and her uncle’s still dead, which is a general gain for everyone.

Favorite Line

“Okay, let’s bomb out of here!” he said enthusiastically.

Fear Street Trends

No Fear Street this time around, but it’s still a book written in the 90s. The above slang pops up on occasion, and at one point Heather says Snowman looks like “a Smiley button”, which I think she’s referring to this. A lot of attention is paid to Snowman’s “50s style coat”, but he also wears corduroy pants to the funeral. I’m still convinced it was supposed to be that he was much older, but we’ll never know for sure.

Rating

This book is not quite the usual Stinian fare. It’s definitely got his writing style and tropes he likes to use, but the chapter break jump scares are infrequent, no unnecessary twists, and it builds steadily a single narrative that actually works fairly well. I liked the Snowman. It was a refreshing breather in the occasional slog that is these old books, and being removed from the Fear Street mythology let the book be its own thing. This book came out in 1991 and seems so much cleaner than his other series, and I wonder how much of the goofiness of Fear Street is his hectic writing schedule and a franchise’s need to stick to formula. Anyway, the Snowman gets four headless snowmen out of five.

Bonus: I already got some Christmas presents and my brother-in-law got me the 25th anniversary Goosebumps set along with some Fear Street books!

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I’ve been looking forward to do Wrong Number 2, so look forward to that in 2018!

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Fear Street #28 – Truth or Dare

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The Cover

truth or dare

This cover (pulled from this Fear Street blog) isn’t strictly speaking bad. Trapped on a ski lift isn’t a bad horror idea, and the girls look scared by… something. But thanks to the ski lift, they’re just sort of hanging around in the middle of nowhere, and their poses don’t look natural at all. The bright orange jacket and headband isn’t doing anything for me. Maybe a good pose was already taken up by The Overnight and Ski Weekend, which I think might be more sinister for a game of truth or dare.

Tagline

It started as a game… and ended in death.

Not bad. It’s not much, but it’s relevant without giving away the plot. I’m forgiving this week.

Summary

Four teens are being carried up a mountain by a white stretch limo, which seems like a bad choice for mountain driving, but I guess the lack of cars will be relevant later. Inside that car is Ken and Jenny, lovebirds and joined at the hip, April, our protagonist, and Josh, the boy nobody knows, very quiet, Definitely Not a Murderer. April and Josh have that sort of “he makes me uncomfortable and I don’t know why but I keep staring into his dark eyes” sort of vibe that previous Fear Street books would tell me means they get together, but there’s little romance in this book besides some background characters. They’re meeting their friend Dara at her cabin for some skiing, since she’s taking up her parents’ jeep. April lets us know that Jenny is the most beautiful girl at school in detail, and for some reason she clings to Ken. April’s jealous. Of her having a boyfriend. Sure, April, sure.

April tries to make polite conversation with Josh, who really isn’t having it. He wonders why Dara didn’t ride with them, and when they arrive at the cabin, which is really more of a private ski lodge, he talks about having been there before. Dara arrives behind them in the jeep and rushes out, talking fast and constantly. Josh tries to chat with her, but she blows him off pretty quickly. She leads them inside the house, and they quickly discover they’re not alone! They find Tony, who’s dad is a friend of Dara’s dad, making out with a girl name Carly Rae in the dark. It turns out their families share the lodge, and Tony starts telling her he was pretty certain he was supposed to have it this weekend, which is clearly a lie, and now that they’re all here they’ll just have to share. He says that last part after getting weirdly threatening. The Shadyside way.

They settle in as it starts snowing to the delight of everyone. A fire is started in the living room, and they gather around to discuss skiing tomorrow. Ken suggests to break the ice, they play a little bit of (dun dun dun) Truth or Dare. Josh reveals himself to being an alien by not knowing what that is, and the book for real gives an explanation, which Josh does not seem to get. The kids get to the good stuff right away, asking about embarrassing stuff and sexy stuff. After April goes, she asks Dara who the worst boy is she ever kissed. Dara looks at Josh and starts hmming and hawing in an attempt to tease him. He grabs a poker out of the fireplace and shouts at her to stop and then storms out of the room, but Dara convinces him to come back, apologizing. As they settle back in, Dara asks April another question: What’s a secret you wish you didn’t know about someone? April answers immediately: That girl on Sumner Island.

Jenny asks her what she means by that, and April looks to Ken to see if he knows it’s his secret she’s sharing. Before anymore details can be said, Tony sneaks up beside her to scare her. He tells them enough questions. He wants a dare. Dara tells everyone to grab their coats, and she forces them outside, pointing up at the roof of the lodge. Tony lost a Frisbee up there, and she demands he get it back. It’s starting to snow hard, the wind is rising, the roof is slick. It doesn’t take much for him to get up there, but when he grabs the Frisbee, he starts to fall. He manages to catch the gutter and, after hanging there for a moment, drops, totally fine.

The group heads back inside, but April’s worried that she’s played her hand about Sumner Island. She was working as a nanny that summer when she saw Ken on the beach with a girl that wasn’t Jenny. Every time she saw him, he was with that girl, and again, the thing April remembers most about her is the tiny blue bikini she wore. When they get in, April immediately absconds to bed, getting up only when she hears some noises. Going downstairs, she sees Dara stepping outside. Dara tells her that she’s grabbing firewood, and on the stairs back to her bedroom, April runs into Tony. Everyone heads off to bed for the night.

In the morning, it’s a full on blizzard, and the ski lifts have stopped because of high winds. Jenny makes everyone breakfast while they listen to the radio, and April notices neither Dara nor Josh come downstairs with them, despite Dara being an early riser. When she still hasn’t come down after everyone eats, Jenny and April go upstairs to check on her, only to find her room untouched. Her things are still unpacked, her bed still made. She never slept here at all. Josh’s bed is likewise untouched, and his bag left there. April goes downstairs and sees no firewood was brought in last night. They tell the others, and when they look outside, they see the Jeep is missing too.

