Book: “The Thrill Club” (Fear Street 24) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1994
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: Thrills and chills…
Talia Blanton could scare you to death.
She writes horror stories—stories that often give her friends starring roles.
Everyone loves Talia’s terrifying tales—until they start to come true. One by one, Talia’s friends become Talia’s victims.
Is Talia making her stories come true? Or is someone trying to turn Talia’s real life into a horror story?
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: I first want to say that I did some poking around online while reading this book, and a couple sources (aka maybe reckless internet gossip) claim that “The Thrill Club” was written by a ghost writer and not R.L. Stine himself. And given some of the plot points of this story, I find that hilarious. So let’s begin.
Shandel Carter is walking home alone on Fear Street in the dead of night. She and her friend Nessa got into an argument, and so Shandel doesn’t have a ride to take her back to her house. The argument was about whether or not Nessa saw a ghost in the Fear Street cemetary: Nessa said yes, and Shandel said no way. But as she’s walking home, she starts hearing someone, or something calling her name. She runs and sees ghosts rising out of the cemetery, and has her throat cut by one of them…. But it turns out this is just a story, as told by Talia Blanton at their Thrill Club meeting. The Thrill Club is a group of friends who rip off “Are You Afraid Of The Dark” by getting together and telling scary stories. Talia’s tend to star her friends in the club: Seth, her boyfriend; Maura, Seth’s ex girlfriend (until Talia stole him away); Nessa, the kind one; Rudy, the cute one and Maura’s new boyfriend; and Shandel. Who isn’t pleased about being the victim in the story. Oh, and apparently Seth has been the one writing Talia’s stories as of late and she’s been passing them off as her own. She also is always thinking about how ugly Maura is. Talia isn’t terribly likeable, is she? Shandel asks that Talia not use her name in these gory stories anymore, and Maura implies that Talia is getting help from Seth with these stories, but Talia insists that’s not true, and demands that he lie for her. Which he kind of does. Shandel once again asks that Talia leave her name out of it, and in response Talia rushes across the room and stabs her in the chest with one of those fake retractable knife toys. Jesus Christ, this girl is a sociopath. Shandel, not pleased, says that she doesn’t get mad, she gets even.
The club breaks up for the night. Talia goes back to the rec room to find Maura and Seth talking closely, and Talia wonders why she isn’t jealous. Maybe it’s because Seth has been acting so strange since his father died three weeks earlier. Gee Talia, you’re sure right, why is acting so strange when his Dad died THREE WEEKS AGO? Rudy and Maura leave, and Talia and Seth are left alone. She wishes that he would smile more, and I officially kind of hate her. He confides in her that he found his father’s body, and that he was sitting in a chair, just staring ahead, a strange audiocassette playing on a loop. The coroner couldn’t figure out a cause of death either. And now he and his Mom and broke and may have to move away. He takes Talia up to the study to show her something. Talia looks out the window, and sees Maura in the house next door! She demands what Maura is doing there, and Seth reminds her that she lives there. Doesn’t even know where her friend lives, this girl. ANYWAY, Seth reminds her that his dad was an anthropologist, and tells her that he was working with a ‘primitive tribe in New Guinea’ before he died. HO boy. I can already assure you this is not going to be at all culturally sensitive. He plays the tape for her, and a bunch of chanting starts up. Seth then falls into a weird trancelike state, and Talia’s head starts to pound. She begs that he turn it off, and shakes him out of his trance. On the way home Talia is feeling jumpy and finds herself walking by the Fear Street Cemetery. She suddenly hears pounding footsteps, and freaks out… but then it’s just Shandel playing a trick on her. I call that squarsies. They walk home together, and Shandel tells Talia that it was uncool that Talia broke Maura and Seth up. Talia says it wasn’t her fault, Seth asked HER out. She didn’t break them up! Sure. Shandel tells her that they aren’t a good couple, and Talia is super angry about that. Which is strange, because she knows that Shandel is right and always speaks her mind. So why is she so mad??
The next day Talia is still feeling weird. She goes to school, and wonders what she should do about Seth, stay with him or break up with him? He’s either too needy or too distant, and Talia doesn’t have time for that! In math class, her teacher Mr. Hanson pulls her aside and asks her about the previous day’s homework, and if it was actually her work. Which it isn’t, because Seth did it for her while she watched TV. But she tells him that yes, it’s totally her work, she’s NOT a cheater!
Mr. Hanson takes her word for it. Talia wonders who could have ratted her out, and thinks that it must be Shandel.
