A Fear Street Christmas Special – The Snowman

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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.)

The Cover

the snowman

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.

Tagline

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.

Summary

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.

Favorite Line

“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.

Rating

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!

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

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Five Best Covers

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During the brief reprieve I gave myself, I’ve somehow accumulated more projects, which means this past few weeks have been busy for me. I was originally going to read another of the modern Fear Street books, but time escapes me, and I’m out of town this week due to the holidays. I didn’t want to leave you with nothing, so I decided to rank for you what I believe are the top five book covers (of what I’ve seen so far).

5. The Stepsister

the stepsister orignal

What I originally said:

The cover to the original 1990 version (borrowed from Retro Daze) is alright. I think it hits the right amount of sinister with the figure showing up to the unsuspecting reader, and I sort of like that they keep the angelic looks of Jessie, but it makes it slightly less frightening.

I do like it. There’s something very sinister about the stepsister’s reflection in the mirror as Emily leans in to read her diary. It’s a great moment in a horror movie, when someone’s creeping around the villain’s room only to be caught, and I think it’s captured well here. I think the most distracting thing in it is the lamp, and removing it could add a little darkness that it’s missing.

4.  The Secret Bedroom

the secret bedroom

What I originally said:

The cover (pulled from Lexile) is’t bad. The contrast of her to the sickly green glow coming out of the door, the skeleton hand, her scared expression, it’s all pretty good. What’s killing it for me (besides the mom jeans and the terrible shirt) is that left arm. It’s so poorly attached, and the line of the shirt makes a line cutting it off, so it looks like they copy and pasted it from somewhere else. Otherwise it’s a pretty good cover.

I stand by this one. I still think the shadow on the left arm makes it look disconnected, but this is a dynamic cover. The placement of the tagline over the opening door as both arms pull adds an urgency to it. The green light might be goofy elsewhere but works here, though the skeleton hand looking like it’s pulling the door back could be changed. Having it claw at her would be a lot better. I like the slant to the door as well. It gives it an off-kilter feeling.

3. The Sleepwalker

the sleepwalker

What I originally said:

I have so many memories of just this cover (pulled from its GoodReads page).  I didn’t remember the plot of the book before reading it, but I have distinct memories of holding this book and its eerie cover. I think this is beautiful. The glow of the fog, the water at her feet, the white nightgown. The only thing I might change is she seems like a dangerous figure here, which I’m not against, but I think a little more delicacy in her face and pose might’ve gone further in the ethereal design they were going for.

This cover is nostalgic for me, and I remember it stacked with my Christopher Pike books I likely purchased from Half-Price books. The fog, the water, the white nightshirt all work together to make this feel dreamlike and ethereal, and it’s a perfect selling point for the book.

2. The Surprise Party

the surprise party

What I originally said:

I really like this cover (pulled from this website). It’s ominous, I like the use of green, the figure is threatening, but doesn’t reveal too much. I’m a big fan of this.

This looks like a 70s horror movie cover. It should be advertising Last House on the Left or something. It’s beautifully painted, extremely sinister, and gives everything you need to know going in. The early books have some legit horror movie style covers that I really appreciate.

1. The First Evil

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What I originally said:

Only one cover this time (borrowed from the GoodReads page), and I gotta say I really like it. The skull and blood in the pompom is good, and the girl looks possessed. It’s a nice, sinister cover.

Y’all knew. Y’all knew! This is straight up and down my favorite Fear Street cover. The blood in the pompom with the skull coming out? Classic. You know this is going to be a scary fun book just looking at it. A++ would read again.

Special Mention

one evil summer

What I originally said:

I adore this cover (pulled from Goodreads). It’s so wickedly delightful. Chrissy is just swinging around that cat in her longshirt pajamas having a grand old time being so gosh darn evil. The only change I might make is getting rid of the lighthouse in the background. It’s a little distracting, does not have a place in the plot, and you get enough sense of being on the ocean from the ocean outside her window.

Why even have other covers? Woman laughing maniacally with cat had never made me pick up a book fast enough. Love it love it love it.

That’s it, my friends! That’s all I have time for right now. In two weeks I’ll hopefully be coming at you with the next book, but until then, consider checking out my 1950s monster mash, which is about to finish up its second arc (meaning I have to get started on part three!). After that, I’ve got some ideas for what I’ll be doing. I’m hoping to have the next part of my old west horror serial up in January as well, but there’s still tons of research I’ve been avoiding! If nothing else, I’m going to continue my Modern Monsters series, in which the next part will focus almost exclusively on this year’s best flop, the Mummy. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve switched around how I do donations, and currently you can buy me a coffee if the mood takes you. I’ve mentioned before I purchase the most of these books, which are usually around $5. It’s not the worst expense I have to deal with, but with some other projects in my life, I don’t have a lot of loose change lying around.

Which brings me to my biggest announcement! With the help of some friends, I’ve started an LGBT pop up library! Renegade Libraries is meant to bring literature to queer people in Houston, TX, as well as provide programming and connect authors to their audience. Find us on twitter and Facebook, and if you happen to live in Houston, come check us out at the Montrose Center on January 14! We’re currently looking for the best way to ask for donations, but give us a holler online if you like what you see! This is something I’ve thought about for a very long time and now it’s happening, which is super exciting for me!

See you in December!

Fear Street Sagas #3 – Forbidden Secrets

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Y’all, I want to apologize in advance for this one. I actually read this in October with the intention of writing up a recap then, but this one was so bad I couldn’t justify it. I’ve honestly debated skipping it because it’s that bad, but I set out to read every Fear Street story, and that includes this one.

The Cover

forbidden secrets

The cover (taken from Simon & Schuster’s website) I actually like. The contrast is on point, the delicate woman next to a rose dripping blood is classic, and while the creepy doll is out of place, at least it’s something. It depicts a woman being consumed by darker things, and I appreciate that.

Tagline

She learned to love, honor… and fear.

I also really like this! The ellipses are unnecessary, but it plays into the themes of the novel without revealing too much. A great start to a terrible book.