Tony is thoroughly unconcerned and mentions Dara and Josh used to go together, so they probably snuck out together. The others seem to agree, but April suggests calling the police, and Tony tells her no. He and Carly Rae would get in a lot of trouble for spending the weekend up here. He’s convinced Dara’s fine, and if she did go for a drive, she knows every road around here. They’ll wait another hour or two to see if she calls, then start to worry. April’s tense in the house and jumps at every noise. In the afternoon, they hear a weird knocking at the door, and every time they check, there’s no one there. Ken and April go outside to investigate and find a locker door that’s swinging in the wind, and when they try to close it, something falls out. Dara’s frozen body. An axe buried in her parka. In her back.

Now is the time to call the police, but when Tony tries, the line is dead. They’re a couple of miles to town, and with the blizzard outside, they’re sure to get lost or frozen or die before they get there. April, at first, is convinced whoever murdered Dara also murdered Josh, ignoring the obvious clue that he is also missing and so is the car, but it doesn’t take much for people to start accusing him. They go to investigate his things, and April looks at Dara’s room again, finding a note from Josh, telling her to meet him outside at midnight. Tony declares there might be a gun in the house, and they start wondering how helpful that is, but he points out that if Josh realizes he left evidence behind, he might return. And they may need to defend themselves.

At night, April tries to sleep, and she hears something outside. She walks out and is grabbed, only for it to be Tony, who says he thought he heard something too. April asks if he and Dara used to go out, and he gets a little uncomfortable and says yeah, but it didn’t really mean anything. They walk back in and talk a little longer, when they hear something at the door. They see Josh, half-frozen, slowly pounding against the glass. April’s scream gets everyone downstairs, and they let him in. Carly immediately makes him something hot to drink while the others shout at him to explain. Josh can barely put together a sentence and doesn’t know what they’re asking him, and they tell him Dara’s dead. He protests when they accuse him, but April shows him the letter. He insists he didn’t write it, and Jenny screams at him to stop lying, while Tony takes the letter back, telling him it’s evidence.

Josh tells them after Truth or Dare he really did lose it, and he really did want to kill Dara, but he definitely didn’t. He stole the keys and took the Jeep in an attempt to strand her at the lodge, but he got caught in the blizzard and went into a snowdrift. He nearly froze to death in the car waiting for someone to rescue him, so he got out and walked back. He didn’t know Dara was dead. And if he’s telling the truth, that means there’s still a murderer here.

In the morning, April doesn’t want to face anyone. On her way down, she runs into Ken, who tries to talk to her about the girl on Sumner Island, but she runs away. She goes back to her room and finds Josh going through her things. He tells her he’s looking for the pen that wrote the letter. It was written in red ink, and if he can find the pen in someone else’s things, it means he didn’t write it. This is the last straw for April, who just wants out. She runs downstairs to grab her coat but finds it missing. Everyone had thrown their things in a pile, and she remembered they were all wearing each other’s coats. And with horror she remembers the last time she saw it. She goes outside, finds Dara’s body, and that confirms it. Dara was wearing her parka, meaning the killer was after her.

April fucking books it. She’d rather take her chances in the snowstorm. As she descends the slope, she realizes she stole Ken’s coat, and when she puts her hands in the pocket, she finds a red pen. Ken tried to kill her to keep his secret. As she makes it to the bottom of the hill, she sees someone chasing her, and realizes it’s Ken. He tackles her into the snow and tells her they have to go back. It’s too cold. They’ll freeze. He asks her again about the game, and she blurts out that she saw him with another girl. He asks if she ever told Jenny, and she promises that she didn’t. As soon as they get inside, she runs from him and finds Jenny and Carly in the kitchen. I haven’t devoted much time to Carly, but she’s the best character in this whole book. She only exists as a voice in the background, and she gets this amazing exchange as April tries to warn Jenny about the murderer:

“We can’t stay here,” I told her, pulling her hand away. “We’re not asfe here. We’ve got to get away from here. I have to tell you about Ken, Jenny. He–“

Carly poked her head into the kitchen. “Secrets?” she asked.

“Yes. Secrets,” Jenny replied quickly. “Deep, dark secrets.”

“Hope you’re not talking about me,” Carly replied dryly. She took a can of Coke from the refrigerator, then returned to the living room.

She’s amazing. But she’s about to be ditched. April convinces Jenny to ski down the slope with her to get to the police. They put on more layers of warm clothes, take their skis, and start down. They see the ski lift has started again, and they find another human person, who tells them to take the ski lift to the ski patrol station. They get on, and about a third of the way up, Jenny turns to April, and tells her sorry right before she pushes her off. April struggles against her and asks why, and Jenny screams that she knows about the girl on Sumner Island, the girl she killed! Jenny stops killing her to ask how she knew, and then monologues everything. That Ken was seeing some girl on Sumner Island, that he swore he stopped after the summer, but she knew he kept going back. Jenny tracked her down, and when confronted with her, went crazy. They fought. The girl died. Jenny ran. She thought no one ever knew. When April revealed that she knew in the Truth or Dare game, she went to murder her, not realizing it was Dara. She asks April how she knew, and April says she didn’t.

Jenny gives her one more shove that throws her from the ski lift, but thankfully they’re at the top of the mountain. She jumps out to murder April with her ski pole, but then Ken shows up! He grabs Jenny and holds her until the ski patrolmen come. He tells April, next time, choose Dare, and she says, next time, we’ll play Trivial Pursuit. Freeze frame, laugh track, cut to black.

Favorite Line

…I tried reading. But I had brought only a scary thriller to read. And I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a thriller!

Fear Street Trends

The kids mostly wear coats and parkas, so there’s not a ton of fashion, but there’s a ton of beautiful young ladies described. Jenny (and the girl on Sumner Island) are described as dark haired and perfect. April notices Josh has a lightning bolt earring in one ear, so you know he’s dangerous. Dara’s hair is crimped, and mention is made of her having a nose job to show off how rich she is. Jenny also uses the car phone in the limo to call Corky Corcoran and brag, and you think poor Corky has enough friends that are murderers. On top of the weird definition for Truth or Dare, a game so simple the title describes the rules, Ken gives a definition of a snowglobe, in case the viewer is also unfamiliar with those. I suppose if Stine is used to writing for a younger audience, he feels the need to include those, but it’s like, yeah, Ken, everyone ever has seen one of those.

