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