Summary

We open in Blackrose Manor, where an ancient woman rambles on about how she misses her home in Whispering Oaks. She murmurs her story to absolutely no one, but starts the tale of Savannah and Victoria, and how they met Tyler Fier. She mentions that both girls were in love with him, which I think is to keep us on our toes on which sister survives???? except Victoria at no point is like “he’s evil but I’m still into it”.

We start our story proper on the Whispering Oaks plantation in 1861. Remember how I was mildly uncomfortable in the last book because it was sent in the south during the Civil War, which meant all our characters’ loyalties belonged to the slave owners? So in this book, the main characters are slave owners, and Tyler Fier comes from the north, which puts us in a fun wacky “who’s the real monster” kind of mindset (It’s still Tyler). The previous book managed to avoid it by having no real mention of the Civil War except in scene setting and Stine not pulling a Django Unchained, but the main plot of this book sort of hinges on that, so like.

Which is to say, it’s Savannah’s birthday! The slaves are setting up for the party while Savannah waits for her brother Zachariah and his friend Tyler to return from their ride. She’s sort of how Scarlett O’Hara presents herself, and when she suspects the boys are coming back, she goes inside to gather a parasol and make herself a grand entry. She’s stopped by her mother, who asks about her sister Victoria. Savannah’s worried about her sister because she “was fascinated by the dark arts some of the slave women practiced”. Oofadoof. But she ignores her mother’s request to find her sister and greets Tyler. The two of them take a walk together into the woods, where they start macking. He says he must leave soon, and she’s heartbroken until he asks her to marry him. They’ll announce the marriage at the picnic. But Savannah hears something behind her and sees her sister darting through the trees. She follows her into the slave quarters and hears something squeal in terror, and whens he pushes open the door, Victoria is covered in blood.

The word voodoo is never said, possibly because Stine knows as much about voodoo as your average non-practitioner, but we see Victoria holding a piglet in a half circle of candles. She takes the blood of the piglet and sprinkles it on the candles, saying words we recognize: Dominatio per malum. She brings a knife over the piglet, but Savannah knocks her over. Victoria is still in her trance as Savannah tries to wake her, and Victoria shouts that Tyler is cursed, that all the Fiers are cursed, and they will be cursed if Savannah marries him. Savannah’s pretty sure Victoria’s just jealous, to which Victoria repeats that his presence only means death. Savannah’s not convinced otherwise.

As they leave the shack, they see Tyler and have an exchange that might be the best in any book:

“I want to make your sister happy,” he told Victoria firmly.

“Then leave her.” Victoria walked away without another word.

Drop the mic Victoria! The two lovers turn to each other and say they’ll be together forever right as a rider gallops towards them screaming, “War!” Also holding up a newspaper? Someone will have to fact check for me the rate of information travel, but that feels a bit much for me. He tells them that Fort Sumter has been fired on, and Savannah realizes with dawning horror that her beloved is now officially a soldier. He asks if she’ll wait for him, and she says of course, and he’ll fight alongside her brother, to which he responds no. He’s from the North. His loyalties lie with the North. He offers to marry her today, and then they’ll leave for his home in Massachusetts, and Savannah becomes livid. Her home and family is in the South. She can’t just leave that. Her rejection makes him angry, and he demands that she come with him one more time. Savannah runs away. But Tyler screams at her once more that she’ll regret choosing her home and family and everything she knows over him, and that he is a man who keeps his promises.

The old woman babbles some more. She says the slaves ran, their parents died, and the two began to starve in their home. They have no money left and no one to tend the fields, so the pair struggle to find food. There’s a scene where they eat worms that comes across as more comical than horrifying, which kind of undercuts the whole “slowly starving in our decaying mansion in the South” thing but it’s probably fine. Savannah sleeps uneasily and hears a noise in the hall. She opens the door to see Zachariah, but he smells of gunpowder and bleeding profusely. He opens his mouth to speak and blood pours out, and Savannah wakes. She half-tells Victoria her dream, not wanting to scare her, and notices a dark stain where Zachariah was standing in her dream. This does nothing and never really comes back, except they receive a letter from Tyler saying Zachariah’s dead and he saw it happen, making him realize she’s more important than any war. Victoria’s heartbroken about their brother, but Savannah is scared for Tyler. She begs Victoria to do some magic to see if he’s alright.

Victoria takes her sister to her room where she prepares a ritual. She holds up a pair of chicken feet for Savannah to kiss, which she does. Victoria then paints them in blood and makes markings on the letter. The room gets ice cold as she picks up the letter and burns it, sparking outrage from Savannah. She still thinks her sister is jealous, but Victoria tells her that Tyler Fier will destroy her if they allow him back. The old woman is back and says they’d be so much happier if they never received the letter. A bluebird flies up to her, and she tears its head off. I don’t know why.

It’s now 1865, and Savannah and Victoria have managed a small garden. Savannah’s working on it when a soldier approaches her. He tells her the war is over and he is going home. Savannah races up to Victoria’s room to tell her, only to find her sister rocking back and forth and talking to Tyler Fier, threatening to destroy him. When Savannah tells her the news, Victoria says that no one will be coming home to them. Only Tyler Fier. She hands Savannah a pouch to ward off evil. Savannah tells her she doesn’t need it. After a few weeks, destiny comes for them, and Tyler Fier arrives at the manor. He asks her again if she’ll marry him, to which she says yes, and he tells her he can’t wait to take her to Blackrose Manor. Savannah’s uncertain to leave behind her home, but last time it ended kind of badly, so she agrees.

They arrive at Blackrose Manor as a storm threatens them overhead. They enter the grey stone manor and see rows of portraits, though Stine refuses to elaborate so I can tell where Tyler fits into this weird family. They also meet Mrs. Moreland, who runs the house. Victoria is nervous, but Savannah’s certain they’ll settle in. As Victoria rushes into her room, Mrs. Moreland tells her she’s wise to hide, and that the two girls should leave while they can. Savannah refuses to be scared and tells her she can return to her duties. After exploring the house a little, Savannah goes to find Tyler, only to find him in front of the portraits, screaming at them to stop staring. He stabs one over and over again. He moans to Savannah that they don’t understand what he did during the war, and she comforts him. They hear screaming and run to the staircase, where we meet Lucy.

