Kate’s Review: “Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood”

33540347Book: “Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood” by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Image Comics, July 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Maika Halfwolf is on the run from a coalition of forces determined to control or destroy the powerful Monstrum that lives beneath her skin. But Maika still has a mission of her own: to discover the secrets of her late mother, Moriko. 

In this second volume of Monstress, collecting issues 7-12, Maika’s quest takes her to the pirate-controlled city of Thyria and across the sea to the mysterious Isle of Bones. It is a journey that will force Maika to reevaluate her past, present, and future, and contemplate whether there’s anyone, or anything, she can truly trust–including her own body.

Review: A popular definition of ‘insanity’ is repeating the same behaviors and expecting a different outcome each time. In this regard, I can call myself ‘insane’, because even though I wasn’t totally taken in by “Monstress” in it’s first volume, I went into “Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood” thinking that perhaps this time something would be different. I really want to like this series, because it has so many features that draw me in: the art is beautiful; the world is dark and foreboding; two of the main characters are a Fox/human child and a necromancing CAT! Plus, monsters. Like, a seriously CREEPY monster. And yet, the joy that others get from “Monstress” continues to elude me.

I will start with the positives of this volume of Maika’s journey. Marjorie Liu has certainly made a creative world that her characters roam in. It continues to be complex and intricate, and it just keeps expanding. This time we get to spend time with a band of pirate Arcanics (those that are part human and part Ancient, and tend to have Animal characteristics), and on a mysterious Island of Bones where an Ancient creature named Blood-Fox resides. Maika is desperate to get answers about her mother, and perhaps figure out how to get rid of the Monster that’s living inside of her. All the while she’s being pursued by the Dawn Court’s Warlord, a military leader who also happens to be Maika’s Aunt. Ultimately, “Blood” isn’t really about the blood of battle, but the blood that runs in our veins and whom it connects us to. I liked seeing Maika try to find out some answers, and I liked that both Maika AND the Monster inside of her have to confront truths about their pasts that make them both uncomfortable. I also still have a great affection for Maika’s sidekicks, the sweet and adorable Kippa, and the sarcastic and somewhat mysterious necromancing cat Ren. As these three continue to travel together, they become more connected to each other, and they all balance each other out.

The art also continues to be gorgeous. There is less time in urban settings in this volume, in favor of taking it to the high seas and to a creepy as all get out island, which means there’s a bit less Art Deco influence. But Takeda’s style remains intricate and sumptuous, and I found my breath taken away a number of times as I turned the pages. The style for her characters also feels so unique, as all of the characters are stark contrasts from each other in their designs. I was especially impressed with the ghostly imagery that’s found on and near the Isle of Bones, as the ghosts are both ethereal but very present.

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(source)

But, like with the first volume, “Monstress: The Blood” still hasn’t made me fall head over heels for this series. I like the characters and the art, but the high fantasy aspects have not worked for me, and I found myself not as interested in it as I had hoped I would be. As the world continued to expand, I wanted more focus on the witches we’d seen in the previous volume. I’m connected to Maika as a character, but I’m not really invested in her story, which is hard for me to wrap my head around. Ultimately, it just comes back to my tastes about high fantasy, and how limited they are. That isn’t “Monstress”‘s fault.

And yes, I’m going to keep going. Even though I have been kind of left cold by the first and second volumes of this series, I REALLY want to like it, and I think that there are shades within these two volumes that make me think that I still can. So I’ve put Volume Three on my request list. And maybe next time I will have a more positive review to give. For now, know that my opinions of “Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood” probably don’t and shouldn’t reflect the merits and positives of this series. So, like I said in my previous review, if you like high fantasy that has a bit of a darkness to it, you should absolutely check this series out. It will probably work for you better than it does for me.

Rating 6: Once again, I’m blown away by the amazing artwork, and I have a fondness for a few of the characters. But the high fantasy setting still isn’t gelling with me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood” is included on the Goodreads lists “Girls Read Comics”, and “SFF Written by WOC and Non-Binary People of Color”.

