A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Cheater”

227487Book: “The Cheater” (Fear Street #18) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, April 1993

Book Description: Carter Phillips is under a lot of pressure to ace her math achievement exam – so much pressure that she gets Adam Messner to take the test for her . . . in exchange for one date. But Adam wants more than a date – much more. Carter has no choice. She has to do whatever he asks. If not, he’ll tell hers secret and ruin life. Adam’s control over her gets more and more unbearable. Carter is desperate to get rid of him – but how? Is murder the only way?

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: Our main gal Friday this time is Carter Phillips, a spoiled little rich girl who is the daughter of a Judge and has his high expectations thrust upon her. Also, her mother is one of those wealthy do gooder ladies who probably raises money for the less fortunate but her definition of ‘less fortunate’ smacks of racism. The most recent issue for Carter is that, while she is great at most academic subjects, math is just not her thing. I FEEL YA, CARTER. She has an upcoming math achievement exam (which I just assume is supposed to be the SAT or ACT in this parallel universe in which Shadyside resides), and she’s very stressed about it. If she doesn’t score 700, Princeton will surely tell her to take a hike. Given that she’s terrible at math, she’s certain that a 700 is not in the cards, and she’s terrified that she’ll disappoint her father, as she laments to her bestie Jill. While on a date at a local burger joint with her boyfriend Dan, who is honest and kind and totally devoted to her, she asks that maybe he could take the test for her? He tut tuts her for even suggesting such a thing, and in her shame she back tracks and says ‘nah, jokes!’. They part ways amicably, as Dan leaves and she remains, stressing about the upcoming test. This is when Carter is approached by Adam Messner, burger hawker, classmate, and goth/grunge weirdo. Carter doesn’t know Adam very well, but does know that 1) he’s strange, and 2) he has a girlfriend named Sheila who sounds like Courtney Love during the ‘unfortunate years’. Adam admits that he was eavesdropping, and offers to take the test for her. After all, it’s at a different school, and her name is like a boy’s name. Carter is hesitant, thinking that the proctor would ask for ID, but Adam assures her that it won’t be a problem. She asks why he’s offering, and he says that she needs his math skills, and he would like her to go on a date with him. One date. And that will be that. Even though Carter already has a boyfriend, she accepts the offer, because how could ONE SINGLE DATE possible hurt?

How indeed, Carter.

Adam takes the test for her, and while he maliciously tricks her at first saying that they did ask for ID (they didn’t, funny joke, Messner), he assures her that all went well and that he’s pretty sure he crushed it. In fact, he scored a 730, as the results come back, and Carter is thrilled, even if she is a little uneasy. But her father, The Judge, is so happy, he gives her a pair of diamond earrings as a congratulations, because that’s how the wealthy are. Carter and Adam go on their date that Friday, and it actually isn’t so bad. They even do a little kissing and gentle petting, as while Carter does really care about Dan, Adam is just so EXCITING and FORBIDDEN. When he drives her home, Carter, being the stuck up snoot she is at the heart of her, asks if he would please drop her off at the curb instead of up at her house. Lest someone see them together. While it’s probably prudent given that she has a boyfriend, it also smacks of elitism. He asks her what she’s doing the next day, and she says she’s going to play tennis at the country club with her BFF Jill. Adam says that he’ll meet her there, and speeds off. As if that wasn’t stupid enough, as Carter walks the rest of the way home, she is ambushed by Sheila, who jumps out of the bushes, angry that Carter was on a date with her boyfriend. Carter assures her that nothing happened (not true), and Sheila storms off.

At the country club the next day, Carter arrives to find Adam arguing with the guard. The guard isn’t convinced that this boy dressed in a black tee shirt and black jeans is here to play tennis with Shadyside’s Vanderbilt Equivalents, but Carter says that yes, he is. They go to the courts and play doubles against Jill and her flavor of the month, a real top drawer boy named Richard. Adam is actually pretty good, and once again Carter is a bit aroused by him. Thank God he knows his way around a racket. After they are done, he asks her on another date. This time she tries to be firm in her refusal, but he tells her that if she doesn’t go out with him, she’ll be sorry. Girl, this is ALWAYS how these things go! And where does poor Sheila enter into this? In the locker room, she opens her gym bag and finds an ANIMAL HEART. Sheila’s doing?

So the next weekend, Carter and Adam go to a movie, and then they go back to his house on, you guessed it, Fear Street. It’s one of the dilapidated ones, as you either have slum houses on Fear Street or gorgeous and perfectly okay ones, depending on whether a protagonist or antagonist lives in it. They go into the kitchen, and Carter tries to leave, but Adam shoves her into the wall and starts kissing her against her will. She tells him that she’s leaving, and he lets her, but tells her that he wants another favor: his friend Ray has a huge boner for Jill, and he wants them all to go on a double date the next night. Carter doesn’t want to, but feels like she has no choice because, you know, blackmail. Carter calls Jill and asks her to do this for her (rudely interrupting a mauling sesh with Gary Brandt), and Jill is rightfully perplexed and horrified. Ray is a creep, you can tell because he has tattoos! But she agrees because she’s too good a friend.

So they go on the date to some seedy club that country club girls probably wouldn’t be caught dead in usually. Unfortunately, Carter and Jill are basically fresh meat to the thugs in this bar who sound like they’re hot off a spitting session in a Sex Pistols pogo pit, as they are well dressed AND underage girls. Ray starts grinding up on Jill, who is repulsed and terrified, and when Carter tries to help the punks surround them and grab at them and to be frank, this felt like it was one big sexual assault and I was very uncomfortable. Carter grabs Jill and barrels through them, running to her car and speeding them far far away. Once they’re safe at Carter’s house back in North Hills (I assume? That is the fancy part of Shadyside), Jill weeps as Carter begs for forgiveness.

At school the following week, Carter basically rips Adam a new one and tells him that they are done with this bullshit. He counters her offer by demanding she give him one thousand dollars, unless she wants him to spill his guts. I call bullshit on this, because he too would be held accountable as HE WOULD ALSO BE A CHEATER. I think Adam Messner doesn’t have the balls, but Carter seems to think he does, so she pawns those earrings that The Judge gave her. At dinner that night The Judge asks her where her earrings are (I guess she’s supposed to wear them at all times), and she lies saying that the backing fell off one so she’s getting them repaired. How bittersweet.

After the heat seems to be off her, as she has paid Adam off and he’s leaving her alone, Carter FINALLY goes on a date with Dan. You remember Dan! Her actual boyfriend! They watch movies on the couch at his house and probably mess around a bit, and eventually she leaves for home. While she’s driving, some crazy person tries to run her off the road! Given that she has some enemies now, she thinks it must be either Adam or Sheila. She gets home, and Adam is there, waiting for her. He demands another cool grand, saying that he’ll tell if she doesn’t fork it over.

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Later, Carter’s parents go out of town for a family wedding, and Carter stays behind. That night Dan comes over and confronts her about how weird she’s been acting, saying that he AND Jill have noticed it. Carter breaks down, confessing everything to him, the cheating, the blackmail, maaaaybe not the vague excitement she felt around Adam at first. She then grabs her Dad’s handgun out of a drawer, and says that she wants to KILL ADAM!! Dan tells her that that’s a terrible idea, and then, not at ALL suspiciously, leaves. Carter gathers up more jewelry to pawn, and once she gets the cash she drops it off at Adam’s house without going to find him, driving around afterwards aimlessly. She gets home to find Dan waiting for her, and before they can have any kind of reunion, the police show up. ADAM MESSNER HAS BEEN SHOT AND KILLED. And they have reason to believe that Carter may have been connected to him because of evidence they found at his house. She tells the police that no way, she hadn’t been to his house that night. The cops leave, and Dan points out her lie, as hadn’t she gone to Adam’s house? She says she doesn’t want to get the cops involved in her life. Dan leaves, suddenly acting strange. A short while later, the phone rings, and Carter answers, hoping it’s Dan. But instead, it’s someone who just whispers “I know what you did.”

At school people seem to have heard the rumors about Carter and Adam, as everyone is avoiding her, including Jill. Dan is even saying he doesn’t know what to say to her anymore. That night her parents have gone off to one of her mother’s charity drives , so Carter is alone. And then, of course, the power goes out. No go on the phone, as it’s dead too! And then she hears footsteps in the basement. A STRANGE MAN emerges and attacks her, saying that he was the one who tried to run her off the road. As he tries to strangle her, the police come in, in the nick of time! Thank god for rich people and their alarms! Carter’s parents come home in the middle of this, and The Judge recognizes this guy as a hired muscle for a guy whose case he is presiding over. Huh! That was actually a pretty okay twist! If not a bit superfluous.

A few nights later, Carter is feeling like maybe things are going to go her way, but then Sheila calls. Now SHE wants money, because Adam told her everything, and Sheila is convinced that Carter is the one who killed him because she somehow has ‘proof’. She asks for five hundred smackaroos, and Carter pawns her fancy stereo system. She meets Sheila in the woods, and they do an exchange. Carter gives Sheila the money, and Sheila gives her the proof…. a necklace that says ‘Carter’ on the back of it. It was by Adam’s body. Hmmmmmmm….

Carter calls Dad and says she’s going to confess everything to her father, and she wants him to be there when she does. He says that he will. They go into The Judge’s office, and Carter confesses to cheating, and then she confesses to killing Adam as well!!! The Judge seems totally disappointed in his little girl. Dan asks if The Judge can get her off the hook, but The Judge isn’t totally sure, and says he’s going to call the police…. And this is when DAN ADMITS TO KILLING ADAM!! He accidentally shot him, he went to confront him about blackmailing Carter and Adam pulled a gun on him. They tussled, and Dan accidentally pulled the trigger….. And then Carter says ‘See Daddy? I told you he’d confess!’

