Book: “First Date” (Fear Street #16) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Pocket Books, January 1992
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Dying for a Date
Chelsea Richards is shy, lonely, and looking for love. She would give anything to finally go on a date. Soon there are two new boys in town, and both ask her out.
Too bad one of them is a crazed killer. Poor Chelsea. Will her first date also be her last?
Had I Read It Before: No.
A NOTE: It was suggested to me that there may be some people who want to read the “Fear Street” series without being spoiled, but also want to know what my thoughts on this books are. Since these recaps are basically a rundown of the whole plot, I’m going to try and meet in the middle. I thought of putting a quick opinion at the front of these posts, but it kind of upset the flow of the narrative. SO, what I’m going to do instead is suggest that those who don’t want to be spoiled for a specific book scroll down down down to the end of this post, and look for my final paragraph, which I will put in bold lettering and which will give my final and non spoiler-y thoughts. Okay. On we go!
The Plot: We start our story at a random Make-Out Point, with a girl named Candy and a black haired leather jacket clad boy named Joe. Candy is stoked that they’re parking and making out together, and Joe is starting to feel smothered by her. She also reminds him of his mother, who he doesn’t remember fondly. He suggests they leave the car, but drops his wallet. Candy finds it, sees his license, and sees that it says his name isn’t Joe, it’s Lonnie. He says it’s a fake license. Then, after an inner monologue about how he’s actually twenty and how he’s feeling smothered, he leads her off and kills her. He then sees a sign for a town called Shadyside, and decides that sounds like his kind of town.
Meet Chelsea. Chelsea plays the sax, has recently moved to Shadyside with her parents, and has a very ‘dry witted’ mother who works in a nursing home with dear old Dad is running his new restaurant. Chelsea works there too, but feels lonely, and laments that she is short, pudgy, ugly, and too shy to get anyone to notice her. She lives on Fear Street, which is ‘creepy’. Her Mom tells her that she’ll adjust and make friends, and then goes off to work. Chelsea decides to go to the house of her only friend in town, Nina. But when she arrives at Nina’s house, Nina and her boyfriend Doug are already on the way out. Poor lonely Chelsea! To make matters worse, on the way home a car of rowdy (read: misogynistic) boys drives up and cat call her. Which then progresses to them grabbing at her, throwing a cigarette at her, and chasing her. She hides in some bushes until they go away, and she wishes she could meet a nice boy. I’m feeling very uncomfortable at this blatant display of rape culture. Ah, the 90s.
At school the next day a shy new boy named Will is seated next to Chelsea. She notices how cute he is with his black hair and dark eyes(?!), but once again laments how SHY she is and won’t talk to him. That evening while working at the coffee shop that night (diner, coffee shop, it’s interchangeable in this book), and daydreaming about Will, another boy with black hair and a leather jacket comes in, running into Chelsea. He sits down, and she thinks about how tough he looks (‘tough’ is the adjective used a few times on this page). They proceed to have an awkward conversation, he says his name is Tim Sparks (but everyone calls him Sparks), and he asks her out to a movie. Brazen, that Sparks. But before she can answer him fully, her Dad says that she needs to attend to restaurant business. Sparks looks PISSED AF, and storms out of the restaurant without his hamburger. Chelsea is kind of sad that he went away, even though she doesn’t know if she would have gone on a date with him because he’s so ‘dangerous’ looking. Then she thinks about Will again, hoping that HE will be her first date. But before she can pine for long, a group of young men enter the diner, try to rob the place, hit Chelsea’s Dad on the head with a lead pipe, and run off.
Poppy Richards is alive, but taken to the hospital where he is declared in ‘serious but stable’ condition. Mrs. Richards tells Chelsea to go home and wait, and to stave off a panic attack Chelsea invites Nina over. Nina comes by happily… but has boyfriend Doug in tow, which means all of her attention is on Doug and not on her friend who is scared to death for her Dad. Some friend you are, Nina! While Nina and Doug make out, Chelsea thinks about Sparks. He sure ran off fast when her Dad showed up. Was he casing the joint? Was he in on the robbery?
Meanwhile Joe/Lonnie/whoever is out for a walk, thinking about class struggle in Shadyside (those snoots in North Hills!) and how much he resents his mother for leaving him to his own devices with a drunken father while taking his sister instead. That’s admittedly messed up. Then he strangles a kitten. Goddammit. We’d gone so long without animal death.