That night at Thrill Club Nessa is pissed because everyone but Rudy is late! Which is odd because Shandel had spoken to her a half hour before telling her how excited she was for the meeting and that she had a secret to tell her. Maura shows up next, and says that maybe Talia is late because the story Seth wrote for her got lost in a disk crash, and Rudy chides her. Maura asks whose side he’s on anyway, and Nessa, being the smartest dummy in this whole group, continues to do her nails and pretend she isn’t there. I am imaging her as Portia from “Search Party” now. Then Seth shows up, and asks where Talia and Shandel are. Nessa decides to call Shandel because she’s sick of waiting, and Talia runs down the basement steps, out of breath and looking harried. Nessa asks where she was, and Talia doesn’t know…. It’s odd, because she left her house twenty minutes ago and it’s only a ten minute walk from her house, so why can’t she remember where the time went? She gives her sweatshirt to Nessa, who’s going to put it with the other coats, and doesn’t remember taking it off. Then Nessa has bad news: she called Shandel’s house, and her mom said that Shandel left a half hour ago, but it’s only a short walk to Nessa’s house! They decide to go looking for her, and Talia gets her sweatshirt back…. and Maura points out a bloodstain on it. Talia has no clue how it got there. They go looking for Shandel, and drive all the way to her house without seeing her. They wonder if she tried to cut through the cemetery. As they are driving, Maura sees something, and they stop the car. They find Shandel’s body strewn in the grass, and her throat has been cut. Just like in the horror story.
Seth drives Talia home from the police station after they are done with the questioning. She is feeling bad about the story he wrote, but he tells her not to blame herself. They make out a bit, and then he stops abruptly and says he has to go. She goes into her house, and goes to change into her nightgown… and finds a bloody knife in her dresser drawer! She keeps this info to herself until the day of Shandel’s funeral, where she tells Seth. She has no clue how the knife got in her drawer, and thinks she is being set up. The Thrill Club meets after the service to mourn and talk. Maura asks Talia about the bloody shirt, pretty clearly accusing her of murdering Shandel. Talia says that it wasn’t even blood, it was ketchup.
A few nights later Talia is waiting for Seth to call, as they are supposed to be going to the movies. He doesn’t make contact, however, so she calls him instead. He tells her that his mother is sick and he can’t see her that night after all, so Talia decides to try and write instead. But before she can start, there’s a knocking at the door. She answers, and it’s the police, asking her why she called Shandel Carter’s mother and confessed to murdering Shandel?
After denying this, at school the next week everyone is looking at her like she’s a murderer. Nessa tries to be supportive, but Maura is flat out convinced that Talia is a killer. She’s feeling out of sorts and exhausted, and walks towards the gym. She runs into Rudy inside, who says that he’s been thinking about her and promises he doesn’t think she killed Shandel. Talia, angry at Seth and feeling the slightest crumb of validation, kisses Rudy! Who kisses her back!! But then they hear the door clatter, and they turn to see someone running away. Who saw them???? They try to catch the person, but don’t. But it was just one kiss, so who cares, right?
Later that week, Talia is still not really eating. She gets to school and sees Nessa flirting with someone. THat someone turns out to be Seth! When she confronts them angrily (seems a bit hypocritical), Nessa says that Talia called her last night and told her that she was breaking up with Seth!! Talia says that she never called Nessa, but Nessa swears she isn’t lying either. Seth says he doesn’t know what to believe. That night she is home alone, and answers the door to find a HORRIBLY DISFIGURED FACE IN THE DOORWAY… But it’s just Seth in a mask, one that his father brought back from Papua New Guinea. He describes his father as a collector, but we all know he probably actually stole these artifacts in the name of science and imperialism. She says that she thought he was going to break up with her, but he assures her that no, he isn’t. They decide to have a nice talk to catch up, and she tells him that she got accepted to Berkeley in the fall!! Seth is visibly bummed by this (maybe he wrote her essay too), but then shows her that he has a new horror story that he wrote for her. This one involves Rudy getting strung up in a noose in his basement. Talia is torn, because on one had she loves the story, but on the other that seems
ghoulish creepy to write another story about a friend after Shandel died like the last one. Especially since they think she killed Shandel. Seth convinces her that it’s okay, and that if he did change the name she’d look more suspicious.
At school Talia confirms with Rudy that she is indeed going to the Thrill Club meeting at his house. He is happy to hear it, and tells her to arrive at six. When she’s walking home, Talia is stopped by Maura, who tells her that she’s worried about Seth. Maura can see into his window at night and he spends most nights pacing around and looking through his father’s things. Instead of thinking about what this could mean for Seth’s well being, Talia goes in on Maura, accusing her of being jealous.
Maura suggests that maybe Thrill Club should take a break, but Talia says no, and she’s going to Rudy’s early to help him set up, fully hoping to make her jealous. God she’s such a jerk.
