Book: “Dead End” (Fear Street #29) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: Natalie Erickson and her friends share a terrible secret. They were all in the car that foggy night — the night someone died at the dead end.
Now someone knows too much, and there’s danger ahead. Natalie just wants out of this nightmare. But that’s the problem with dead ends — there’s no way out!
Had I Read This Before: No.
The Plot: We open with an unnecessary prologue about how accidents happen, as told to us by the narrator of this book, Natalie. Then we cut to her at a raging party at Talia “I’m a plagiarist” Blanton’s house. There we meet Natalie’s other friends: nerdy Carlo, sexy Gillian, sweet Randee, and macho Todd. Also, there’s Natalie’s boyfriend Keith who is more interested in getting a beer than hanging out. Randee and Natalie talk about how Todd may be jealous of Carlo because of his flirtations with Gillian, and Natalie laments that Keith is boozing. Then Keith falls down the steps, cementing his place in the doghouse with his girlfriend, and then he goes to vomit. Puke and rally, Keith, it’s gonna serve you well in the future. As he vomits Todd badgers Natalie into dancing with him, and we find out that he’s a real creep who has long blond hair that’s ‘long on the top but shaved on the side’, and I can’t decide if he’s supposed to have a mullet or a fashy. Either way, yuck. Keith returns and seems to be better, but two hours later when everyone is starting to go home Natalie says she’s NOT riding with him because he’s too messed up. I like that she doesn’t want to get in a car with him, but I question that she doesn’t seem to mind him driving SO LONG AS she isn’t in the car with him. Regardless, she decides to hitch a ride with Randee, Todd, Carlo, and Gillian, with Randee driving.
While they’re driving home a major fog worthy of Carpenter rolls in. As Randee drives she has a harder and harder time seeing, and though she claims she knows where she’s going she clearly doesn’t. They turn down Fear Str- wait. River Road? What the FUCK is River Road?! How is the terrible peril not on Fear Street within a FEAR STREET BOOK?!
Randee drives past Cedar (I guess Todd lives on that street. Whatever) right by a DEAD END sign, and then Randee loses control of the car somehow and they slam right into another car. Natalie sees someone move inside the car, but Randee throws the car into reverse and peels the hell out of there, therein committing a hit and run. When Natalie says they need to go check on the other car, Randee says that she’s grounded and isn’t supposed to be out, Gillian is the same boat, and Todd agrees that his Dad will kill him if he finds out that they hit someone. Especially since his father just got a new job in the mayor’s office and this will be a nightmare! And Carlo’s Dad is in the hospital, and Carlo doesn’t want to stress him out. So they flee the scene. You know, this sounds super familiar to me…..
OH THAT’S RIGHT, THIS IS THE PLOT TO “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER”!!! If “One Evil Summer” was vaguely lifting themes from “Summer of Fear”, this one is straight up ripping Lois Duncan’s masterpiece off. And making it SUPER lame.
The next day Natalie is awakened by the phone in her room ringing. When she answers it’s Todd, and he has some REALLY bad news: the woman in the car they hit? She’s dead. She was also the mayor’s sister, so you know that Mayor Coletti is going to be on the hunt Liam Neeson style. Natalie is more wracked with guilt than worried about her own ass, and wishes that they would have stayed, or called someone, or something, but now is going to live a life of paranoia that the next phone call will end her. Then the phone rings, but luckily it’s Keith, and he’s just calling saying that he needs to talk to her, but she brushes him off because she has bigger problems. She meets Carlo, Todd, Gillian, and Randee in the park that afternoon to reconvene and recalibrate in light of this news. Todd vacillates between bad jokes and dark brooding, and when Carlo says that they have to confess everything Randee balks and Todd threatens his life. So okay, Todd is the Barry in this story, and just as wretched. He says that if he confesses his Dad will lose his job with the Mayor and then Todd will be in serious trouble (like, outside of participating in a conspiracy and cover up of vehicular manslaughter?). Everyone (except Natalie) acknowledges that they have a lot to lose, and Todd says that he can keep an eye on things through his Dad so they can keep ahead of the investigation. They take a vow to not tell anyone about what happened, not even Keith (Natalie is fine with this). And then narrator Natalie informs us that people are going to die because of this secret. To which I say no shit.
That evening Natalie tries to take her mind off of the whole thing by writing some free form poetry. That’s her thing, you see. But for whatever reason she just isn’t feeling too poetic. Then she sees that Keith is in the doorway to her bedroom, and he tells her that her mother let him in. He says that he knows her secret, and Natalie momentarily panics, but lucky for her he’s the type that thinks of himself first because he thinks she wants to dump him for Todd. Natalie assures him that’s NOT the case, and that she’s actually kind of scared of him. Keith scoffs at that, proving that he’s also the type of guy to brush off women and their legitimate fears about toxic men, so that’s great. He then says that they still have to talk about something, but Natalie worries she’ll break the vow she made and tells him that she can’t talk right now. He then asks her if she’s going to Carlo’s uncle’s cabin for the big weekend that was coming up, and she says she forgot about it. Sadly, Keith can’t go, but says that Natalie still should. After he leaves Natalie calls Todd to see if he has any updates and he yells at her not to call him and hangs up.