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Yes, the necklace was one that Dan had bought for her. When she saw it, she knew, and she knew that he would eventually own up if she tried to take the fall. Though he almost didn’t! Anyway, The Judge says that he can probably pull some strings, but that Carter does have to own up for cheating in the first place. Her mother is more concerned about how scandalous this is than anything else, but it does seem like The Judge is using his connections to not only get Carter a pass, but to get Dan some really great lawyers who can get him kind of deal, or no charges whatsoever, etc etc. The book ends with Carter and Dan playing chess together, and it sure makes it seem like there will be no consequences for these two privileged white kids from North Hills. And of course, while they’re playing, Dan says to Carter ‘no cheating!’, and then beats her because she doesn’t cheat anymore. The End.

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Body Count: 1. That piece of crap Adam Messner. Good riddance.

Romance Rating: 7. I don’t know, Dan is a pretty okay guy who really cares for Carter, and while accidentally shooting Adam wasn’t great, he did own up to it. Though, he was willing to let Carter take the fall for a bit, so….. Maybe let’s bump it down to a 6.

Bonkers Rating: 3. It’s actually not that crazy, but it does get some points for the red herring of the hired goon from Judge Phillips’s case trying to hurt Carter.

Fear Street Relevance: 3. Carter doesn’t live on Fear Street. Adam does, but only a little of the plot takes place at his house.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“Desperately, she struggled to straighten the wheel. Too late! She screamed – closed her eyes – and waited for the crash.”

…. And then she just brakes the car.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Well first of all, just look at the cover. Look at that phone. But what made me cackle (and gave me pangs of nostalgia to my grade school years) was that the choices of hot movies from the video store were “Batman Returns” and “Waynes World”.

Best Quote:

“Mrs. Phillips was horrified, of course, at having her daughter mixed up in such a scandal. ‘They’ll be dragging our name through the mud in the papers!’ she cried tearfully at the dinner table that night. ‘I just hope they don’t kick us out of the club!'”

Priorities.

Conclusion: As silly as it was, I pretty much enjoyed “The Cheater”. There’s a reason I remember it so vividly from my childhood. Next up is “Sunburn”! And let me tell you, the cover alone is glorious. 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Best Friend”

842655Book: “The Best Friend” (Fear Street #17) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Pocket Books, 1992

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL fromhe library!

Book Description: Best friends…to the end!

Who is Honey Perkins? She’s been telling everyone in Shadyside that she’s Becka Norwood’s best friend. But Becka’s sure she’s never met Honey before.

Honey systematically moves in on Becka’s life, copying her in every way. But when Becka presumes to have more than one “best friend,” the horrible accidents begin.

Does Honey just want a friend? Becka wonders. Or does she want more—much more!

Had I Read It Before: No

The Plot: The Fear Street Protagonist in this book is Becka, whom we meet while she’s on a date with her snooze of a boyfriend Eric. They’re sitting in his car and she’s working up the nerve to dump him because he’s such a dud, and because he’s really handsy and she’s not too comfortable with it. She finally tells him it’s over, and he says that it’s okay as he tries to keep it together. He takes her home, and says that he’ll see her in school. Becka decides to drive around for a bit to clear her head, and then proceeds to crash into another car.

The next day she’s hanging out in her room with her BFFs Lilah and Trish, telling her about the very minor car accident she was in. Why that even happened, I couldn’t say, because soon they’ve moved their talk to Bill Planter, Becka’s ex whom Becka is still hung up on. Her parents never approved and so she and Bill broke up (I think it was because of that?), but now it’s the holiday season and she’s LONGING for him. As they talk, suddenly a strange girl runs into the room, and starts freaking out in a good way about Becka, throwing her arms around her. Becka is rightfully confused and put off, and the girl says that it’s her former BFF from childhood Honey, who moved away but is now back in town and right next door! Honey and Becka, Becka and Honey, the gruesome twosome who were always together. But Becka has no clue who this girl is, as she remembers Honey, but was never friends with her, and I feel like I’m reliving a scene in “Drop Dead Gorgeous”. Becka and pals decide to play along, but whenever Trish and Lilah try to talk to Honey she ignores them and continues to talk about how much she missed Becka. She even puts off Becka’s mom, Mrs. Norwood, but hugging her and saying how much she missed her. After Honey leaves, Becka, Lilah, and Trish find their fourth grade year book and spot Honey, who they now all remember, but also remember as having no friends. Becka realizes that the parrot pin that Bill gave her is missing from her dresser, the dresser Honey was futzing with. Trish suggests to go ask Honey if she forgot to take if off, and Becka says she will. After her friends leave she’s about to head next door, but then Bill calls asking her if she will meet him at the mall. She says no because her parents will kill her, but you can tell she wants to. She goes next door to confront Honey… But the house appears to be empty! She knocks on the door and looks inside, and sees nothing but darkness.

Some time later, Becka and Lilah are walking home together talking about the Christmas party that Trish is throwing soon. Bill is going to be there, and Becka plans to wear a sexy catsuit just for the occasion. When she gets home she hears a voice in her room, and sees HONEY is in there trying on her clothes. Becka storms in and rightfully asks what the HELL she’s doing, and Honey says that Mrs. Norwood let her in, and that she left but said Honey could wait in Becka’s room. Also, she loves Becka’s clothes and remember how they used to share clothes when they were besties? Becka does not. She asks Honey why the house next door is empty. Honey says that the furnace croaked and they’re in a hotel until it’s fixed. She asks Honey what happened to her parrot pin. Honey…. REACHES OUT TO CHOKE HER TO DEATH??? Or not, she just chokes her for a bit, and then says ‘don’t you remember the gotcha game?’ I’m appalled, as is Becka. Before leaving (FINALLY) Honey says that Becka GAVE her the parrot pin, don’t you remember? Then she leaves and Becka is quite shaken. So she calls Bill, suggesting that maybe they could start seeing each other again, like old times. He says they should sneak off, and she balks at that. Becka hangs up when her Mom returns home with groceries, and Becka asks why she let Honey into the house. Mom has no clue what Becka’s talking about, she hasn’t been home all afternoon.

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At school, Becka and Lilah are preparing to go home when Honey rushes up saying she and Honey should walk home together. Becka says no, she and Lilah are riding their bikes home (in December? In “Ski Weekend” it’s implied Shadyside is a days-ish drive from a snowy part of Vermont, how are they biking?). Honey ignores Lilah again and says she should get a bike so she and Becka can ride. Whatever, crazy. As Becka and Lilah are biking they start down a hill…. And Lilah’s brakes don’t work!!! As she’s flying towards a busy intersection!! She’s hit by a truck and flies over the handlebars!! She’s (kind of) alive, taken away in an ambulance, and the police tell Becka that someone cut the brake cable away from her bike. OH WHO COULD IT BE? When Becka gets home she calls Bill, saying she WILL sneak out with him because, honestly, she may not be alive much longer with Honey going full Robert John Bardo on her. She turns around and sees HONEY in the doorway!! SHe hangs up and demands how she got in, but Honey just goes into how sorry she is about Lilah before giving her a literally suffocating hug. Becka says she wants to be alone, and Honey doesn’t leave. Becka starts crying, and Trish comes in, to which Honey whisks her away saying “Becka wants to be alone”. Luckily she leaves too.

On Saturday Bill and Becka are gettin BIZAY in his car with some make outs and heavy petting. After they break for air, Becka complains about Honey, saying that Honey will NOT leave her alone. She doesn’t want to be mean, though, because she thinks that Honey means well (COUGH COUGH). But now that she thinks of it, Honey was asking her about Lilah’s bike, specifically how the brakes worked. ANd she was at the bike rack. She looks out the window and freaks out because she thinks she sees Honey hiding behind a tree. Closer inspection implies otherwise, and Bill thinks Becka’s losing her mind.

On Monday Becka is home sick. Her Mom brings her breakfast and says that Honey volunteered to bring her homework to her after school. BECKA, FOR GOD’S SAKE, TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THIS GIRL. Trish calls that afternoon and asks Becka why she isn’t in the hospital, since she heard she had a complete mental breakdown because of Lilah. When asked where she heard this, Trish says that Honey is telling EVERYONE. Not only that, there will be no adults at the Christmas party that weekend, ooh la la. After hanging up, Becka is living, and then Honey arrives… And she’s cut and styled her hair just like Becka’s. STINE, YOU’RE LIFTING FROM “SINGLE WHITE FEMALE” NOW?! Later that night Honey calls her to reiterate that she’s always around if needed (WE KNOW), and that Trish was totally lying about Honey spreading rumors about her mental health. Which is totally refuted the next day when another girl outside of the group asks Becka how she is doing, mentally. Then Honey shows up wearing Becka’s clothes and the parrot pin and WE GET IT. Trisha and Becka go for a walk outside, and then they see Honey making out with Becka’s ex Eric, and Becka is disturbed by this. Honey sees them and tries to explain, but Becka isn’t having it. Honey runs off, crying probably. When Becka gets back to her locker, ti’s totally trashed. Thinking it must be Honey’s doing, she confronts the little creeper in the bathroom, accusing her of the locker misdeeds, which Honey denies, saying she’s just saying that because she’s mad about Eric. Becka FINALLY goes off on Honey, telling her to leave her the hell alone, and Honey starts crying that they’re best friends before pulling out a GUN!?! Which is just a water gun, another ‘gotcha’ joke on her part, and Becka runs out screaming.