So with her father in recovery for awhile, Chelsea is left to man the diner with Ernie the line cook as her only back up. And Ernie is ever around when he’s needed, let me tell you. As Chelsea daydreams about Will (who has smiled at her and said ‘good morning’ as well! Progress!), two toughs walk into the restaurant right before closing (at 7? odd hours) and start giving Chelsea a hard time. And where is Ernie??? WHO KNOWS. She thinks that they are going to rob the place, but they start sexually harassing her and asking her when she gets off work. Before they can do anything else, Sparks walks in and they back off, leaving. She pours him a cup of coffee, and says that they seemed scared of him, to which he replies ‘they should be’, and ‘it’s dangerous around here’. Now Chelsea is scared of him too (though honestly it seems to me he’s just really bad at flirting). Ernie FINALLY makes his presence known just in time to say he’s leaving, and Chelsea and Sparks are alone. She pours him another refill, and he hightails out of there. She’s both disappointed and relieved he’s gone (girl, get it together), and closes up BY HERSELF before going to see Dad at the hospital. Sparks goes home, laments not asking her out, and trashes his place in a rage.
At school the next day Chelsea and Nina are talking. Nina is mad at Doug for talking to Suki Thomas (YASSS SUKI!!!), and then randomly a giant dog runs past them and out the doors, never to be mentioned again. Chelsea tries to tell Nina about Sparks, but then Nina sees Doug and runs off to meet him. Bitch. Luckily, Will is there, and he and Chelsea start talking! He asks her if she wants to go for a walk, and she says yes. They go for a walk in the woods, and Chelsea is thrilled that she’s going for a walk with a boy, ALONE. He falls behind, and when she turns he’s wrapping a length of GRAY CORD IN HIS HAND?! He says that he just randomly found it, and then asks her to go on a SECRET date with him, and to not tell anybody about it. Though this should be setting off alarm bells, Chelsea is SO EXCITED!!!
Chelsea tells her Mom about her date, and Mom tells her that Dad is now in a semi private room at the hospital. Good news on both fronts. At the diner that night Sparks comes in, and they continue the Dance of the Awkward Flirts, in which Sparks says that he’s a drop out, she says that she’s in the band, and he asks if she plays the tuba. Which insults her because OBVIOUSLY that must mean he thinks she’s fat. When she asks him about work he gets defensive, lies about having an interview at the mill that has been closed for years, and then he asks her out that Saturday. That’s the night of her SUPER SECRET DATE, so she says no, and he leaves, looking angry. Dammit, Sparks. You are so emotionally stunted and so obviously NOT the killer.
It’s date night! Will is taking Chelsea to the movies, though not in Shadyside for some reason, but Waynesbridge. He says he’s had this car forever, but he doesn’t know how to work the defroster. When she asks him about it, he says it’s because he’s a klutz. RIGHT. He almost forgets his wallet in the car, and when she hands it to him he yanks it back in a suspicious manner. She forgets all about it though, and after the movie they go a parking on River Ridge. They can see over the town, and he suggests they go for a walk. He beckons her to the cliff to look at the view, but she balks and says she’s afraid of heights. So they go walking again, and he falls behind and PULLS THE CORD FROM HIS POCKET, READY TO STRANGLE HER. I give Stine credit for not trying to keep up the ‘is it Sparks or is it Will?’ mystery. Before he can strangle her, though, another car shows up. Thank God for horny teenagers. But then Chelsea suggests they go back to her house, as they will be alone. Not so shy anymore, eh Chelsea?
They get to her house and start to make out on the couch. Will pulls out the cord again but Chelsea declares she’s making hot cocoa and walks to the kitchen, blissfully unaware that her cold feet have saved her from death again. Will tries to sneak up behind her and strangle her, but then the doorbell rings!!! COCK BLOCKED AGAIN, JERK! Chelsea goes to the door and sees Nina there, sobbing over her boyfriend. For once it’s good that Nina thought only of herself, because Will gives up and runs out the backdoor.
