I really like the original cover (taken from this Fear Street blog)? There’s something very classic about it, from the old photograph to lip stains on it, to the colors. It has very little to do with the plot, but that’s okay, because it’s sinister and sweet all at the same time.
The new one (taken from its Amazon page) is better than most of the updated covers. I appreciate a good skull though I don’t know why it’s wearing sunglasses? That color with that bridge crack definitely makes this skull look like a cool dude. The kiss on the forehead too is weird. I know why they did it there, but that doesn’t say “tender love turned deadly” as much as “bad Photoshop”.
Her lips were sweet and deadly.
Also a pretty good tagline. It could use an ellipses in there to really sell the drama, but I like this.
Sweet, tender, and vicious.
Not as good, but they’re nearly identical. I think vicious isn’t as sellable as deadly I think it loses something from not being a complete sentence.
We open on Vincent Milano watching Delia apply a tube of purple lipstick to her lips after a makeout session. The first three chapters made me think Vincent would be our main character, and I thought this was going in a more Double Date direction, but he sort of disappears from his own story after this introduction? Unlike other Stine books where someone’s dating two people at once (which is an alarming number of them), Vincent is pretty much just there to lie and die.
The important thing is, Vincent and Delia have just been making out super good, and we see Delia do something she’ll do a hundred times in this book: she applies her lipstick and then presses a tissue to her lips, making a perfect lip mark. Vincent’s also a pretty bad womanizer. Delia asks him about his birthday party, and he realizes both she and Karina are invited and decides to do nothing about this. He’s also invited both girls over on the same night for making out. Too late he realizes the clock in his living room has stopped and Karina might be there at any second, so he kicks Delia out without much fanfare. Literally as she pulls out of the driveway, Karina turns down his street. If you’re going to two-time two girls who despise each other, at least plan it better.
Karina arrives and chats with Vincent on his porch before they walk in, and she realizes Delia left a huge purple lip mark on his cheek. Vincent quickly backtracks with some lame excuse about helping her with her homework and that she gave him a peck on the way out. Karina proceeds to give the same speech that Delia gave about her: the two are rivals, and the one is always stealing the other’s clothes and friends and now boyfriends. Karina flips out though and shouts that she won’t let her win before slamming the door and driving off. A totally normal Shadyside reaction.
We cut to Delia hanging out with her friends on the bleachers in the gym. Britty and Gabe are discussing the Conklin Award, which is never fully explained but appears to be an arts scholarship that allows Delia a free ride to the “most expensive fashion college in New York” (you couldn’t figure out a name, Stine?). Without it, Delia’s not even sure if she can afford community college in Waynesbridge. They say seven kids applied for it, which seems improbably low for a huge scholarship that could get you into art colleges in New York, but maybe it’s a local thing? There also seems to be a talent portion that is unrelated to the actual art that the student does? Delia paints and sketches fashion, but she plays guitar for her talent, and Karina sings, and Stewart, another contender, does a magic show? I don’t know much about art scholarships but I don’t think they work like a beauty pageant.
There’s a little more about Karina and Delia’s rivalry, and Britty mentions they all used to be friends. She still hangs out with Karina and offers to talk to Delia for her. Gabe mentions they had a truce for a whole year and were nearly on friendly terms, but Delia won’t stand for her boyfriend being stolen. Which is when the doors fly open and Karina comes shrieking in. She lunges at Delia and starts to choke her! She screams that Delia’s not going to win this time, and Delia manages to shove her off. For the first time ever in a Fear Street novel a teacher intervenes. The coach takes Karina to the principal’s office, and Delia is shaken. Her friends comfort her, and Britty promises to talk to Karina to see what’s going on.
Delia and Vincent are chatting, and I don’t know why Vincent is even with Delia. He clearly doesn’t want to talk to her and would choose Karina over her in a heartbeat. As he starts kissing her, Delia realizes they’re being watched, and she sees her younger sister Sarah. The two sisters fight, and Delia snaps at Sarah that she’s just jealous because no boy’s ever kissed her. Sarah flips out and screams that she hates her. She threatens her sister, steals one of her paintings, and runs upstairs.
