Book: “The Fire Game” (Fear Street #11) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1991
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: It was just a game…
The first fire started almost by accident. A wastebasket fire in the school library. Jill Franks and her friends found it exciting. And it got them out of school for a few hours.
Who could have guessed that the fire game would quickly spread? That one fire would lead to another? What Jill, and Andrea, and Diane, and the three boys they hung around with would find themselves caught up in the most dangerous—and deadly—game of all?
When one of their fires ends in murder, the game ends—and the real terror begins. All of them realize that someone is playing the game for keeps. Now Jill has no choice. She knows she must find the murderer—before her life goes up in flames!
Had I Read It Before: No.
The Plot: We find ourselves back in Shadyside, after a field trip up to the mountains of Vermont. We join Jill, Andrea, and Diane, three teenagers going to Shadyside High. Diane is new, but Jill thinks that she fits in with her and Andrea because 1) they’re all gymnasts, and 2) Diane is sweet and serious, whereas Jill is flakey and Andrea is a mythic bitch. They’re all lamenting the upcoming geography quiz as they sit in the library, though Andrea is trying to think of a good song for her gymnastics routine instead of studying. Diane mentions that her old friend Gabe is not only a songwriter, he also is moving to Shadyside! And apparently he’s super handsome too. Before they can get more info out of Diane, Max and Nick stroll in. These boys both have crushes on Jill, which pisses Andrea off. Jill, however, isn’t interested. Max and Nick talk about horror movies they watched, and start horsing around. Nick pulls out a lighter and starts playing with it, which makes Diane freak out for reasons unknown to everyone else. A folder accidentally catches fire, and Diane runs away. Andrea snuffs the fire out and drops the folder in a waste basket. They meet up with Diane on the way to math and she apologizes for freaking out…. But then, in math class, smoke wafts into the hallway. Of course the fire wasn’t out, and they set the library on fire! Though no one gets hurt, the geography quiz is cancelled.
They friends all go out after the fire, and they run into Gabe! Boy is he handsome, if not super aloof and elitist about having to move to this small town. But his ears perk up when they mention the fire at school, especially when Andrea takes the blame/credit for it. When Max and Nick ask if he’s ever set a fire before, Gabe doesn’t really answer them, but smiles creepily. It becomes even creepier when at school the next day, he suggests that they set another fire so that they can take the rest of the day off, deliberately this time. Though the friends think that he’s joking at first, he makes it clear that he’s DEAD serious. Diane gets visibly upset and makes an excuse to leave, and when Jill calls after her Gabe dismisses her, saying she’s ‘always been jumpy’. Yeah, Gabe, JUMPY. Andrea, on the other hand, is practically flooding her basement at the concept of setting a fire, and Max grabs the lighter and rushes off. As the others leave the cafeteria, there’s an explosion from the boy’s bathroom.
At this moment it’s solidified that I’m really just reading a book about a bunch of teenage pyromaniacs.
After the attempt of deliberate arson, the friends all meet on the soccer field. Max made it out just in time, and explains that there was a bottle of cleaning solution in the bathroom next to the wastebasket. Diane isn’t pleased, but Andrea is elated. School is cancelled for the rest of the day (that’s it?) and they all go for a picnic and swimming at the cabin that Diane’s parents bought on Fear Island. The boys all have a swim race, and Gabe wins. Andrea makes her interest known, and Diane says she doesn’t care if they date, though doesn’t seem convinced anything will come of it. The friends eat hotdogs and then Diane surprises Gabe with one of his old guitars he gave Diane. As he plays (and is perfect, of course), Jill thinks about how much has changed since he got to Shadyside (a day ago?) and that things have really changed for the better. IIIIIII’M SORRY, he’s a psychopath, Jill! He then holds the lighter under his hand, mesmerized by the flames.
Soon after Jill, Diane, and Andrea are shopping. Andrea keeps grilling Diane for information on Gabe, and Diane talks about how she’s known him since Kindergarten. They pass a pet shop and Jill notices that the cats in the window look like her cat, Mittsy. Oh boy, does this mean Mittsy will be relevant later? Don’t you kill another cat, Stine! The girls go to try on new clothes, but when Andrea tries to go into Diane’s dressing room, Diane freaks out and starts screaming at her. Andrea is shocked. She knew that Diane was modest, but this is nuts! Andrea goes home and after having a pointless conversation with her Mom, she gets a call from Gabe, who asks her out. Even though she thinks that he’s kind of a wackadoo, she also thinks he’s cute, so she says yes. Because bad boys, right?
