Book: “Truth or Dare” (Fear Street #28) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: The truth hurts.
What else is there to do, with all seven of them stuck in Dara Harker’s luxury ski condo? There are three guys and four girls—some of them friends, some nearly strangers—all of them trapped. A blinding blizzard has stilled the lifts, blocked the roads, and killed the phones.
A game, they think, will help them break the ice. Who will tell the truth? Who will take a dare? And how far will each of them go?
But then the game turns deadly. One of them, it seems, would rather kill than tell the truth.
And kill again.
Had I Read This Before: No.
The Plot: We once again depart from not only Fear Street but Shadyside itself for a winter based tale of terror, and given that we here in Minnesota are digging ourselves out of a monster, historical blizzard that clobbered us a couple days ago it feels all too appropriate and snide for a setting. We join our group of protagonists as they are riding in a limo up into the snowy mountains. There’s April, our first person main character, her best friend Jenny, Jenny’s boyfriend of years and years Ken, and Josh, a boy who isn’t from Shadyside but is friends with their excessively rich host Dara. Dara is coming up separately in her Jeep (there is debate if it’s a Grand Cherokee or a Renegade). As Jenny and Ken make out, April tries to make small talk with Josh, who isn’t really into conversing. She does notice is lighting bolt earring though. They arrive at the mountain lodge just as it starts to lightly snow, and Dara pulls up as well. She confirms that her parents aren’t going to be around that weekend, and then says some snide stuff to Josh before gushing over April’s blue parka. After the limo driver unloads the bags he’s driving back home to Shadyside, so that means it’s going to be a weekend of teens doing God knows what. But when they get inside, they hear footsteps and coughing. They aren’t alone!! They go to investigate and find a boy named Tony and his girlfriend Carly Rae! Seems that Dara’s parents and Tony’s parents both own the lodge, and Tony thought that it was his family’s weekend, so he brought Carly Rae up for some heavy petting, pretty much making Dara and her crew a bunch of cock blockers. Dara temper tantrums, but Tony suggests that they just share the cabin for the weekend. Dara grudgingly agrees, and the guys and girls split off to unpack in their very separate rooms (with guys bunkbedding and girls getting their own spaces).
After unpacking and noticing that the snow is starting in earnest, the group reconvenes in the main room. While Tony and Carly Rae are content making out, the Shadyside Crew (+ Josh) decide that they should play a game to break the ice since they don’t all know each other very well, Dara being a new kid and Josh being a lump who’s inexplicably there. Ken suggests Truth or Dare, and Josh doesn’t want to play, which seems to make Dara want to play even more. Once the rules are explained no doubt for the reader’s benefit, they start. It starts pretty tame, with a confession of picking up a ten dollar bill that wasn’t his (Ken) and a kissing session that ended with gum ending up in the other person’s mouth (April). But then Dara is asked who the worst kisser she’s ever had is, and she makes it pretty clear without being totally forthcoming that it’s Josh. Josh, realizing she’s about to name him, suddenly flips and runs at her with a fireplace poker! But he drops it right before beating her with it and runs towards the door. What the FUCK. Dara runs after him and drags him back, apologizing, and I have opinions on that choice. Dara then turns to April, and asks if she has a secret about someone that she wishes she didn’t know. April proceeds to say ‘I wish I didn’t know about the girl on Sumner Island’…. and then plays totally coy, regretting that she even said anything.
Apparently that past summer April saw Ken do something but isn’t ready to reveal it to the reader, yet, and lucky for her Tony decides in that moment to bring the attention back to him by scaring April and then hitting on her in front of his ladyfriend. Dara ropes him into the game and he takes a dare from Dara because privilege no doubt makes him feel invincible. It’s starting to snow hard now and Dara tells them all to go outside for this dare. Dara dares Tony to climb on the roof and get the Frisbee that he got stuck up there God knows when. Tony says no problem despite the protests of Carly Rae and April. But Dara tells them to shove it because she likes to revel in other peoples’ potential demises. Tony grabs a ladder from the garage and climbs up on the slippery roof, but before he can get it he does, indeed, slip and skid down to the gutters. He manages to grab on and gently drop, but he’s pissed at Dara even though HE was the one who took the dare eagerly. April thinks about her previous answer, and apparently she saw Ken making out with some mystery girl who was decidedly NOT Jenny and has kept it a secret ever since. They all go back to the cabin and decide to turn in. April sees Dara in the main room and Dara says she’s going to the woodshed to get wood for the next morning, and April goes to bed.
