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 (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.
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.
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…
“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.
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.