So I skipped a previous week, and it looks like my April is also going to be buck wild with how much I have going on. I think I’m going to hold off on updating this again until May or June while I sort some things out, but I sat down and read this book, so I’m going to give you the full review. I did write out which books I plan to do in the summer, and a brand new Fear Saga is set to be released in July with a dope cover, so don’t worry. I’ll definitely come back for that.
The cover (pulled from its GoodReads page) isn’t bad. It’s sort of sinister. There’s a pretty girl on it. I’m so bothered by the silhouettes in the door because they look like they were taken from a stock image of space marines or something. You couldn’t have a cheerleader standing there? There’s a hint of a blood splattered gym floor, but overall it doesn’t do anything for me.
At Shadyside High, cheerleading can be a scream!
Not bad not bad. It doesn’t give anything away, but it lends a little more to the plot than the title. Still kind of meh.
We meet Gretchen Page as she’s about to head off to Shadyside High. She just moved here after some mysterious incident, and she’s on the phone with her best friend Polly, who never really gets any dialogue. Immediately the fact that she doesn’t respond to Gretchen sort of gives away that she’s dead. Gretchen tells her imaginary friend about Shadyside and how nervous she is to join the team, since the Tigers were all-state last season. We also meet Gretchen’s mom, who’s divorced and kind of haggard, and the two do not get along. Her mom seems really against her being on the cheerleading team, which sets off Gretchen.
Gretchen goes to school on a Saturday to meet with the coach, and on the way she runs into the ridiculously named Sid Viviano. As they sort of flirt, they also run into Stacy, head cheerleader, who gets very territorial over Sid immediately. Gretchen hurries into Coach Walker’s office where Devra Dalby and her friend Courtney are hanging out. They make fun of her, and Devra lets Gretchen know the last spot on the team is already taken by her. They see Sid and Stacy kiss in the hall, and Devra gets real mad about it for some reason.
Coach Walker comes in and seems to be a reasonable authority figure. She watches Gretchen’s highlight reel of her cheerleading and decides to give her a shot. Both she and Devra can try out, and whoever’s better gets the spot. We get a scene with Devra and her dad, which is pretty much like Silent Night. They get on well but he’s very busy, and Devra complains that Gretchen stole her spot, so he offers to call the principal first.
Gretchen, meanwhile, is meeting her neighbors. Madison lives next door and plays violin in the school’s symphony orchestra. She describes herself as “some kind of prodigy”, so jury’s still out on Madison’s mental state. She asks Gretchen to go shopping with her, and they head over to the mall together. As Madison tries on a dress, Gretchen sees Devra behind the makeup counter, and her new friend lets her in on the fact that the Dalby’s own this store and are super rich. Madison calls Devra a psycho before wandering off, leaving Gretchen to walk straight into Sid. They exchange about two sentences before he pushes her up against a display table and makes out with her. Devra sees and is very angry.
The girls go to Lefty’s and talk to Rachel from the first book. They gossip about Devra and Madison says she and Sid might’ve been a thing, but now Sid’s attached to Stacy and are the perfect couple. As Madison rushes off to practice, Devra slides into the booth with Gretchen. Gretchen notices she has weird burns on her hands, and Devra plays it off, saying she was restoring old furniture. Devra actually seems to be playing nice, and she offers her a deal. Since Devra is a senior, this is her last chance to be on the cheerleading squad. Gretchen could be alternate, still be with the squad, and when Devra graduates, the spot is all hers. When Gretchen says she can’t just fail her tryout, Devra offers her five hundred dollars of credit at Dalby’s, then ups it to a thousand. Gretchen still refuses, and she snaps that she’ll let Stacy know about the scene with her and Sid. Gretchen says no, and Devra storms away.
Try out day. Stacy now seems super nice to Gretchen? She comes over to give her a pep talk and Gretchen wishes for her enthusiasm. Devra does a routine for them which is just okay. Gretchen is unimpressed. Gretchen gets out there and does some running cartwheels and power jumps and lots of other cheerleader terms. Devra clearly knows she’s outclassed and tries to weasle in more time. Coach Walker sends her off. Gretchen watches as Sid is clearly flirting with another cheerleader. She grabs her water bottle, and after a few minutes a wave of nausea comes over her, and she throws up. She’s in a lot of pain, and Coach Walker picks up her water bottle, saying it doesn’t smell right.
Gretchen talks to Polly some more. Sid comes over and they make out some more. He also seems to think Devra did it. He tells Gretchen that he and Stacy have been going out forever and everyone expects them to grow up and get married, and he doesn’t know how to break it off with her. Some threatening text messages show up on Gretchen’s phone, saying SOMETIMES CHEERLEADERS DIE which isn’t really anything. I mean, it is a death threat, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not very clever. It also name drops GIVE ME A K-I-L-L.
Madison convinces Gretchen to show it to the principal. Gretchen takes them to Coach Walker instead, and she confronts Devra, who claims her phone was stolen. Coach Walker and Stacy go to talk to the principal about the cheerleading squad. Mr. Hernandez tells them that Devra’s father donates more than a third of their budget each year, and in order to keep him happy, they have to put Devra on the squad. Stacy is getting her first taste of the real world while Coach Walker protests, but they all realize Gretchen’s been listening in.
Gretchen spaces out talking about Devra with Madison and mentions a knife for some reason. They’re out, and they see Sid with another girl. He claims it’s a cousin, but we all know the truth. More threatening things happen to Gretchen, including getting attacked in the gym and her cheerleading outfit being filled with roaches, and then come the fire batons. There’s no way any school in their right mind would let them have fire batons, but this is Shadyside. As alternate, Gretchen is in charge of lighting the batons and handing them off, also a bad idea, since she’s brand new. They mention Sid did it before and I don’t know why he doesn’t do it now. Gretchen sets it up, and Devra is supposed to take the first baton, but she has a stomach cramp or something and walks away. Stacy takes the baton and goes to her position, only to be set on fire.