Sometime after, the group of friends are driving around Shadyside showing Gabe the sights. He’s not too impressed, but when they get to Fear Street his ears perk up enough to only make SOME disparaging comments about it. I assume it’s because he’s evil and feels at home there. They tell him about the time a crazy guy tried to kill people with a chainsaw (“The Wrong Number”), when an old house burnt down after a Halloween party gone awry (“Halloween Party”), and how two kids parents just vanished without a trace (“Missing”, though to be honest they were found pretty quickly…). Gabe thinks that they should go look at the cemetery. He then suggests that it’s time to start another fire, and it’s Nick’s turn. Gabe suggests an abandoned shack in the cemetery, and Nick refuses. Gabe tries to call his bluff, but then decides ‘ah, fuck it’, and sets it ablaze himself. They run off and watch the fire department come at a distance. When they get back to the car, Andrea, pushed to her sexual limits, starts making out with Gabe in the backseat of the car.
Later, Jill, Diane, and Andrea are hanging out watching videos at Andrea’s house. She shows off her new computer, lamenting that the ink in the printer is blue instead of black, but still writes a poem about how horny fires make her. The police are starting to think that there’s a pattern here, and while Jill and Diane are nervous, Andrea is still aroused. Diane says they should stop playing this game, but Andrea refuses to stop saying that it’s way too fun to commit arson. The phone rings, so Jill answers (even though it’s Andrea’s house?) and though the person on the other end says they’re from the fire department, it turns out it’s really just Max playing a trick. Jill hangs up, and demands that they stop the fire game. Andrea finally concedes that they can ‘slow down’ at least. While Diane is in the bathroom (totally happy that the game is going to maybe end), Jill tells Andrea that she has a date with Gabe the next night. Andrea sees it as a challenge.
On the date, Gabe is actually acting like a pretty nice and romantic guy towards Jill. He plays the guitar, opens up about some of his past, and they have a heartfelt conversation. Though when Jill brings up the fact that the girls want to stop the game, he’s dismissive of her and her feelings…. Until they get to Pete’s Pizza and they find that someone has set his father’s car on fire!!!
He and Jill think that Nick must have done it out of jealousy. She calls Nick later that night to ask him why he did it, but he denies it and hangs up on her. Then she calls Andrea to tell her what happened. Andrea is more concerned that the date ended without getting anywhere, but concedes that maybe the game will be done now. That night Jill wakes up to smell smoke, and then finds her cat Mittsy burnt to a crisp!!.. But then it’s just a nightmare, thank GOD, I’m glad no cats had to die for a plot twist this time.
The next day Jill and Nick talk a bit, and he asks her over that night to study together. When she goes to his house, she sees him and Max getting into a car and driving away. Suspicious (And miffed he’s breaking their study date), Jill follows them. They drive to Fear Street, and of course as soon as she turns down the street, her car lurches to a stop and dies. She starts to panic, but is helped by a kind policeman who saw her stranded. He gets her car going again, and she continues to drive. She parks near the cemetery, and gets out to walk on foot… And then sees their car by an old abandoned house… WHICH SOON BURSTS INTO FLAMES!! Jill sees Max and NIck running away from it! She drives to a fire box to alert the authorities, but then drives home. After trying to calm down with yoga and “Three’s Company” re runs, she turns on the news… and finds out that there was a homeless man in the house that burnt down!! Nick and Max are murderers!!
Jill calls Nick to confront him. He balks at first, but then admits that he DID ditch her that night to go to Fear Street with Max, but that they didn’t set the fire! Someone left a note on his doorstep (and Max’s too) telling them to go to Fear Street, and when they got there the fire started. Jill thinks that then it must be Gabe who did it! She calls Diane to go with her to get the note from Nick. But when they get the note, they see that it’s printed in BLUE INK!!!!! LIKE ANDREA’S PRINTER!
