Book: “Night Games” (Fear Street #40) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1996
Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!
Book Description: Living on the edge…
Diane loves sneaking out in the middle of the night. Her friends do, too. They have the town all to themselves. Every night they come up with a new prank to play.
But then Diane’s boyfriend, Lenny, wants revenge on a teacher, and the pranks turn to murder. Now Diane and her friends are in too deep.
Much too deep…with no way out.
Had I Read This Before: No.
The Plot: We meet Diane, Cassie, Jordan, and Lenny as they are walking home from Red Heat Dance club. They are outside the house of their most hated teacher, Mr. Crowell, who has decorated his front lawn with tacky and bright Christmas decorations. These friends are shocked that their teacher has a life outside of being a dick who teaches math, as if teachers aren’t humans too. Diane’s boyfriend Lenny ESPECIALLY hates Mr. Crowell because he has a victim complex and thinks that Mr. Crowell is extra hard on him. Diane assures the reader that Lenny may look like a tough guy, but beneath his abusive and asshole-ish demeanor is a ‘marshmallow’, and ho boy, he’s one of those. As they continue to walk they suddenly see a figure crawl out of a window. Is it a burglar? No, it’s their old friend Spencer Jarvis! They has him why he’s crawling out of some stranger’s house, but he says that his family lives there now. When Diane asks where he’s been this past year (as she’s called him and called him, since they were besties until she started dating Lenny), he asks her if she got his letter. Apparently his Dad’s store closed and his grandmother in DC got sick, so they moved out there to care for her. But they’re back now, and while he’s not at their high school he’s at St Ann’s, a hop skip and jump away! And he’s sneaking out to play some ‘Night Games’. He invites them to come along, and since it’s past midnight and they’re all no doubt already breaking curfew, why not keep the fun going? They see a car with a couple inside, making out, and Spencer pretends to be a police officer and gives them a good scare. Hm, impersonating a police officer, we’re off to a great start. They all run away when the couple figures it out, and Spencer invites the group to come back that Monday after midnight to play more Night Games.
That Monday in Mr. Crowell’s class, Lenny is caught snickering and Mr. Crowell calls him out. He’s kind of like a worse and more abusive version of Mr. Northwood in “The Dare”, because while I felt bad for Mr. Northwood Mr. Crowell probably shouldn’t be teaching children. That said, Lenny actively starts to take a swing at the guy, so there are no winners in this horse race. Luckily, Diane’s horror at Lenny’s action makes him stop (oh yay! She’s even being painted as ‘the one who can quell his violent urges’ like that’s her fucking job or something), and he stomps out of the room. Diane assures us that Lenny doesn’t look for trouble, it just happens to find him, and to that I say
I’m really not here for characters like this anymore. Unless you give me a tragic backstory or a reason for emotional problems, I don’t want to hear it. After class Cassie says that Lenny should be careful because Mr. Crowell has a heart condition and his antics may very well give the man a heart attack, but Diane doesn’t buy that, and I don’t really buy it either. Spoiled kids ain’t nothing but nothing. Cassie asks if Diane is still going out that night, and Diane says yes, so Cassie says she’ll go too because it’s nice seeing Spencer again even if his idea of fun is kind of, uh, ‘odd’?
They all meet outside Spencer’s house that night, and tell Spencer about Lenny’s run in with Mr. Crowell. Spencer says he never liked Crowell either, and they being their Night Game. Spencer leads them to Mr. Crowell’s house, and suggests that they peep inside his window and see what he’s up to. These games are pretty felonious I must say. The other’s are a little nervous, but all agree, and Diane even finds it a little exciting. They watch him lead a pretty depressing existence of drinking a soda and looking at his Christmas tree, but that doesn’t last long because suddenly Spencer is destroying the lawn decorations. Mr. Crowell hears the ruckus (and I’m sure half of Shadyside does too), and they all run off, with Mr. Crowell shouting ‘I saw you!’ They all run back to Spencer’s house, and the guys LOVED this. Cassie is horrified that they vandalized his property, but Lenny points out that Mr. Crowell could never prove it was them even if he DID suspect them. Spencer asks if they want to go out again the next night. The guys are in, Cassie says she doesn’t want to, and when they ask Diane she says that she does want to, BUT Spencer has to tell them if he’s going to do something crazy like that again. That’s the WORST stipulation ever, but they all agree. When Diane sneaks back into her house and into her room, her phone is ringing. She picks it up and it’s some guy named Bryan, who she used to date before Lenny. He begs her to take him back, and she says no. She hangs up, and the phone rings again. This time the caller says ‘I saw you tonight, Diane, and I know all about your Night Games.’ Diane thinks it must be Bryan. I think that Bryan’s middle name is ‘Red Herring’.