Nessa arrives to Thrill Club at Rudy’s and finds Maura and Seth on the porch. Rudy hasn’t let them in yet, and no one has seen Talia. They let themselves into the open house and go down to the basement. It’s there that they find Rudy hanging from a noose, dead. Nessa, possibly having a mental break, starts to laugh hysterically thinking it’s a joke, but it becomes quite clear it isn’t. Then Talia stumbles out of the shadows with rope burns all over her hands. SO, she’s sent to a mental ward. Seth comes to visit her, and she tells him that her court date is in three weeks but she’s been released into her parents custody and is going home. Though she can’t remember killing them, she concedes that she must have, given the knife in her drawer and the rope burns on her hands. Seth leaves, seeming to have finally turned his back on her, and as she watches him out the window she sees him walk back to his car, where Maura is waiting!!! Did Maura frame her for the murders all to get Seth back?!
Before leaving she hallucinates that Shandel and Rudy have come to kill her but it’s just two other patients and it’s all so superfluous. Maybe the ghost writer had a minimum word count to hit.
Anyway, Seth reads her a new story for Thrill Club that night in which she has taken Shandel and Rudy’s heads as trophies and wants to take his head too. Talia draws the line, saying this is SO distasteful, and Seth leaves her in his father’s study to answer the door. When Nessa and Maura come in, Seth shoots down the idea of the Thrill Club disbanding. He also tells Talia that she absolutely must read the new story she wrote, because it’s so good. Talia, feeling trapped, decides to read it, but try to change the ending on the fly so that instead of Rudy and Shantel’s heads it’s two shrunken heads. But as she’s reading it, she notices two things. The first is that Seth isn’t even listening, but has his Walkman on. The second is that there’s a horrible buzzing in her head, and she can’t make herself change the story, no matter how she tries. So she reads it in its original form, and Nessa and Maura are pissed. But soon a voice is drowning out the buzzing, and it tells Talia to TAKE ANOTHER TROPHY!!! And so she pulls out a HACKSAW and starts to attack Maura!!! She scuffles with both Maura and Nessa, against her will, and the voice keeps telling her to try and kill them. When Maura and Nessa overpower her, the voice says that it will take care of this, and Talia suddenly wakes up from her trance, not remembering what just happened. Maura says that they should call the police, but Seth takes the phone from Nessa and tells them that NO ONE ESCAPES!!!! It was Seth the whole time! You see, the tape that his father had wasn’t just any racist imperial bastardization of a non Western culture: it’s a ‘transfer’ tape. In that if you chant these words, the person will ‘transfer’ their consciousness into another body. Convinced that his father did this to get away from him and his mother, Seth started putting his consciousness into Talia’s body. He knew that she wanted to dump him for Rudy and leave her like his father did, and that she used him and abused him and was going to drop him anyway. He didn’t mean to kill Shandel, as he thought the knife was fake, but Rudy was totally on purpose because he’s the one who saw them kissing. And now he has a new chanting that’s going to kill all of them, somehow….. but then in mid chant, he just says ‘too late, too late’, and he buckles. The girls catch up, and they realize that he’s dead. How? I guess it doesn’t matter.
We end with Talia and Maura hanging out. Talia tells her the charges against her have been dropped, and they say they both miss Seth from before he went totally crazy. They agree to call Nessa and get together soon, and Talia says that she may write another horror story. When Maura asks if that’s a good idea, Talia says “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure this one has a HAPPY ending!” The End.
Body Count: 3. Gotta say death by racist interpretation of another culture’s ceremony is a new one.
Romance Rating: 2. Maura and Rudy seemed to be happyish, but with Seth trying to kill Talia and everyone else it just takes the romance out of it. Also, so much cheating.
Bonkers Rating: 7. Again, racist interpretation of Papua New Guinea culture being a huge part of this was admittedly out there, but damn was I not comfortable with it. That said, the super meta-ness of a ghostwritten book being about a ghostwriter who tries to kill the writer he’s writing for is GENIUS.
Fear Street Relevance: 6. A lot of the action takes place on Fear Street, but given that the origin of the conflict wasn’t we lose some points.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“‘Talia….’ it croaked. ‘Talia…’
‘No!’ she screamed. ‘No-don’t! Please!'”
… And it was Seth in a mask. And once again it was a racist jab at Papua New Guinea.
That’s So Dated! Moments: To be honest, not much really stood out to me beyond the talk of floppy disks. But just look at the cover! Specifically at who I assume is Shandel based on character descriptions. She is completely serving us Hilary Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”.
As they start to name alphabetical faults of Talia:
“‘Let’s see’ [Shandel] said, playfully scratching her chin. ‘Why don’t we start with A. I think annoying begins with an A.’
‘Hey, she can spell,’ Talia replied sarcastically.
‘I can think of one that starts with B,’ Maura added with a snicker.”
Damn, Maura!! You aren’t wrong!
Conclusion: “The Thrill Club” had the distinct disadvantage of having to follow up “Double Date” and it really faltered because of that. It’s not very interesting and problematic as fuck, but it is bathing in potentially inadvertent meta goodness, so it’s kind of a toss up on whether it’s worth it or not. You decide.