Lucy’s never really explained properly. She was the ward of Tyler’s parents, I guess, and he treats her as a little sister. She acts like a child and flings herself into Tyler’s arms as Victoria chases after her. Lucy stole her pouch of protection, and Tyler forces her to give it back and apologize. The ladies go upstairs to prepare for dinner. It’s a strange dinner, worthy of any unsettling Crimson Peak-esque melodrama if written well, with Lucy getting upset that Victoria took her spot and being obsessed with the candles, Savannah and her sister dressed up again for the first time in ages, them enjoying a meal with real vegetables and spices. Lucy gets upset when she’s chided by Tyler and knocks over the candelabra, screaming fire. When she’s scolded by Victoria, she tells them fire is so pretty and she likes the way it dances. They all decide the day has been too exciting and head up to bed. Savannah is woken by a maid and she asks her to press her dress, but they both find it torn and slashed. Lucy comes up behind them and shouts that the dress is ruined. Savannah says she doesn’t want to tell Tyler, and Lucy seems pleased to be given a secret, so she offers to show her the dolls.

We are led to Lucy’s room, which is painted black and as gloomy as the rest of the house. It’s filled with dolls: porcelain, cloth, on the dresser, on the bed, all with black hair and dark eyes. Lucy says they can’t be friends because they’re sisters, which fills Savannah’s heart. She tells her she’s always wanted another sister. Lucy asks her to pick a doll, and the one Savannah lifts up has been smashed. When she asks Lucy what happened, she tells her that she killed it. The other dolls were happy when it got hurt. They were so happy Lucy got hurt. All the dolls are named Lucy.

Savannah’s pretty hardcore in denial at this point, saying all they need to make this place better is some new paint. Victoria’s gone the other way and won’t stop screaming about evil. Victoria points out that Lucy has a big ol’ crush on Tyler, which Savannah laughs off, until Victoria tells her that Lucy is really seventeen and wants Tyler for herself. Tyler keeps giving Savannah gifts, including a horse named Whisper, Lucy tells Victoria Savannah said she always wanted a different sister, Savannah feeds her breakfast to the cat and watches it die, indicating it was poison, and then someone sets her room on fire. She tells Tyler someone is trying to kill her, and he responds by moving up the wedding date.

The servants get killed one by one, even Mrs. Mooreland, whose death forces Savannah to wonder if Victoria is behind it. She goes to find her and sees Victoria holding a knife to Tyler’s throat. He laughs at her and wonders aloud if Savannah would still be so loyal if she knew Victoria was behind all the fire. Victoria screams that she must end the curse, but Savannah rushes her and knocks her to the floor. In the struggle, the knife goes into Victoria. Savannah wails as her sister dies in her arms and promises to return her to Whispering Oaks. Tyler comforts her by saying she saved his life. He still wants to marry her. Savannah says she’s tired of being unhappy, and they plan to wed after burying her sister.

The day after the funeral, Savannah is married in black. What should be the happiest day of her life is filled with longing and regret as she remembers all the family she’s lost and how they should be here. After their wed, Savannah tells Lucy they’re really sisters now, and Lucy makes her swear to never have children, lest they also suffer the Fear curse. As the couple goes to their wedding night, Lucy screams at the both of them. Tyler still treats her like a child and never allowed her to grow up. She says that he should’ve married her instead. Tyler manages to pacify her and takes Savannah to their bedroom. When she tells him what Lucy told her in the church, he tells her that Lucy killed her parents. He thinks it’s time she’s taken away, that she might be dangerous.

She’s not taken away soon enough. Savannah finds her dead at the bottom of the stairs and rushes to tell Tyler. Only he seems to be in a laboratory of some kind, with Lucy’s hand amid vials and potions. He tells her that he killed Lucy and Mrs. Mooreland and Zachariah for good measure. He did all that for… reasons and is now going to kill her. Savannah to her credit bashes him over the head with a torch and that stabs him with a pair of metal prongs, to which he laughs and announces he died at Gettysburg. Zachariah killed him, and he managed to figure out how to live forever. He planned to come back for Savannah and live with her forever. Tyler boasts that he’ll never tire and is immortal right as Savannah bumps into his table, knocking over his vials. One breaks in Savannah’s hands, and he screams that he needed that! He needed that to be undead! So now he has to kill Savannah. He grabs her, they struggle, and then he just kind of falls over? And is dead?

Cut back to the old woman, who reveals the person she’s been talking to all along was the skeleton of Tyler!!!! Aaaaah!!!!

Favorite Line

Tyler is now a solider, she realized with sickening dread. And soldiers die!

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

I’m actually a huge fan of Southern Gothic so this could’ve been interesting, following post-war South as two girls struggled to make ends meet, being visited by a wealthy northerner who at first seems altruistic but slowly reveals his true intentions. It definitely shares elements from a lot of gothic literature, from the weird kind of but kind of not incestuous relationship between Tyler and Lucy to the strange servants who warn of danger, but it doesn’t actually go anywhere. Like the previous book, the whole North-South conflict is glossed over. Tyler and Zachariah are said to go to West Point, and I don’t know much about the lives of military men before the Civil War, but these things don’t happen overnight. You think there’d be some conflict there before war is broken out. A lot of things are super glossed over in this book.

Rating

Like I said, I don’t like this book. Everything from the characters, the plot, the subject matter, and the pacing was totally and completely off. I’ve enjoyed the Fear Sagas so far, especially where they expanded on the Fear family, but who even is Tyler Fier? Who even are these ladies? Where does this fit into our timeline? It’s bad, I hated it, and I’m going to have to give it one creepy doll out of five.