Find “Monstress (Vol. 2): The Blood” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:

Serena’s Review: “Radiance”

24473763Book: “Radiance” by Grace Draven

Publication Info: self-published, January 2015

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library!

Book Description: THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

Review: This book showed up on some list or another that focused on lesser know romantic fantasy stories. I had already read many of them but was intrigued by the list author’s description of this one which focused on the incredibly positive romantic pairing at the heart of the story. All too often with romance novels, I find myself having to hold back my eyerolls or intentionally speed read through sections where one member of the central pairing (or both) is exhibiting behaviors that are pretty unhealthy and sometimes border on abusive. It’s one of the main reasons that I tend to avoid books where romance is too much of the focal point at the heart of the story. But since its healthy romance was at the heart of the list author’s reason for including “Radiance,” I thought that this one was worth giving a shot!

Brishen and Ildiko come from to very different races. Ildiko is a human, born to live during the day. Brishen is a Kai, a human-like being who lives at night, possesses certain magical powers, and looks terrifying to most humans with his dark skin, white eyes, and sharp teeth. Unlike the book description above would imply, both know they are destined for a marriage that would align their people and have resigned themselves to this fate. Together, they face the challenges of skepticism from their own people who resist seeing a bond such as theirs and threats of violence from outside nations who feel threaten by the increased tie between human kind and the Kai.

It was difficult to write even that short synopsis above because this book is definitely a character-driven story. There is a story arc, but it is one that is only sprinkled in here and there and comes into play only at the very end of the book. Instead, most of the story is devoted solely to getting to know Ildiko and Brishen and portraying their blessedly realistic (and devoid of instalove!) relationship.

Through them, we get some interesting world-building. Ildiko’s people seem to be standard humans. We don’t spend much time in her world, however, as the story quickly shifts to the land of the Kai, as Ildiko and Brishen travel their to establish their home. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Kai culture, their dress, food, and lifestyle. It was all very different from humanity, but also struck closely enough that a marriage between the two peoples still makes sense.

Some of the more intriguing portions of these descriptions, the cultural norms and the physical appearance of each race, came from the blunt evaluations offered up by Brishen and Ildiko. In the very first few chapters, they establish a strong, trust-based style of communication that allows them to express their bewilderment and sometimes fear at the other’s way of life and looks. See, right off the bat, healthy relationship norms! Communication, it will do wonders! These descriptions and conversations also highlight the witty dialogue that makes up much of the book and was incredibly enjoyable. Brishen teases Ildiko about her “horse-like teeth” and Ildiko points out some the disturbing aspects of Brishen’s all-white eyes.

As I said, much of the story is simply focused on these two characters and how they slowly build a friendship and romance over the course of the book. They are also, at the heart of things, both just very good people. It seems like a weird thing to have to highlight, but this aspect of the story, their inherent goodness and the healthiness of the relationship they build, is what makes this book stand out as so satisfying. There are real challenges they face and neither simply brushes off the disturbance they feel at the other’s physical appearance, but mutual respect, friendship, and trust is slowly laid out as the foundation of their growing attachment. It’s just a lovely example of how you can write a romance novel without having to make your main characters brooding, bizarrely non-communicative, or just constantly misunderstood.

It looks like there are follow up books to this story, but it can also mostly be read as a standalone novel. It’s definitely a light, romantic read, so don’t go in expecting epic world-building or elaborate magical systems. The fantasy elements are all clearly there as support systems for the character-driven story at its heart. I very much enjoyed this book, and I agree with the author of the original list (I can’t seem to find it or I would link it!): this book is rare for what it is doing right with its romance.

Also, a quick note. This is a self-published novel, but I was able to check out an ebook at the library. Just another plug for all self-published authors out there: libraries are often willing to stock your ebooks, especially if you’re local and can point to some interest in your story. There’s definitely no harm in asking!

Rating 8: A magical unicorn of a romance novel where the main pairing is based on healthy relationship norms!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Radiance” is on these Goodreads lists: “Slow-burn romance” and “Fantasy Romance.”

