Book: “Fear Hall: The Beginning” (Fear Hall #1) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Turtleback books, January 1997
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Dear Readers:
Come with me to Fear Hall. That’s the creepy college dorm built years ago by the cursed Fear family.
Hope and her roommates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great…until one of them becomes a murderer!
Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream!
I hope you’ll join me for Fear Hall. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!
P.S. You’ll never believe what I came up with for the next book…
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: I first want to note that I was taken aback by the sudden design change in the cover. At first I thought it was just because of the new location of Fear Hall, thinking that a college off shoot story may need to stand out from the usual Shadyside malarky. However, the last two books in the Original “Fear Street” series have the same design, even though right after the Fear Hall books the next two go back to the original, better known template. What was the purpose here? What was the motivation? Why the switch up, then rescinded switch up, back to a switch up?
Regardless, we find ourselves not in Shadyside, but at Ivy State. We haven’t heard of Ivy State yet, at least to to my recollection, but this is a college with big enough connections to Shadyside that the Fear Family gave enough money to get a dorm named after them. And that is where Hope, our first narrator, lives, on the 13th Floor of Fear Hall with her roommates Angel, Eden, and Jasmine. Here is the run down about all of the roommates. Hope is plain and ‘chubby’, Angel is thin and a boy magnet, Eden wears plaid and isn’t interested in things Other Girls™ are (but is loud and likes letter writing to her Mom), and Jasmine is shy and intelligent. Hope says that they are all super close because they’ve known each other for a few years even before this, their freshman year. They are a happy rag tag bunch in 13-B, which is why Hope is sad to tell us about the night that the ‘troubles started’.
Hope is awakened in the middle of the night by her boyfriend Darryl. He has beer of his breath, natch, and Hope asks him what he’s doing because boys aren’t allowed on this floor at this time of night. He tells her that he’s in trouble and that he did something terrible. Seems that he followed Hope earlier that night and saw her out with some guy named Brendan. She tells him that it wasn’t her out with Brendan, it was Angel, and he proceeds to grab her and scream at her about lying to him. Oh. He’s one of those guys. She keeps insisting that it was Angel who was out with Brendan, but Darryl continues to shake her and yell at her that she’s lying. Hope also lets the readers know that she LOVES Darryl so much and is so happy he’s at Ivy State with her, and that he saved her from a real creep named Mark. The only downside is that he’s just a little possessive. And by a little I mean he doesn’t even like other guys looking at her. He tells her that he ‘carved’ Brendan. Hope screams, and Angel, Eden, and Jasmine wake up. They demand to know why Darryl is there and he tells them what he saw. But Angel confirms that she was out with Brendan and had borrowed Hope’s outfit. Darryl has the gall to not only tell them that he’s pretty sure he killed Brendan, but that THEY HAVE TO HELP HIM COVER IT UP. Angel tells him that they’re going to call the motherfucking cops on his ass and Eden says that they aren’t going to help him.
Darryl shoves Angel and threatens her, and before she can scream there’s a knocking on the door. Hope thinks that it’s the police already (in spite of the fact no one has called yet) and she shoves Darryl in her closet. She answers the door, but it’s not the fuzz, it’s Melanie from across the hallway. She is one of the ‘3 M’s’ that lives across the hall, the others being Margie and Mary, and Hope hates them because they’re preppy and went to private schools and is convinced that they hate the girls in 13-B because they are all public school girls. This seems like it may be projecting. Melanie says she heard some loud noises and wanted to make sure that everything was okay, and Hope says that it’s just her and her friends having way too much fun. And Melanie, being the bitch that she is, is hesitant and concerned and asks Hope if she’s sure that everything is okay. Oh wait, that’s actually a really nice and considerate thing to do, isn’t it? She says that Mary is still out and was waiting up for her, and is about to go back to her dorm when there’s a scream. Mary comes tearing down the hallway, saying she saw a dead boy outside. Basically everyone in the dorm hear the commotion and runs outside, and indeed it’s Brendan, his body all cut up/’carved’ (what an awkward phrase!). Melanie asks Hope if she was out with Brendan that night, and Hope gets REALLY defensive and says NO and maybe Melanie needs to get her eyes checked!!! Zing. As everyone else freaks out the sound of sirens start up, and Hope rushes back to her dorm room. She finds Darryl still in her room, and he tells her not to go out with another guy or he may kill someone again. He stumbles out.