We do a time jump backwards to the past winter. Spencer has invited his friends up to his uncle’s ski cabin in the mountains. He is excited but also apprehensive since they’ve all paired up and he doesn’t have a girlfriend (especially since they give him grief over it. They also tease him because he’s fat in this timeline). He had hoped that when Diane and Bryan broke up she would have asked him out, but instead she started going with Lenny. His friends arrive and Jordan deliberately makes his car kick up snow in Spencer’s face. And also Spencer hadn’t even invited Lenny to the cabin, Diane had just assumed that he was invited since they were dating now, and that’s a pretty bold assumption, Diane. As his friends all go pick their bedrooms, Spencer overhears Lenny bitching about having to be here this weekend (SO WHY DID YOU COME, ASSHOLE?!), but Jordan eases the tension, which makes Spencer mad because Jordan used to be close to HIM, but now he’s close to Lenny. While they’re all hanging out the weather outside causes a power outage, and Lenny continues to bitch and Diane tells him to go sit in the car if he hates it inside so much. Spencer invites Diane to go with him to get more firewood. They go to the shed, and she confides in him that Lenny is a real jerk and she hates that they fight all the time. Spencer and Diane then start to kiss, but Lenny is there! He punches Spencer in the face and literally drags Diane back to the cabin. Spencer thinks that he can’t let Lenny get away with what he’s done….
Back to the present timeline! Cassie and Diane are splitting a pizza at Pete’s Pizza and talking about the night before. Diane tells Cassie that Bryan called her and that he was threatening her about the Night Games. Cassie asks how he could possibly know about that, but Diane is off on the next topic: Lenny being a hotheaded jerk off (my words, not hers). She wishes that people would just give him a break, as if LENNY isn’t the common factor in all the trouble he gets into. Cassie wants to talk about Spencer and how much he’s changed. He used to be a dork, but now he’s fit and self assured! Before they can talk for too long, Lenny bursts into the pizza parlor, his hand bleeding! When they ask what happened he says that it was Mr. Crowell that did it! Though actually it was because he punched his own locker because Mr. Crowell told the basketball coach that his grades in math were failing. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOURSELF, LENNY. He was kicked off the team because policy says you have to have passing grades to play sports and I think that’s pretty common, but to these guys it’s ‘so unfair’. Jordan shows up and says that he heard about Lenny getting kicked off the team, and Lenny almost attacks Jordan because he’s ever so reasonable. They change the subject, and confirm that they’re going to Night Game it up that evening. And Lenny says that tonight he’s really going to get his revenge on Mr. Crowell.
Diane assures the reader that she knows it’s nuts that she, sensible and practical Diane, participated in these things. But she explains that to her, Night Games are Freedom, because during the day you have all these responsibilities, like homework, and school, and not vandalizing teacher’s homes. But there’s also the fact that Spencer is now confident and thin and can somehow make her do things that she normally wouldn’t do. All of the friends are waiting for Spencer, who is late, and Cassie wants to bug out. But the Spencer crawls out of his window and joins them. Lenny tells him that he wants to go back to Crowell’s house and do some ‘real damage’, and even Spencer is like ‘whoa there buddy’. He says that Night Games aren’t about revenge, they’re about fun! Lenny says that revenge IS fun. And Spencer is a little quiet, and then says that they should go if they’re going to because it’s getting late. They go to Mr. Crowell’s house, and all the lights are off and his car is gone. Lenny says he’s going to destroy all the decorations on the lawn, but Spencer has a better idea: they’re going to break in. Cassie is horrified, but allt he boys are down for it and climb in the window. Diane tells Cassie she can stay outside if she wants, but she’s going in too, and Cassie joins her. Lenny turns on the light saying they should break all the things, but Spencer turns it off and tells him to actually THINK for once in his life. He suggests that they just move some things around. That way, Mr. Crowell will be freaked out, but it may not be enough to call the cops about. And hey, it was cute and quirky when Amélie did it. A mean teacher DEFINITELY equates to a bigoted grocer who makes fun of disabled people. Anyway. They start to mess with his stuff, and Diane decides to explore the house. When she gets to his bedroom she freaks out, thinking Mr. Crowell is on the bed, but Spencer shows her it’s just a pair of pajamas laid out. He relief is short lived, though, as Mr. Crowell returns home! They wait for him to go up the steps as they hide in the kitchen, and then make a break through the door that’s in the kitchen. Spencer also steals one of Mr. Crowell’s CD players, which was NOT part of the deal, guy! And Diane was especially shocked that he looked EXCITED about it! She runs all the way home and climbs into her bed just as her mother checks on her. She pretends that she was asleep, and her mother says she thought she heard someone walking around, but is satisfied and leaves. Diane thinks she dodged a bullet, and Cassie calls her. They agree that it was fun (FUN?!), but Spencer went too far when he stole the CD player. I would argue the breaking and entering was going too far. After hanging up, Diane tries to go to sleep, but the phone rings again. This time it’s the same mystery caller she assumes is Bryan. This time the caller says that she’s going to pay for what she did.