Find “Radiance” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The New Year’s Party”

182599Book: “The New Year’s Party” (A Fear Street Super Chiller) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!

Book Description: Ring in the new fear.

P.J. wasn’t supposed to die. It was just a practical joke, no big deal. But P.J. had a bad heart…

The kids at Reenie’s Christmas party couldn’t tell the police what they’d done, so they hid the body…and then it disappeared.

Now someone is killing them, one by one. Someone is taking P.J.’s revenge…but who?

By midnight they’ll know. Because when the clock chimes, they’ll all get a kiss. The kiss of death.

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: Happy 2019 everyone! I hope that you were able to ring in the new year with friends, family, or a good book, and that you are ready to say goodbye (and maybe good riddance too) to 2018 and have a new beginning. Much like my last foray into “Fear Street”, I decided to do a festive little ditty for our recap today. Ring in the New Year with a ridiculous teen thriller, everyone. My gift to you.

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(source)

We start in 1965, with a group of teens having a New Year’s Eve party, listening to The Beatles and having an all around keen time. A girl named Beth Fliescher is dancing in her new white gogo boots and super hip mini skirt (because it’s 1965, GUYS!), and a dreamy boy named Todd tells her it’s a groovy party and starts to dance with her. She thinks that she likes Todd because he’s so dreamy, but she can’t help but gaze out at Jeremy, a cool loner who I am now imagining as Michael Fitzsimmons in “Peggy Sue Got Married”, and if he’s HALF as ridiculous as that kid he’s a true winner. Beth is also wondering where her best friend Karen is, who is also the host of the party and who has disappeared from the festivities. The clock winds down and Karen is no where to be seen, but Beth does see some popular boys picking on Jeremy and wishes that he would stand up for himself. After Jeremy is knocked to the floor Beth considers going to him, but Todd pulls her away for make out times I bet. But then suddenly TWO MASKED MEN WITH PISTOLS run through the door! They tell everyone to get up against the wall, and then start to rob them. One of the guys grabs Jeremy and points a gun against his head, and Jeremy begs for his life, but hey, no worries, it’s all just a prank set up by Karen, who congratulates the robbers. Who are just seniors for Shadyside high school. The party starts to mock Jeremy, as if they too wouldn’t have been pleading for mercy with a gun against their heads. Beth calls Karen out for her prank, and Karen says it was just a joke. Jeremy runs out of the party, and Beth tries to follow, but Todd grabs her and says that he’s sick of being ignored. I don’t know, TODD, it seems to me that she’s been dancing with you all night, that isn’t really ignoring you. When she says that Jeremy needs her he says that he’ll find someone who pays attention to him, and BOY, BYE. Beth runs after Jeremy and jumps in his car with him, and he starts driving like a lunatic on icy roads. She begs him to slow down but he doesn’t, and then they hit something, and it looks like a boy! Jeremy skid ahead, and says that they have to go back, but Beth says no, because it couldn’t have been a person, but it must have been a raccoon, and then they hear police sirens! Jeremy speeds off, but he loses control of the car and crashes it, killing them both.

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There was a lot going on in that prologue. (source)

Now it’s present day! And by that I mean 1995. Reenie Baker has arrived home and goes to her room to see her group of friends, waiting to work on a group trigonometry project. There’s her best friend Greta, Greta’s boyfriend Artie, and their mutual friend Ty. They’re still waiting on Reenie’s boyfriend Sean. Artie says that Sean was last seen getting cozy with the school beauty Sandi Burke, and that now it’s Ty’s chance to make a move on Reenie. Artie’s going to be the one that I have no remorse for when/if he dies, I reckon. Ty seems embarrassed, but Reenie thinks that if he knew that half of the girls at Shadyside have wanted to bed him (my words) since he transferred to Shadyside he could have his pick. Artie complains about their homework and Greta basically implies that if he doesn’t get trig he’ll never amount to anything, and maybe she, too, can be lost without any mourning from me. Reenie goes to put her sweater in her closet, and out spills Sean, looking dead as a doornail! But Reenie isn’t falling for the dumb joke they all decided to play on her, and after that crazy prologue I actually for a moment believed that Stine was going balls to the wall with twists and turns so I was fooled too. It’s made clear that playing pranks on each other is pretty standard for this group, and Reenie wonders if they should stop escalating it lest it go too far.