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This is too much. (source)

That night at Bill’s house Becka tells him about all the Honey stuff that happened that day, but before the locker moment he asks her if she heard about the random guys who CONVENIENTLY broke into the school and trashed a bunch of lockers. Oh great. So Becka feels bad that she accused Honey of that now, but really, she shouldn’t because Honey is just the worst. She asks Bill if Honey has ever approached him for anything, and he’s kind of….. mum about it. She goes home, and is confronted by her mother… who somehow found out that Becka was out with Bill that night? GEE, HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! They have a huge fight, and Mom grounds Becka from Trish’s upcoming party. Becka runs upstairs to her room to sulk, and Honey jumps out of the closet, as if that was a perfectly normal place to wait for her. She says she’s sorry for ratting Becka out to her Mom, but thinks that Bill wasn’t right for her. Becka tells her to get out, they aren’t friends, they never were, they never will be, and the only friends she has are Trish and Lilah. Honey slowly leaves, but not before telling her that she broke up with Eric that day.

Good news! Becka’s Dad, who has never actually shown up on page, caves and lets Becka go to Trish’s Christmas party! While there things are going okay, until Honey shows up in the same outfit as Becka. Becka freaks at her again, and makes a big scene. Honey walks away. Later, Trish is at the top of the steps with a cake. Becka sees Honey there…. who then shoves Trish down the stairs! WHO LANDS ON HER NECK ODDLY. While someone calls for help, Honey sees Becka saw her, and says ‘I tried to stop her from tripping but it was too late!’ Becka turns her attentions to Trish, who is still alive but breathing funny, and Honey says to her (Low enough so no one else can hear, natch) that she’s her only friend now. Becka runs, sees the police, tells them Honey pushed Trish, then faints.

She wakes up the next day in her bed with her Mom and a doctor (No Dad again!). They tell her that Trish is alive but has a broken neck (OH, IS THAT ALL?), and that Becka is having a nervous collapse and she should rest. The doctor leaves, and then Mom says she’s stepping out too. And then, just like clockwork, the phone rings. And it’s Honey, who tells Becka that she should come over right away because she has something Becka should see. Becka is going to not, but then hears a voice in the background… Bill’s voice! She rushes over and looks through the kitchen window. She sees Bill and Honey at the table HOLDING HANDS! Becka’s officially done. She storms into the kitchen, grabs a KNIFE, and LUNGES FOR HONEY! About friggin’ time. But she can’t do much because of her fragile (and vague) physical and mental state, and collapses. Bill says ‘I thought you told her I was here!’, and Honey tells him to stay away because Becka is HER friend!!! They wrestle over the knife, and Honey STABS BILL IN THE CHEST. GOOD FUCKING GOD. And THEN, and I cannot BELIEVE it, she PUTS THE KNIFE IN BECKA’S HAND. As Becka slowly starts coming to, Honey tells her that that she won’t tell the police that Becka murdered Bill, but that it was in self defense, because she’s her best and now only friend. To which Becka….. thanks her. THE FREAKING END.

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Body Count: 1??? Bill died but I think that Lilah and Trish are okay???

Romance Rating: 5. Bill has his problems but he seems okay, even if Becka is only willing to sneak around with him.

Bonkers Rating: 9. This is the darkest and most fucked up “Fear Street” ending yet!

Fear Street Relevance: 7. Becka lives on Fear Street and so does Honey, and the final showdown is there.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Becka gasped and hit the brakes. Her car slid hard into the other car. She closed her eyes against the crunch of metal and shattering glass.”

… And it turns out she was fine and the most damage was a broken headlight. What’s the point?

That’s So Dated! Moments: At the Christmas party the song on the CD player is Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, and I think that was kind of dated even for it’s original publication! Unless this is a bunch of hipsters, which it very well could be.

Best Quote:

“‘What a night you had,’ Trish said, shaking her head. ‘First you wreck Eric. Then you wreck the car.’ Lilah laughed. ‘You should be a writer, Trish. You have such a way with words.'”

Yeah, that witty banter is sure to win a Pulitzer some day.

Conclusion: “The Best Friend” is truly the most disturbing “Fear Street” book I’ve read so far, and I’m kind of impressed that Stine was willing to do what he did with it. Apparently people were so incensed by this book he offered a contest to write the sequel, in a ‘well if you think you can do better, DO IT!’ kind of play. Up next for us, though, is “The Cheater”. 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “First Date”

1513424Book: “First Date” (Fear Street #16) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Pocket Books, January 1992

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Dying for a Date

Chelsea Richards is shy, lonely, and looking for love. She would give anything to finally go on a date. Soon there are two new boys in town, and both ask her out.

Too bad one of them is a crazed killer. Poor Chelsea. Will her first date also be her last?

Had I Read It Before: No.

A NOTE: It was suggested to me that there may be some people who want to read the “Fear Street” series without being spoiled, but also want to know what my thoughts on this books are. Since these recaps are basically a rundown of the whole plot, I’m going to try and meet in the middle. I thought of putting a quick opinion at the front of these posts, but it kind of upset the flow of the narrative. SO, what I’m going to do instead is suggest that those who don’t want to be spoiled for a specific book scroll down down down to the end of this post, and look for my final paragraph, which I will put in bold lettering and which will give my final and non spoiler-y thoughts. Okay. On we go!

The Plot: We start our story at a random Make-Out Point, with a girl named Candy and a black haired leather jacket clad boy named Joe. Candy is stoked that they’re parking and making out together, and Joe is starting to feel smothered by her. She also reminds him of his mother, who he doesn’t remember fondly. He suggests they leave the car, but drops his wallet. Candy finds it, sees his license, and sees that it says his name isn’t Joe, it’s Lonnie. He says it’s a fake license. Then, after an inner monologue about how he’s actually twenty and how he’s feeling smothered, he leads her off and kills her. He then sees a sign for a town called Shadyside, and decides that sounds like his kind of town.

Meet Chelsea. Chelsea plays the sax, has recently moved to Shadyside with her parents, and has a very ‘dry witted’ mother who works in a nursing home with dear old Dad is running his new restaurant. Chelsea works there too, but feels lonely, and laments that she is short, pudgy, ugly, and too shy to get anyone to notice her. She lives on Fear Street, which is ‘creepy’. Her Mom tells her that she’ll adjust and make friends, and then goes off to work. Chelsea decides to go to the house of her only friend in town, Nina. But when she arrives at Nina’s house, Nina and her boyfriend Doug are already on the way out. Poor lonely Chelsea! To make matters worse, on the way home a car of rowdy (read: misogynistic) boys drives up and cat call her. Which then progresses to them grabbing at her, throwing a cigarette at her, and chasing her. She hides in some bushes until they go away, and she wishes she could meet a nice boy. I’m feeling very uncomfortable at this blatant display of rape culture. Ah, the 90s.

At school the next day a shy new boy named Will is seated next to Chelsea. She notices how cute he is with his black hair and dark eyes(?!), but once again laments how SHY she is and won’t talk to him. That evening while working at the coffee shop that night (diner, coffee shop, it’s interchangeable in this book), and daydreaming about Will, another boy with black hair and a leather jacket comes in, running into Chelsea. He sits down, and she thinks about how tough he looks (‘tough’ is the adjective used a few times on this page). They proceed to have an awkward conversation, he says his name is Tim Sparks (but everyone calls him Sparks), and he asks her out to a movie. Brazen, that Sparks. But before she can answer him fully, her Dad says that she needs to attend to restaurant business. Sparks looks PISSED AF, and storms out of the restaurant without his hamburger. Chelsea is kind of sad that he went away, even though she doesn’t know if she would have gone on a date with him because he’s so ‘dangerous’ looking. Then she thinks about Will again, hoping that HE will be her first date. But before she can pine for long, a group of young men enter the diner, try to rob the place, hit Chelsea’s Dad on the head with a lead pipe, and run off.

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Poppy Richards is alive, but taken to the hospital where he is declared in ‘serious but stable’ condition. Mrs. Richards tells Chelsea to go home and wait, and to stave off a panic attack Chelsea invites Nina over. Nina comes by happily… but has boyfriend Doug in tow, which means all of her attention is on Doug and not on her friend who is scared to death for her Dad. Some friend you are, Nina! While Nina and Doug make out, Chelsea thinks about Sparks. He sure ran off fast when her Dad showed up. Was he casing the joint? Was he in on the robbery?

Meanwhile Joe/Lonnie/whoever is out for a walk, thinking about class struggle in Shadyside (those snoots in North Hills!) and how much he resents his mother for leaving him to his own devices with a drunken father while taking his sister instead. That’s admittedly messed up. Then he strangles a kitten. Goddammit. We’d gone so long without animal death.

So with her father in recovery for awhile, Chelsea is left to man the diner with Ernie the line cook as her only back up. And Ernie is ever around when he’s needed, let me tell you. As Chelsea daydreams about Will (who has smiled at her and said ‘good morning’ as well! Progress!), two toughs walk into the restaurant right before closing (at 7? odd hours) and start giving Chelsea a hard time. And where is Ernie??? WHO KNOWS. She thinks that they are going to rob the place, but they start sexually harassing her and asking her when she gets off work. Before they can do anything else, Sparks walks in and they back off, leaving. She pours him a cup of coffee, and says that they seemed scared of him, to which he replies ‘they should be’, and ‘it’s dangerous around here’. Now Chelsea is scared of him too (though honestly it seems to me he’s just really bad at flirting). Ernie FINALLY makes his presence known just in time to say he’s leaving, and Chelsea and Sparks are alone. She pours him another refill, and he hightails out of there. She’s both disappointed and relieved he’s gone (girl, get it together), and closes up BY HERSELF before going to see Dad at the hospital. Sparks goes home, laments not asking her out, and trashes his place in a rage.