Rating

I’m not sure about this one. It isn’t my favorite, but it’s actually fairly solid. There’s a ton of red herrings that actually work fairly well, and I was rooting for Tony as the murderer for most of it. The plot twist of what the actual “truth” is turns pretty well. Still, the writing’s much weaker for this one, and feels like he may have written this right after finishing a middle grade book or something. I’ll give it three hatchets in the back out of five.

I’m not 100% sure what I’ll be putting up in two weeks, since it will be Christmas Eve. I have a present I’ve been working on for y’all, but I don’t think it’ll finish in time. I’d like to finish another book, but we’ll see how much time I have in the ensuing weeks. If you’ve got some free time this holiday season, I recommend checking out my writing blog, which’ll finish up part two of my 1950s monster mash soon. In the meanwhile, I’ll be planning out the next few books to read. Always feel free to drop recommendations to me. And, if you’re in the Houston area, you should check out my LGBT pop up library, which will pop up for the first time in January.

Five Best Covers

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During the brief reprieve I gave myself, I’ve somehow accumulated more projects, which means this past few weeks have been busy for me. I was originally going to read another of the modern Fear Street books, but time escapes me, and I’m out of town this week due to the holidays. I didn’t want to leave you with nothing, so I decided to rank for you what I believe are the top five book covers (of what I’ve seen so far).

5. The Stepsister

the stepsister orignal

What I originally said:

The cover to the original 1990 version (borrowed from Retro Daze) is alright. I think it hits the right amount of sinister with the figure showing up to the unsuspecting reader, and I sort of like that they keep the angelic looks of Jessie, but it makes it slightly less frightening.

I do like it. There’s something very sinister about the stepsister’s reflection in the mirror as Emily leans in to read her diary. It’s a great moment in a horror movie, when someone’s creeping around the villain’s room only to be caught, and I think it’s captured well here. I think the most distracting thing in it is the lamp, and removing it could add a little darkness that it’s missing.

4.  The Secret Bedroom

the secret bedroom

What I originally said:

The cover (pulled from Lexile) is’t bad. The contrast of her to the sickly green glow coming out of the door, the skeleton hand, her scared expression, it’s all pretty good. What’s killing it for me (besides the mom jeans and the terrible shirt) is that left arm. It’s so poorly attached, and the line of the shirt makes a line cutting it off, so it looks like they copy and pasted it from somewhere else. Otherwise it’s a pretty good cover.

I stand by this one. I still think the shadow on the left arm makes it look disconnected, but this is a dynamic cover. The placement of the tagline over the opening door as both arms pull adds an urgency to it. The green light might be goofy elsewhere but works here, though the skeleton hand looking like it’s pulling the door back could be changed. Having it claw at her would be a lot better. I like the slant to the door as well. It gives it an off-kilter feeling.

3. The Sleepwalker

the sleepwalker

What I originally said:

I have so many memories of just this cover (pulled from its GoodReads page).  I didn’t remember the plot of the book before reading it, but I have distinct memories of holding this book and its eerie cover. I think this is beautiful. The glow of the fog, the water at her feet, the white nightgown. The only thing I might change is she seems like a dangerous figure here, which I’m not against, but I think a little more delicacy in her face and pose might’ve gone further in the ethereal design they were going for.

This cover is nostalgic for me, and I remember it stacked with my Christopher Pike books I likely purchased from Half-Price books. The fog, the water, the white nightshirt all work together to make this feel dreamlike and ethereal, and it’s a perfect selling point for the book.

2. The Surprise Party

the surprise party

What I originally said:

I really like this cover (pulled from this website). It’s ominous, I like the use of green, the figure is threatening, but doesn’t reveal too much. I’m a big fan of this.

This looks like a 70s horror movie cover. It should be advertising Last House on the Left or something. It’s beautifully painted, extremely sinister, and gives everything you need to know going in. The early books have some legit horror movie style covers that I really appreciate.

1. The First Evil

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What I originally said:

Only one cover this time (borrowed from the GoodReads page), and I gotta say I really like it. The skull and blood in the pompom is good, and the girl looks possessed. It’s a nice, sinister cover.

Y’all knew. Y’all knew! This is straight up and down my favorite Fear Street cover. The blood in the pompom with the skull coming out? Classic. You know this is going to be a scary fun book just looking at it. A++ would read again.

Special Mention

one evil summer

What I originally said:

I adore this cover (pulled from Goodreads). It’s so wickedly delightful. Chrissy is just swinging around that cat in her longshirt pajamas having a grand old time being so gosh darn evil. The only change I might make is getting rid of the lighthouse in the background. It’s a little distracting, does not have a place in the plot, and you get enough sense of being on the ocean from the ocean outside her window.

Why even have other covers? Woman laughing maniacally with cat had never made me pick up a book fast enough. Love it love it love it.

That’s it, my friends! That’s all I have time for right now. In two weeks I’ll hopefully be coming at you with the next book, but until then, consider checking out my 1950s monster mash, which is about to finish up its second arc (meaning I have to get started on part three!). After that, I’ve got some ideas for what I’ll be doing. I’m hoping to have the next part of my old west horror serial up in January as well, but there’s still tons of research I’ve been avoiding! If nothing else, I’m going to continue my Modern Monsters series, in which the next part will focus almost exclusively on this year’s best flop, the Mummy. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched around how I do donations, and currently you can buy me a coffee if the mood takes you. I’ve mentioned before I purchase the most of these books, which are usually around $5. It’s not the worst expense I have to deal with, but with some other projects in my life, I don’t have a lot of loose change lying around.

Which brings me to my biggest announcement! With the help of some friends, I’ve started an LGBT pop up library! Renegade Libraries is meant to bring literature to queer people in Houston, TX, as well as provide programming and connect authors to their audience. Find us on twitter and Facebook, and if you happen to live in Houston, come check us out at the Montrose Center on January 14! We’re currently looking for the best way to ask for donations, but give us a holler online if you like what you see! This is something I’ve thought about for a very long time and now it’s happening, which is super exciting for me!

See you in December!