At school the next day Greta is confiding in Reenie that she and Artie fought after they left her house. Greta is worried that Artie isn’t going to go to college, and he’s even been hanging out with the local bad boy of this story, Marc, who has been trying to convince Artie to drop out of school like he did. Marc makes good money at a car factory in Waynesbridge, and Artie’s family needs money now because his little brother Davy is having health issues. As they turn the corner they see a girl trying to break into Reenie’s locker! They confront her, and the girl says that she’s new and the secretary gave her this locker number, but Reenie tells her that the note says B-9, not 89, and they all have a good laugh. She introduces herself as Liz, and then points to her brother P.J., who was standing there the whole time but went unnoticed by Greta and Reenie. Reenie notices how handsome P.J. is, but he isn’t saying much and stares at the ground mostly. As Reenie opens her locker, two hands reach for her throat! Liz screams, and Reenie yells at Ty who, so committed to the bit, has wedged himself into her locker just so he could have this moment. She says she wasn’t scared, she was startled, because scared lasts longer than a moment. Reenie introduces Ty to Liz and P.J., and while P.J. is still asocial Ty’s gaze is locked on Liz, and Reenie figures that maybe he’s finally taken interest in someone. As Ty leads Liz to her locker, P.J. stares at them all strange like, and then tears after them, leaving Greta and Reenie confused.

Some time later (a week maybe?), Reenie, Greta, and Sean are hanging out and eating their food outside the Burger Basket. Reenie is talking about how cool Liz is, and while Sean and Reenie think that P.J. is kind of weird Greta says that he’s probably just shy, and it seems that maybe she has a crush on him. They speculate about Ty’s seeming crush on Liz, and as they all talk about the new kids Reenie realizes that they don’t know where Liz and P.J. live or much else about them. Then Artie pulls up beside them with Marc in Marc’s new car, and Greta’s mood instantly sours. Marc offers to give them a ride, and while Reenie and Greta say ‘hard pass’ Sean says he’d like to see how the car runs, so I guess that means that all three of them have to ride in it. Greta insists just for a ride around the block. But Marc, being a total douche, not only drag races with them in the car, he decides to take them beyond the block and towards Fear Street. Eventually he drives off road and up to Fear Lake. When they all get out he says that he wants to show them something but they have to go to the cliff side. As he gets closer, he suddenly screams and falls off! Reenie runs forward to try and see if she can see him, but then she TOO falls down the side, and slides out onto the frozen lake. When she gets up to try and make her way back, the ice cracks and she falls through!!!! But luckily Sean is able to rush out onto the ice, slides on his belly, and pulls her out. She asks what happened to Marc, and then Marc shows up unharmed. Apparently it was a joke that he and Artie cooked up. Given that hypothermia is probably setting in, they wrap Reenie in coats and high tail back to Marc’s car, Greta livid and Reenie hoping that this is the end of the stupid pranks.

At lunch the next day Greta is railing about the terribly joke that Artie and Marc pulled, though mostly about Artie. Sean and Reenie tell her that it was an accident, but I’m kind of on #teamgreta on this one because actions have consequences and Reenie could have died. Greta goes to get some dessert and Reenie and Sean discuss her crumbling relationship with Artie. To make matters worse, they see Greta flirting with P.J., and just as they see, Artie comes into the cafeteria and sees as well! Sean is able to go over and diffuse the situation by intercepting Artie, and Artie stalks off instead of starting a fight. After school Reenie is walking home in the dark and grey weather, and sees Liz in the parking lot. They get to chatting, and Liz says that she heard about the bad joke that went awry, and Reenie asks her how she and P.J. are adjusting. Liz says fine, but P.J. is having a harder time because he’s so ill, what with his heart murmur and all. Liz asks that Reenie not say anything about his heart to anyone, and Reenie promises not to. She breaks off from Liz when Ty shows up with a clear intent to ask Liz out, and she starts to walk by herself when Artie pulls up in Marc’s car. He offers her a ride and says he’s borrowing Marc’s wheels (no freaking duh), and while Reenie isn’t totally comfortable, she deems cold wet weather to be a bigger threat and gets in. He apologizes for the bad joke as they get to an intersection, but then he continues his streak of Questionable Decisions, as when the light turns green he peels out and speeds through the next intersection… and gets t-boned by a green van.

