Book: “Lights Out” (Fear Street #12) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, June 1991
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: Who killed the counselor?
“I could kill you!” screamed Geri Marcus.
Could she? Would she? something is very wrong at Camp Nightwing, and junior counselor Holly Flynn is determined to solve the mystery before it destroys the camp!
The trouble begins with frightening acts of vandalism. After each, a red feather is left behind—signature of the culprit.
Suddenly, one of the counselors is dead. “An accident,” say the police. But Holly knows better—and she knows she’s next. Holly can’t trust anyone now, not even her best friend, as she stalks the camp killer—and hopes that it soon won’t be “lights out” for her!
Had I Read It Before: No.
The Plot: Just so everyone is aware, y’all are getting gifs and images from my favorite camp movies “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Sleepaway Camp” for this one.
Holly Flynn has been conscripted to be a counselor at her Uncle Bill’s summer camp, Camp Nightwing, for the summer. She doesn’t want to be there, as is made clear by her terrible interaction with a spider that wanders into her bunk. But her Mom made her, because she can’t just spend the whole summer on Fear Street, now can she, especially since her summer job at the Dairy Freeze was a bust. And besides, poor Uncle Bill has been having a rough go of it while running this camp. The first year, lightning burnt down the rec hall. Year two, both a flood AND a measles outbreak struck the camp (vaccinate your kids, folks). Year three, a camper was LITERALLY KILLED IN A BOATING ACCIDENT. So this year is kind of it for Uncle Bill, though honestly it sounds like he’s not so good at his job and maybe this just isn’t for him. Holly’s friend Thea is a counselor at the camp as well, but has her main goal for the summer to hook up with fellow counselor John Hardesty. While they talk about Holly’s not so outdoorsy nature, they hear someone call for help. Turns out Uncle Bill managed to overturn a cabinet full of sports equipment upon himself. After Holly and Thea help him out from under it all he comments that it seems like it was oddly loose. As Thea and Holly start to clean it all up, Holly finds a red feather in the bolt hole of the cabinet.
But she can’t dwell too long on it, as she soon finds out that Geri Marcus is one of the counselors at this camp!!! Geri Marcus, who had been Holly’s best friend before Holly moved to Shadyside, but they had a falling out. Geri had been dating at eighteen year old at age fifteen, and Holly had tried to keep it a secret but was caught in a lie. Geri’s parents found out, broke them up, and Geri blames Holly. You know this because of the not so kind look and demeanor she has around Holly. She also meets Debra, the senior counselor in her cabin who is also the arts and crafts and sailing instructor. She also takes an instant disliking to Holly for reasons unknown. But the Holly meets Mick, a handsome counselor who she takes an instant liking to, even though she’s sworn off boys this summer. When she gets back to her cabin, nature rears it’s ugly head as a brown bat is in the room. Holly freaks out, and Debra and Geri walk in and make her feel bad for freaking out.
They go to the counselor campfire that evening. Holly and Mick flirt a little bit more. Uncle Bill reads them the rules of the camp that they need to abide by, but is interrupted by a maniac in a hockey mask, who ends up being another counselor named Kit, a nerdy dude who has a crush on Geri. We also meet a softspoken boy named Sandy who wears polo shirts and Porsche sunglasses, and get a glimpse of the famed John Hardesty, who is antisocial to the max. Uncle Bill reads the rest of the rules, the last one being ‘counselors cannot date campers’. Seems like a no brainer, Bill. Holly and Mick flirt a bit more, and then Holly catches Geri glaring at her from across the bonfire.
The first morning of camp Holly goes for a walk. She meets up with Sandy, who warns her about leeches and to be careful in the water. She then runs into Mick, and they go walking by the lake to look at the canoes… Which have sunk. They pull them out and see that someone has punched holes in them, and Holly finds another red feather. No time to investigate further, though, as the campers are arriving. Holly is late and Debra chews her out for her tardiness. After they round the campers up and take them to their cabin, two of the girls get in a fight about the top bunk. When they both jump on the bed, it collapses. Neither girl is hurt, but Debra still reams Holly out for some reason, just as Geri and Uncle Bill walk in. Uncle Bill commends Debra on her ‘quick thinking’, and it leaves Holly alone to try and figure out what happened. She finds the broken slat, and along with that another red feather.
Holly goes to find Uncle Bill to tell him about the feathers and how she thinks that perhaps it’s a sabotage , but he isn’t interested in listening to her about it and snaps at her to leave him alone to deal with other things. Holly confronts Debra about chewing her out like that in front of other people, and Debra blows her off, saying that Holly won’t get any special treatment, even if Bill is her uncle. Things go from bad to worse at dinner, when Kit runs in and throws a rubber snake on the table. Holly is so scared she hesitates at first, but then is AGAIN chewed out by Debra for just sitting there while the campers are upset. I can’t even with this girl. Thea tells Holly to meet her by the lake that night, because she has some information that could explain some things. When they meet Thea tells her that Geri and Debra are tight, and that is probably why Debra is making Holly’s life a living hell. Also, Mick and Geri had something last summer, but now it seems that Mick may be into Holly. UH OH!! I smell a Judy and Meg situation a la “Sleepaway Camp!”