At school the next day Chelsea and Nina are talking. Nina is mad at Doug for talking to Suki Thomas (YASSS SUKI!!!), and then randomly a giant dog runs past them and out the doors, never to be mentioned again. Chelsea tries to tell Nina about Sparks, but then Nina sees Doug and runs off to meet him. Bitch. Luckily, Will is there, and he and Chelsea start talking! He asks her if she wants to go for a walk, and she says yes. They go for a walk in the woods, and Chelsea is thrilled that she’s going for a walk with a boy, ALONE. He falls behind, and when she turns he’s wrapping a length of GRAY CORD IN HIS HAND?! He says that he just randomly found it, and then asks her to go on a SECRET date with him, and to not tell anybody about it. Though this should be setting off alarm bells, Chelsea is SO EXCITED!!!

Chelsea tells her Mom about her date, and Mom tells her that Dad is now in a semi private room at the hospital. Good news on both fronts. At the diner that night Sparks comes in, and they continue the Dance of the Awkward Flirts, in which Sparks says that he’s a drop out, she says that she’s in the band, and he asks if she plays the tuba. Which insults her because OBVIOUSLY that must mean he thinks she’s fat. When she asks him about work he gets defensive, lies about having an interview at the mill that has been closed for years, and then he asks her out that Saturday. That’s the night of her SUPER SECRET DATE, so she says no, and he leaves, looking angry. Dammit, Sparks. You are so emotionally stunted and so obviously NOT the killer.

It’s date night! Will is taking Chelsea to the movies, though not in Shadyside for some reason, but Waynesbridge. He says he’s had this car forever, but he doesn’t know how to work the defroster. When she asks him about it, he says it’s because he’s a klutz. RIGHT. He almost forgets his wallet in the car, and when she hands it to him he yanks it back in a suspicious manner. She forgets all about it though, and after the movie they go a parking on River Ridge. They can see over the town, and he suggests they go for a walk. He beckons her to the cliff to look at the view, but she balks and says she’s afraid of heights. So they go walking again, and he falls behind and PULLS THE CORD FROM HIS POCKET, READY TO STRANGLE HER. I give Stine credit for not trying to keep up the ‘is it Sparks or is it Will?’ mystery. Before he can strangle her, though, another car shows up. Thank God for horny teenagers. But then Chelsea suggests they go back to her house, as they will be alone. Not so shy anymore, eh Chelsea?

They get to her house and start to make out on the couch. Will pulls out the cord again but Chelsea declares she’s making hot cocoa and walks to the kitchen, blissfully unaware that her cold feet have saved her from death again. Will tries to sneak up behind her and strangle her, but then the doorbell rings!!! COCK BLOCKED AGAIN, JERK! Chelsea goes to the door and sees Nina there, sobbing over her boyfriend. For once it’s good that Nina thought only of herself, because Will gives up and runs out the backdoor.

The next day Will calls and Chelsea asks where he ran off to. He claims he called to her a ‘goodnight!’ before leaving, and asks her out for that evening. She says she can’t, but then suggests he meet her after her shift the next night. He says it’s a date. Then the doorbell rings, and Chelsea is face to face with an FBI agent named Martin. Agent Martin tells her that they are looking for a young man with curly black hair and a good build who may be new to the area. When she asks if he may be dangerous, and he says yes, she rats on Sparks, because OBVIOUSLY he’s the one who it has to be! She tells him everything about Sparks and he thanks her, telling her to be careful. At school the next day she and Nina talk about Will and Chelsea can’t wait to see him that night.

At the diner, Chelsea is worried that Sparks may come in, and is jumpy throughout her whole shift. As it gets close to closing, Ernie disappears AGAIN, and Sparks comes in right at the last minute. Drunk as a skunk, and unfortunately he’s an aggressive drunk who keeps asking her to come here. She freaks and runs for the kitchen, and Sparks follows trying to tell her he was just joking. He manages to burn his hand pretty badly on the stove, and while he’s writhing in pain Chelsea calls Agent Martin and asks if he will come and also send an ambulance. After Sparks is taken away, Chelsea is relieved to see that Will has finally arrived.

They got back to her house, and snuggle on the couch. Chelsea admits that she didn’t keep their date a secret, and that she told Nina all about it. That’s a big wrench in Will’s plan!!! But no matter, he’ll just kill them both. He tells Chelsea to invite Nina over RIGHT NOW so he can meet her, and Chelsea does so straight away. Nina is game. But then the phone rings, and it’s Agent Martin telling Chelsea that Sparks isn’t the guy that they are looking for…. and Chelsea FINALLY puts two and two together. WILL IS THE ONE THEY’RE LOOKING FOR! She tells Martin that he’s in the house with her, and he tells her to just get out and go. She starts to, but remembers that Nina’s coming over! She runs out hoping to intercept Nina or the FBI, but unfortunately she intercepts Will. She tells him she knows who he is, and he attacks her with the cord, wrapping it around her neck until she struggles no more. He assumes she’s dead, and remembers that Nina is coming too, she he drags Chelsea’s body into the house and waits. When Nina arrives he makes small talk, and then attacks her with the cord. He chases her into the kitchen when she pulls free, and hits her with a vase. BEfore he can deal any fatal blows, he gets yanked back, and sees that CHELSEA IS THERE! He has another ‘BUT I KILLED YOU’ moment that Stine and Verhoeven alike are so fond of, and Chelsea fights him off long enough for the FBI to show up and arrest him. Chelsea explains that she plays the saxophone, and can hold her breath for a looooong time.

Chelsea goes to visit poor Sparks in the hospital. His hand is pretty messed up but he’s expected to make a full recovery. After some awkward apologies on both ends, Sparks asks her out on a date. And she says “It’s bound to be better than my FIRST date!”

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I mean, probably, but that’s a low bar, Chelsea. (source)

Body Count: 2. Poor Candy right out the gate and that poor sweet kitten. And probably countless other girls off page.

Romance Rating: Uh, 1. Because Will/Joe/Lonnie/Whoever was trying to kill Chelsea the whole time and Sparks is kind of a prick.

Bonkers Rating: 4. The random robbery at the beginning was pretty crazy and unexpected, I suppose, but otherwise it wasn’t very shocking.

Fear Street Relevance: 5. Chelsea lives on Fear Street and we once again get some references to what a kooky place it is. But Will isn’t even from Shadyside, much less Fear Street!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“She gasped when she saw an enormous, hulking man in a dark trench coat on her stoop. His face was nearly pressed against the glass of the storm door, staring down at her with the coldest eyes she had ever seen.”

… And then it’s the pretty decent and sweet Agent Martin. The only guy we can fully trust in this book who isn’t incapacitated.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Sadly, this was one of the updated “Fear Street” books, and because of that the really dated things were taken out and replaced with new things (a movie starring Will Ferrell… but also the Quaid Brothers, so huh?). But there was one thing: a reference to watching music videos on MTV. May they rest in peace, those music videos.

Best Quote:

“‘Frankly your looks are great. It’s your personality I’m not crazy about,’ her mother said, doing her impression of a stand-up comic.”

DAMN, Mrs. Richards!!

Conclusion: “First Date” was pretty lame and predictable, though some of the characters I had a soft spot for. Up next is “The Best Friend”. 

 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Knife”

89806Book: “The Knife” (Fear Street 14) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, January 1992

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Quiet—hospital!

Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own.

Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all.

Laurie has seen too much—and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie.

What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway—a prescription for horror!

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: R.L. Stine has taken his “Fear Street” books through multiple horror tropes. You have the camping trip, the cabin in the woods, the prom court, the haunted house, and many many more. But with “The Knife”, we are finally treated to the evil hospital trope! We first see our protagonist, Laurie, being chased by a man, and she is worried about the knife that he’s holding. Then we go back a week and the story begins. Laurie and her friend Skye are volunteers at the children’s ward at the Shadyside Hospital, having given up their summer break for garnering karmic points. While Skye is delivering balloons, Laurie looks towards the newest wing that is being built, the Franklin Fear Wing. Yep, named for the Fear Family. Soon Laurie hears crying from another room, and lets herself in to find a crying little boy. She tries to calm him down, but to no avail. She checks his chart (not sure if she’s allowed to do that since she’s a volunteer and not a doctor….?), and finds out that this little boy’s name is Toby, he’s three, and has pneumonia. She decides to just hold his hand and keep him company, which is actually kind of sweet, but is interrupted by a mean nurse named Nurse Wilton, who tells her to get out.

While eating lunch in the cafeteria (and I gag because the meat is described as ‘blue’), Laurie and Skye chat to let us get to know them a bit better. Skye is juggling two boys and thinks that she’s destined to win a car in the hospital raffle. Laurie is dating Andy Price, the son of one of the hospital’s administrators, but he’s a real dud. Luckily for both of them, a handsome man walks into the cafeteria at that moment, and walks right up to their table. He says his name is Rick Spencer (which is gross now because Rick is short for Richard and Richard Spencer these days…. well….. yeah), and he’s a college student who is also volunteering that summer, though he is on the surgical floor. Skye is practically in heat over him, but he seems to be more interested in Laurie. Before Laurie can really gaze into his eyes, a Code Blue goes over the intercom for room 903… Toby’s room!!! Laurie runs off to check on that precious little boy, but when she gets to his room she instead finds Nurse Wilton who tells her the Code was for another room, 503, and kicks her out again. Laurie walks to the nurses station to talk to the kinder, gentler Nurse Girard, who is talking to…. Toby’s MOM!!! She says that she wants her son back. Where he went, I don’t know? Laurie notices Nurse Wilton going into the Fear Wing…. and then sees Rick follow her in. Odd.