April wakes up the next morning and enters the kitchen for breakfast. The radio says that the snow is going to get to be eight to ten inches but the wind means that the ski lifts won’t be running, which means they won’t be able to ski. They all pitch in to make breakfast, but notice that Dara hasn’t come down yet. April goes to her room to wake her, but she isn’t there and her bed is made and her bag is still packed. And Josh is missing too! Since he was the top bunk none of the guys noticed if he was there or not. There’s also no firewood, so Dara never came back, and when they look in the driveway the Jeep is gone! Tony thinks that they left together to go to one of the ski resorts, but April isn’t convinced and thinks they should call the police. Tony balks, and he and Carly Rae admit that their parents don’t know that they are up here, and if the police get involved they’ll get in trouble. Carly Rae asks if they can just wait a bit, and then something slides off the roof and thuds to the ground. April freaks out, but Jenny confirms that it was just a huge snow blob falling to the ground.
Lunch rolls around and the snow keeps piling up and Josh and Dara are still nowhere to be seen, and when April asks what they should do Ken says ‘NOT TRUTH OR DARE’, which makes April think that he caught her little ‘accidental’ slip up. There’s a sudden thudding noise, and they think that maybe it’s someone at the door, perhaps Dara or Josh? But it’s not knocking, it’s the door to the ski locker thudding in the wind. Ken and April venture out to close it so the noise will stop, and what should fall out of the locker??? DARA’S FROZEN CORPSE WITH A HATCHET BURIED IN HER BACK!!! April and Ken run back inside and insist that now is the time to call the cops, but Tony STILL says NO!… But this time it’s because the line is dead due to the storm, and they can’t leave because it would be too dangerous because of the snow and the cold. April thinks that they are all in danger, but Tony thinks that the killer was Josh, who then took the Jeep and made a getaway. He says that all they can do is lock the doors, keep the fire going, and wait for the weather to clear, and then they can call for help. Wow, a character with actual survival instincts! April says they should search the boy’s room to see if Josh left is stuff, because if he DID maybe he was killed too. They go searching and do find his bag, but when they go back to Dara’s room to look for more clues they also find a note written in red ink. It’s from Josh to Dara, asking her to meet him at midnight and that she’s humiliated him for the last time! So maybe he did do it! Jenny starts to freak out, thinking he’ll come back to finish the job if he remembers the note he left. Tony seems to recall that Dara’s Dad had a gun in this house at one point, and April is suspicious of him, and the others say they don’t feel totally good with that idea so they should just leave it and try to wait it out.
That night April can’t sleep and to make matters worse, she hears footsteps in the main room. Convinced that it’s Josh coming back to finish the job, she grabs a ski pole and goes into the darkness to confront him… when she’s tackled!! But it’s just Tony, who also thought that she was Josh coming back to kill everyone. She asks why he’s awake, and he says that he heard noises and came to investigate, and April is SUPER suspicious because WHY would anyone do that…. even though she just did that. He confides in her that he and Dara used to go out at one time, but that it was JOSH that Dara really hurt. They go into the kitchen to get some water, but then Tony starts to freak out. When April turns towards the window, she sees Josh!!! And he looks like he’s frozen to death! April screams, which brings the other out of their rooms, but Josh isn’t dead, he’s knocking on the window… But yeah, probably on the verge of death because he’s been outside who knows how long. They let him in, but then tell him that they know what he did!!! They let him have some hot water as he thaws out, and he says that he’s been wandering in the snow all day, and he has no idea what they are talking about, and what do you MEAN Dara is dead!? They show him the letter, and he says that it isn’t his handwriting. Sure, he was unreasonably murderous LAST night because she teased him and his fragile ego couldn’t take it, but all he wanted to do was STRAND all of them there, so he committed grand theft auto and drove off to teach them all a lesson because man, Dara is such a BITCH, right? But then he drove off the road and got stuck, and had to come back because no one was coming for him. April thinks that he’s sincere; he’s not a murderer, just a ‘Nice Guy’ wronged by a girl and bound for the Incel Movement. Which isn’t much better, frankly. But if Josh didn’t kill her, who did? Because it has to be someone in that room.
The next morning April wakes up early hoping the phones are back, but they aren’t. Ken asks if they can talk about what she saw on Sumner Island, but April brushes it off and jeeze, how is he so fixated on THAT of all things in this moment, she wonders. She goes back to her room to find Josh rifling through her things (fucking creep!), and when she demands to know what he’s doing he says that he’s looking for the red pen that wrote that note, as whoever has it must be the one who framed him for Dara’s murder. She tells him to get out and starts to put her stuff away, but realizes that her blue parka is missing…. And then she realizes something pretty upsetting: Dara was wearing her blue parka when they found her body. She goes to look at the body again to confirm it, and then realizes that if Dara had been wearing the parka in the dark, the killer must have thought that it was April, not her… And therefore the killer actually wants to kill her! She decides that she needs to take her chances, and grabs the first coat she can find inside. It’s big and red, and it must be Ken’s because of the size. She doesn’t grab any other winter essentials such as a hat, scarf, or gloves, and ventures into the literal blizzard in an ill fitting coat.