Gretchen gets questioned by the principal, and she mentions that Devra shouldn’t taken the first baton and Mr. Hernandez accuses her of attempting to set Devra on fire, which isn’t great principaling. At home, Gretchen and her mom don’t talk, and when they do, they fight. Gretchen gets a call from Madison saying she needs to tell her something urgent and can she please come over right now. Gretchen’s mom grabs her and makes her help her with some inane task that seems really easy to walk away from.
At school the next day, Madison is set to perform in front of the school with a live orchestra. Part way through her performance, she starts screaming and crying, and a wound appears in her neck, burning through her skin so that blood spurts everywhere. Madison is dead. Acid had been poured on her violin, tearing apart her neck. Gretchen remembers Devra saying she used an acid to restore furniture and is quick to accuse her.
Sid still hasn’t broken up with Stacy now that she’s in the hospital, and he gets serious when Gretchen asks him about his dad, who just lost his job. Courtney puts together a routine to highlight Gretchen talents but means Devra is the one who’ll be catching her. Devra does but it still freaks Gretchen out. Sid comes over to help Gretchen clean the garage, and they find sulfuric acid hidden in her backpack underneath some junk, which freaks Gretchen out. She decides the only way to prove she didn’t do it is to prove Devra did do it, so it’s time to break into someone’s house
They roll up to Devra’s and sneak over to the garage. They search it for furniture, but everything’s neat and put away. Gretchen thinks they might have a basement workshop for it, but if you’re working with acid and paint, I’d imagine you’d want a well ventilated place to trap yourself inside of, but whatever you crazy kids. They do in fact find a workshop and the cabinet Devra mentioned. They pick up a bottle, and it reads Muriatic Acid. Not what was used to kill Madison. Not the same as what’s in Gretchen’s garage. As they try to leave, Devra and Mr. Dalby come home, and they have to escape without being seen.
Still convinced Devra is a murderer, Gretchen piles into a bus with the team for their cheerleader retreat. Sid and Devra start screaming to each other on the bus, which is really the first time Sid has been anything other than chill. Gretchen’s mom is left home alone and starts picking up in Gretchen’s room when she finds her phone, accidentally left behind. She glances at the last phone calls made and becomes horrified. She calls the school and demands to speak to the principal, and you know what’s coming. Polly doesn’t exist anymore. She’s dead. Gretchen killed her.
Well, sort of. There was a car accident, and Gretchen had a head on collision with a van, and Polly wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. She went straight through the windshield. Gretchen started living in her own little reality after that, and even when she seemed to get better, she started picking on a girl by making herself look like the victim. Gretchen hurt herself and blamed it all on one girl. And not long after that, they found a knife in her room.
The book gets real scattered here, and I think it’s just racing towards the ending. Gretchen gets to her cabin and her mind starts racing. She lifts up a knife from her bag. Meanwhile Mr. Hernandez and Mrs. Page are racing towards the camp. They see Gretchen running with a knife in her hand and hear Coach Walker yelling for someone to stop. Then it cuts to screaming in the mess hall, where Sid is standing with Devra, a knife pressed to her throat. He admits he lit Stacy on fire, assuming Devra would grab the torch, all because Devra ruined his family when his dad was fired. He’s been the one torturing Gretchen to show Devra that he was in charge?? His motive is a little muddled. He also killed Madison because she had a video of him putting kerosene on the baton, and really this is Madison’s fault for a) not showing it to the police, b) not showing it to the principal, and c) not texting it to anyone else. Gretchen tosses aside her own knife and charges him, knocking him down so hard his head hits the table. As Sid lays bleeding out and the girls get over their traumatic experience, Gretchen and Devra share a good laugh over how Gretchen saved her life. All is well. Gretchen goes to the doctor to presumably get back on her meds, and her phone goes off. A text. YOU KILLED ME, GRETCHEN, BUT I’M NOT GOING AWAY. GFF. POLLY.
Now she was starting at Shadyside High, ten times the size of her old school, and how could she compete? There wasn’t even a Sephora in Savanna Mills!
Fear Street Trends
A surprising amount of old classics return! Devra compares her dad to George Clooney which is kind of a weird thing, but I’ll let it slide. Some kids sing “a rap song that Gretchen had heard on the radio”, which is nice and non-specific. The “rap style cheers” return as well. The cheerleaders seem kind of 90s in hair style, with bangs, crinkly hair, and side ponytails. Gretchen’s mom wears white tennis shorts. Courtney also has a nose ring which would not fly in any American high school. Lots of crewnecks and skirts over tights. Star Wars and Hello Kitty get a shout out. A bit of technology marching on, including Madison listening to “a classical music Pandora station”, and a description of Coach Walker pulling out a CD drive to plug into her computer, since we all know modern ones don’t have that anymore. Gretchen’s mom also has to go through a metal detector to get into school, which she comments on, “In MY day…” Though this is while she’s racing to school to explain that her daughter might have a knife she’s planning to use so maybe don’t get so high and mighty, my dear.
I’m… a little disappointed. It looks like this is the last of the first relaunch wave, so it couldn’t get into all the evil and history and all of that. I knew going in it wouldn’t be supernatural, which is my favorite kind of Fear Street book. It really is more of a reboot of Silent Night than the Cheerleaders series, which isn’t strictly speaking bad. The twist still felt extremely generic, though I guess it’s a double twist, which is fine. The stuff with Devra was actually fairly good, but I feel like there’s a handful of extraneous characters that don’t add anything to the story, and Courtney felt like a gun that wasn’t fired. I still want to like it, so I’m going to give it three acid soaked necks out of five.