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween, as we know, is the most magical time of the year. I’ve been consuming a lot of media this month, including some brand new podcasts and even reading a non-Stine related book, and in the past I’ve given my recommendations related to these things. I don’t plan on taking a break in November this year, though I will be going back to my every other week update for the conceivable future, so in the week while you’re waiting for the next chilling adventure, I suggest you check out this cool media:

Meddling Kids is a book inspired by Scooby-Doo and Lovecraft. The cover is vividly gorgeous, and the writing inside is strange, but ultimately weaves together a tale of friendship, fishmen, and fear. Set in 1990, it’s a perfect read for a fan of Fear Street.

Buzzfeed Unsolved is, for the five people who haven’t heard of it, a web series produced by Buzzfeed that focuses on unsolved mysteries and supernatural stories. A marathoned all the episodes in less than a day and love both the absolute drive to believe by Ryan and the relentless skepticism of Shane. If you’re looking for something spooky for Halloween, I recommend the Chilling Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, but they also have episodes on the O.J. Simpson case, Men in Black, and even the recent strange road trip of the Tromp family. For a fan of mysteries, it’s a must.

Ghostwatch maybe the most fascinating item on this list. Originally aired in 1992, it depicted an investigative team examining the strange haunting of a home in London. While initially harmless, with interviews from neighbors dressed up for Halloween, the haunting escalates until the ghost takes over all the cameras. It’s never had a repeated viewing on BBC, it started a War of the Worlds style hysteria, with people believing a ghost was invading their homes, and several cases of trauma popping up afterwards. Sawbones actually did an episode on the phenomenon it caused, and it’s worth a listen. Every year folks do a “seance” of sorts, starting their viewing of the program at the same time and going to Twitter under #ghostwatch. You’ll have to find a version yourself, but it’s worth a watch.

For some reason I’ve become obsessed with exorcisms over this month, and I started listening to Wondery’s deep dive into the Exorcist movie, titled Inside the Exorcist. Four of seven episodes have been released, and they cover all the factors that went into making the exorcist, from the author that wrote the original book, from the case that inspired it, to the life of the director who made it. Done partially as a narrative and partially as a documentary, it jumps between times and focuses and creates a chilling picture of one of the scariest movies of all time. If you don’t know anything about the creation of the movie or are just curious, I recommend checking it out.

And, if you haven’t watched it this year, go ahead pick up Evil Dead 2. It does not require seeing Evil Dead to watch it, and honestly I enjoy it more than Army of Darkness (which is still an amazingly hilarious movie). It hits the stride between horror and comedy while playing on Evil Dead’s original concept. It’s Bruce Campbell nailing down Bruce Campbell, with tons of over the top gore, strange animations, and a scene so manic and delightful that you’re laughing when a man chops off his own hand. I realized while rewatching it that it’s the Bride of Frankenstein of our day, a parody of it’s own material, far better than it’s predecessor, and a delight from start to finish.

Hopefully these suggestions will find you something good this Halloween! Barring anymore hiccups I’ll post again on November 11, where we’ll continue to follow the Fears and this unusual town to the very end. Stay spooky!

Fear Street Superchiller – The Evil Lives!

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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

the evil lives

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.

Tagline

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.

Summary

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…

Favorite Line

“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.

Rating

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.

Fear Street #50 – Best Friend 2

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The Cover

best friend 2

The cover (pulled from Amazon) is nothing. The only thing I like about it is that Fear Street has a logo on top, but that logo leaves no room for anything else.

Tagline

There isn’t a tagline, just a reminder that this book was written after they held a contest. Fans submitted what they thought should happen to Honey. I wonder how much of this book came from Sarah Bikman, or if she had the initial idea. The initial idea’s fantastic and I wish it’d carried through more of the book, but what’s a Fear Street book without at least three plot twists.

Summary

This book is separated into parts as well, though these parts actually seem helpful to the overall narrative. It’s all done in first person. I cannot remember if the original book was in first person or not, but it’s the only way this book would work. Becka’s now going to Waynesbridge, the town over from Shadyside. She’s nervous about her past following her, and nervous about not fitting in. She calls herself “full-figured” and not cute, but she’s starting to feel good about herself again.

Becka has to check in with a counselor first. It’s not the only counselor she’s seen in the past year since Honey ruined her life, but hopefully it’ll be the last. Miss Englund pulls no punches and immediately asks her about Honey. Becka proceeds to recap the previous book, feeling extreme guilt over Bill’s murder. She sees him everywhere, and makes a fool of herself throwing her arms around some rando. He’s nice about it at least and walks her to her next class. Here she’s thrown into a class with a teacher who lectures and never stops. A pretty redhead girl takes pity on Becka and tells her to write down everything he says, introducing herself under the unfortunate name Glynis. They don’t really get to talk during class, since their teacher drones on, and Becka distractedly writes down whatever she can, only to realize she’d written BILL BILL BILL across the page. This’ll happen a lot, so I’m only going to make this joke once.

The good news is, Glynis seems to want to be her friend. They chat a while about Becka’s old school until Frankie rolls up. He’s clearly Glynis’ boyfriend, but Becka can’t keep her eyes off him, and he can’t seem to do the same. He’s the one who invites her out to pizza with the two of them. As they eat, Becka sees someone she recognizes and runs to embrace Eric. You remember Eric, right? He was in the first chapter of the Best Friend only to be dumped? No? I didn’t either. He’s a little standoffish with Becka, clearly trying to get out of the conversation, but she follows him to his car anyway, grabbing him as they get in and making out with him hardcore, though she’s really thinking about Frankie. When Becka gets home, she’s excited, relieved, and bubbling with hope. She looks at herself in the mirror. Her hairs only a few shades darker than Glynis, and about the same length. If she straightened it, stopped chewing her fingernails, bought a matching nail color, she’d look just like her…

Becka gets a phone call and hears Frankie’s voice on the other end. He wishes that Glynis would go away so they could be together, and Becka realizes she’s imagining this. She’s acting like Honey. She remembers the party, when Honey showed up in a matching outfit after cutting her hair, right before she pushed Trish down the stairs. The moment of revelation goes away as she paints on the same nail polish that Glynis wears, only to realize the words BILL BILL BILL have been scrawled over her face in that very nail polish.