Fear Street Sagas #3 – Forbidden Secrets

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Y’all, I want to apologize in advance for this one. I actually read this in October with the intention of writing up a recap then, but this one was so bad I couldn’t justify it. I’ve honestly debated skipping it because it’s that bad, but I set out to read every Fear Street story, and that includes this one.

The Cover

forbidden secrets

The cover (taken from Simon & Schuster’s website) I actually like. The contrast is on point, the delicate woman next to a rose dripping blood is classic, and while the creepy doll is out of place, at least it’s something. It depicts a woman being consumed by darker things, and I appreciate that.

Tagline

She learned to love, honor… and fear.

I also really like this! The ellipses are unnecessary, but it plays into the themes of the novel without revealing too much. A great start to a terrible book.

Summary

We open in Blackrose Manor, where an ancient woman rambles on about how she misses her home in Whispering Oaks. She murmurs her story to absolutely no one, but starts the tale of Savannah and Victoria, and how they met Tyler Fier. She mentions that both girls were in love with him, which I think is to keep us on our toes on which sister survives???? except Victoria at no point is like “he’s evil but I’m still into it”.

We start our story proper on the Whispering Oaks plantation in 1861. Remember how I was mildly uncomfortable in the last book because it was sent in the south during the Civil War, which meant all our characters’ loyalties belonged to the slave owners? So in this book, the main characters are slave owners, and Tyler Fier comes from the north, which puts us in a fun wacky “who’s the real monster” kind of mindset (It’s still Tyler). The previous book managed to avoid it by having no real mention of the Civil War except in scene setting and Stine not pulling a Django Unchained, but the main plot of this book sort of hinges on that, so like.

Which is to say, it’s Savannah’s birthday! The slaves are setting up for the party while Savannah waits for her brother Zachariah and his friend Tyler to return from their ride. She’s sort of how Scarlett O’Hara presents herself, and when she suspects the boys are coming back, she goes inside to gather a parasol and make herself a grand entry. She’s stopped by her mother, who asks about her sister Victoria. Savannah’s worried about her sister because she “was fascinated by the dark arts some of the slave women practiced”. Oofadoof. But she ignores her mother’s request to find her sister and greets Tyler. The two of them take a walk together into the woods, where they start macking. He says he must leave soon, and she’s heartbroken until he asks her to marry him. They’ll announce the marriage at the picnic. But Savannah hears something behind her and sees her sister darting through the trees. She follows her into the slave quarters and hears something squeal in terror, and whens he pushes open the door, Victoria is covered in blood.

The word voodoo is never said, possibly because Stine knows as much about voodoo as your average non-practitioner, but we see Victoria holding a piglet in a half circle of candles. She takes the blood of the piglet and sprinkles it on the candles, saying words we recognize: Dominatio per malum. She brings a knife over the piglet, but Savannah knocks her over. Victoria is still in her trance as Savannah tries to wake her, and Victoria shouts that Tyler is cursed, that all the Fiers are cursed, and they will be cursed if Savannah marries him. Savannah’s pretty sure Victoria’s just jealous, to which Victoria repeats that his presence only means death. Savannah’s not convinced otherwise.

As they leave the shack, they see Tyler and have an exchange that might be the best in any book:

“I want to make your sister happy,” he told Victoria firmly.

“Then leave her.” Victoria walked away without another word.

Drop the mic Victoria! The two lovers turn to each other and say they’ll be together forever right as a rider gallops towards them screaming, “War!” Also holding up a newspaper? Someone will have to fact check for me the rate of information travel, but that feels a bit much for me. He tells them that Fort Sumter has been fired on, and Savannah realizes with dawning horror that her beloved is now officially a soldier. He asks if she’ll wait for him, and she says of course, and he’ll fight alongside her brother, to which he responds no. He’s from the North. His loyalties lie with the North. He offers to marry her today, and then they’ll leave for his home in Massachusetts, and Savannah becomes livid. Her home and family is in the South. She can’t just leave that. Her rejection makes him angry, and he demands that she come with him one more time. Savannah runs away. But Tyler screams at her once more that she’ll regret choosing her home and family and everything she knows over him, and that he is a man who keeps his promises.

The old woman babbles some more. She says the slaves ran, their parents died, and the two began to starve in their home. They have no money left and no one to tend the fields, so the pair struggle to find food. There’s a scene where they eat worms that comes across as more comical than horrifying, which kind of undercuts the whole “slowly starving in our decaying mansion in the South” thing but it’s probably fine. Savannah sleeps uneasily and hears a noise in the hall. She opens the door to see Zachariah, but he smells of gunpowder and bleeding profusely. He opens his mouth to speak and blood pours out, and Savannah wakes. She half-tells Victoria her dream, not wanting to scare her, and notices a dark stain where Zachariah was standing in her dream. This does nothing and never really comes back, except they receive a letter from Tyler saying Zachariah’s dead and he saw it happen, making him realize she’s more important than any war. Victoria’s heartbroken about their brother, but Savannah is scared for Tyler. She begs Victoria to do some magic to see if he’s alright.

Victoria takes her sister to her room where she prepares a ritual. She holds up a pair of chicken feet for Savannah to kiss, which she does. Victoria then paints them in blood and makes markings on the letter. The room gets ice cold as she picks up the letter and burns it, sparking outrage from Savannah. She still thinks her sister is jealous, but Victoria tells her that Tyler Fier will destroy her if they allow him back. The old woman is back and says they’d be so much happier if they never received the letter. A bluebird flies up to her, and she tears its head off. I don’t know why.

It’s now 1865, and Savannah and Victoria have managed a small garden. Savannah’s working on it when a soldier approaches her. He tells her the war is over and he is going home. Savannah races up to Victoria’s room to tell her, only to find her sister rocking back and forth and talking to Tyler Fier, threatening to destroy him. When Savannah tells her the news, Victoria says that no one will be coming home to them. Only Tyler Fier. She hands Savannah a pouch to ward off evil. Savannah tells her she doesn’t need it. After a few weeks, destiny comes for them, and Tyler Fier arrives at the manor. He asks her again if she’ll marry him, to which she says yes, and he tells her he can’t wait to take her to Blackrose Manor. Savannah’s uncertain to leave behind her home, but last time it ended kind of badly, so she agrees.