In Mr. Crowell’s class the next day they are all paranoid that he knows they were in his house. When he asks Diane to stay behind after class she almost panics, but he just wants to ask her how her midterm project is going. She meets up with her friends and says she thinks that the Night Games need to stop. Cassie agrees, but Jordan and Lenny think she’s overreacting, after all, Mr. Crowell has NO idea it was them! Diane tells them about the phone calls she’s been getting. She doesn’t mention Bryan’s name because Lenny would probably beat him up, but now that she’s been threatened Lenny is also ready to stop. Jordan is mad, but agrees. They go to Spencer’s house after school, but he doesn’t answer the door. Figuring his still at St. Ann’s, they agree to talk to him later. Diane has dinner at Cassie’s house and studies, and then walks home. But then she’s grabbed by someone! Turns out it’s Bryan, who followed her. He tells her that he needs to protect her from Lenny, and she tells him to back off and to stop calling her. Bryan is confused about the phone calls, and says he only called her the one time. He grabs her arm trying to stop her from leaving, but a passing car makes him lose his nerve and he runs away. Diane’s parents aren’t home, and she looks forward to having some time for herself, but then Lenny shows up on her doorstep. Turns out his parents caught wind of his bad grades and he’s in deep trouble. And whose fault is it according to him? MR. CROWELL, OF COURSE! He says that he’s having fantasies of killing him, and Diane kisses him to try and calm him down. There’s another knocking on the door, and this time it’s Cassie. She shows them a note that was left in her bag, telling her to stop the Night Games or she will be the ‘loser’. Lenny thinks it’s Mr. Crowell. Diane thinks it’s Bryan. Cassie, however, thinks it’s Spencer. Lenny dismisses her, as the Night Games were Spencer’s idea. But Diane agrees that Spencer has been weird lately. Then Spencer shows up and shows off a threatening note that he got.
AND WE GO BACK TO LAST WINTER! Spencer is still feeling bitter about the whole ‘getting punched in the face’ thing. The snow from the night before has stopped, and they all decide that a snowball war could be fun. Spencer makes some ice balls to throw at Lenny, but Lenny calls him out on it and Jordan thinks that a real CORKER of an idea would be to bury Spencer in the snow. So they hold him down no matter how much he protests, and start to cover him in snow. The girls tell them to stop but Lenny says it’s just a joke, though Spencer is starting to have a hard time breathing. They bury him so deep he can’t move, and then Lenny says that they should drive back to Shadyside. Diane says that they can’t just leave Spencer in the snow, but Lenny says he’ll be fine, he has a car, and they all leave Spencer buried in a snow drift.
Present time again! At lunch the next day Diane, Cassie, Lenny, and Jordan are talking about their predicament. They don’t know who is sending the notes, but they really do want to stop the Night Games. They didn’t tell Spencer when they saw him, but they say that they have to stop. Diane thinks that Bryan is sending the notes, but that’s neither here nor there. Lenny goes to talk to Mr. Crowell after school, but the teacher doesn’t have any sympathy for him and apparently called him a loser, and that’s not great, Mr. Crowell. Lenny is incensed, and he and Jordan say that they need to have one more Night Game for revenge.
That night they all tromp toward Mr. Crowell’s house under cloak of darkness. Lenny is ready to do just about anything, and they arrive at Mr. Crowell’s house and climb in the window. Lenny shows them be brought spray paint. He starts to spray all over the house. Diane has had enough, and she goes and finds Cassie, telling her she is ready to go. Cassie agrees, and they go to find the guys. But when they do find them, they see what the guys have found. Mr. Crowell is DEAD ON THE FLOOR!!! Jordan says that THEY didn’t kill him and they have to go, because if the police found them inside this house they’d be DEAD. Diane wonders if Lenny did this when no one was looking. Lenny is freaking out because he spray painted ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE, and now he can’t find the spray can, like an IDIOT. They start to look, and headlights make them panic. COULD IT BE THE POLICE? No, it’s just a neighbor’s car pulling into the driveway next door. Jordan finds the spray can and then get the fuck outta dodge. As Diane runs home she sees a blue Toyota, much like the car that Bryan drove. Is it Bryan following her? If not, why is he out so late!? She gets home and dives into bed.