SO, Cagney and Lacey go to confront Andrea. Andrea says she didn’t do it and that Jill is only accusing her because her date with Gabe went sour. When they don’t believe her she yells at them to get out and never come back! But then in the middle of the night she calls Jill to ask her to meet her at the gym before school the next morning, because she thinks she may be close to figuring out what’s happening… and that it may involve Gabe! Jill agrees, and the next day she goes to the gym to find Diane there, who says Andrea called her too… BUT THEN THEY FIND ANDREA, AND SHE’S DEAD! Wait, not dead, knocked out. So an ambulance comes to get her. The gym teacher thinks she fell of the balance beam to have hit her head, but they can’t know until she comes to. Jill wonders if Gabe found out that Andrea was on to him, however….
Jill insists that the rest of the group come together, and suggests that perhaps it’s a stranger setting the fires to get to them (though Gabe is still a contender in her mind). It doesn’t go well, as they all start accusing each other of setting the fire and trying to kill Andrea. As Jill is walking home Gabe catches up to her and gives her a ride home. She’s convinced that he’s the one who did it, but doesn’t want him to catch on. He says he has a feeling the fires are done, and that he never should have come to Shadyside or none of this would have happened. I have to agree. Jill, unable to resist his charms in spite of the fact he’s a creep, agrees to go out with him again, especially after he assures her that he’s not interested in Andrea. Jill’s questionable happiness is short lived, as the police show up that night, asking her if she saw anything the night of the fire, since she was in the vicinity. She lies and says no.
Diane invites Jill to her family cabin on Fear Island to unwind. Jill breaks her date with Gabe, and is having a great girls weekend with Diane… Until Andrea calls. Andrea starts to threaten Jill, saying that she knows that it was HER who tried to kill her and that SHE was the one who wrote the note by using her computer!!! But then she says ‘Diane’. SHE THOUGHT JILL WAS DIANE!!! DIANE IS THE ARSONIST/MURDERER! Andrea tells Jill to leave, but after she hangs up Jill can’t find her keys!! So she runs into the woods, but of course gets lost, and of COURSE Diane finds her. When she acts perfectly normal, for whatever reason Jill goes back with her… But yeah, Diane is indeed nutty, and is the one behind all of this. Her motive, of course, is because of Gabe. She tried to take out Andrea for going on a date with him, and set Gabe’s car on fire because she saw him and Jill at a distance. Oh, and also, she is obsessed with fire because, shock and awe, her body is covered in burn scars after she was in a fire when a kerosene lamp exploded when she was a girl. Gabe was so sweet to her when she was recovering, she fell in love with him and has been obsessed with him since. But because of her scars, THEY CAN NEVER BE. Good God. Diane then starts setting the cabin on fire. She is about to set Jill ablaze, but Gabe bursts in, as Andrea told him where he could find them. They all get out of the cabin, and Gabe apologizes for setting off Diane’s psychotic break with his ‘fire game’. The end.
Body Count: 1. I always find it a bit cheap when a homeless person is used as a convenient dead body. Let’s just dehumanize them a bit more, why don’t we?
Romance Rating: 3. I gotta admit that Gabe playing the guitar for Jill was pretty romantic, but then again, he’s also happily stringing along Andrea and Diane to an extent. Also, he’s a complete psychopath.
Bonkers Rating: 2. This was just about a bunch of arsonists being the goddamn worst. Nothing bonkers about that outside of the sheer despicableness of it all.
Fear Street Relevance: 8. The biggest fire with the most dire consequences took place on Fear Street, but more importantly we got a nice little run down of previous “Fear Street” plots in this one! That walk down memory lane easily bumps the number up!
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“‘I don’t believe it!’ Diane cried. ‘She’s dead!'”
… And then, she isn’t dead. She’s very much alive. Wishful thinking, Diane.
That’s So Dated! Moments: There is a whole scene in which Andrea is showing off her new computer. It’s so amazing it can do calculations, has games, and even a ‘word processor’ on it. It was so quaint and cute. And there is also a scene in which a lime green shirt is the pinnacle of fashion.
“‘Well I’m not sure about the Undead,’ Jill admitted, ‘but there is something very creepy about Fear Street.'”
It was as if R.L. had to remind us of the premise of this entire series.
“The Fire Game” was really just about a bunch of arsonists with far too much privilege for their own good. I’m hoping that our next book, “Lights Out”, has more responsible (and less sociopathic) protagonists.