Becka spends more time with Glynis. She ends up trying on all her clothes and then tucks a handful of them away to borrow. Glynis takes her shopping and asks about the clothes, but Becka plays it off, saying she had a date and wanted to try them. They go to the Shadyside mall (a bad idea, Becka), and go into one of the shops where Eric happens to be working. Glynis and Frankie talk to him too before absconding to the food court, and Eric asks the question we’ve all been thinking: Why are they calling you Becka? Because it’s not Becka at all. Surprising no one, it’s been Honey the whole time. Honey loses her absolute shit, made worse when Eric points out the real Becka is standing the same store next to her. She grabs a necklace of glass beads and starts choking Eric. No one seems to do anything about this. It’s not a quick and easy process to choke someone to death, especially with a department store necklace, but Eric goes down, and Becka screams that Honey killed him. Honey pulls the usual “no you!” on Becka, but it’s clear it’s not working.

Smash cut to part two, now narrated by the actual Becka, who has remained in Shadyside, is still best friends with Trish and Lilah. They’re attending poor Eric’s funeral, whose only crime was to make out with a girl he had to know attempted murder in the last year. They discuss how Honey forged her way into Waynesbridge with fake documents, and now she’s disappeared. No one knows where she was living or where she would go. As they walk home, Becka’s two friends try to console her, and they both point out she’s been distant and refuses to talk about anything. They’re interrupted by BILL running up the street! He’s not dead at all! He survived his stabbing last year, though he and Becka are donesville. It seems like he’s gotten very close with Trish, which will be a plot point later. He tries to talk to her, clearly wanting to get back together, even though she has a boyfriend now, and Becka brushes him off. She tells him she can’t.

The girls keep walking, and Trish speaks up. She tells them that Bill visited her in the hospital every day, that he was a good friend to her, and that Becka didn’t do any of those things. Becka tells her she was so messed up after everything that she couldn’t look at the people that were hurt because of her. She feels so much guilt over everything that happened. It’s why she can’t look at Bill anymore. But she promises to be a better friend.

Becka works at the Hacker’s Cafe (delightful) and her boyfriend Larry comes by to chat. She’s too busy to sit with him, and she has to do her job, but she tells him she’ll call later. As she leaves work, someone comes up behind her at her car, and she flips out, only to see Bill. He tells her he stills cares about her and bla bla bla. Knife victim, guilty conscious, boy that won’t take no for an answer. Becka’s rescued when Larry runs up. Larry seems to be one of those rare good boyfriends you can occasionally find in Shadyside. As he helps Becka into her car, she starts screaming, because someone’s taking a knife to the interior and tossed in a dead rat for good measure.

In a rare turn of events, Becka’s seeing a therapist and taking her meds. They aren’t doing their job of calming her down though, and she decides to investigate the house next door. Honey’s dad still lives there, and she wonders if there’s a chance he’s hiding her. But she’s interrupted by Lilah, who wants to show her something. They have a loud conversation outside the window, and that ends exactly as you’d expect it, with Honey’s dad looking outside. As soon as he recognizes Becka, he starts shouting at her, asking her where Honey is. The two girls run away.

Lilah tells Becka what she wanted to show her was a news article she found. It tells the story of Hannah Paulsen watching her father murder her mother and her brother before turning the gun on himself. Becka’s horrified, but Lila tells her they knew Hannah Paulsen. She was a total loser who followed them around in the fourth grade. They tricked her into embarrassing herself in front of the whole school, and soon after that she disappeared completely. And now she’s back. Hannah is Honey. Her “dad” isn’t her father at all, but her uncle.

Becka gets a few more threatening phone calls, because why not, and Trish tells her she’s hurting Bill more than getting stabbed ever did. She goes to her counselor and tells him about some of the stuff she’s learned. He asks if she’s gone to the police with any of this, and she admits no. He does the first responsible thing I’ve seen an adult do in these books, and tells her she has to tell the police about the phone calls, since they can probably track them. No stalling. Go there right away. She leaves, only to be attacked by Honey five feet from the door. As she wails on her, Becka tries to reason, calling her Hannah and saying she knows the whole story now, but Honey screams that she’s not Hannah and she’s not Honey because she’s Becka now! She continues to beat down on her, until all Becka sees is black.

But Becka wakes up again and realizes Honey must’ve stopped because she thought she was dead. She drives herself home instead of going inside the building full of adults, but her parents make her go to the hospital, and the police are called. Someone really should involve them at some point. Despite being beaten in the street, she still goes on her date with Larry, who’s pretty standoffish. Becka screams when someone accidentally pokes her with their umbrella, and at dinner flips out when she sees a waitress carrying a steak knife. Larry, to his credit, doesn’t want to leave her alone and offers to stay at home with her until her parents get in, but she tells him to leave. Listen, kids, neither of you are prepared for this kind of relationship. Don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t work out.

Becka refuses to turn on any lights when she gets home, which is stupid. She makes her way up to her room only to find her bed is full of blood and guts and someone’s etched THIS IS U into the wall. No one has Becka leave the house, or be put into protective custody, or her parents don’t consider moving for a while. Her friends offer to let her stay, but Becka says no. As she hangs around the house, she gets another a phone call, this one telling her that her best friend is coming tonight. Becka flips out when she hears someone at her door, but it’s only Bill. She screams at him what’s happening, and he tells her to get in his car, that he’ll take her to his uncle’s murder cabin in Fear Street Woods. The phone rings again, and Becka answers it in case it’s her parents. It’s Lilah, who tries to tell her something, but she hangs up on her.