They arrive at Blackrose Manor as a storm threatens them overhead. They enter the grey stone manor and see rows of portraits, though Stine refuses to elaborate so I can tell where Tyler fits into this weird family. They also meet Mrs. Moreland, who runs the house. Victoria is nervous, but Savannah’s certain they’ll settle in. As Victoria rushes into her room, Mrs. Moreland tells her she’s wise to hide, and that the two girls should leave while they can. Savannah refuses to be scared and tells her she can return to her duties. After exploring the house a little, Savannah goes to find Tyler, only to find him in front of the portraits, screaming at them to stop staring. He stabs one over and over again. He moans to Savannah that they don’t understand what he did during the war, and she comforts him. They hear screaming and run to the staircase, where we meet Lucy.

Lucy’s never really explained properly. She was the ward of Tyler’s parents, I guess, and he treats her as a little sister. She acts like a child and flings herself into Tyler’s arms as Victoria chases after her. Lucy stole her pouch of protection, and Tyler forces her to give it back and apologize. The ladies go upstairs to prepare for dinner. It’s a strange dinner, worthy of any unsettling Crimson Peak-esque melodrama if written well, with Lucy getting upset that Victoria took her spot and being obsessed with the candles, Savannah and her sister dressed up again for the first time in ages, them enjoying a meal with real vegetables and spices. Lucy gets upset when she’s chided by Tyler and knocks over the candelabra, screaming fire. When she’s scolded by Victoria, she tells them fire is so pretty and she likes the way it dances. They all decide the day has been too exciting and head up to bed. Savannah is woken by a maid and she asks her to press her dress, but they both find it torn and slashed. Lucy comes up behind them and shouts that the dress is ruined. Savannah says she doesn’t want to tell Tyler, and Lucy seems pleased to be given a secret, so she offers to show her the dolls.

We are led to Lucy’s room, which is painted black and as gloomy as the rest of the house. It’s filled with dolls: porcelain, cloth, on the dresser, on the bed, all with black hair and dark eyes. Lucy says they can’t be friends because they’re sisters, which fills Savannah’s heart. She tells her she’s always wanted another sister. Lucy asks her to pick a doll, and the one Savannah lifts up has been smashed. When she asks Lucy what happened, she tells her that she killed it. The other dolls were happy when it got hurt. They were so happy Lucy got hurt. All the dolls are named Lucy.

Savannah’s pretty hardcore in denial at this point, saying all they need to make this place better is some new paint. Victoria’s gone the other way and won’t stop screaming about evil. Victoria points out that Lucy has a big ol’ crush on Tyler, which Savannah laughs off, until Victoria tells her that Lucy is really seventeen and wants Tyler for herself. Tyler keeps giving Savannah gifts, including a horse named Whisper, Lucy tells Victoria Savannah said she always wanted a different sister, Savannah feeds her breakfast to the cat and watches it die, indicating it was poison, and then someone sets her room on fire. She tells Tyler someone is trying to kill her, and he responds by moving up the wedding date.

The servants get killed one by one, even Mrs. Mooreland, whose death forces Savannah to wonder if Victoria is behind it. She goes to find her and sees Victoria holding a knife to Tyler’s throat. He laughs at her and wonders aloud if Savannah would still be so loyal if she knew Victoria was behind all the fire. Victoria screams that she must end the curse, but Savannah rushes her and knocks her to the floor. In the struggle, the knife goes into Victoria. Savannah wails as her sister dies in her arms and promises to return her to Whispering Oaks. Tyler comforts her by saying she saved his life. He still wants to marry her. Savannah says she’s tired of being unhappy, and they plan to wed after burying her sister.

The day after the funeral, Savannah is married in black. What should be the happiest day of her life is filled with longing and regret as she remembers all the family she’s lost and how they should be here. After their wed, Savannah tells Lucy they’re really sisters now, and Lucy makes her swear to never have children, lest they also suffer the Fear curse. As the couple goes to their wedding night, Lucy screams at the both of them. Tyler still treats her like a child and never allowed her to grow up. She says that he should’ve married her instead. Tyler manages to pacify her and takes Savannah to their bedroom. When she tells him what Lucy told her in the church, he tells her that Lucy killed her parents. He thinks it’s time she’s taken away, that she might be dangerous.

She’s not taken away soon enough. Savannah finds her dead at the bottom of the stairs and rushes to tell Tyler. Only he seems to be in a laboratory of some kind, with Lucy’s hand amid vials and potions. He tells her that he killed Lucy and Mrs. Mooreland and Zachariah for good measure. He did all that for… reasons and is now going to kill her. Savannah to her credit bashes him over the head with a torch and that stabs him with a pair of metal prongs, to which he laughs and announces he died at Gettysburg. Zachariah killed him, and he managed to figure out how to live forever. He planned to come back for Savannah and live with her forever. Tyler boasts that he’ll never tire and is immortal right as Savannah bumps into his table, knocking over his vials. One breaks in Savannah’s hands, and he screams that he needed that! He needed that to be undead! So now he has to kill Savannah. He grabs her, they struggle, and then he just kind of falls over? And is dead?

Cut back to the old woman, who reveals the person she’s been talking to all along was the skeleton of Tyler!!!! Aaaaah!!!!

Favorite Line

Tyler is now a solider, she realized with sickening dread. And soldiers die!

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

I’m actually a huge fan of Southern Gothic so this could’ve been interesting, following post-war South as two girls struggled to make ends meet, being visited by a wealthy northerner who at first seems altruistic but slowly reveals his true intentions. It definitely shares elements from a lot of gothic literature, from the weird kind of but kind of not incestuous relationship between Tyler and Lucy to the strange servants who warn of danger, but it doesn’t actually go anywhere. Like the previous book, the whole North-South conflict is glossed over. Tyler and Zachariah are said to go to West Point, and I don’t know much about the lives of military men before the Civil War, but these things don’t happen overnight. You think there’d be some conflict there before war is broken out. A lot of things are super glossed over in this book.