That night Laurie is at her house, the one she shares with her Aunt Hillary in the part of town called North Hills. Laurie’s folks were killed in a boating accident when Laurie was a little girl, so now she lives with Hillary who is rarely home because of her job. While reading the phone rings. She answers, but hears nothing but breathing on the line. After hanging up, the phone rings again. This time it’s Rick, who has called to ask her out for that weekend. Laurie politely declines, as she has a date with Andy, and asks how he got her number. He says Skye gave it to him. But once they hang up, Laurie calls Skye, because OBVIOUSLY, and asks if that was true. Skye says nope, and now Rick is a liar as well as a college guy hitting on high school girls.

The next day Laurie finds a note from Hillary saying she’ll be late that night. Then the phone rings again, and this time it’s Dr. Price, Andy’s Dad. He tells Laurie to skip out on work and play tennis with his son instead…. because JUST KIDDING, it was Andy the WHOLE TIME!

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Look asshole, some people have responsibilities. (source)

Laurie declines, and says that she’ll see him after work when they go out for pizza with Skye and one of her boyfriends.

At work she buys Toby a teddy bear and intends to bring it to him, but she freaks out when she gets to his room and it’s empty. Because clearly the only answer is that he must have died tragically. In actuality he’s been discharged, and she sees him at the nurse’s station while his Mom talks to Rick. She gives him the bear and tells him to go with his Mom… and Toby says ‘she’s not my Mommy’. Okay, that’s weird, but before Laurie can question it too much his ‘Mom'(?) says it’s time to go, and Toby follows. She asks Rick what they were talking about, and he tells her she was giving her directions to the pharmacy. Laurie isn’t buying it, because he said he was new to the area so HOW COULD HE KNOW WHERE THE PHARMACY IS? The phone at the station rings, and he answers. Laurie starts to leave, but lingers, and sees that after he hangs up, he slips a pack of surgical knives into his pocket!!! Liar AND thief!

Laurie can’t stop thinking about Toby and decides to check up on him. After very illegally going through his file, she gets his address… which is, of course, on FEAR STREET!! She thinks that she can go there under guise of selling raffle tickets for the hospital, though she’s nervous about going to Fear Street alone, because, you know. All the horrible things that have happened there. Before she can make a clean getaway, Nurse Wilton plants herself at desk to the file room. Laurie manages to kind of sneak past, but Wilton sees her anyway and demands that she come back. Laurie, however, runs to the elevator and gets in, only to be kicked off on an unfamiliar floor (as a patient was coding maybe? It’s a plot device). She starts to explore, ignoring the ‘personnel only’ signs, and hides in the first room she can in case Wilton tracks her down. Sadly, it’s a room with a dead body in it….. and then someone locks her inside!! But she manages to get out (because it locks from her side), and once out sees Nurse Wilton and Dr. Price talking. Assuming it’s about her, she gets indignant that Wilton would rat her out…. But honestly, Laurie, you were violating SO MANY HIPAA LAWS THERE.

At the pizza place Laurie tells her friends about her ethics violation and convinces them to go to Fear Street with her. They all get into Andy’s Volvo and drive to Fear Street. Toby’s Mom greets Laurie and Skye with an angry ‘what do you want?!’, and they convince her to buy a ticket. When Toby’s Mom goes to find her purse, they hear crying inside the house. Laurie sneaks in further, and sees Toby on the steps looking a lot thinner and paler than he did earlier. His Mom catches them, throws money at them, and tells them to get the hell out.

The next day Laurie is told that she’s being transferred to another floor on Wilton’s orders. Hoping to convince her otherwise, Laurie hangs around until shift end to try and find her. SHe sees Nurse Wilton sneak into the Fear Wing, and then Rick does so as well. She decides to wait a bit for one of them to come out, but loses patience after probably about five minutes and goes in to find them. As she stumbles around in the dark, she trips over something….. and it’s NURSE WILTON’S CORPSE, WITH A SCALPEL STICKING OUT OF HER NECK! But when she runs to get help and comes back with Skye and Nurse Girard, the body, of course, is gone. They think she’s playing a joke on them. Laurie now believes two things: 1) Rick is the murderer, and 2) It has to do with Toby somehow. She tries to go check the files again, but they’ve up and absconded.

The next day Laurie puts on a disguise and goes back to Fear Street to stalk outside Toby’s house. She sees him at the kitchen table, and then sees him being whisked off with a suitcase into a car and driven away. Though she hears a child’s scream from inside the house, she decides to ignore it (?!?!) and talk to Dr. Price the next day. When driving home she is stopped by a car that blocks her path, and the driver is none other than Rick in a weird Batman tee shirt. Laurie turns around and drives off. She gets home to her empty house and calls Andy, asking to talk to his Dad. He wants to know why, and she lies saying she is doing a project that involves interviewing him. Andy invites her over for a hook up, and she hangs up to call Skye to see if she can crash at her place, as she’s scared to be home alone after the weird stuff she’s seen. She hears footsteps on the steps, and tells Skye never mind, Hillary is home… BUT IT’S NOT HILLARY, it’s some intruder!! But when Aunt Hillary does come home, the intruder runs away. Laurie is convinced it’s Rick, but Hillary says she saw Andy’s car in the street (maybe). Laurie tells her everything, and Hillary says that since she’s working with the Board of Trustees maybe she can talk to Dr. Price. Laurie gets upset and says she thinks she doesn’t need any help, but frankly Laurie…

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(source)

Rick calls. Asks why she ran away from him on Fear Street. She confronts him about the knives, he tries to brush it off, and so she asks why he was even on Fear Street to begin with and he tells her to stay away from Fear Street, ominously.

Laurie meets with Dr. Price. Tells her that she saw Nurse Wilton’s dead body. He calls the hospital to ask why he didn’t hear about any of this, and tells Laurie that he was told that Wilton is on vacation. Laurie tells him she thinks Toby is in trouble, and to placate her he says that he’ll check the kid’s files. Laurie informs him that the files have gone missing and he tells her he’ll track them down. Later Laurie and Andy are talking about why she was talking to his Dad, and she tries the ‘extra credit’ excuse again, and Andy puts the moves on her and she says nah, which leads to a fight and she dumps his ass. When going to the mall to meet Skye, Laurie conveniently sees Toby and his Mom in the parking lot!! Laurie waves, and Toby waves back, but then he’s shoved into the car by his Mom and they drive away. Laurie hates seeing Toby hurt like that, but instead of calling the cops to report a possible case of child abuse, she resolves to figure it out on her own!

So she calls Toby’s Mom pretending that she has an extra raffle ticket. Toby’s Mom is not convinced and tells her she’s a ‘nuisance’. There’s a slap and a child crying right before hanging up, and so Laurie decides to drive to Fear Street and save Toby herself! To what end, idiot? She sneaks into the house through a window, but is knocked over the head and dragged to the basement where she is tied up by Toby’s Mom. Toby’s Mom goes upstairs to make a phone call, and Laurie overhears that perhaps they have nasty plans for Aunt Hillary! Laurie sees a pair of scissors, and tries to get them. But the someone is coming down the steps.. and it’s Toby! Toby cuts the ropes, and Laurie says that she thought he had been taken away…. and Toby tells her that that wasn’t him, that was his twin brother Terry. Because OF COURSE IT WAS. They sneak up the steps and out of the house and get in her car and drive away. At a payphone Laurie tries to call Hillary to warn her, but can’t get an answer. So she calls the hospital, and gets a message that Hillary left for her: her car won’t start so please come pick her up from her meeting at the hospital, and she will be at the nurses station. So she and Toby rush for the hospital, and on the way they hear a radio report that Nurse Wilton’s body has been found. To make matters worse, Rick’s car is following them!! They get to the hospital and it looks like maybe they lost him.. but as they get into the building Rick pulls in the lost. Laurie and Toby get in the elevator and the doors close JUST AS RICK IS ABOUT TO GET IN TOO.

They get to the nurses station and Laurie leaves Toby with a nice nurse. Hillary isn’t present, and Nurse Girard tells her no one has been by for nearly two hours. Laurie tries to use the phone, but then Rick is there! He’s distracted by Nurse Girard, so Laurie runs into the Fear Wing (of course) to try and hide. While dicking around in there she finds a random trap door, and surmises that’s how Rick moved Nurse Wilton’s body. So Rick enters and we’re back to the prologue, with him grabbing her and her worried about the knife he must have. Turns out he grabbed her to keep her from falling down a broken elevator shaft she almost ran into. Someone else enters the wing, and Laurie screams for help. Rick shoves her away so he can tangle with whomever it is, and Laurie hears a fight. She sees Dr. Price, who tells her she can come out now. She runs to him, jumping over unconscious Rick… But Rick is waking up! And he tells Laurie that it was Dr. PRICE who killed Nurse Wilton! Because Nurse Wilton found out that Dr. Price and Toby’s Mom (not really his MOm!) were selling children in an illegal adoption scheme, and she was blackmailing him! Dr. Price and Rick fight again, and this time it ends with Dr. Price falling down the elevator shaft.