Now it’s from Jasmine’s POV! We see her at her diner job at the Campus Corner. It’s a tough job but she likes it, and for some reason this segues into the fact her mother was always mean to her and gave her the nickname ‘fish’ because of her personality being like a cold fish. Sheesh. She wishes she could be as outgoing and cool as her roommates. She also notices the 3 M’s in a booth, talking in low tones and looking at her. She can hear them talking about Brendan, and how sad they all are, and by the time Jasmine does approach them she outright asks them why they’re all staring at her. I have a feeling this probably reflects worse on Jasmine than it does them, but the 3 M’s are gracious enough to say that they just hoped Jasmine would notice them and come take their orders. Shortly thereafter Eden and Angel walk in and take a seat, and Jasmine joins them on her break. They all agree that Darryl needs to be locked up, but that Hope isn’t going to let them call the police, as if they can’t just call the police of their own volition. As they discuss what the should do, the 3 M’s stare at them. Jasmine feels self conscious and says they can talk about it at home. At the end of her shift her boss Marty asks her if she’s okay, and she says yes, and heads for home. But on the way home she’s surprised by Darryl (gross). He asks her if she’s going to keep her mouth shut and she says yes, but tells him that he needs to get help. He in turn tells her that he’s not going to kill anyone again, ‘unless [he] has to’. I, for one, do not find this comforting.
Now it’s an Eden section! I’m excited for this because I feel like Eden is the one I am going to relate to the most! She’s writing a letter home to her Mom, and Hope makes a snarky comment about it. She then asks Eden and Jasmine if she ever told them what her nickname was, bestowed upon her by her mother. Jasmine takes this as a Bad Mom Pissing Contest and brings up ‘fish’ again, but Hope says that her mom used to call her ‘buttertubs’, and then goes on to tell a story of how her mom once made her eat four bowls of ice cream in front of some of Hope’s school friends, and then smashed her face into the ice cream carton afterwards. I think Hope wins. She then says she wants to go out, and Eden, leaving her letter to her nurturing and well adjusted mom behind, accompanies her to the Blue Tavern for pizza.
And when we arrive Stine emphasizes not once, not twice, but thrice times that YOU CAN GET BEER HERE. This is NOT Pete’s Pizza, esteemed readers! Eden and Hope order a pie before sitting down, and two guys in a booth across from them start making eyes at them. Eden is into it, but Hope is clearly uncomfortable and says they should leave. Eden asks her what the issue is, and Hope tells her Darryl is the issue. Eden asks if he’s followed them here, and Hope says he’s close by. Eden feels a hand on her shoulder, but when she turns around it’s just the cute guys from the table across from them. They ask if they can join, and Eden hesitates, mentioning that her friend may not be comfortable. They ask ‘what friend?’, and when Eden looks over she sees Hope is gone! She’s at first worried Darryl came in and grabbed her, but then assures herself she would have noticed such a commotion, and decides Hope must have just slipped off. She invites the guys to eat her pizza with her, and they introduce themselves as Dave and Gideon. They all chat and eat pizza, and when she tells them that she lives in Fear Hall, and they think that’s so cool since it’s rumored to be haunted. They ask her if she knew anything about the recent murder there, and Eden takes that as he cue to leave and to check on Hope.
Eden gets back to 13-B, but unfortunately Darryl is there, and he holds up the letter Eden was writing to her Mom, where she mentioned the murder. He demands to know if she was going to tell on him, and she tries to snatch it away but he grabs her and violently holds her in his grasp. There’s a knocking on the door again, and Darryl lets Eden go and runs into the bathroom, Hope right behind him, and they slam the door to hide. Angel wakes up briefly, and Jasmine sleeps through it all (I don’t see how!), and Eden goes to the door, opening it a crack. It’s Melanie and Mary of the 3 M’s, checking to see if everything is okay again. Hope is so catty about them, but they seem like concerned neighbors more than anything else. Eden says that it was the radio, and when it’s pointed out that the radio isn’t on she says she turned it off when they knocked. Melanie and Mary say that they’re all really freaked out, and Eden agrees that she and her roommates are freaked out too, and a moment of awkward silence happens before they tell Eden they are trying to organize a safety meeting for the dorm so they can figure out how to keep themselves safe. I have a suggestion that’s pretty proactive, and that is for Eden to just call the damn cops already! She says that she and her roommates will come to the meeting, and the 2 of 3 M’s give her another look and then say goodnight. Eden thinks that they are strange.
On the way to class the next day Eden runs into Dave from the pizza parlor, and he asks her out for coffee after her class. She says yes! But when she gets to class something weird happens. The professor doesn’t have her name on his class roster, but he does have Hope’s, even though Hope isn’t in that class. He says that she has to suss it out with the Dean, and MY question is how this just became a problem now?