Thea also says that she’s meeting John there, and Holly rightfully leaves before Thea gets into another pathetic John loop. Holly runs into Mick on her walk back, and when he asks her if they can spend more time together she says no. Why she doesn’t tell him that Geri is the goddamn worst, I couldn’t say. Mick gets mad and GRABS HER ARM? I was rooting for you, Mick, but not anymore. He lets her go quickly and stalks off, ego bruised no doubt. As she gets back to her cabin, she thinks she sees someone sneaking out of it. Before she can investigate further, Sandy shows up. They talk for a bit and he seems like a far nicer guy than Mick at this point, as he tells her he’s sorry she’s having a hard time. When she goes back into her cabin, she finds an actual snake on her bed. She screams and wakes everyone up, including Debra, who chews her out AGAIN, calling her ‘worse than useless’. Calm down, Debra.
The next day Holly goes to try and talk to Uncle Bill about the feathers and the snake. But, so concerned with a mixed up order that has left a supply delivery AWOL, Bill, once again, has other things on his mind and downplays her concerns. He asks Holly to just be supportive of him, saying that those feathers are all over the camp. Holly decides that if he won’t listen to her, she’ll have to save the camp herself. She starts to observe the fellow counselors at a camp baseball game, and Mick puts the moves on her since she’s been ‘staring at him all day’. She agrees to meet him that night (WHY?), but when she does he puts the moves on a bit too strong and she demures. Which makes him storm off because HEAVEN FORBID SHE NOT WANT TO KISS HIM YET. And, of course, Geri saw the whole thing, and confronts Holly about trying to steal Mick away.
The next day Holly meets up with Sandy, and when he’s super nice to her she tells him her theory about the feathers, the camp, and the sabotage. He isn’t really convinced, and tells her that maybe she’ll be more comfortable when they co-lead that wilderness hike the next week. Holly isn’t thrilled to be co-leading a hike, but at least Sandy is nice. She runs into Thea, who is having more John Hardesty woes, as he just doesn’t seem interested. THEN she goes to the arts and crafts building to help Debra teach pottery… and one of the campers breaks a pot, which is clearly Holly’s fault. As she’s walking back to her cabin after this terrible day, she is confronted by Kit, who says that since she’s so awful to Geri, he’s going to be awful to her. He then GRABS HER AND PINS HER ARMS BEHIND HER BACK, as Geri and MICK of all people show up with a BUCKET OF LEECHES. They knock her in the creek and toss the leeches on her. After they leave she peels the leeches off and then runs afoul someone yelling ‘no please!’, and finds JOHN by himself. When she questions him, he says she better mind her own business or she’ll be sorry. JESUS CHRIST this camp is filled with sociopaths! She sees Sandy again and he gives her the finalized counselor list for their wilderness trip. Joy of joys, it’s them, Geri, Mick, and Kit.
At dinner that night Holly and Thea are hanging out and Holly realizes that John and Debra aren’t anywhere to be seen. Holly decides to go find Debra so they can eat with their campers together. She isn’t in their bunk, so Holly goes to the arts and crafts building…. AND FINDS DEBRA SLUMPED OVER DEAD ON THE POTTERY WHEEL, HER FACE A BLOODY PULP FROM THE CONSTANT WHIRLING OF SAID WHEEL. Now THIS is good shit, Stine!!! Her necklace is caught in the wheel, so obviously it must have been a horrible accident.
But then of course Holly finds another red feather.
Okay, this is so long and we have so much more ground to cover, and frankly this book isn’t good enough to dwell. So let’s just bullet point it down.
- Geri thinks that Holly did it.
- Uncle Bill assigns Geri to be the new senior counselor over Holly.
- Holly thinks John did it but then maybe it was Mick because she finds feathers in his room.
- Uncle Bill says the camp is going to close if one more thing goes wrong. Rebuffs Holly’s theories for the umpteenth time.
- The wilderness trip begins.
- Turns out John is just being weird because he’s messing around with a fifteen year old camper.
- Sandy asks Holly to go canoeing with him.
- And it turns out that the whole time it was SANDY because it was his little brother who drowned at the camp on Debra’s watch the previous year!!!!
- There’s a showdown in a canoe on the rapids. Holly hits Sandy with a paddle but he perseveres.
- There’s a second showdown in a cave involving snakes and Sandy falling down a hill.
- Mick helps get her out of the woods and the police come and take Sandy away.
- Holly isn’t scared of snakes anymore. THE END.
Body Count: 1, though I have to reiterate that this is by far one of the most gruesome and coolest deaths in this series yet!
Romance Rating: 2. Mick is a friggin’ weirdo and Sandy is murderous. Not to mention John Hardesty is an eighteen year old messing around with a fifteen year old. Look, I have lots of complicated opinions about statutory laws when it comes to applying to mid to late teenagers, but that’s the kind of gap that is a bit too much.
Bonkers Rating: 3. The pottery wheel death was nuts, but everything else was pretty uninspired, filled with “Friday the 13th” and “Sleepaway Camp” rip offs.
Fear Street Relevance: 2. Once again, our main character lives on Fear Street, but none of the action takes place there! This isn’t even on Fear Island or by Fear Lake.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“The footsteps stopped, then all at once the started again, faster, running. Who could be in the woods at this time of night? Whoever it was was just behind her and getting closer.”
… And it turns out it’s just two campers late for getting back to their bunks.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Amazingly enough, the fact this book takes place at a summer camp means that the usual pop culture and technological references were few and far between. I didn’t find much that was dated at all! Outside of saying that there are only eight “Friday the 13th” movies. “Jason X”, anyone? Oh, and Mick being described as looking like ‘actor Kevin Bacon’. That’s a blatant “Friday the 13th” reference too.
“What was it about him that was so attractive? Was it that he seemed somehow…. dangerous?”
This one was pretty mediocre and forgettable. Up next is “The Secret Bedroom”, another one from my childhood and one I have fond memories of. Will those memories hold up?