Book: “The Face” (Fear Street #35) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1996
Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!
Book Description: Why can’t she remember?
They say something horrible happened that day. But Martha can’t remember any of it—not the smallest detail. They say it will come back to her in time.
But someone wants her to remember now. She draws his face, over and over—the face of a dead boy. She can’t control her hand. And she can’t remember how he died.
But she’s going to find the answer. Even if it lies with the dead.
Had I Read This Before: No.
The Plot: We start with a strange dream about drawing silver lines on a piece of paper and then the paper becoming soaked in blood or something. I don’t care for these prologues because they’re just nonsense. But then we meet Martha. Martha was in some kind of accident before the story began that has robbed her of huge chunks of her memory. Her besties Adriana and Justine don’t really know how to interact with her now that she’s an amnesiac, but her boyfriend Aaron is still loyal and loving (though Justine has a blatant crush on him, as is demonstrated during a wrestling match he’s in that they are both attending). We also find out that her friends MAY have been in the accident too but Martha was the only one who went into shock? It’s a confusing and clunky first chapter of exposition. We pick up after that inside Aaron’s den, where he and Martha are watching “Lethal Weapon”, and Martha tells the reader that Aaron kind of looks like Mel Gibson. I’m hoping she’s talking about The Mel Gibson “Thunderdome” era and not The Mel Gibson “He’s A Misogynistic Bigoted Abuser” era.
Martha confides that she’s worried about Adriana, who has been looking super skinny and tired and whose grades have been slipping. Aaron asks if she’s talked to Adriana, but no, they haven’t spoken about the accident or anything. Martha wonders why it has affected Adriana so much but not the rest of them (excluding herself, I would imagine, since she CANNOT REMEMBER ANYTHING).
We THEN jump to the next day where Martha is out and about in Shadyside buying art supplies and she runs into Ivan, Adriana’s older brother who has adopted a new ‘bad boy’ look, with an earring and a goatee. He’s also been getting into trouble and drinking more, so you know that I am smelling a love triangle here because Stine LOVES his ladies to be into misunderstood bad boys. After teasing her about her ‘doodles’, he offers to give her a ride home. While they’re driving he asks if she wants to just keep on going and leave Shadyside for good, and Martha asks if he’s joking, to which he says ‘of COURSE’, but we know better, don’t we? She asks him if he knows what’s up with Adriana and he seems less than interested/sympathetic to his own sister, but does say that she’s been taught some kind of self hypnosis. Also the atmosphere at home is awful with his parents fighting and literally throwing dishware at each other, and Ivan is so upset about it he starts driving erratically and the car drives off the road and heads for a tree! But it seems that it stops right before impact, and both Ivan and Martha hug and cry and he apologizes that he almost took her out in his impromptu suicide attempt that he couldn’t follow through with. He drives her home.
The next day Martha and Adriana are hanging out at Martha’s house and Martha brings up the murder suicide kinda thing that almost happened. Adriana doesn’t seem too worried and seems more interested in her make up, but confirms that she has been taught self hypnosis to try and help her fall asleep. Adriana says that Ivan is messed up because his girlfriend Laura (the most BEAUTIFUL girl in Shadyside, I guess) dumped him. Given that no one got why they were going on in the first place the only person caught off guard was Ivan himself. Martha thinks that someone should talk to him, but Adriana says that Martha should focus on herself and her own well being before leaving the house. Martha decides to draw a self portrait. But as she’s drawing, her hand starts to act of it’s own volition and draws on it’s own, as if a ghostly presence is controlling it!
When the hand stops, there is the face of a boy on the page. Martha thinks that it’s too detailed to be made up in her head, and notices that the face has a scar on the eyebrow. She freaks out and crumples it up, and decides to try again. She thinks maybe she should call Laura and ask her to work as a model, but apparently Laura isn’t cooperative and is always critical of the final product, so tries to draw herself again. But, once again, she draws the boy. She then rips but the drawings, and thinks she’s going nuts.