Eden has to leave the class, and she wonders if she’s going crazy because of all this Darryl stress. She goes back into the building from whence she came and goes to a pay phone bank, intent on calling the cops, but before she can Hope taps her on the shoulder. Eden asks her if she’s taking any history classes that semester, and Hope says no, so Eden is definitely convinced the professor had the wrong class roster. Hope asks her who she was calling, and Eden tells her that she was going to call the police because Darryl is a straight up violent criminal. Hope begs Eden to wait a little bit longer, as if Hope could possibly do ANYTHING to quell that psychotic goon of a boyfriend of hers, and Eden agrees.
That night Eden goes on a date with Dave. She’s wearing one of Hope’s outfits since her closest is usually more Seattle Grunge couture, and the date is going well. She and Dave are walking around campus and the 3 M’s see them from across the courtyard, and mistake her for Hope. Eden says she’s just wearing Hope’s clothes, but she’s Eden, and asks Dave if she and Hope even look alike. He says he’s never met Hope, so how would be know? Gideon sneaks up on them and nearly gives Eden a heart attack, and then Dave suggests that he and Eden go to the driving range for the end of their date. Oh, how romantic. But Eden is game. They go to the driving range right before closing, and they are the only two there, the area lit up by big lights. But just as Dave’s about to show Eden how to do the perfect drive, Darryl shows up, grabs a club, and BEATS HIM TO DEATH RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN. Eden, covered in blood, runs away, screaming.
Now it’s back to Hope’s POV. She is comforting Eden, who is reeling and sobbing about the horrific trauma she just experienced, and Hope says that she wants to tell Eden a story. She goes on to tell her about how when she was still living at home her mother deliberately bought her clothes that were far too small for her, because she liked watching Hope try to squeeze into them and end up humiliated about the bad fit. But Darryl never cared that she was overweight, and that is why she could NEVER turn in the guy who has violently murdered two innocent people. Because she doesn’t think that anyone else will see past her weight.
ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.
First of all, the highest size that Stine ever puts Hope at is a ten, which isn’t considered plus size at all. And even if she WAS overweight what the hell kind of fucked up message is it to give the readers that overweight people should be glad to get whatever kind of love they can, even if it’s from abusive, violent psychopaths? It would be one thing if this kind of mindset was at all pushed back against, but instead of that Eden instead falls asleep as Hope comforts her, which in turn leads to Darryl showing up and saying that now Hope can ‘strangle’ Eden. Hope is shocked, and he back paddles really fast but tells her that he can explain what happened. Hope gives him the platform to do so, but then he says that there is no explanation, but that Eden saw everything and what if she tells? Well GEE, ASSHOLE, maybe you shouldn’t have slaughtered her date right in front of her!!! Hope tells him that he has to leave, but before he does he throws a few good threats toward Eden for good measure.
The next day the news breaks the story about Dave, and when Eden wakes up she wants to call the police. Hope begs her not to, but Eden, rightfully so, tells her that she’s not protecting Darryl anymore no matter WHAT Hope wants. So Hope, in a moment of panic, smashes her in the head with Angel’s hair dryer. She doesn’t kill her, but she does stun her, and while Eden is in a daze Hope ties her up, gags her, and throws her in the clothes closet. After she takes in a few breaths, she turns and sees Melanie in the doorway. She thinks she’s been caught and tries to calculate if she could do the same thing to Melanie, but luckily Melanie is just there to remind her about the campus safety meeting. After she leaves Hope’s paranoia gets the best of her, and she decides to has to tell Darryl he has to run away. But when she gets to the quad, she sees police officers taking Darryl away! She thinks that maybe she could make up an alibi for him, but remembers she still has to get dressed. She runs back to her room, and remembers as well that she threw Eden in her closet. But then, maybe she didn’t, because Eden suddenly sits up in her bed, with no memory of what Hope did! Hope is thrown for a moment, but then remembers Darryl, and goes to the window to see if she can see if he and the cops are still there. The cops are gone, but Darryl is standing below, glaring up at her.
Back to Jasmine’s POV. She is running to work, as she’s very late and doesn’t want to get in trouble. WHen she arrives, twenty minutes past her start time, her boss Marty asks to speak with her. He tells her that he needs someone who is more responsible, and that he has to let her go. She says that she won’t be late again, and he says that it’s one thing to be late, it’s quite another to not show up like she did yesterday. Jasmine is confused, she doesn’t think that she was working yesterday, and when he asks her where she was she doesn’t remember. He gives her her last paycheck, and she leaves, distraught that she can’t remember anything about the day before. And yes, this clinches my suspicions. Jasmine goes to the cafeteria to try and remember what happened the day before, but alas and alack she runs into Darryl. He tells her that Hope said he should leave, but he REFUSES to go! He also tells Jasmine that he was so mad at Hope for suggesting it, and he ‘hurt’ her.
