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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.