At school, Delia is caught off guard by Stewart, who she says is the stiffest competition for the Conklin Award. She’s clearly into him and forgets for a second that she even has a boyfriend. Stewart asks her out, but she sees Vincent coming down the hall, and she tells him no. Stewart seems genuinely disappointed, which is a little sad. But later on she hears someone talking from within a storage closet, and she sees Stewart and Karina inside, talking quietly. She thinks maybe they’re plotting against her. She runs into Britty, who tells her that there’s no real reason for Stewart to help Karina, and it’s more likely that he asked Delia out because he likes her. They watch Stewart leave, but Karina doesn’t. Delia asks Britty to talk to Karina, to explain that she’s with Vincent, and she’s willing to be cool so long as Karina doesn’t come for him. Britty seems reluctant, but as they see Karina leave, she goes to greet her.
Britty gets Karina to stop walking so Delia can listen in. Britty asks her what happened the other day at the gym, and Karina blows it off. Britty is rightfully upset that she doesn’t see a strangulation as a big deal, and she tries to lightly bring up that she’s acting out of control. Karina gets real menacing and says Delia won’t win the Conklin and won’t win Vincent, and then she calls out to Delia in the hall before storming off.
Delia is all nerves as the competition starts for the Conklin Award. She dreams about Karina covering her in her Midnight Wine lipstick (less fun than it sounds). Delia chose to go last in the competition and regrets it, since she has all the time in the world to get nervous. Karina sings as someone plays piano, and Delia notices her sister sitting away from them, watching Delia. Delia runs backstage, her nerves getting to her, and she picks up her guitar case. The judges call her name, and she’s saved the embarrassment of playing an original song she wrote about Vincent when she realizes all her strings are cut, and a dead rat has been stuffed into its hollow center. Gabe helps her off stage, and she accuses Karina of messing with her. The judges again present themselves as reasonable authority figures and tell the girls that they’ll investigate what happened and decide from there.
Delia gets home to find a note taped to her door from Vincent, inviting her out to Red Heat. She decides to get some clothes that Britty borrowed from her back, and when she arrives at Britty’s house, she finds she and Gabe are making cookies for her. It’s genuinely sweet how these two support Delia, and they chat about Karina and eat cookies together and it’s great. As Delia drives back home, she sees Karina and Vincent kissing. She tries to slam on her brakes but hits the accelerator instead, and then a patch of ice, and then she’s spinning out of control. Karina helps her out of the car, and the two share an awkward moment. Delia admits she didn’t know Vincent was dating both of them, and Karina tells her he’s been lying. Karina apologizes for going berserk in the gym but swears she didn’t ruin her guitar, and she asks for a truce. Delia reluctantly agrees, and then Karina gets the fuck out of there so Vincent can arrive. I’m not 100% sure what happens next, but we cut to Vincent on the phone with Delia clearly the same night, telling her that he can’t go to the Red Heat after all, which is fucking crazy. He tells Delia that Karina was lying and kissed him against his wishes and, like, dude. If you’re going to keep playing this terrible game, at least go dancing with her tonight to reinforce it. Also she almost died getting an outfit to look good for you so you can at least show up. He doesn’t even wait for Delia to respond before hanging up on her. As he hangs up, he cuddles up to the next girl on his couch: Sarah.
The next stage of the Conklin Award appears to be presenting what you’re actually going to school for. Delia waits with her paintings. They’re all also artists and appear to be pretty good, so again, I don’t really know what the the requirements are for this scholarship. Stewart continues to be sweet to Delia and soft asks her out. But Delia’s called in, and she removes her paintings from their portfolio, only to discover they’ve been smeared with Midnight Wine lipstick. Delia flips out and immediately goes to find Karina, who is making out with Vincent.
Britty and Delia talk during an elaborate display of Britty pulling out salsa, jalapenos, and black beans and rice, which I guess is meant to tell us that Britty is Latinx, but it sort of comes out of nowhere? I’m not sure what Stine’s thought process was with this. Delia tells her she’s going to see Vincent, and Britty tells her to drop his ass. But Delia won’t let it lie, and she goes to Vincent’s house, only to find him making out with Sarah. Vincent tries to write it off, but Delia doesn’t even seem to care. She’s worried about Karina, and she makes him promise to talk to her before she gets too out of control.
And now it’s time for something completely different. Britty and Gabe appear to be helping Vincent set up his party in an abandoned house in Fear Street. I’m not 100% why either of them agreed to help or would show up with Delia, but narratively it needs to happen. Karina arrives instead, and Britty and Gabe vacate. Vincent doesn’t even seem to want Delila at his party, and when Britty comes up to him later saying she’s worried, he blows it off. He refuses to be worried about it at his own party, though he still seems kind of worried about it. Britty is getting snippy with him and says that they’re stopping by Delia’s on the way home, not that he cares. But as they start to leave, Delia arrives, making her grand entrance. Her heels are snapped, her dress is torn, her arms are scratched, and blood is on her face, and she collapses right there in front of everyone. They all gather around to see if she’s okay, and Delia points an accusing finger at Karina. She says Karina invited her over to talk, and then tied her up on her bed. She demands to know what Karina’s plan was after the party. Was she going to kill her? Karina screams that she didn’t do it, and when Delia says they can go to her house, she tells them no. Vincent tries to talk to Karina, but she screams at him and runs off.