And now we’re back to HOPE’S POV. Jasmine returns to the room to find Hope sobbing on her bed. Jasmine asks her what Darryl did, if he hit her or anything like that, but Hope informs her it’s worse, MUCH worse. He called her a fat cow, and that she’d rather be beat up than called that. Okay, I’m not going touch any of that with a ten foot pole. She tells Jasmine that she should go to the safety meeting and tell everyone what Darryl has done, and as she spirals out of mental control she suddenly screams her head off, and runs out of their room and down the hall, with Melanie calling after her. HOO boy.
Now it’s ANGEL’S POV? We haven’t gotten this yet! Angel is making out with a boy named B.J. in a car, because YAS GIRL. Apparently she just saw in at the coffee shop and one thing led to another and now they’re here. They are suddenly interrupted by, you guessed it, Darryl, and as she starts to scream at Darryl to leave them alone, Darryl throws out the usual generic threats. B.J. gets freaked out and leaves Angel alone with Darryl…
Now it’s Hope’s POV again. She’s returning to the dorm around 11 after her ‘moment’, and runs into Melanie in the elevator. Melanie says she’s sorry she missed her at the meeting, and Melanie says that they still have no leads. They part ways, and Hope goes into her dorm. Eventually Angel, Eden, and Jasmine return, and they tell Hope that they NEED to do something about Darryl, and HALLELUJAH, Hope finally, FINALLY, agrees with them! Eden calls the police and tells them everything, and they tell her they will arrive in ten minutes. Which will be ten minutes too late, because DARRYL CLIMBS THROUGH THE FIRE ESCAPE! And he heard everything, of course, and he takes it about as well as one might expect. So he attacks Eden, pulls a Bane Breaking the Bat move, and then throws her out the window! Hope screams in shock that Darryl killed her friend, as if this wasn’t a completely foreseeable conclusion given his past behavior, and Darryl nods and jumps back onto the fire escape and scampers off into the night. Jasmine and Angel are screaming, and then there’s a pounding on the door as the police announce their presence. The three remaining roommates climb onto the fire escape as well, hiding from the cops as they come in, but Hope overhears them talking to Melanie as she comes to investigate. They tell her that a girl named Eden called them, and Melanie says that no girl named Eden lives in this room. It’s just one girl named Hope, no roommates besides her! Hope listens to the 3 M’s talk to the police, and apparently not only does she live alone, but there is no boy’s floor that Darryl lives in in Fear Hall. It’s an all girls dorm! The police say that it sounds like a dangerous ‘looney’ (real professional guys) may be on the loose. Hope is offended by all of this, and she says to Angel and Jasmine that the 3 M’s won’t get away with saying all this bad shit about her. They agree. Then Darryl appears at Hope’s beck and call as well, and they agree that the 3 M’s have to die. So this whole time this was a quasi split personality psychosis kind of deal, but it wouldn’t be ACTUAL dissociative identity disorder because for that to be the case there would have to be a main personality that didn’t know that there were other personalities! We are left with the cops seeing Hope on the fire escape! TO BE CONTINUED!!
Body Count: 2. And I’m still not over the use of ‘carved’ as a descriptor in the first instance.
Romance Rating: 0. Darryl is literally killing any boy that he sees Hope interact with, and if that doesn’t say unromantic I don’t know what does. Of course, given that Darryl doesn’t even exist it kind of makes it a non-relevant category.
Bonkers Rating: 5, just because the GIANT TWIST is so old hat and lazy that I’m not impressed by it.
Fear Street Relevance: 7, as Fear Hall is named after the Fear Family.
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“A grin spread over his face. A grin of triumph. And that’s when I decided to kill him.”
…. Except she instantly clarifies that she didn’t REALLY want to kill him, just get him out of her life. I wouldn’t blame Eden if she did kill Darryl though.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Hope refers to J. Crew as ‘preppy’ clothes, and I don’t think that that label is REALLY seen as a status symbol anymore, at least not among young preps.
“‘Someone told me a story about Ollie [the night guard at Fear Hall]. They said he died thirty years ago. But his ghost refused to leave Fear Hall. He takes his guard post every night, even though he’s dead!'”
… Honestly I’d rather read that book that the conclusion to this.
Conclusion: “Fear Hall: The Beginning” was lazy and paint by numbers, and the big reveal at the end didn’t get me very hyped to move on in the series. And yet, in spite of that, next up is “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”.