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(source)

They climb out of Marc’s now wrecked car, and unfortunately the driver of the van is none other than P.J. Reenie sees him slumped over the wheel, and is worried that his heart gave out, but he’s okay. Artie is livid, saying that P.J. ran a stop sign (though my guess is that it was a four way stop if it’s on a road with stop lights not a few blocks earlier, so perhaps it is YOUR fault, Artie), and bangs his hands on the car. Reenie begs for him to stop, still thinking of the heart condition, and Artie blows up at her and gets in the car and speeds away.

At lunch the next day Greta is telling the gang about how Marc ripped Artie a new asshole over his car, and Reenie says that it isn’t Artie’s fault because P.J. ran a stop sign (I still refuse to believe that Artie bears no fault in this situation). She’s relieved that Liz and Ty are now dating because that means maybe she won’t be as concerned about her weird brother. Greta just hopes that Marc will be out of their lives now, even though she worries that Artie is wrecked for life because of his influence. Sean tells the group that Reenie’s parents are going to be out of town and he’s trying to get her to throw a Christmas party! Before they can dwell too long, though Sandi suddenly runs into the lunch room and tells them that they have to come to the weight room. They rush to the weight room and see Artie sprawled on the floor. Apparently he was doing his weight training and demanded that P.J. be his spotter in an attempt to humiliate him, but then he couldn’t get the barbell back on the rack. And then, as if this should be a surprise to ANYONE, P.J. couldn’t get the weight back up either and it fell on Artie. Coach Wilkins says that he’s calling a doctor and both of them are to blame for dicking around without supervision, and Greta comes to P.J.’s defense. As soon as Coach Wilkins leaves, Artie stands up and accuses P.J. of trying to kill him, and is SICK of people standing up for ‘poor little P.J.’. He is about to lunge at P.J. but Coach Wilkins comes back and tells him to stop moving for fuck’s sake, and tells everyone else to go on to their next classes.

After school that day Reenie, Artie, Greta, and Sean are hanging out. Artie announces he’s made up with Marc, who now realizes that somehow this is all P.J.’s fault. They start to discuss the Christmas party guest list (and name off “Fear Street” alumni such as Corky Corcoran and Deena Martinson), and Artie says that his ‘first choice’ is P.J because he and Marc have a trick planned. Reenie and Greta are both disapproving, but Artie says he has the best plan. He and Marc are going to get Sandi to ask P.J. to the party, and then while at the party she is going to kiss him… and then pretend to DIE!! P.J. will think that his kiss is, and I quote, ‘too hot to handle’, and that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. But Sean thinks it sounds awesome, and for whatever reason Reenie and Greta agree???? Reenie thinks that it may make P.J. feel more included since the group tricks each other all the time.

The night of the party comes and Reenie is kind of hoping that Sandi and P.J. don’t show. But there are so many other characters of Fear Street’s past in this scene it feels a bit like the Mickey Mouse Club roll call. Artie and Marc, both drunk, are waiting for their moment, but still no sign of Sandi or P.J. Liz and Reenie start talking and Reenie feels a need to warn her about the dumb prank. Liz is horrified, and tells Reenie that this is a terrible idea and super mean. Reenie tries to reason that it’s like all the dumb tricks they all play on each other, but Liz disagrees, and runs off to try and find P.J. before he arrives. Ty comes back into the room and asks Reenie where Liz went, and goes off to try and find her just as Sandi and P.J. arrive. Everyone is shocked that the new kid weirdo guy is with the hottest girl in school. But P.J. doesn’t look totally comfortable, and when Sandi pulls him onto the dance floor he is very clearly not digging it. When Sandi goes in for the kiss it seems way aggressive to THIS reader, and then she goes through with the joke, pretending to drop dead. As Artie delivers a Jolie-esque performance of histrionics about how she’s dead, P.J. starts to freak out. He then starts to yell and convulse and then he keels over. Artie says that he probably just fainted, but when Reenie listens for a heart beat she can’t hear anything. She announces to the shocked room that he’s dead.