We jump to Tuesday and Todd says that the mayor is OBSESSED with finding his sister’s killer. Well, no shit, asshole. Then we jump to Friday and Natalie is getting ready to go to the cabin, and Todd gives her a call. He says that they have to do something about Carlo, because he seems like he’s about to crack. He says to meet him and the others at Pete’s Pizza in fifteen minutes. When they all arrive, Gillian says that Carlo said that he was definitely going to the cops, and Todd says that maybe Carlo should have his own accident. When Natalie asks if he’s joking, he says a lame ‘yeah sure’.
That Saturday they’re all driving up to the cabin and talking about hunting. I smell some foreshadowing. Todd says something about how girls don’t hunt and have to wait for the men to come home with the kill, and I want him to have an accident. Randee says that she’s actually a great hunter, and Natalie says she’d rather hike. They arrive at Carlo’s uncle’s cabin and things are going okay for awhile. Natalie and Gillian tell the guys that they aren’t going to hunt for pheasants with them but will hike along instead, but Randee says that she’s in. Natalie thinks that it’s to impress Todd, and my big question is WHY. While Natalie goes back to her room to get gloves, there’s a booming noise and a scream. She runs back outside and Todd accidentally(?) shot off his rifle, scaring everyone but not hurting anyone. They all go into the woods. And I guess Natalie doesn’t like the woods because once when she was eight she got lost overnight in a forest. Oh, okay. A legitimate trauma is just kind of thrown out there like nothing. But it’s a device, because that afternoon on the hike she gets separated from the group! And as she’s stumbling through the woods, she fins a horrific sight: Carlo. He’s dead. And his head is basically gone because of the birdshot? Okay, I guess we’re doing this again.
I do not doubt that getting shot in the face with birdshot could have deadly consequences. Hell, at point blank range I bet it could mess your face up but good, as it is intended to kill smallish animals. But to practically blow one’s head off? Do you REALLY want ammo THAT powerful if you’re trying to shoot pheasant?! I’m seriously asking, I have no clue about how any of these things work, but I DO know that Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face with birdshot and THAT guy ended up apologizing to HIM, so…..
Anyway, Carlo is dead and I feel awful for his family. His Uncle must feel terrible, as his brother is in the hospital and that brother’s son is now dead. Jesus Christ. Todd stumbles up behind Natalie and grabs her close, and says ‘don’t tell’. It’s unclear if it’s in a threatening way or a desperate way. So Uncle George has gone full catatonic and I hate this book. The next day back at home Natalie reads in the paper that it’s speculated to be an accident, and Natalie thinks that maybe Todd did it. When someone comes into her room she freaks out thinking it’s Todd but it’s just Keith, there to comfort her after hearing what happened. Natalie spills the beans on everything, and feels a weight has been lifted. But then the doorbell rings and it’s TODD. He asks if he can come in and Natalie says nah, and then she asks him if he killed Carlo. Todd goes off, saying that there’s no way that he did and the joke from Pete’s Pizza was JUST A JOKE, and he clearly wonders how much Keith knows. As he leaves he tells Natalie that he wasn’t the only person in those woods with a gun.
The next night Randee and Natalie are trying to comfort Gillian, who is sad about Carlo since they were tight. Natalie starts to wonder if Randee could have done it, but brushes it off because they’re BFFs after all. But maybe she and Todd did it together? Gillian pulls out her backpack to study, but when she opens it a nasty smell wafts up into the room, and a rotting piece of meat slides out, along with a note. It says ‘you can be close to Carlo again. In the grave. This is you. Dead Meat. If you talk.’
Gillian freaks, Randee tries to convince everyone its just a joke (in spite of the fact that Carlo is VERY dead), and Randee gets defensive for Todd. Again, WHY. Gillian says it has to be him because no one else knows, but Natalie admits that Keith knows. Gillian doesn’t think it’s him, but Randee isn’t so sure, but she’s pretty biased right, given that she wants to get with him? As Natalie is picked up be Keith she asks if he told, and says no, and that it’s been two weeks and the police have no leads so it’s going to be over soon. But omnipotent narrator Natalie tells us that isn’t the case.