The next day Will calls and Chelsea asks where he ran off to. He claims he called to her a ‘goodnight!’ before leaving, and asks her out for that evening. She says she can’t, but then suggests he meet her after her shift the next night. He says it’s a date. Then the doorbell rings, and Chelsea is face to face with an FBI agent named Martin. Agent Martin tells her that they are looking for a young man with curly black hair and a good build who may be new to the area. When she asks if he may be dangerous, and he says yes, she rats on Sparks, because OBVIOUSLY he’s the one who it has to be! She tells him everything about Sparks and he thanks her, telling her to be careful. At school the next day she and Nina talk about Will and Chelsea can’t wait to see him that night.
At the diner, Chelsea is worried that Sparks may come in, and is jumpy throughout her whole shift. As it gets close to closing, Ernie disappears AGAIN, and Sparks comes in right at the last minute. Drunk as a skunk, and unfortunately he’s an aggressive drunk who keeps asking her to come here. She freaks and runs for the kitchen, and Sparks follows trying to tell her he was just joking. He manages to burn his hand pretty badly on the stove, and while he’s writhing in pain Chelsea calls Agent Martin and asks if he will come and also send an ambulance. After Sparks is taken away, Chelsea is relieved to see that Will has finally arrived.
They got back to her house, and snuggle on the couch. Chelsea admits that she didn’t keep their date a secret, and that she told Nina all about it. That’s a big wrench in Will’s plan!!! But no matter, he’ll just kill them both. He tells Chelsea to invite Nina over RIGHT NOW so he can meet her, and Chelsea does so straight away. Nina is game. But then the phone rings, and it’s Agent Martin telling Chelsea that Sparks isn’t the guy that they are looking for…. and Chelsea FINALLY puts two and two together. WILL IS THE ONE THEY’RE LOOKING FOR! She tells Martin that he’s in the house with her, and he tells her to just get out and go. She starts to, but remembers that Nina’s coming over! She runs out hoping to intercept Nina or the FBI, but unfortunately she intercepts Will. She tells him she knows who he is, and he attacks her with the cord, wrapping it around her neck until she struggles no more. He assumes she’s dead, and remembers that Nina is coming too, she he drags Chelsea’s body into the house and waits. When Nina arrives he makes small talk, and then attacks her with the cord. He chases her into the kitchen when she pulls free, and hits her with a vase. BEfore he can deal any fatal blows, he gets yanked back, and sees that CHELSEA IS THERE! He has another ‘BUT I KILLED YOU’ moment that Stine and Verhoeven alike are so fond of, and Chelsea fights him off long enough for the FBI to show up and arrest him. Chelsea explains that she plays the saxophone, and can hold her breath for a looooong time.
Chelsea goes to visit poor Sparks in the hospital. His hand is pretty messed up but he’s expected to make a full recovery. After some awkward apologies on both ends, Sparks asks her out on a date. And she says “It’s bound to be better than my FIRST date!”
Body Count: 2. Poor Candy right out the gate and that poor sweet kitten. And probably countless other girls off page.
Romance Rating: Uh, 1. Because Will/Joe/Lonnie/Whoever was trying to kill Chelsea the whole time and Sparks is kind of a prick.
Bonkers Rating: 4. The random robbery at the beginning was pretty crazy and unexpected, I suppose, but otherwise it wasn’t very shocking.
Fear Street Relevance: 5. Chelsea lives on Fear Street and we once again get some references to what a kooky place it is. But Will isn’t even from Shadyside, much less Fear Street!
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“She gasped when she saw an enormous, hulking man in a dark trench coat on her stoop. His face was nearly pressed against the glass of the storm door, staring down at her with the coldest eyes she had ever seen.”
… And then it’s the pretty decent and sweet Agent Martin. The only guy we can fully trust in this book who isn’t incapacitated.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Sadly, this was one of the updated “Fear Street” books, and because of that the really dated things were taken out and replaced with new things (a movie starring Will Ferrell… but also the Quaid Brothers, so huh?). But there was one thing: a reference to watching music videos on MTV. May they rest in peace, those music videos.
“‘Frankly your looks are great. It’s your personality I’m not crazy about,’ her mother said, doing her impression of a stand-up comic.”
DAMN, Mrs. Richards!!
Conclusion: “First Date” was pretty lame and predictable, though some of the characters I had a soft spot for. Up next is “The Best Friend”.