Back to 1965! In an unexpected turn of events, Jeremy and Beth are able to crawl out of the car wreck. They stumble around and realize that somehow neither of them have a scratch on them. In hopes of finding help they start to walk back towards the road in hopes of flagging down a passing car. Beth realizes that she isn’t cold at all. They go back to the road and don’t see any body of a boy they hit, and cars whiz by and don’t stop for them. They find a farm house and knock on the door, but no one answers. So they go back to the car in hopes of taking shelter from the cold… and then find their own bodies in the wreck! They actually are dead! And they are ghosts! Jeremy tries to jump back in his body, but to no avail, and they both disappear into the void.

Back to the 1995 Christmas party. Reenie tries to blow air into P.J.’s lungs as Sean does CPR on him, but to no avail. She blames herself because she knew about the heart murmur but didn’t tell her friends. Sean says that P.J. is definitely dead, and while they debate what to do the headlights of a car pull into the driveway. Panicked that Reenie’s parents have come home, the group lifts P.J.’s body up and decides to hide it in the basement.

Okay. Here lies a giant, GIANT, plot hole. At no point was there a mention of the party clearing out. In fact, Stine made it VERY clear that it was still crowded when they pulled the joke. And yet, the party has suddenly disappeared. Are we to believe that the entire party cleared out and made a pact that they would never speak of what they saw that night? I mean, I get that this is Shadyside and ALL of the people at this party have seen some shit,  but this is a TERRIBLE CONTINUITY ERROR. Like unforgivable!

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Shame on you, R.L.! (source)

They stuff P.J.’s body behind the furnace, but when they get back upstairs they realize that it wasn’t Reenie’s parents, but someone just randomly turning around in her driveway. They decide that they really should call the police and explain what happened, and then after they’ve done so they realize that they have to take the body out from behind the furnace because if they don’t that looks HELLA SUSPICIOUS. They also note that Sandi and Marc have high tailed out, but make no mention of the other party guests. When they go back down to the basement to retrieve the corpse, the body is gone! So now they decide that P.J. must have run into Liz, knew about the joke, and decided to turn the tables. The police do come and chastise them for making a fake call, but they tell them they didn’t realize it was a trick when they called. The police search the house and don’t find anything. After they leave the group decides no more pranks, and they clean up and Reenie feels good…. Until Liz calls her, asking where P.J. is. Reenie says that P.J. isn’t there and that he can tell Liz everything when he does get home. But she doesn’t sleep well that night, because Liz didn’t know where P.J. was…

But at school the next day, P.J. is nowhere to be found. And Liz is way emotional. Reenie overhears her talking to Ty about how P.J. is missing and that she’s worried about him, but Reenie’s friends think that she’s in on P.J.’s joke so Reenie doesn’t know what to believe. She also doesn’t understand how mourning is different for everyone because seeing Liz kiss Ty in a long and serious fashion makes Reenie think that maybe she isn’t worried about P.J. Reenie gets called to the principal’s office, and sees that there are policemen there. They have questions about P.J. and the party. When they try to tell the cops that it was just a joke, the cops say that P.J. didn’t come home the night before, and that his jacket was found in Fear Woods. The gang (with Sandi) are trying to convince themselves that P.J. was alive and well when he left the house after his prank, but Reenie isn’t sure.