Rating

Like I said, I don’t like this book. Everything from the characters, the plot, the subject matter, and the pacing was totally and completely off. I’ve enjoyed the Fear Sagas so far, especially where they expanded on the Fear family, but who even is Tyler Fier? Who even are these ladies? Where does this fit into our timeline? It’s bad, I hated it, and I’m going to have to give it one creepy doll out of five.

Buy Me a Coffee

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Hey, folks! In the past I’ve thrown up a Paypal link for y’all to donate to help me get Fear Street books, but I’m trying out a new thing. To help support this blog, along with my writing blog and my old west horror serial, I’ve created a Ko-Fi page. A lot of my extra income is going to a completely new project I may be posting about here soon, which means that extra five dollars I need to get the next book may be less available. If you’re enjoying these recaps and want to make sure I still have books to read, click the link below. Thanks for reading guys, and I’ll see you soon!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween, as we know, is the most magical time of the year. I’ve been consuming a lot of media this month, including some brand new podcasts and even reading a non-Stine related book, and in the past I’ve given my recommendations related to these things. I don’t plan on taking a break in November this year, though I will be going back to my every other week update for the conceivable future, so in the week while you’re waiting for the next chilling adventure, I suggest you check out this cool media:

Meddling Kids is a book inspired by Scooby-Doo and Lovecraft. The cover is vividly gorgeous, and the writing inside is strange, but ultimately weaves together a tale of friendship, fishmen, and fear. Set in 1990, it’s a perfect read for a fan of Fear Street.

Buzzfeed Unsolved is, for the five people who haven’t heard of it, a web series produced by Buzzfeed that focuses on unsolved mysteries and supernatural stories. A marathoned all the episodes in less than a day and love both the absolute drive to believe by Ryan and the relentless skepticism of Shane. If you’re looking for something spooky for Halloween, I recommend the Chilling Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, but they also have episodes on the O.J. Simpson case, Men in Black, and even the recent strange road trip of the Tromp family. For a fan of mysteries, it’s a must.

Ghostwatch maybe the most fascinating item on this list. Originally aired in 1992, it depicted an investigative team examining the strange haunting of a home in London. While initially harmless, with interviews from neighbors dressed up for Halloween, the haunting escalates until the ghost takes over all the cameras. It’s never had a repeated viewing on BBC, it started a War of the Worlds style hysteria, with people believing a ghost was invading their homes, and several cases of trauma popping up afterwards. Sawbones actually did an episode on the phenomenon it caused, and it’s worth a listen. Every year folks do a “seance” of sorts, starting their viewing of the program at the same time and going to Twitter under #ghostwatch. You’ll have to find a version yourself, but it’s worth a watch.

For some reason I’ve become obsessed with exorcisms over this month, and I started listening to Wondery’s deep dive into the Exorcist movie, titled Inside the Exorcist. Four of seven episodes have been released, and they cover all the factors that went into making the exorcist, from the author that wrote the original book, from the case that inspired it, to the life of the director who made it. Done partially as a narrative and partially as a documentary, it jumps between times and focuses and creates a chilling picture of one of the scariest movies of all time. If you don’t know anything about the creation of the movie or are just curious, I recommend checking it out.

And, if you haven’t watched it this year, go ahead pick up Evil Dead 2. It does not require seeing Evil Dead to watch it, and honestly I enjoy it more than Army of Darkness (which is still an amazingly hilarious movie). It hits the stride between horror and comedy while playing on Evil Dead’s original concept. It’s Bruce Campbell nailing down Bruce Campbell, with tons of over the top gore, strange animations, and a scene so manic and delightful that you’re laughing when a man chops off his own hand. I realized while rewatching it that it’s the Bride of Frankenstein of our day, a parody of it’s own material, far better than it’s predecessor, and a delight from start to finish.

Hopefully these suggestions will find you something good this Halloween! Barring anymore hiccups I’ll post again on November 11, where we’ll continue to follow the Fears and this unusual town to the very end. Stay spooky!

Fear Street Superchiller – The Evil Lives!

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A bunch of stuff has been happening for me the past week, the most of which included my computer dying! But I got it fixed, and I’ll do our very last October update on the spookiest day of the year, Halloween! Get ready, folks, for some evil.

The Cover

the evil lives

The cover (borrowed from this Fear Street blog) is… not great. I want to like it. The Cheerleaders books are the only ones who’ve been consistently interesting. This one has too many things going on, and the uniform is all one color, with nothing to break it up. The ghost looks way too small, and the pose on the girl is awkwardly trying to fit in all the subtitles. That Fear Street logo takes up way too much space.

Tagline

Before the Cheerleaders, the Evil lived… in Sarah Fear.

Not horrible. On the nose, but as a clear far off sequel, it deserves a little intrigue into the canon. The only real thing that’s bothering me is how many proper nouns take up that sentence.

Summary

This Cheerleaders book starts the way most do: with cheerleading. We meet the next generation of cheerleaders: Amanda Roberts, cheer captain, Janine Klein, best friend, Natalie Morris, the competitive one, and the other, less important ones. Janine and Natalie both date boys on the basketball team who are competing as well. This’ll come up a lot. Amanda’s dating a boy too, but he’s incredibly unimportant, and she dumps him almost immediately to go out with Judd Hunter, also on the basketball team, sort of a surly dream boy type.

Luke (Natalie’s boyfriend) and Brandon (Janine’s boyfriend) get into a fight on the court while the boys practice, prompting Natalie to make some rude comments in front of Janine. They seem to cool off by the end of practice, though, and the girls go into the locker room to change. Amanda has a new locker (number 113, natch), and she notices there’s something still in it. A pale blue duffel bag with a name tag on it. Corky Corcoran. Amanda finds a couple of things in the bag, including an old uniform, a picture of five smiling girls, and a small box made  of smoother, dark wood with a brass catch to keep it closed. A label is on top of the box that says DO NOT OPEN. EVIL INSIDE.

The girls gather around to investigate. One girl points out Corky in the picture, saying she was cheer captain when they were freshman, giving a hint at the timeline. The same girl takes the box and lifts the lid. Nothing happens. But inside the box is a stack of papers, and Amanda sees that they’re letters written by Corky. Corky says that she wrote this as a warning, and once they’re done reading, they should destroy everything, including the box. This raises the question of, why did you leave a box here Corky? Literally no one would’ve messed with it if you hadn’t. This is all your fault. The letter continues and gives a summary of the first three books, but she managed to drown it. But the evil isn’t dead, she warns. Destroy this box! That I left behind! To be found in a public high school! By literally anyone!