But as she shoves her hands into the pockets (because you know, no gloves), she realizes that there’s something inside one of them. She pulls it out and realizes that she’s holding a red pen!!!! So that means that Ken MUST have written the note that framed Josh! New theory: Josh thought that Dara was her, and was hoping to kill her because he was worried that April was going to tell Jenny about his kissing session with the random girl on Sumner Island. That sure seems like a CRAZY reaction, but hey, Josh proved himself to be a complete maniac so why not Ken as well? April tries to keep moving, but then hears grunting and huffing behind her… It’s Ken!! And he tackles her to the ground!! When she tells him to get off he tells her that he’s taking her back to the cabin because she is going to die out here and needs to stay indoors. He seems to realize just in the moment that she is wearing his coat, and tells her that Jenny is the one who sent him after her and noticed that she was gone. April doesn’t believe him, but also knows that she is going to die out here, and maybe she can take her chances inside with him if she plays it cool. They start to walk back, and he brings up the Truth or Dare game again. April, in a seemingly ‘ah FUCK IT’ gambit, blurts out that she knows about him and the girl on Sumner Island but she hasn’t told Jenny. She then runs ahead of him all the way back to the cabin. He still insists on talking about it but she breaks away to go find Jenny. I guess the gamble is that if she tells Jenny then Ken won’t kill her? She then says to Jenny that she has deep dark secrets to tell her and that they need to get out of there ASAP, suggesting that they ski their way out to find help! Jenny agrees to go with her.
They ski through the woods and end up at the ski lift. It’s running again now that the snow has calmed down. They ask an old man who’s running it where they can get help, and he says there is a phone at the top. So they get on the lift, and start the slow slow climb up. So clearly they’re going to be okay! Clearly they’re going to be safe!…. But then, Jenny suddenly turns to April, says ‘sorry’, and shoves April off the bench!! April grabs onto the side, and they start to fight in the lift! Jenny says that April must die because she knows about the Girl on Sumner Island! April is rightfully confused. April says that she caught the clue during the Truth or Dare game, that April knew that Jenny had killed her for trying to steal Ken away! Apparently Ken had met this Barbara girl and didn’t want to stop seeing her, and Jenny went to confront her and accidentally killed her. The police never figured out who killed Barbara, but Jenny has been living in fear ever since. And when April mentioned Sumner Island, Jenny decided to kill her too, but killed Dara by accident instead, and left the note to frame Josh, leaving the pen in Ken’s coat because he wouldn’t tell on her. April says that she NEVER knew any of this, but Jenny still shoves her out of the lift. Luckily, they’re basically at the top so April only falls a few feet. But of course, Jenny is still there and attacks her with a ski pole. Before she can do too much damage, Jenny gets hit in the back of the head with one of the lift chairs, and then Ken shows up right behind it in the next one. He says that he did find the pen and recognized Jenny’s handwriting, but didn’t want to believe it was her. Jenny weeps about her secret just as two ski patrol men come up to see what the ruckus is about, and April tells Ken that the game of Truth or Dare told more than anyone thought it would. And she says that next time they should just stick with Trivial Pursuit. The End.
Body Count: 1 on page. But it was a solidly badass way to go! A hatchet in the back is pretty wicked.
Romance Rating: 2, just because Jenny turned out to be nuts, Ken is a cheater, and Tony and Carly Rae were just gross in their constant making out. But it was kind of refreshing that April didn’t have a love interest and didn’t seem to mind that!
Bonkers Rating: 4. A hatchet to the back is a good start but ultimately it was all about petty jealousy and lousy weather.
Fear Street Relevance: 1. Once again, we find ourselves off site for the plot.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“He let go of Carly and took a step towards Dara. His expression hardened. He balled both hands into fists. He’s deliberately trying to scare us, I realized. ‘I know how to settle it,’ Tony said, coldly.”
….. And he graciously says that they can all share the space for the weekend.
That’s So Dated! Moments: There wasn’t much that really stood out this time outside of a reference to cassette tapes. Though the fashion styles certain reference very, uh, FLASHY colors (like the bright orange coat on the cover) you saw all over the 1990s.
” ‘Hmmm. Lawyer dudes!’ Tony exclaimed.”
Conclusion: “Truth or Dare” was another one of those books that could have been a standalone and shouldn’t have piggybacked on the “Fear Street” series, but I will admit that the final twist surprised me, so hey, good for you, Stine! Up next is “Dead End”!