Later that night Martha is meeting Aaron at the mall for a movie. She’s running a little late, and when she arrives she sees Aaron and Justine are both there, with Justine flirting with Aaron. Martha is okay with Justine flirting with him when she is present, but when she’s NOT around and Justine is flirting? Could Justine possibly be a, dare I say it, BAD FRIEND? But since Martha doesn’t want to ‘start having evil thoughts’ about Justine, she just joins them and says hello, Justine backing off right away, claiming she happened to run into him, and he invited her to come to the movie too. Martha thinks that she sees Justine brushing up against Aaron the whole show.
Later that night, Martha is back home trying to sleep, when Justine calls. She wants to talk about the movie they saw and how much Aaron liked it, but then it turns into a ‘my life sucks’ kind of thing and she tells Martha straight up that she’s jealous of her because Aaron is so great. Justine doesn’t have a boyfriend AND she can’t afford to go to college next year AND Martha is such a good artist with good parents. When Martha says that her life isn’t actually perfect, Justine, oddly, agrees, and says that Martha’s life ‘isn’t as perfect’ as Martha thinks. Then she hangs up with a lame excuse.
That Sunday evening Martha is on the couch watching TV, when there’s a flash of a cabin on the TV. Which instigates a flash of memory for Martha! She remembers being at two cabins, with Justine, Adriana, Laura, and herself inside one of them. There’s a knocking at the door, and when Adriana answers it’s Aaron and two other boys whose faces she can’t remember. And then it’s all gone. And when Martha looks down she sees that she drew the face again.
The next morning there is no school because of teacher conferences, and when Martha goes downstairs into the kitchen Laura is there, reminding her that Martha was accompanying her to a photo shoot for her aspiring acting/modeling/whatevering career. Martha drives them, and wishes that she could ask Laura if she recognized the face, but her doctor told her friends not to tell Martha anything or give her any hints, because her memory has to come back on it’s own. That sounds like nonsense, but I’m not a medical professional. After the shoot is over, Martha is driving Laura back home, and Laura says that she was at a party the night before and Ivan showed up, acting a fool. Martha says that Ivan is a mess because of her dumping him, and Laura doesn’t give a rip. Laura then tells Martha to watch out for Justine, and declines to elaborate.
The next day Martha goes to meet with Dr. Sayles, the man in charge of her case and recovery. She tells him about the cabin memories, and he doesn’t betray any sort of emotion. But when she shows him the drawings she’s done, he looks genuinely shocked. Do we get to learn more about this? NOPE, we jump forward to that next weekend. Martha is still wondering WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, when Adriana and Laura burst into her room and tell her to get inside, bitch, we’re going SLEDDING!, or something very close to it. So they go to Miller Hill and Martha resolves to have a little bit of FUN for once. Once they are at the top of the hill, Laura and Adriana take off, leaving Martha at the top. When Martha starts down, she starts to scream, and then doesn’t stop screaming, even when she gets to the bottom. She doesn’t remember how she got home, just that Laura and Adriana brought her back, and she wonders what triggered her. But apparently, she had another memory. Now she, Aaron, Justine, Laura, Adriana and IVAN are there, having a snowball fight. Then Justine takes it way too far and starts hurling them at Martha, hitting her hard and starting a huge fight between them. Then she remembers kissing someone in the cabin, but it wasn’t Aaron. It was the boy in the drawings!!
Martha decides to ask Aaron about everything the next day. She goes to his house, and his little brother Jake lets her in, albeit reluctantly. Then Aaron meets her in the hall and doesn’t want her to come in much further…. Because JUSTINE is there! They claim that she was just picking up a graphic calculator because hers broke, and that she only hid because they didn’t want Martha to get the wrong idea, especially after she had a freak out at Miller Hill. Justine leaves, and Martha wonders if she should believe them. She asks Aaron about the cabin trip, and he says that he isn’t supposed to tell her, doctor’s orders, and that she’s lucky that she doesn’t remember because something TERRIBLE happened on the cabin trip. She shows him the drawings, and he begs her to stop asking him. When she asks if he knows the boy he tells her that the boy is DEAD!