The next morning Cassie calls. Mr Crowell’s housekeeper found his body, and the police say he died of a heart attack. BUT they think that the intruder who spray painted his house was the one who gave him said heart attack, so they aren’t off the hook! Diane asks Cassie if maybe the police are right, that they DID give Mr. Crowell a heart attack, and Cassie says she doesn’t know. They hang up, and Diane stays home from school. That evening, while her parents are at a play, there’s a pounding on the door. Diane ignores it until it stops, but when she opens the door there’s a rolled up banner on the stood. She unfurls it and finds a spraypainted note that says “you die next”. She calls Cassie and Lenny, but they are already on the way to her house. When they arrive, they have notes too. Diane tells them that she saw Bryan’s car, and they wonder why he would be doing this. The decide to go find Jordan, who is off with a friend. They eventually see his Jeep by a coffee shop, and he’s with Bryan! They demand why he’s with Bryan, but he says they’re lab partners and what is the problem? They show him the notes (in front of Bryan because FUCK IT I guess), and say that HE found the spray can and did he write the notes? He says no, Spencer took the spray can. They decide they need to go talk to Spencer, but Bryan says that this isn’t HIS business and they leave him behind. Smart man, that one. Stalkery, but smart.
They go to Spencer’s house. They knock on the door but he doesn’t answer. Diane looks through the window into the dark house, and then screams. She opens the window, and they enter the living room. Spencer is lying dead on the floor. They wonder if they should call the police, but no, then they would be connected to this AND Mr. Crowell and that’s murder! They try to turn on the lights, but they don’t turn on. In fact, the entire room is empty too, and not only is there no electricity, there’s no heat! And then… THEN… Spencer sits up. But he says that he IS dead! He then floats up off the floor!! HE’S A GHOST! A SOMEHOW SOLID GHOST! That last winter he smothered under the snow! He’s been dead the whole time! When they ask him how he came back from the dead, he says that it was his hatred that kept him here, and once again, we have no use for magical systems in THIS book! He’s the one who killed Mr. Crowell by scaring him to death, knowing that the Night Games would make it so they’d be suspected of murder. But he wants to kill Diane first because she’s his ‘favorite’, aka she didn’t want to fuck him and instead wanted to be with Lenny. He starts to strangle her. As he does so, Diane’s friends do nothing to stop it! She starts to pass out, and fades to black… but then starts to fight back! By hugging him?! She puts her arms around him saying that she loves him because he’s her friend and that they missed him, and the others do it too. And this makes Spencer melt into a pile of goo. Which then disappears. Cassie, Lenny, and Jordan celebrate! The evil has been defeated! But Diane isn’t celebrating. Because Spencer DID kill her when he strangled her! And her friends didn’t even try to stop him. And now Diane says that she may want to ‘play some Night Games of [her] own’. The End.
Body Count: 3.
Romance Rating: 2. And I only give it a 2 because Cassie and Jordan seem to have a semblance of a normal teen relationship. Lenny is just AWFUL to Diane, Bryan is a stalker, and Spencer, uh, killed her.
Bonkers Rating: 7. It would have been higher but it pretty much just repeated the twists that “The Perfect Date” did so it wasn’t exactly shocking, and just as lazy.
Fear Street Relevance: 2. Once again, I don’t think that Fear Street is mentioned once in this book in terms of locations, but I will admit that I could have missed it because my eyes glazed over so many times, so I’m upping it just in case.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“The moon came from behind a cloud and washed eerie, white light through a window. It glinted off the metal in Lenny’s hand. A gun? No! Not Lenny. Not a gun.
‘Lenny!’ I cried. ‘Are you crazy? What are you going to do with that?'”
… And it’s not a gun, but a spray paint can.
That’s So Dated! Moments: At one point there is mention of the potential to watch the “Lethal Weapon” movies (as opposed to the newish TV show).
“He studied his slice of pizza with a small frown. He glanced at Cassie. ‘You ordered this, didn’t you?'”
I honestly think this captures the quiet exasperation/endearment that happens between a long term couple when one does something incredibly predictable when it is to the other’s chagrin.
Conclusion: “Night Games” was boring and felt like a rehashed remix of “The Perfect Date” and “The Dare”. You are better of just reading those two (and “The Perfect Date” is also pretty bad). Up next is “The Runaway”! (NOTE: my regular “Revisit to Fear Street” posts will be back in November, as we have a couple of fun surprises in their stead for the rest of October)