The next day, Delia seems fine, which is probably the biggest red flag. She won’t go to the police, and she’s applying her makeup like normal. She and Britty and Gabe go over to the house to clean it, but they wait outside for Vincent first. When he doesn’t arrive, they check inside, only to find his body there, his body stabbed, and a purple lipstick mark on his cheek. The police take Delia in, and Gabe tells her not to accuse Karina, in case that makes her sound guilty, but the current story is that Karina ties up people to her bed so like mention that I guess. The detectives leave Delia with their murder board which doesn’t seem appropriate protocol. She watches as they start putting pictures of evidence on the murder board. They come out and tell her they took her lip print (????) and compared it to the print on Vincent’s body and found it a match. We don’t get the scene where a bunch of grown men in police uniforms force a teenage girl to kiss something to get her “lip print” and for that I’m thankful.
They do tell her not to talk until her attorney arrives, but she decides she can prove it wasn’t her. She does a full Mythbusters and says that if it was truly her lip print, the print would be reversed on Vincent’s cheek (?????). She does the thing where she presses a piece of paper to her lips and shows them the print, and then points out that this must’ve been pressed to Vincent’s cheek. I’m not a scientist, or a biologists, or an artist, but I’m pretty certain this is not how lipstick marks work. I don’t know if I could tell the difference between a direct kiss stain and a reproduction. Also, Delia, how much lipstick are you globbing on that your tissue paper blotting can reproduce a full lip mark after use. I feel like Stine maybe thought up this part first and then wrote us a story to get here. It’s written like a real Sherlock Holmes moment, but it doesn’t make any sense.
Anyway, the police go to search Karina’s house and find a saved sheet of lipstick marks. I’ve avoided talking about the homoerotic tension between Karina and Delia but man oh man could I get into some stuff. Karina flips out when Delia accuses her and tries to attack her again. Her mom promises to get her help, and Delia feels it might finally be over.
Cut to senior prom, sort of. Gabe and Delia are going together, but they stop by the psychiatric hospital to see Karina first, I guess to make her feel extra bad? Gabe mentions he’s been coming every week, though I don’t know why. He tells Delia he’s proud of her for winning the Conklin Award, and she says this isn’t how she wanted to win. She then proceeds, with no prompting, to tell Gabe exactly how she dug a dead rat out of the trash to wreck her own guitar, and ruined her own paintings, and she got so mad when she caught Vincent with Sarah, so she faked her own kidnapping, planted evidence in Karina’s house, and then killed him. She kisses Gabe and begs him not to tell anyone, and then comes the worst ending to a book I think I’ve ever read:
Gazing over Delia’s shoulder, he saw a white coated doctor standing grim-faced in the doorway.
“I heard the whole story,” he told Gabe. “I’ll phone the police.”
And then it’s over. What? It’s such a clumsy exit.
“You’ve been out in the ozone somewhere since we got here.”
Fear Street Trends
So many! Thank goodness! Karina and Delia are clearly meant to be opposites, and they dress like it. Delia constantly mentions finding her clothes at thrift shops, and she wears loud colors and crazy designs. We see her wearing an orange shirt dress embroidered with yellow flowers. The outfit that almost kills her is a black suede miniskirt with a matching black suede fringed vest (ugh) with a purple lace bodysuit (what!) and platform red boots. Her “artsy” outfit for the second part of the competition is a braid with stone studded silver earrings. And her trademark purple lipstick. Karina is only described a handful of times, but Vincent says she looks like Michelle Pfeiffer (I’ve missed you celebrity descriptions!). She dresses more conservatively with pleated pants and a pink sweater.
This one is bad. It’s the only real word for it. The book is mostly bloodless and the unreliable narrator could’ve been cool if we were given more reason to distrust her. There’s a few red herrings but none of them are played up. The ending’s the worst part, and I think if she’d gotten away with it in the end, I would’ve forgiven this book some of it’s faults, but I guess Stine didn’t want to pull another Best Friend. I’m giving it one rat filled guitar out of five.