With Aaron not speaking to her and more questions than answers, Martha is at home on Tuesday evening and Adriana comes to visit. She tells Martha that things at home are bad. Her Dad has finally moved out but Ivan has a new tape player and a new Discman and she doesn’t know how he paid for it, so she thinks that he’s been stealing. After all, he’s been hanging out with some tough characters! She then notices that Martha’s been drawing the whole time, and that it’s the dead guy’s face. And after swallowing down whatever she MUST have been thinking in that moment. Adriana invites Martha to the basketball game that Friday. Not that the sudden change in topic is at ALL strange, right?
So Martha, Laura, and Adriana go to the basketball game. All is going well for a bit, but then Martha starts hallucinating that every player on the opposing team has the dead boy’s face! She starts to freak out, and so Laura and Adriana drag her out of the gym. While Laura goes to find her a drink (most likely just water even though Martha could PROBABLY use a nice hard whiskey), Adriana pulls out a coin and starts to use hypnosis on Martha, claiming that it’s to calm her down. Martha says she’s feeling better, and when Laura comes back they start to leave. Martha asks if they will tell her anything about this boy, but they refuse and say they’re going to take her home. But who does Martha see making out by the lockers???? AARON AND JUSTINE! Since the graphing calculator excuse is no longer viable, he starts to say something, but Adriana and Laura tell him to back the hell off, and Justine too, and they take Martha home.
Back at home Martha tries to calm down by drawing. But then another memory surfaces! She remembers kissing the strange boy, but this time it becomes clear that she doesn’t want him to be kissing her. She asks him to stop, and then calls him Sean, and the memory ends with them shoving each other and her slapping him. As she’s pulled from the memory she wonders why they were fighting (maybe because he was sexually assaulting you, Martha?), and then she notices that she has a message on her answering machine. The message is a low raspy woman’s voice saying ‘You keep drawing him because you killed him’. Martha thinks that it sounds like Laura, but why would Laura do this?!
Martha decides to go visit Adriana’s doctor, Dr. Corben, to see if hypnosis can help her. My first thought goes to planted false memories and Satanic Panic, but let’s see how this all plays out before I start ranting about the irresponsibility of this kind of therapy. So anyway, Martha asks if Dr. Corben will help her, because Adriana hypnotized her and Martha thought it might help. Dr. Corben is aghast that Adriana did that because it’s very dangerous since the girl has no training, and she says that she would need to get permission from both Martha’s parents AND her doctor before she would do anything. Martha decides that she needs to split because this woman isn’t helping her at all. Outside of the office, Aaron appears, and he tells Martha he isn’t going to sneak around anymore and that he and Justine have been going out for months, and that is what Martha and Justine were fighting about at the cabin. She asks him what happened to Sean, and he is shocked she remembers him. But he still won’t tell her because it is ‘too horrible’!
That Wednesday at school, Ivan gets into a huge fight with another kid and gets suspended. Laura and Martha are on the phone talking about it, and another memory comes back to Martha: Laura was going to dump Ivan for Sean! When she confronts Laura, Laura clams up and says she doesn’t want to talk about it before hanging up. But now the memories have recovered pretty much completely, and as they say on “Monk” here’s what happened!: After a day of sledding and Ivan and Laura fighting outside the cabin, Adriana suggests that the group go skiing! Ivan and Aaron bicker a bit, and Adriana suggests that Martha should go first because she was the sledding winner, and Sean says he’ll go second. Martha realizes that her ski straps are messed up, and says that Sean should go before her so he doesn’t have to wait. So he does. And then Martha realizes that there is a weird silver line between to trees that Sean is skiing right towards…. a silver wire. Before Martha can yell to warn him, he skis into it, and it cuts his FRIGGIN HEAD OFF!!!!!!