They get to the murder cabin, and Bill goes to get some firewood. Becka takes advantage of the phone. She calls Lilah, who tells her that Honey’s been arrested. They caught her two days ago. It was upstate, and Honey was giving different names, so local police only just figured it out. Becka realizes this means that Honey couldn’t have messed up her room and couldn’t have called her. As she realizes this, Bill comes in, telling her to put the phone down. He lunges at her when she tries to call 911 and rips it off the wall. She asks him why he did it, sneaking into her room and calling her, and he says it wasn’t him. Then Trish walks in. Yup! You guessed it! Trish was the best friend the whole time! Trish tells her that when she was in the hospital, Becka never visited her, only Bill was so sweet, and she’d hurt him too, and she was being so selfish getting over the trauma of being gaslit and hunted and thought to have murdered her own boyfriend. She then pulls out a knife, and Bill says they were only going to scare her, not actually hurt her. Trish brings the knife down, and Bill tries to stop her, only to get stabbed once more in the abdomen. As Trish screams this is all Becka’s fault, Becka goes for the knife. The two girls wrestle, but Becka manages to cut her neck as sirens wail in the distance. Becka drops down beside Bill, holding him, and tells him she’ll be at true friend this time.

Favorite Line

I am my own best friend! I told myself. I have to be strong. I have to be my own best friend now.

Fear Street Trends

At least two girls are described as “like a model”, and Glynis is described as resembling Claire Danes (which is actually a pretty good pull). Larry is described as looking like Bugs Bunny (less good). Glynis paints her nails a chocolate brown and calls it “the flavor of the week”, sparking a conversation where Honey as Becka talks about licorice nail polish. Her “very slim and trim” look is a yellow vest over a white t-shirt and a short green skirt over brown tights. That’s so many layers! Were we doing that many layers back then! No wonder we wore basically nothing in the 2000s. I may also have to give you the full description for the Hackers Cafe:

It’s actually just a coffeehouse. But Mr. Arnold, the owner, put computers at the counter so that customers could surf the internet and send e-mail while they drink their coffee and eat their muffins and pastries. The cafe became really popular, especially with kids from Shadyside High and young adults who work in the neighborhood.

Love it, love it, love it.

Rating

I don’t know how to feel about this one. The twists were obvious from a mile away, but they were interesting at least, and the eponymous best friend switching from Honey to Trish isn’t bad. Still, no one’s motives make much sense, and Honey’s barely in it. I’ll give it three murder cabins out of five.

Fear Street Seniors #1 – Let’s Party

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The Cover

lets party

The cover (pulled from its Amazon page) is less than nothing. What is this even supposed to be? A blank red texture, a knife, and a stock photo? Y’all couldn’t even try? Also it took me a while to notice that this is “episode one”.

Tagline

You’re invited to… DIE!

Y’all couldn’t even try. The ellipses aren’t even in the right place!

Bonus Round!

What? Does this book come with a fully stocked cast of characters page shaped like a yearbook???? You know it does! I carefully photographed them with my phone like a professional and put them below. Peruse at your own leisure.

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Summary

It’s the last day of junior year! Bell rings, kids get out, and they’re now officially seniors! (Is that how it works? I wouldn’t think they’re technically until school starts in the fall, but we have to get this party started.) This is where we meet our impressive cast of characters. Josh is our main, and he passes by Dana and Marla, Mickey and Gary, Matty, Debra and Clark. Mickey and Gary are bullies, as is Josh, who passively sits by and calls people nerds, and Matty’s the fat kid who makes jokes at his own expense to keep in with the cool kids. Marla and Dana are the hotties, and Debra is Josh’s girlfriend, who he sees necking with Clark, the local goth. He wears all black and keeps his hair slicked back, so everyone calls him Count Clarkula. This’ll be important when Josh goes off the deep end.

Josh walks up to his girlfriend as Clark descends on her neck. He shouts her name, and both of them turn around, looking super suspicious. Debra tells him Clark was only helping her get something out of her eye, the absolute worst lie anyone’s ever told, but Josh is willing to believe it. Clark stalks off, and Josh tries to talk to Debra, who’s clearly uninterested. Sorry Josh. Leave her to the goths. But Josh thinks Clark is too big of a geek for Debra to be interested in, so he let’s it drop.

It’s okay, because Josie, Josh’s step-sister, comes running into the scene to break the tension. She’s livid because she got a D in trig, even when she did a ton of extra credit. It’s mentioned here she needs to get on honor roll for her parents to get her a car, but later her teacher says she has Bs and Cs in other classes, and I’m like, Josie. Maybe you’re just a bad student. Josie screams that she’s going to kill him and then storms off to talk to him. Thanks, Josie, for your contribution to this scene. Then their friend Trisha runs up and immediately collapses in front of them. They both run over to help her. Trisha tells them she had “the most horrifying flash”. Yup. Trisha’s a psychic. She’s also super rich. Her dad built the mall in Shadyside, which I think how everyone who’s rich in Shadyside got their money. Trisha tells them she saw the whole of the Shadyside seniors laid down in their coffins, dying one by one. Debra tells her that’s not true, that she’s just stressed, but Trisha clearly believes it. Josh tries to lighten the mood by reminding them of the killer party Trisha’s gonna throw, and she tells them she’s canceling it. She had another premonition of a girl sprawled out on her floor dead during the party. Josh and Debra tell her it won’t come true, and Josh tells her to have the party anyway, that nothing bad could possibly happen.

There’s another scene with Josh and Mickey that’s really unimportant except it reinforces the whole “Clark might be a vampire” subplot and also I think Mickey’s like a little gay for Josh? Just a little? Much like in Goodnight Kiss, Josh comes to believe in vampires over something completely innocuous, this time a wire sculpture of a bat. Josh also gets a threatening phone call from someone saying they’re gonna drain him dry. I also forgot this book is separated into parts, even though they’re totally unnecessary. (Did I add that to Fear Street bingo? I don’t remember anymore.) Part One consisted of five chapters. Part Two takes place on the same day, now starring Josie, and also takes place over about five chapters, though it feels more like two thanks to the length of them. I know YA as a genre is still new and innovative at this point in our history, but considering some of the door stoppers destined to come out during the height of the YA boom, these books feel incredibly juvenile.