The girls debate what to do about this. They start to look at the other papers, but Amanda’s boyfriend Dustin shows up and ruins the party. He’s oblivious to his girlfriend’s obvious discomfort and tells them that the two boys are at it again, leaving Luke with a bloody nose. Amanda walks with Dustin to his car and decides it’s time. When he leans in to kiss her, she tells him they should just be friends in an extremely awkward way that clearly shows she has no other way of saying I hate dating you. He stares at her for like a minute and then walks away. Amanda is a little freaked out and goes to see her friends, but they’re gone. She looks for the papers again, and those are gone too.

Janine stole it, and the girls decide a super fun thing to do would be to use the spells to call up the evil. While joking about how spirits aren’t real and they’re totally not all going to die, Amanda gets told she has to deal with Janine and Natalie and do her fucking job as cheer captain. Amanda decides to ignore that responsibility and get a snack. She runs into her sister, back from college, and asks if she knew Corky, and her sister responds in the most dramatic possible way. She tells her about Bobbi’s death by scalding and apparently the whole school knew about the evil? Which isn’t the craziest thing, that in Shadyside there are rumors of an evil spirit being summoned to explain tragic deaths, but it’s mentioned so casually it’s still kind of weird. Her sister warns her not to disturb the spirits, and Amanda’s like noooooo of course not.

Amanda goes to practice to be greeted by the sight of Janine and Natalie straight up brawling on the gym floor. The girls manage to pull them apart, and Amanda screams at them. Natalie’s boyfriend got the coveted spot on the b-ball team and wouldn’t stop bragging about it. The appropriate response to this is to grab a girl by the hair. Amanda gets them to calm down, and the girls practice more terrible cheers, but it seems to work. As practice ends, there’s the usual rigamarole of ex-boyfriends who won’t take no for an answer and creepy black candles in a circle, but the girls sit down and summon the evil. Amanda tells them what her sister told her, and the girls shake their heads. Besides, they know how to kill it. All you have to do is drown it. Natalie says that it’s like playing with a Ouija board and it’s all fake and it’s always gone so well for everyone involved. They do the spell, and bright light flashes at them, leaving them all freezing cold, right as two boys walk into the house. Brandon and Judd.

Judd looks absolutely confused and then straight faints. They get him some water and prop him up, and he comes to, telling them he’s probably just dehydrated. Amanda looks at him, no longer certain if that’s really Judd. The game comes, and she’s still thinking about Judd and how cute he is. They get ready to cheer for their boys, and Amanda sees Janine looking at her benched boyfriend. She tries to comfort her, only for Janine to tell her Brandon will play, her voice unnervingly certain. They cheer, the boys play, Luke gets the ball, and he starts running, and running, and running, and passes the basket, and runs and runs and runs close enough to Amanda that she could almost grab him and slams, headfirst into the bleacher. The whole gym stops. Amanda stares. Because there’s something next Luke where he collapses on the floor. There’s so much blood. His head. His skull. His scalp. Torn off by the impact.

Which, like, of course it’s the Evil, but the deaths are so over the top in this it’s almost comical. He gets scalped from running into a bleacher, and later someone’s head just straight explodes. Not even going for subtle. But there’s a funeral first, and everyone’s real messed up about it. Janine goes to Natalie and apologizes to her for her behavior before all this, that she let her competitive side get to her, and she wants to be her friend again, but Natalie screams at her that this is exactly what she wanted and storms off. The girls start to wonder if maybe they did release an evil, but some of them are still skeptical. Amanda isn’t sure, but as Judd comes in she can’t help being suspicious of him. He lets them know there’s still going to be another game, dedicated to Luke, but he zones out and tells Amanda he’s been feeling really strange. When she presses him on it, he kisses her instead. She’s torn, since this is exactly what she wanted, but he’s been acting so weird, and he collapsed right after they summoned the evil.

The girls get ready for the pep rally before the game. Everyone’s so bummed and depressed because of the whole “basketball player gets his head lopped off” fiasco four whole days ago, but the cheerleaders tough it out. Amanda looks to Natalie, who’s not doing so hot, and Natalie tells her she’s going to tell the principal about the Evil. The girls are pretty certain they’ll just sound nuts, but it looks like Natalie just wants to pass this problem off to an authority figure so she can stop thinking about her dead boyfriend. She’s going to tell the principal right after the pep rally. The girls line up and start cheering, and it does seem to work. The school gets into it, people are cheering, and they pull off their routine. But at the end of it is silence. Because Natalie can’t move. Her elbows bend back the wrong way, and her face splits apart. The skin opens up to reveal the skull, which cracks, and blood pours out.

Absolute panic ensues. The auditorium runs for it. The girls are left stranded int he crowd. Amanda sees Janine just staring at Natalie, her face emotionless, unmoving, and then Janine turns to her. She marches at her, taking her by the arm, and the two go into the locker rooms. Amanda can’t help but imagine Bobbi being scalded here. She can’t help but imagine she’s next. Janine tells her she read Corky’s letter again and she does believe the evil is back. Corky told them to drown the evil (even though Corky got told the Evil couldn’t be drowned????), and they have to figure out who’s possessed and drown them. Corky also said the whole thing started with Sarah Fear at Sarah Fear’s grave, and the two decide to go there right now. This conversation takes maybe ten minutes, but Natalie’s body is already cleaned up, and they walk past the police officers who are apparently not taking witness statements. Cool. Dope. Great job guys.

They drive out to the cemetery and investigate the gravestones. Some of them are so old the names are weathered away, but they find her eventually. Sarah Fear: 1875 – 1899. I really should keep better track of the Fear timeline because I’m not 100% sure where she fits in. They decide if the grave is undisturbed, then the Evil isn’t released, which doesn’t make sense. The grave is where the evil was first released, but that isn’t it’s last known location. Ever since the first book, the grave has been utterly irrelevant, and I can’t help but think it still isn’t filled in from all that time ago.