A week later there is still no sign of P.J., and as Reenie and Greta work on trig  homework they talk about how guilty they feel. Greta also says she’s going to dump Artie because he’s STILL hanging out with Marc and is going to drop out of school. Greta asks if Reenie will go with her now to dump Artie, and Reenie agrees. They get to Artie’s house, and he says that he’s working on a car in the garage with Marc. Greta asks if she can talk to him without Marc there, and Artie says sure, he’ll go let Marc know that he has to go. But shortly thereafter, they hear a horrible scream from the garage. Reenie and Greta go to see what happened, and they find Marc’s body sprawled across the hood of his car, his head turned around totally backwards. GNARLY! Artie says that he was fine when he went to answer the door. They go to call the police, and as they wait for the cops to arrive, they surmise that whoever did it had to be strong so that they could snap Marc’s neck so easily, and fast so they could do it in the span of three minutes tops.

So now Reenie is super paranoid given that there’s a killer out there. She’s driving to pick up Sean and Ty from The Burger Basket, watching her back the whole way. When she gets there she’s surprised by a mysterious person who comes up behind her, but it’s just Sandi. She thinks that Liz knows more than she’s letting on about P.J. and is hoping to pump Ty for information. Reenie and Sandi meet up with Sean, who says that he’s going to to find Ty. Reenie goes to wash her hands, but when she comes back the dining area is deserted. She goes to look for everyone, and when she enters the kitchen she slips and falls. But when she gets up, she screams! Sandi has been stuffed in the garbage!! Sean and Ty run out to see what the commotion is, and all Ty can muster is a couple of ‘wows’. They pull Sandi out, and her head has also been twisted all the way around.

Reenie, Greta, Sean, and Artie are all hanging out after Christmas, still scared about the death and destruction that surrounds them. Sean thinks that P.J. did it, because he’s been mysteriously missing and had a vendetta against Marc and Sandi. Reenie asks how he could have gotten into Burget Basket to kill Sandi when the doors had been locked for the night, and he has no response to that. Artie says that P.J. is too weak to twist people’s heads around anyway. Greta thinks that maybe she should follow Liz, who may lead them to P.J. if he is alive. They suggest that Reenie go talk to her at least to see if she says anything, so Reenie goes then and there to see her, going to her house on Fear Street. She knocks on Liz’s door, and Liz answers, but makes it very clear that she doesn’t want to see Reenie even though Reenie tries to apologize. Liz says that she can’t forgive Reenie for what she did, and goes back inside, slamming the door in Reenie’s face.

A few days later Greta and Reenie walk inside Reenie’s house. Reenie’s mom gives her some mail, and the two girls go up to Reenie’s room. Reenie opens the letter, and it’s an invitation to a New Years Party. From Liz! Apparently she is sorry for being irrational, and says she wants to throw a party to start off the new year with all of her closest friends. Oh yeah. THIS seems totally legitimate.

So the group heads to Liz’s house on New Year’s Eve! Sean and Reenie arrive first with Greta and Artie meeting them on the walk as they walk up to the house. Liz lets them in, but it’s strange because there’s no music and no one else at the party. And it’s been decorated in black everything. Also, there’s very little furniture in the house, outside of a punch bowl on a single table and a big book next to it. It’s a yearbook from 1965. Reenie starts to page through it, but Liz snaps at her to stop snooping. So why the heck did you leave it out, Liz?! There’s a knocking on the door, and Liz goes to get the new guest, who is, of course, Ty. Sean says that he hasn’t seen Ty around much at all lately, not even at work, and Ty seems to want to remain mysterious about this. Liz says that it’s time to start the party, and gives a toast to the departed. She then bursts into tears, and Ty tries to comfort her but she pushes him away. She tells the group that she invited them here because it would be ‘easier to kill you all at once instead of continuing one by one’! That’s right! LIZ IS THE KILLER! Reenie is in disbelief, but Liz says that she really liked hearing the crack of the bones as she broke Marc and Sandi’s necks. When they ask her why, she says that it was the stupid practical joke that caused her brother’s death! Liz grabs a knife and asks Reenie if she’d like to be first, since she was the first to pretend to be her friend (ICE COLD!), but before she can stab her Sean wrenches the knife away from her, and demands that she unbolt the doors so they can leave. She says that she will, but instead of going for the door, she tackles Sean to the ground and they fight over the knife. After biting Sean’s wrist, Liz gets the knife back in her possession and is about to stab him, but then a voice tells her to stop! It’s P.J.!!! He’s alive!! P.J. tells Liz to put the knife down, and once she does, he tells her that he’s glad she stopped… because he wouldn’t want her to kill them without him!!! P.J. confirms that Liz killed Marc and Sandi, but he likes to watch her when she does such things. Greta says that they were worried about him and he was their friend, and to THAT I say ‘ha’, and Sean tries to grab the knife from Liz but there’s a stumble and he accidentally stabs her with it. But… BUT… There is no blood. And Liz says that none of them can kill her OR P.J., and you wanna know why? She tosses them the year book, and Reenie opens it up to the “In Memorium” page. There on the page are Elizabeth “Beth” Fliescher and her brother Philip Jeremy!!!!