Josie goes to meet her teacher, Mr. Torkelson and ask about her grade. Josie came to state her case, but she pretty much stammers out complaints and tells him she can’t have a D. When he tells her he rechecked her exam grade three times, she shouts that she had the flu during the final. He points out that Marla Newman also had the flu during the exam and got a perfect score, and gently mentions that she probably should’ve just taken a make up exam. Josie goes into a blind rage hearing about her mortal enemy, the perfect and gorgeous Marla Newman, made even worse when he mentions her brother gets good grades in math, and she fantasizes about smashing him over the head. This scene is almost entirely lifted from Final Grade, and I’m starting to wonder how hard Stine was phoning it in this book.

Josie stumbles around the school, seeing Ds everywhere she goes. She runs into Deirdre Palmer and Jennifer Fear, her two BFFs. Deirdre teases Jennifer about being a Fear, saying she casts evil spells and she’s a witch and the usual. Jennifer is clearly pissed every time she does it and she does not stop, but don’t worry. They go over to Jennifer’s creepy old house across the street from the Fear mansion, which Josie thinks is definitely haunted with the ghosts of old Fears, and they go into a room full of books on witchcraft! Jennifer’s mom flips out later when she finds them with the books and tells Josie they’re dangerous, and it’s like why even have them? Get rid of them. Throw them in a fire. Josie pulls out a book simply called The Spell Book (catchy) and flips to a page called DOOM SPELL. Deirdre insists they try it on Torkelson. In a great bit of timing, Josie tells them they need black candles, to which Jennifer responds, where would we even get those? Luckily Dierdre finds them in a carton from one of the shelves. It’s said several times that Jennifer’s family renovated the house, so this spell room had to be left in on purpose.

They start the spell. They feel wind blow in, candles flickering out, cold pressing against them, and just as the last candle is about to be blown out, Jennifer’s mom comes in. Mrs. Fear apologizes for interrupting their seance, but she looks real nervous. Hey, Momma Fear? Maybe if you found your daughter practicing black magic in a family history of that sort of thing, you say something? The girls rush off, but Josie pauses. She finishes the spell, imagining Marla and Torkelson being affected by the spell. As the last candle goes out, a figure in a red robe moves towards her, the face beneath its hood only a skull with a two-headed snake slithering in its open sockets. It reaches out to strangle her, and she’s shaken from her vision by her friends. She quickly puts the book back.

Josh, Mickey, and Josie go to the mall and run into Marla, who’s snide and condescending towards Josie. Josh gets distracted as they walk past a CD store and see Debra and Clark together. He walks up to them, and Debra quickly makes excuses, but Josh turns on Clark and asks if he’s behind the threatening phone calls. Clark tells him no, of course not, before skedaddling. Josh asks Debra what’s going on, and she tells him vaguely that she’s “drawn” to Clark. When Josh points out that they’ve been together a lot, she snaps that she’s not his property, and she can talk to whoever she wants, which is true. But, Debra, dear, your boyfriend getting jealous because you have a male friend is a little different than your boyfriend getting jealous because you’re dating someone behind his back. One of these is valid.

Josh wanders out, thinking about how Clark is so goth, and when he gets home he gets another threatening phone call. Now there’s a shadow outside his door, and it is Clark. Returning a sleeping bag. Lame and random. Moving on. Josie wakes up the next morning thinking about how she has to find a job because Marla stole hers. Her friend gives her a call to meet her at the school to retrieve a sculpture project she left behind. When she gets there, Clarissa is nowhere to be seen, but she does see Mr. Torkelson driving towards her. He holds his hand out the window to wave right as a delivery van rams straight into him. He’s slammed into a wall, and blood is pouring out of the car like a fountain. She runs towards the wreck and screams when she sees what’s lying on the ground. His hand, severed, blood spewing from it like a river, and its fingers still reaching to her.

Josie tells her friends that she finished the spell, and now she’s a murderer. Jennifer reminds her that magic isn’t real, and Deirdre tells her it was just a goof. Josie tries to call Marla to warn her, but Marla plays her off and hangs up on her, leaving Josie alone with her guilt. Meanwhile, Josh is hanging outside the movie theater, waiting on his date. Debra stood him up. He tries calling her house. No answer. He drives around and decides to go to Clark’s house. This puts things in a weird perspective. Clearly Josh and Clark know each other well enough that they know where they live, and also borrow things from each other. But Josh treats Clark like some weirdo he never talks to. Inconsistent writing or a character history being hinted at? You decide. He parks down the street and can see the two of them in the window. At first it looks like Clark might be biting Debra’s neck, but they’re just making out. He watches for a long time, which is weird. He knows vampires aren’t weird, but Clark’s so weird, and also Debra’s been pale and tired lately. Probably from all the sneaking around.

He leaves after Debra does and finds Mickey and Matty. He’s pretty sure vampires don’t exist, he tells them, and Mickey decides they need proof. That’s right, folks! It’s time to break into someone’s house again! My only explanation for Shadyside being the way it is has to be the evil has contaminated the water supply for so long. They drive back to Clark’s house, now empty and quiet, and sneak in through the window. The evidence they find is: a black cape, a book titled Lives of the Vampire, and dirt spread across the bed. Josh is now convinced he’s a vampire. He returns home, to hear his phone ringing again. He braves up and answers it, only for Trisha to be on the other line, calling from her cellular phone (fancy), to tell him the party’s back on! After hanging up on her, the phone rings again, and this time it’s Debra, yelling at him for spying on her and thinking he owns her. Again, valid complaints under normal circumstances, but she’s leaving out the fact that she ditched her boyfriend to make out with someone else. Josh tries to tell her Clark’s a vampire, which she doesn’t believe, and she breaks it off with him. What you should’ve done forever ago, Debra.