Rick and Laurie leave the Fear Wing and are reunited with Hillary, who explains that Dr. Price thought that she was getting too close to his secret and that’s why he wanted her dead. Rick and Laurie kiss. The end.

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(source)

Body Count: 2. You get Nurse Wilton and Dr. Price (I think? I have to imagine).

Romance Rating: 4. Rick is fine and he and Laurie are an okay couple with similar interests. But Andy is obnoxious and having her have to spend ANY time with him is upsetting.

Bonkers Rating: 5. A complex conspiracy theory in a hospital that involves selling children and then the fact that there is a set of twins as well gets it a bit of a boost. But it feels more Lifetime Movie, plot wise.

Fear Street Relevance: 8. The wing in the hospital that seems to cause the most trouble is named after Simon Fear. So it’s The Fear Wing, and THAT is pretty great. Also, Toby is being kept in a house on Fear Street.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Then she had a sickening new feeling. Something in the room behind her was moving!”

… But nope, it wasn’t. She was alone the whole time.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Laurie and Skye first see Rick and the comparisons to Tom Cruise are thrown around pretty readily and heavily. I’m not so certain seventeen year old girls these days would be making THAT reference when trying to describe a cute boy.

Best Quote:

“He grabbed the front of the shirt, his face filled with mock horror. ‘Get rid of my bleeding knife t-shirt? Are you crazy?’

‘Get rid of it,’ she insisted.

‘But it’s so… so totally cutting edge!’ he cried.”

YEAH YEAH, I LAUGHED, OKAY?

“The Knife” was pretty lame. Less conspiracy, more GHOSTS, dammit! Next up is “The First Date”. I can only imagine how this is going to be.

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Secret Bedroom”

176577Book: “The Secret Bedroom” (Fear Street #13) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, September 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Lea Carson can’t believe it when her family moves into the creepy, old house on Fear Street. Most creepy of all is the secret room up in the attic.

The room has been locked and boarded up for at least a hundred years. A murder was committed in that room, the story goes, and it has been closed up ever since.

Lea knows she should stay away. But she thinks she hears footsteps inside the secret room. And voices.

Someone—or something—is waiting for Lea in there.

Should she open the door?

Can she resist?

Had I Read It Before: Yes

The Plot: Once again, we are introduced to a new student at Shadyside High. This time it’s a girl named Lea, and I have to wonder about enrollment policy at this school. Are kids just joining willy nilly at any time, or are all these things supposed to be happening on the same timeline? Regardless, Lea makes a splash at her new school in week two where she spills chili on the white sweater of class megabitch Marci Hendryx. After getting a severe tongue lashing from Marci, who goes to clean up, Lea gets in help cleaning up her tray from a cute boy. He says his name is Don, and she says that she’s Lea and she just moved to Fear Street. When Don is, of course, shocked, she explains her parents are the predecessors to “Flip This House” and are going to focus on Fear Street. After some more chit chat, Don asks her out, and Lea is excited and says yes! But when she returns to her seat, her new friend Deena (from “The Wrong Number”!) tells her that Don is Marci’s boyfriend and Lea will catch hell if she goes out with him. Don, you’re a creep.

Lea walks home and thinks about the first time she and her parents entered the house. Their realtor, Mrs. Thomas (Suki’s Mom! I love Suki, so this bitch is tops in my book), told them about a boarded up room in the attic after Lea stumbled upon the locked door. Apparently it was a bedroom, but someone was murdered in their and it’s been shuttered ever since. Um, that should probably have been disclosed before they closed on the house, Mrs. Thomas, but perhaps when selling homes of Fear Street you’re encouraged to leave stuff out. Lea’s parents say they’ll just leave it alone. I bet not.

So now it’s Saturday night and Lea is on the phone with Deena, waiting for Don to pick her up. While giving Lea advice, Deena then has to hang up because her friend Jade has arrived (no word on whether or not she’s still dating her rotten half brother). So Lea waits, and waits, and waits… And Don doesn’t show. She calls his house, and Don’s mom says that he’s out with Marci. Ouch, girl. But instead of accepting that she’s been stood up, Lea decides that the thing to do is… CALL MARCI?????

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(source)

Predictably, it doesn’t go well. Marci tells Lea she dared Don to ask her out, and that Don would NEVER go out with her, and that Lea deserves it for hitting on her boyfriend. Yikes. Lea goes to sleep that night convincing herself that Don really DID ask her out, but then chickened out because Marci found out and that he does really like her. As she falls asleep she thinks she hears footsteps in the secret bedroom in the attic.

Monday at school Don approaches her and says he’s really sorry about the date thing and that Marci is jealous. While trying to explain himself, Marci shows up, and he runs off to her like the spineless jellyfish that he is. After lunch, Marci approaches Lea at her locker and tells her that she’s sorry. It was a joke that went too far, and to make it up to her she wants Lea to join the school sorority! How nice! She tells Lea that the next meeting is the next day in room 409. But Lea isn’t a dummy, and tells her that the school only has three floors so there ISN’T a room 409!! Boy, she sure was spared some kind of douchey prank a golf pro might pull off.

That next Saturday after a night of watching movies by herself (as even her parents have a social life), Lea decides to go to bed. But again, she hears footsteps above her in the attic. She goes up to investigate, but finds nothing up there. Yet as soon as she turns out the light, the footsteps start again… in the secret bedroom! She presses her ear against the door and calls inside, but then hears a new sound… the sound of blood flowing from the doorway!!! She freaks out and calls Deena (instead of her parents? I know this is before cell phones but did they not leave an emergency number?) and asks her to come over. Then she calls the police. When Deena arrives they go up to investigate, but they find nothing. So have fun explaining THAT to the cops who show up a few moments later. Lea apologizes, saying she thought she heard something, and after both cop and Deena leave, she tries to go back to sleep… But the sounds start again, louder this time.

At breakfast the next day her parents brush off her concerns. That night Lea is thinking about Don, for some reason that I can’t fathom… Yes I can, I was a teenage girl once. But the noises start up again. This continues for the next few nights, and then it even evolves into a voice! Lea dreams that she goes into the attic, and into the bedroom… and finds Marci in there, right before waking up. Marci is truly a jerk so the stress dreams are understandable.

The next weekend Lea, having been blown off by Deena, is all by her lonesome at home again, and when she hears the sounds this time she’s going to investigate. She hears a voice on the other side of the door, but this time she decides she wants to open the damn thing up. Of course, when she tries, a bunch of iron spikes slam through the wood and almost gore her. I just….. WHAT. They pull back into the secret bedroom, and Lea is left dazed. When the phone rings she almost misses it, but she answers, and it’s DON!! Who wants her to meet him at the mall right away!!! Lea, foolishly, thinks that her time has come, and she rushes in the rain to her car and drives over to meet him. I have no idea where her parents are. When she gets to the mall and to good ol’ Pete’s Pizza, she sees Don… and that he’s sitting across from Marci. Lea, the definition of insanity is to repeat an action expecting a different result. This is you to a t. Don says she should sit with them, but Marci shuts that shit down. Lea, after accidentally knocking into a waitress and making  a scene, returns home.

Given that the house is still empty but the sounds are still happening, Lea storms up the steps to settle this once and for all. This time when she calls through the door, she hear’s a girl’s voice asking her to open it up. Lea complies, prying the boards off with a hammer, and finds a key in the lock. When she walks in, she finds an ornate bedroom with an old fashioned looking girl sitting on the bed. The girl says that she ‘lives’ there, so that means she’s haunting the place because she’s clearly a ghost. A ghost who wants to touch Lea’s hair. Which is a bit too much, and Lea runs out of the room, slamming and locking the door behind her.

The next day Lea convinces herself that it was all a dream, and goes to play tennis with Deena. Deena agrees that it must have been a dream and then tells her that Marci is spreading rumors about her being a floozy. Fun. That night, while her parents are engrossed in a nature show, Lea tries to go to bed early. But the noises start again, and Lea goes upstairs to investigate. She finds the room and the girl again, and realizes that it wasn’t a dream. The ghost says that her name is Catherine, and that while she knows she’s dead it took her awhile to believe and understand it. She says that she was locked in this room because her parents didn’t want the world to know about her, as she was born out of wedlock. When she tried to escape one day, they killed her, and kept her body up there to rot. Lea isn’t convinced, and Catherine gets angry with her AND wants to touch her hair again. Lea runs out and slams her bedroom door, but doesn’t remember if she closed the door to the secret bedroom. She goes back to look, and all seems locked up and okay… But then in her own room Lea’s stuffed tiger’s eyes start to glow red.

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This bodes well. (source)

At school the next week, Lea overhears Marci spreading more lies about her, and wonders just why Marci keeps doing this even though she clearly has her beaten into submission. Well, Lea, it’s because girls like Marci are like a dog with a bone and can’t get enough of torturing you because you have been seen as weak, and weakness is easy to exploit and fun too, if you’re a total sociopath. No, I don’t have personal experience. Lea, however, gets the bright idea to use her new ghost friend (?) to teach Marci a lesson (and I am convinced that Ryan Murphy lifted this for “AHS: Murder House”). When she gets home she goes up the secret bedroom and formally introduces herself. Catherine tells her how much she loves her hair, and that she wishes her blonde tresses were dark like hers. Lea, undaunted, asks Catherine if she will help her scare Marci. Catherine agrees, but starts to press her ghostly essence into Lea, explaining that she’d use all her energy if she traveled on her own, and that she should really just hitch a ride in Lea’s body. Lea is a little weirded out, but convinces herself that it’s a legit request.