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I’m pretty sure that this was the face that 5th grade Kate made when she read that reveal all those years ago. (source)

Liz is pulling a full on Pamela Voorhees and blaming all pranksters for her and her brother’s deaths, on New Years Eve like this one. Thirty years later and there are still asshole teenagers in this world, and Liz is NOT pleased about it. So these guys are going to pay! Throw in some weird mythology about going to a cold grey place and slowly gaining power, blah blah blah, and they’re back in their old bodies and back for revenge. But then….. THEN…. Ty jumps between Liz and the others. And he tells her that it wasn’t she and P.J. who were brought back for revenge. HE WAS!!! HE WAS THE KID THEY HIT WITH THEIR CAR THAT NIGHT!!

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I think 5th grade Kate actually screamed at this reveal. (source)

He didn’t know why he’d been brought back, but as soon as he saw Liz and Jeremy he figured it out. I also want to add that I kind of love that Ghost!Ty just kind of kept doing teenage things before he figured out why he was brought back to life, such as going to school and getting a job at Burger Basket. Responsibility!! P.J. screams that they should have gone  back, and Liz is still insistent that they hit a raccoon and not a person! Ty says that he’s back and he’s going to kill them! He throws his arms around Liz, and then P.J. tries to get him off of her, but as the clock strikes to midnight the three struggling ghosts fade into oblivion. After they are gone, Reenie says that it’s all very sad and scary and that she doesn’t know if there’s much more to say. To which Sean says “How about Happy New Year?” The End.

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(source)

Body Count: I mean, I guess that it has to be five!! Which is pretty damn high for a “Fear Street” book!

Romance Rating: 3. Sean and Reenie are barely a couple, Artie is a jerk, and Ty and Liz’s relationship was built on Ty ultimately hoping to drag her back to hell, so it’s not gonna be a high score this time.

Bonkers Rating: 9. There were so many crazy twists, turns, and ridiculous continuity issues that my head was spinning around and around.

Fear Street Relevance: 7. With appearances from Fear Woods AND Fear Lake AND the final confrontation being on Fear Street, this was solidly Fear Street oriented.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“‘He’s dead!’ Ty gasped. ‘Sean is dead!’

‘Good,’ Reenie said.”

…. Like, doesn’t that just giveaway that Sean very obviously ISN’T dead????

That’s So Dated! Moments: Outside of the fashion descriptions (like Sandi wearing an oversized sweater and leggings for an outfit) and the mention of CDs here and there it wasn’t terribly dated. Oh except for Reenie saying that Liz and P.J. were killed ‘more than ten years before the rest of us were born’, which would be QUITE a different timeline today.

Best Quote:

“They spent hours talking about boys and movies and rock music – especially The Beatles. They made up stories about how they went to London and met the Beatles in person, and all four of the rock stars asked them for dates. The hard part was deciding which two Beatles to go out with, since all four of them were so far out.”

I’ll make it easy for you: John was a prick and Paul’s one true love was Linda who was a saint, and you can’t get in between that. George and Ringo are the obvious winners.

Conclusion: “The New Year’s Party” was completely insane in all of the best possible ways!!! A really fun read that every “Fear Street” fan ought to pick up! Happy 2019 everyone! Next up is “The Rich Girl”!