So she calls Adriana and tells her she remembers everything, and Adriana starts to cry as well, saying that she can’t sleep and can’t concentrate because she’s been so traumatized. The police couldn’t figure out who set up the wire, and Martha asks if Adriana thinks that one of their friends killed him. Adriana says she doesn’t know, but no one else was up there so who else could it have been? Then she says she’s coming over so they can commiserate or something. Martha goes to find a change of clothes, wondering why she was the only one to lose her memory when all of her friends saw it. Then she finds her unpacked back from the trip, and when she opens it up, she finds SILVER WIRE!! She must have lost her memory because SHE killed Sean!!! She wonders if everyone has stopped talking to her because they know that she killed Sean! Adriana arrives and Martha tells her about the wire, saying that she must have killed him. Adriana asks why, and Martha admits she doesn’t know but says she’s going to tell her parents. But then IVAN comes in and says that Martha can’t turn herself in because HE KILLED SEAN!! Adriana understandably freaks out, and Ivan tells them what happened: he had stolen a car and felt so guilty about it he had to tell someone, so he told Sean. And then Sean, the asshole that he was, decided to start blackmailing Ivan. So Ivan took the wire and tied it up between the trees! But oddly, he remembers tying it up much lower, around ankle height, thinking it would trip Sean and rough him up a bit (yes, because THAT would absolutely stop a blackmailer). He saw the wire had moved, but only once it was too late to do anything. Ivan says that he’s going to turn himself in so Martha doesn’t admit to something she didn’t do. But then Adriana freaks out at him, saying that he KNOWS that Martha did it, and that he can’t ruin this for her!
Yeah, as it turns out, Adriana had moved the wire to the height that it was! And she had done it because she wanted it to catch Martha in the wire and kill her!!! She was jealous because she liked Sean, and Sean liked Martha, and Adriana saw Sean kissing Martha and lost it. Martha tries to explain that she did NOT want to kiss Sean, but Adriana doesn’t believe her, of course. And apparently she hid the wire in the bag AND she used hypnotism on Martha to make her memories stay repressed!! And then she grabs the wire from the bag, kicks Ivan in the stomach, and wraps the wire around Martha’s neck, trying to strangle her and/or decapitate her. But as they struggle, Adriana suddenly stops. Because she sees Sean’s face drawn on the piece of paper that is on Martha’s desk. So Ivan disarms her and grabs her arms, subduing her. She then goes into a catatonic state, and Ivan and Martha hug as she just keeps staring at the portrait, the portrait of the face that ‘saved [Martha’s] life.’. The End.
Body Count: 1, and what a badass death it was!
Romance Rating: 2. Everyone was cheating on each other and it was a huge mess!
Bonkers Rating: 5. The story itself was kind of standard, but the misuse of hypnotism AND a ski death involving decapitation was excellent.
Fear Street Relevance: 0. There is NO mention of Fear Street in this book. Not even an off handed mention of one of the characters living there. I’m done with that kind of thing in these books, if Fear Street isn’t even mentioned, it’s a zero for me.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“To my surprise, he was staring at the drawings with bulging eyes. His mouth wide open. No longer the blank faced professional. He was staring at my drawings in total shock.”
…. And then we don’t get any kind of follow up as to how the rest of the appointment went. Like, as if that was that. I hate it when Stine ends a chapter on a cliffhanger that doesn’t have any resolution.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Well outside of Mel Gibson still being an acceptable sex symbol, Martha, Justine, and Aaron went to see a Jim Carrey movie with mentions of lots of gross out humor. OH, and Martha compares her doctor to a surfer on “Baywatch”. And he wears Bass Wejun loafers?? What are those?
“Why do cats always have to act like cats?”
I ask myself that every single day.
Conclusion: “The Face” was pretty lack luster. I wish that it had been a recreation of the A Ha video for “Take On Me”, but instead we got something meh and not even trying to be a part of the Fear Street mythos. Up next is “Secret Admirer”!