Lea goes to Marci’s house to confront her, and Marci tries to slam the door in her face but Catherine (who did leave Lea’s body) prevents that from happening. Lea gets into the house and starts to read Marci the riot act, but then Catherine lifts Marci up in the air and drops her. Marci, now freaked out, runs up the stairs in a panic… and runs right through the railing and plunges to the floor. Oops. Lea calls 911 as Marci’s Mom is screaming and sobbing (this was actually way upsetting, thanks Stine), and when the cops arrive Marci is pronounced dead. An officer drives Lea home, and she feels Catherine re-enter her body. When they get home Catherine returns to her attic room and Lea tries to eat dinner, but just has to confront Catherine about how things went down at Marci’s house. She asks Catherine if she pushed Marci, and Catherine just smiles at her, saying that she did Lea a favor and now Lea has to do one for her. Catherine wants to be inside Lea’s body PERMANENTLY. She tries to possess Lea, but Lea fights her off and runs out of the room screaming for her parents. When she tells them everything, they think that she’s suffering from PTSD because she saw Marci fall. Lea tries to show them the attic door she broke into, but it looks all boarded up, as if never touched. Huh?

A doctor recommends bedrest to Lea. As she’s trying to rest up, suddenly Catherine appears and REALLY flips things on its’ head: she says that she’s been messing with Lea the whole time! Lea never actually went into the secret bedroom, that Catherine was ALWAYS in THIS room and that she just planted those memories. When asked why, Catherine says that that secret bedroom is evil and Catherine boarded it up herself one hundred years prior, and the blood and the spikes were to keep Lea out before she just started planting memories. And now they’re going to share this room AND LEA’S BODY!!! Catherine succeeds in possessing her this time. Holy shit, this is getting real.

A few days later Catherine tells Lea that they have some stuff to take care of. I have a feeling it isn’t running to get paper towels from the store. CLea (as I will be referring to them) pulls a long rope out of the closet, and Catherine tells Lea that they’re going to go make Don Jacobs pay. They end up at Don’s house, and right before CLea can strangle him in cold blood, his friends arrive. Lea is able to fend off the control for a bit, and they make a hasty exit. But Catherine tells her that soon Don will be dead and so will his stupid friends. WHAT DID CORY AND GARY DO? The next day Lea realizes that Catherine has left her body for a bit, and thinks that perhaps the key to her salvation is opening up the secret bedroom. She grabs a hammer and gets to work on the boards, but then Catherine shows up to try and stop her. Lea tells her that she won’t be stopped, and she manages to get into the bedroom…. AND FINDS THE LONG DRIED OUT CORPSES OF CATHERINE’S PARENTS ON THE BED!!!! Catherine manages to possess Lea just then, and then the BODIES GET UP AND START SHUFFLING TOWARDS CLEA! ZombieDad wraps his hands around CLea’s neck, and Catherine leaves her body saying they killed her once and now they want to do it again…. But ZombieMom says that it was CATHERINE who was the murderer, who killed THEM and locked them in the bedroom. Suffice to say, the corpse parents start to circle Catherine faster and faster, and when Catherine reaches to Lea for help (ha, yeah right), one of the corpses LITERALLY rips her hand off and tosses it away. I AM LIVING!!! They ghostly family spins and disappears into nothingness, and Lea, presumably, passes out.

She wakes in the hospital some time later and is told she’s been battling a fever that’s left her in and out of consciousness. But Don has been calling to check on her and Deena has been bringing her school work for her to work on when she gets better. So maybe it was all a dream? When she gets home, she does find the attic door all boarded up, and is thinking that yes, it was all a dream. But the she sees one of Catherine’s hair ribbons on her dresser, and she thinks of Marci and the ghost in the secret bedroom. The end.

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(source)

 

Body Count: 2. Well, technically one with Marci falling to her doom. But I think that I may count Catherine too, since she was kind of taken out again.

Romance Rating: 3. Don is a total wimp when it comes to his girlfriend, but he and Lea could have some potential now that she’s out of the way (sorry, Marci).

Bonkers Rating: 10. This one has a secret bedroom, a ghost, possession, mind alterations, murder, AND skeletons just drying out in an attic. Seriously, it’s crazy.

Fear Street Relevance: 9! Lea living on Fear Street and the ghosts living in an attic in a Fear Street house are exactly the kind of setting these books need to be as good as they can be.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Lea was the first to break the silence. “I don’t believe it,” she said, her hands pressed tightly against her face.”

… and then there’s literally nothing there. Though I have to say, this book had some really SOLID cliffhangers.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Lea is watching “Ghost” on her parents VCR. Also, many descriptions of Lea’s bangs. Also, see below….

Best Quote:

“Patrick Swayze is a real babe, she thought, stretching sleepily. He can come haunt me any time.”

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Ditto, Lea. Ditto. (source)

YEP, this one was a really fun and great read. It’s right up there with “Missing” in terms of “Fear Street” faves. The next one up is “The Knife”, and the cover alone makes me think it’s going to be a journey.

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Lights Out”

176474Book: “Lights Out” (Fear Street #12) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, June 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: Who killed the counselor?

“I could kill you!” screamed Geri Marcus.

Could she? Would she? something is very wrong at Camp Nightwing, and junior counselor Holly Flynn is determined to solve the mystery before it destroys the camp!

The trouble begins with frightening acts of vandalism. After each, a red feather is left behind—signature of the culprit.

Suddenly, one of the counselors is dead. “An accident,” say the police. But Holly knows better—and she knows she’s next. Holly can’t trust anyone now, not even her best friend, as she stalks the camp killer—and hopes that it soon won’t be “lights out” for her!

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: Just so everyone is aware, y’all are getting gifs and images from my favorite camp movies “Wet Hot American Summer” and “Sleepaway Camp” for this one.

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(source)

Holly Flynn has been conscripted to be a counselor at her Uncle Bill’s summer camp, Camp Nightwing, for the summer. She doesn’t want to be there, as is made clear by her terrible interaction with a spider that wanders into her bunk. But her Mom made her, because she can’t just spend the whole summer on Fear Street, now can she, especially since her summer job at the Dairy Freeze was a bust. And besides, poor Uncle Bill has been having a rough go of it while running this camp. The first year, lightning burnt down the rec hall. Year two, both a flood AND a measles outbreak struck the camp (vaccinate your kids, folks). Year three, a camper was LITERALLY KILLED IN A BOATING ACCIDENT. So this year is kind of it for Uncle Bill, though honestly it sounds like he’s not so good at his job and maybe this just isn’t for him. Holly’s friend Thea is a counselor at the camp as well, but has her main goal for the summer to hook up with fellow counselor John Hardesty. While they talk about Holly’s not so outdoorsy nature, they hear someone call for help. Turns out Uncle Bill managed to overturn a cabinet full of sports equipment upon himself. After Holly and Thea help him out from under it all he comments that it seems like it was oddly loose. As Thea and Holly start to clean it all up, Holly finds a red feather in the bolt hole of the cabinet.

But she can’t dwell too long on it, as she soon finds out that Geri Marcus is one of the counselors at this camp!!! Geri Marcus, who had been Holly’s best friend before Holly moved to Shadyside, but they had a falling out. Geri had been dating at eighteen year old at age fifteen, and Holly had tried to keep it a secret but was caught in a lie. Geri’s parents found out, broke them up, and Geri blames Holly. You know this because of the not so kind look and demeanor she has around Holly. She also meets Debra, the senior counselor in her cabin who is also the arts and crafts and sailing instructor. She also takes an instant disliking to Holly for reasons unknown. But the Holly meets Mick, a handsome counselor who she takes an instant liking to, even though she’s sworn off boys this summer. When she gets back to her cabin, nature rears it’s ugly head as a brown bat is in the room. Holly freaks out, and Debra and Geri walk in and make her feel bad for freaking out.

They go to the counselor campfire that evening. Holly and Mick flirt a little bit more. Uncle Bill reads them the rules of the camp that they need to abide by, but is interrupted by a maniac in a hockey mask, who ends up being another counselor named Kit, a nerdy dude who has a crush on Geri. We also meet a softspoken boy named Sandy who wears polo shirts and Porsche sunglasses, and get a glimpse of the famed John Hardesty, who is antisocial to the max. Uncle Bill reads the rest of the rules, the last one being ‘counselors cannot date campers’. Seems like a no brainer, Bill. Holly and Mick flirt a bit more, and then Holly catches Geri glaring at her from across the bonfire.

The first morning of camp Holly goes for a walk. She meets up with Sandy, who warns her about leeches and to be careful in the water. She then runs into Mick, and they go walking by the lake to look at the canoes… Which have sunk. They pull them out and see that someone has punched holes in them, and Holly finds another red feather. No time to investigate further, though, as the campers are arriving. Holly is late and Debra chews her out for her tardiness. After they round the campers up and take them to their cabin, two of the girls get in a fight about the top bunk. When they both jump on the bed, it collapses. Neither girl is hurt, but Debra still reams Holly out for some reason, just as Geri and Uncle Bill walk in. Uncle Bill commends Debra on her ‘quick thinking’, and it leaves Holly alone to try and figure out what happened. She finds the broken slat, and along with that another red feather.