At school that week Gillian and Natalie are leaving math class and Gillian says that she can’t take it anymore and is going to the police. She tells Natalie that she and Carlo had a long talk the night before the hunting trip and he told her ‘everything’, but before Natalie can find out what that means Todd and Randee show up and the talk ends. Later, Natalie and Keith are at the ice rink and are talking about this turn of events. Natalie asks Keith if Carlo said anything to him, and he says no, and asks Natalie if she knows what it was that Carlo told Gillian before he died. No such luck, and Keith gets all upset about Carlo and says he has to go, and she says she’ll get a ride from someone else, and skates awhile longer. As she’s leaving the ice rink though, Todd and Randee track her down. They say that they have to go to Gillian’s house because she’s going to tell and they have to stop her. So they drive out to Gillian’s, but when they knock on the door no one answers. Natalie suggests that they’re all asleep and Todd says it’s only ten thirty. Fun fact, when I was in high school my house was usually asleep by ten thirty but we were lame. They let themselves in, and oh no, Gillian is at the bottom of the basement steps and her head is turned all the way around. Todd surmises that it must be an accident as Randee calls the police, but Natalie thinks they did it.
That night after she gets home Natalie is convinced that they pushed Gillian down the steps and then brought her there as a warning to her. She decides to go to the police station and confess, and as she’s about to leave Randee shows up. Randee tells her that she’s decided to go to the police too, and they should take her car because it was the one that was used in the accident. Natalie isn’t sure whether to trust her, but gets in and they start driving. Though Randee gets all turned around (is it because she’s going to kill Natalie? Nah, she’s just nervous), but they eventually get to the station and fess up. They tell the police everything, the hit and run, the timing, the fog, everything. The cops have them show them the car, and then ask them if they’re playing a joke on them. Because they couldn’t have killed Mayor Coletti’s sister!! The paint left behind was blue, not green, and the tire treads don’t match. The girls are in trouble for leaving the accident scene, but are going to look into Carlo and Gillian’s deaths. Todd shows up, as Randee had told him that she was going to the police, but they assure him that they aren’t murderers, just reckless douchebags! Randee and Todd suggest that they go hang out, but Natalie isn’t interested, wanting to be alone.
She walks home in the rain, ready to tell her parents everything, when she sees Keith’s car in her driveway. She’s happy to see him and runs to him telling him she went to the police…. but then realizes that HE HAS A BLUE CAR!! AND A DENTED BUMPER AND FUNKY TIRES!! IT WAS KEITH!! He then tells her to get in the car, and he practically forces her in but says he wants to explain as they drive in the rain. He tells her that he followed her and the others the night of they party, and that he was definitely too drunk to drive (don’t drink and drive kids), and he got messed up and smashed his car into the mayor’s sister’s car, killing her. Oh, and he killed Carlo and Gillian too. He killed them because 1) he confessed to Carlo after Natalie had hung up on him the morning after, as he needed to tell SOMEONE, and Carlo was going to rat him out. Todd’s threat (that Natalie told him about vaguely) gave him the perfect out, and 2) Gillian called him and told him that Carlo told her everything, and so he started threatening her and then killed her after the meat incident. Which makes NO sense, because she adamantly said that Keith couldn’t have done it when the rotting meat fell out of her bag, so why hadn’t she just said then and there KEITH DID IT?????? This is garbage.
So now he’s giong to kill her too by driving his car off a cliff and jumping out right before, so it can be another accident. As he drives super fast in the rain, the spare tire pops on his car (the one that made the tire tracks funky), and in the surprise and confusion Natalie jumps out the passenger door, and then watches the car go off the cliff. The reason Keith couldn’t jump out she figures, is that his driver door sometimes stuck. Super convenient. Just to confirm that he’s dead, there’s an explosion, and Natalie realizes that when she stood up she grabbed onto the “Dead End” pole. She then starts the walk back to town to tell the cops. The End.
Body Count: 3 (4 if you count the mayor’s sister). Carlo’s death was particularly gruesome.
Romance Rating: 1. Keith turns out to be a killer and there aren’t really any other solid relationships, outside of maybe Randee and Todd and he’s a dick.
Bonkers Rating: 3, and that’s only because Carlo was practically decapitated by a birdshot blast somehow. Everything else was stolen from Lois Duncan and gets no credit.
Fear Street Relevance: 2. Not even mentioned, but it gets more points than “Truth or Dare” since at least it was in town this time.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“I started to answer. But I was interrupted by some kind of commotion. Talia, Randee, and I moved to see what the noise was about. A girl’s shrill, frightened scream rose over the music. And I stepped into the room in time to see a body come tumbling down the basement stairs.”
… And it’s just a drunken Keith tripping down the steps. Which I suppose would be a little scary, but he’s fine.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Honestly there wasn’t too much this time around, outside of references to CDs and some pretty gnarly fashion sense descriptions. I think that Stine started trying to be a bit more timeless as the books went on.
“‘Come with me. Have a beer.’ ‘No way!’ I tugged myself free. ‘You know I hate beer. It tastes like soap!'”
Conclusion: This is just a total and blatant rip off of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Don’t waste your time and go read Lois Duncan instead. Next up is “Final Grade”.