Party time! Finally! Josh drives up to Trisha’s mansion, complete with gate and security guard. There’s food and music and the grounds are huge. He sees Mickey with a girl, tall, beautiful, redhead, but the two of them are arguing. She shoves him hard, and he shoves her back. They seem to be getting into a physical fight, and Josh starts towards them, only to be interrupted by Pheobe Yamura. They have a quick conversation, and when he turns back around, the two are gone. Well, no need to break up that domestic dispute. What a good friend Josh is. Trisha is dancing with bad boy Gary Fresno, who is also someone else’s boyfriend, and then the redhead is next to Josh. She gives him a shove, ans asks if he’s Mickey’s friend. The two flirt for a long time, and she introduces herself as Saralynn. His eyes catch Debra and Clark in the crowd, and he decides to spend the whole party with Saralynn, making her jealous, and immediately forgetting that she and Mickey are clearly a thing. What a good friend Josh is.

It’s fine, because a thunderstorm sends a downpour over the party, and they all race inside. Trisha announces this is perfect, because now they can play a murder game! She hands them all cards, either a victim, a suspect, or an investigator. Marla draws victim. Josh and Phoebe get investigator. Mickey stumbles into the party, blood marring his face. He tells them all he tripped and slammed his face into his car by accident, but Josh can’t help notice that they look like scratch marks. He thinks about his fight with Saralynn. Then does nothing. What a good friend Josh is.

Trisha tells the suspects and the victim to go into the next room and make up a scenario. They have to choose how the victim died, and who did it. So it’s less of a game and more of a theater workshop. After a while of waiting, they hear noises from the other room, and Josie screaming help. Josh immediately rushes in, and they find Marla on the ground, dead. For reals. Trisha flips out, because her vision came true. Hey, Trisha, why did you plan a murder game at your party where you had a vision of someone getting murdered, Trisha? They all panic, trying to think of who could’ve murdered her, and Josie belts out that she did. It’s all her fault. She tells everyone about the Doom Spell. Jennifer tells her it’s not her fault and tries to get Josh to comfort her. They try to call the police, but the phones are dead. Trisha’s cell phone is in the car her parents took. They agree to go to a neighbor, or maybe just leave, and they all head out into the rain. But as soon as they get to the gate, it’s padlocked. They’re locked in.

They make it back to the house. Josh notices some people are missing, including Clark and Saralynn, and as they walk back into the dining room, they find Marla’s body missing. As they try to figure out who moved it, Josh also notices Mickey. He’s dry while the rest of them are soaking wet. He points that out, and Mickey tries to make excuses, just as Jennifer sees a dark red stain against the closet door. They open it, and Saralynn falls out, also dead. They quickly turn on Mickey, who announces he did kill them, and he’ll kill again, before he grabs Josie and drags her into the next room. Josh races forward, knocking Mickey to the ground. They rassle. Mickey gets real close to Josh’s face, and I’m like are they gonna kiss? But no. Mickey starts laughing and announces that he can’t do it anymore.

Saralynn gets up and Marla pokes her head in, asking if the game is over. You guessed it, folks. It’s another of those classic “pretend there’s a murderer on the loose” games Shadyside kids like to play so much. Trisha announces the joke is over, and Josie’s livid. Marla laughs and asks her if she really cast a spell on her. Josie darts off, just as Clark descends the stairs, floating, cape out, fanged teeth grinning. Trisha tells him he’s too late, that the game’s already over. He’s disappointed after he did so much research and even tried to get into character by sleeping in dirt.

Josie doesn’t hear any of this. She’s in the bathroom, calming herself down. She can leave, she thinks, and be a laughing stock, or just party on. Reapplying her lip gloss like armor, she steps out into the party. Josh tries to talk to her, but she tells him she’s fine. Then the doors swing open, and a red robed figure floats in. People notice and start to congratulate Trisha on another prank, but the figure looks at Gary and tosses him against the wall, where his head splatters. Some R-rated gore and violence happen in this chapter. Trisha gets her head squeezed like a grape, Marla gets punched in the chest and her heart just falls out, Phoebe gets her head twisted off, and Josh’s arms are ripped right off.

Josie runs for it. She gets in her car and drives all the way to Fear Street, finding Jennifer’s house. She knows it’s too late to save them, but she has to try. When Jennifer’s mom opens the door, she makes up an excuse about needing a CD and sneaks past her to the library. She tries to find a reversal for the Doom Spell, but finds something else entirely. Time Spell. It can help her go back in time and stop this from happening. It’s only an hour, but it’s an hour she needs. She performs the spell and finds herself back int he bathroom, right before everyone’s dead. She tries to think of how to get everyone out and knows she can’t convince them. She goes to the doors, where the red robed figure makes its appearance, and she does, well, she does nothing. It looks at her, taps the glass, and then leaves. Cool.

The only mystery left is who made those phone calls? Josh goes up to Trisha, and she tells him it was Matty, duh. He told everyone. Josh is reasonably embarrassed by this, and he walks back to the food spread, before he treads on something. He lifts it up, showing it to Trishsa. They’re the plastic fangs Clark was supposed to wear. Never opened. He turns as Clark walks out the door with Debra. Smash cut to black. Credits. Music.

Favorite Line

“Know who else has a crush on you? Her sister Deirdre.” Josie slapped her hands over her mouth. “Oops. Forget you heard that. It just slipped out.”

Fear Street Trends

There’s a good bunch of trends here. Debra’s described as “a clean-cut Kate Moss.” Who’s like a model. I’m not sure how much more clean cut you get than that. Marla and Josie where vests over t-shirts, pretty fashionable, and Debra wears a blue crop-top with blue shorts on her date with Clark (very matchy matchy). Mickey and Matty are playing Madden ’99, such a pull that I’m assuming that’s something Stine’s son played at the time. My favorite description is of Josie when we first meet her: “She wore a short black skirt over black tights and a black vest over two t-shirts.” Was that a thing in ’98? Were we wearing two t-shirts at the same time? And, of course, Trisha is shown to be rich and cool by having her own cell phone, with terrible reception.

Rating

This book seems pretty generically Stinian. A lot of it feels pulled from other books, from the vampire subplot to the curse ghost, to the party games. Probably the only thing new in it is the time travel, though last Halloween we saw a time traveling ghost, so even that I’m not sure. I will say Final Destination came out in 2000, while this book came out in 1998. Make of that what you will. I’ll have to give it two Mortal Kombat finishes out of five.