The grave is open and empty, and they freak out. Dustin appears behind them, which is less evil and more asshole ex-boyfriend. He insists he wants to talk to Amanda, who tells him no, she doesn’t want to, she wants to go home with Janine, and he physically stops her from leaving, causing her to fall backwards into Sarah Fear’s grave. She struggles to get out but a darkness overtakes her, and she’s hurtled back… in time. She wakes up in an old timey period where two women are talking. The two women quickly identify themselves as Sarah Burns, engaged to Thomas Fear, a man she’s never met, and Jane Hardy, who plans to travel to England soon. They both desperately want what the other has: a marriage to a rich man or a life abroad. They agree to switch places, live the lives each other were meant for, and tell no one of what they’ve done. Amanda tries to follow them and manages to move the carriage, which you’d think would come up later but does not, and the two women go on.

Amanda is jettisoned to another time, another memory. She’s on the deck of the ship, salt water pouring down on her and wind slapping at the sea. Men are shouting, people are fleeing, and a woman is in the chaos of it all: Sarah Burns. Sarah laments that she was never meant to die like this, that it’s Jane that should be dying, and she’s thrown into the ocean. Her last moments are so filled with hate and regret that Amanda feels it burning out of her. Amanda watches her drown, and as she does, a green snakelike liquid pours from the dead woman’s mouth. The birth of Evil.

Amanda wakes up in the grave and her friends help her out. She’s soaking wet and it tastes of salt water, so she knows it wasn’t just a dream. She went back to that time and saw those things. She tries to explain it to her friends, but Dustin clearly thinks she’s insane, and Janine is having a hard time following her, but the important take away is that this is Jane’s grave, and the Evil is Sarah Fear.

Janine drives Amanda home, and I guess her parents didn’t hear about the whole girl’s facing exploding, because they’re pretty blase. Amanda does not tell them. She’s more concerned because she saw muddy footprints leading to her bedroom window. She creeps towards the door, and a voice whispers to her to come in. She sees in the center of her room a woman, half corpse, half skeleton, flesh dangling from her bones. Sarah Fear tells her they’re going to trade places now. But psych! That was just the cliffhanger! Amanda realized she’s imagining it and opens her door for real. There is mud in her room leading from the windowsill to her dresser. On it is a note signed Sarah Fear. Which, would Sarah ever think of herself as a Fear? She never met the family. She never took the name. Anyway, it’s unimportant. Amanda decides to go back to Janine before it’s too late, but it’s too late. Judd is at her door.

Judd says he wanted to make sure she was alright, since their friend died maybe six hours ago, probably less. Amanda tries to get him to leave her alone, saying she has to visit Janine, but he sees that she’s white and shaking and offers to drive her. They drive towards Janine’s only to pass her in a car on the way. Judd asks if they should follow, and Amanda says yes. She’s now 100% certain Judd is the evil, and she’s looking for the next opportunity to jump out. But Janine and Brandon pass the mall and keep driving all the way back to Fear Street. They walk into the cemetery together. Judd questions if they should really be following them, but Amanda runs as soon as the car unlocks and races up the hill to find her friend. She screams at Janine that Judd is evil and going to kill them, forgetting that Judd is right behind her. Before he can respond to the accusation, Brandon says he’ll help, and his eyes turn an evil irradiated green. Amanda immediately realizes how stupid she’s being.

Brandon tries to kill both girls, but Judd jumps on him. The two boys rassle as the girls try to make their escape, only to see Judd go down like a sack of bricks and not get back up again. Brandon stalks after them. Using her cheerleader agility, Amanda manages to get some kicks in on Brandon and then picks up a branch, using it to whack against his skull. This seems to be working, despite the Evil supposedly being able to force people to kill themselves against their will, but I don’t know. They dance around for a while until they manage to push him into the grave. As they scramble to bury him alive, a skeleton woman approaches and stands at the grave. The girls go back for Judd as Brandon springs from the grave, and he and the corpse look at each other. They scream at each other that they’re supposed to be dead, and they realize the corpse woman is Jane Hardy. They fight some, hurting Brandon’s face, and then Amanda knocks them all into the grave, falling in after them.

Amanda finds herself on a ship once again, this time most likely on Fear Lake on that fateful day. She sees Jane and Sarah arguing, and they grab each other as the boat tips back and forth. She sees Brandon as well, no longer injured, looking very confused. She realizes the Evil isn’t here yet, that they’ve traveled back in time before it’s possessed anyone. The boat continues to rock back and forth, and finally the women are thrown over. Sarah struggles to break the surface of the water, but Jane holds onto her and drags her under. Neither woman comes up again.

And they wake up. This time in a hospital room. Janine is beside Amanda, who she says was found in the Fear Street Cemetery soaking wet. Amanda declares the Evil is dead, and Janine has no idea what she’s talking about. Janine tells her no one is killed, and they didn’t find a box, and she has no idea what this evil is. Amanda demands to see Brandon, and she gets him. They discover that Natalie and Luke are still alive, and the Evil didn’t die so much as never lived. Because it never existed, all the bad things never happened. Which, like, does that mean Kimmy is still alive? What about Jennifer? Bobbi? All of the events of the past few years erased away? They’re relieved for a moment, knowing the spirits are at rest, and then Brandon takes her hand as his eyes begin to glow and tells her they can’t rest. Amanda agrees, her own eyes glowing, and she knows the Evil didn’t drown…

Favorite Line

“Our parents are all having cows! Brandon declared.

Fear Street Trends

Not a ton this time around. A little disappointing. Amanda mostly wears hoodies and sweaters, and the boys wear sneakers. The misuse of slang above is maybe the most hilarious line in the whole thing. No rap style cheers, no attempts at being relevant. I’ll just have to be disappointed.

Rating

This one really feels like the fifth installment of a horror movie, when they’re running out of actors and everything’s sort of tangentially related, and they discover some new twist that poorly fits into the canon that’s been previously established. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t really attach myself to any of the characters or any of the drama, but it’s a serviceable Fear Street book. I’ll give it three half-corpse women out of five.