Holly goes to find Uncle Bill to tell him about the feathers and how she thinks that perhaps it’s a sabotage , but he isn’t interested in listening to her about it and snaps at her to leave him alone to deal with other things. Holly confronts Debra about chewing her out like that in front of other people, and Debra blows her off, saying that Holly won’t get any special treatment, even if Bill is her uncle. Things go from bad to worse at dinner, when Kit runs in and throws a rubber snake on the table. Holly is so scared she hesitates at first, but then is AGAIN chewed out by Debra for just sitting there while the campers are upset. I can’t even with this girl. Thea tells Holly to meet her by the lake that night, because she has some information that could explain some things. When they meet Thea tells her that Geri and Debra are tight, and that is probably why Debra is making Holly’s life a living hell. Also, Mick and Geri had something last summer, but now it seems that Mick may be into Holly. UH OH!! I smell a Judy and Meg situation a la “Sleepaway Camp!”

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Nothing says summer camp mean girls like Judy and Meg. (source)

Thea also says that she’s meeting John there, and Holly rightfully leaves before Thea gets into another pathetic John loop. Holly runs into Mick on her walk back, and when he asks her if they can spend more time together she says no. Why she doesn’t tell him that Geri is the goddamn worst, I couldn’t say. Mick gets mad and GRABS HER ARM? I was rooting for you, Mick, but not anymore. He lets her go quickly and stalks off, ego bruised no doubt. As she gets back to her cabin, she thinks she sees someone sneaking out of it. Before she can investigate further, Sandy shows up. They talk for a bit and he seems like a far nicer guy than Mick at this point, as he tells her he’s sorry she’s having a hard time. When she goes back into her cabin, she finds an actual snake on her bed. She screams and wakes everyone up, including Debra, who chews her out AGAIN, calling her ‘worse than useless’. Calm down, Debra.

The next day Holly goes to try and talk to Uncle Bill about the feathers and the snake. But, so concerned with a mixed up order that has left a supply delivery AWOL, Bill, once again, has other things on his mind and downplays her concerns. He asks Holly to just be supportive of him, saying that those feathers are all over the camp. Holly decides that if he won’t listen to her, she’ll have to save the camp herself. She starts to observe the fellow counselors at a camp baseball game, and Mick puts the moves on her since she’s been ‘staring at him all day’. She agrees to meet him that night (WHY?), but when she does he puts the moves on a bit too strong and she demures. Which makes him storm off because HEAVEN FORBID SHE NOT WANT TO KISS HIM YET. And, of course, Geri saw the whole thing, and confronts Holly about trying to steal Mick away.

The next day Holly meets up with Sandy, and when he’s super nice to her she tells him her theory about the feathers, the camp, and the sabotage. He isn’t really convinced, and tells her that maybe she’ll be more comfortable when they co-lead that wilderness hike the next week. Holly isn’t thrilled to be co-leading a hike, but at least Sandy is nice. She runs into Thea, who is having more John Hardesty woes, as he just doesn’t seem interested. THEN she goes to the arts and crafts building to help Debra teach pottery… and one of the campers breaks a pot, which is clearly Holly’s fault. As she’s walking back to her cabin after this terrible day, she is confronted by Kit, who says that since she’s so awful to Geri, he’s going to be awful to her. He then GRABS HER AND PINS HER ARMS BEHIND HER BACK, as Geri and MICK of all people show up with a BUCKET OF LEECHES. They knock her in the creek and toss the leeches on her. After they leave she peels the leeches off and then runs afoul someone yelling ‘no please!’, and finds JOHN by himself. When she questions him, he says she better mind her own business or she’ll be sorry. JESUS CHRIST this camp is filled with sociopaths! She sees Sandy again and he gives her the finalized counselor list for their wilderness trip. Joy of joys, it’s them, Geri, Mick, and Kit.

At dinner that night Holly and Thea are hanging out and Holly realizes that John and Debra aren’t anywhere to be seen. Holly decides to go find Debra so they can eat with their campers together. She isn’t in their bunk, so Holly goes to the arts and crafts building…. AND FINDS DEBRA SLUMPED OVER DEAD ON THE POTTERY WHEEL, HER FACE A BLOODY PULP FROM THE CONSTANT WHIRLING OF SAID WHEEL. Now THIS is good shit, Stine!!! Her necklace is caught in the wheel, so obviously it must have been a horrible accident.

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(source)

But then of course Holly finds another red feather.

Okay, this is so long and we have so much more ground to cover, and frankly this book isn’t good enough to dwell. So let’s just bullet point it down.

  • Geri thinks that Holly did it.
  • Uncle Bill assigns Geri to be the new senior counselor over Holly.
  • Holly thinks John did it but then maybe it was Mick because she finds feathers in his room.
  • Uncle Bill says the camp is going to close if one more thing goes wrong. Rebuffs Holly’s theories for the umpteenth time.
  • The wilderness trip begins.
  • Turns out John is just being weird because he’s messing around with a fifteen year old camper.
  • Sandy asks Holly to go canoeing with him.
  • And it turns out that the whole time it was SANDY because it was his little brother who drowned at the camp on Debra’s watch the previous year!!!!
  • There’s a showdown in a canoe on the rapids. Holly hits Sandy with a paddle but he perseveres.
  • There’s a second showdown in a cave involving snakes and Sandy falling down a hill.
  • Mick helps get her out of the woods and the police come and take Sandy away.
  • Holly isn’t scared of snakes anymore. THE END.

Body Count: 1, though I have to reiterate that this is by far one of the most gruesome and coolest deaths in this series yet!

Romance Rating: 2. Mick is a friggin’ weirdo and Sandy is murderous. Not to mention John Hardesty is an eighteen year old messing around with a fifteen year old. Look, I have lots of complicated opinions about statutory laws when it comes to applying to mid to late teenagers, but that’s the kind of gap that is a bit too much.

Bonkers Rating: 3. The pottery wheel death was nuts, but everything else was pretty uninspired, filled with “Friday the 13th” and “Sleepaway Camp” rip offs.

Fear Street Relevance: 2. Once again, our main character lives on Fear Street, but none of the action takes place there! This isn’t even on Fear Island or by Fear Lake.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“The footsteps stopped, then all at once the started again, faster, running. Who could be in the woods at this time of night? Whoever it was was just behind her and getting closer.”

… And it turns out it’s just two campers late for getting back to their bunks.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Amazingly enough, the fact this book takes place at a summer camp means that the usual pop culture and technological references were few and far between. I didn’t find much that was dated at all! Outside of saying that there are only eight “Friday the 13th” movies. “Jason X”, anyone? Oh, and Mick being described as looking like ‘actor Kevin Bacon’. That’s a blatant “Friday the 13th” reference too.

Best Quote:

“What was it about him that was so attractive? Was it that he seemed somehow…. dangerous?”

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The OG Bad Boy of summer camp (source)

This one was pretty mediocre and forgettable. Up next is “The Secret Bedroom”, another one from my childhood and one I have fond memories of. Will those memories hold up?

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Fire Game”

176636Book: “The Fire Game” (Fear Street #11) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1991

Where Did I Get This Book: ILL from the library!

Book Description: It was just a game…

The first fire started almost by accident. A wastebasket fire in the school library. Jill Franks and her friends found it exciting. And it got them out of school for a few hours.

Who could have guessed that the fire game would quickly spread? That one fire would lead to another? What Jill, and Andrea, and Diane, and the three boys they hung around with would find themselves caught up in the most dangerous—and deadly—game of all?

When one of their fires ends in murder, the game ends—and the real terror begins. All of them realize that someone is playing the game for keeps. Now Jill has no choice. She knows she must find the murderer—before her life goes up in flames!

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: We find ourselves back in Shadyside, after a field trip up to the mountains of Vermont. We join Jill, Andrea, and Diane, three teenagers going to Shadyside High. Diane is new, but Jill thinks that she fits in with her and Andrea because 1) they’re all gymnasts, and 2) Diane is sweet and serious, whereas Jill is flakey and Andrea is a mythic bitch. They’re all lamenting the upcoming geography quiz as they sit in the library, though Andrea is trying to think of a good song for her gymnastics routine instead of studying. Diane mentions that her old friend Gabe is not only a songwriter, he also is moving to Shadyside! And apparently he’s super handsome too. Before they can get more info out of Diane, Max and Nick stroll in. These boys both have crushes on Jill, which pisses Andrea off. Jill, however, isn’t interested. Max and Nick talk about horror movies they watched, and start horsing around. Nick pulls out a lighter and starts playing with it, which makes Diane freak out for reasons unknown to everyone else. A folder accidentally catches fire, and Diane runs away. Andrea snuffs the fire out and drops the folder in a waste basket. They meet up with Diane on the way to math and she apologizes for freaking out…. But then, in math class, smoke wafts into the hallway. Of course the fire wasn’t out, and they set the library on fire! Though no one gets hurt, the geography quiz is cancelled.

They friends all go out after the fire, and they run into Gabe! Boy is he handsome, if not super aloof and elitist about having to move to this small town. But his ears perk up when they mention the fire at school, especially when Andrea takes the blame/credit for it. When Max and Nick ask if he’s ever set a fire before, Gabe doesn’t really answer them, but smiles creepily. It becomes even creepier when at school the next day, he suggests that they set another fire so that they can take the rest of the day off, deliberately this time. Though the friends think that he’s joking at first, he makes it clear that he’s DEAD serious. Diane gets visibly upset and makes an excuse to leave, and when Jill calls after her Gabe dismisses her, saying she’s ‘always been jumpy’. Yeah, Gabe, JUMPY. Andrea, on the other hand, is practically flooding her basement at the concept of setting a fire, and Max grabs the lighter and rushes off. As the others leave the cafeteria, there’s an explosion from the boy’s bathroom.

At this moment it’s solidified that I’m really just reading a book about a bunch of teenage pyromaniacs.

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(source)

After the attempt of deliberate arson, the friends all meet on the soccer field. Max made it out just in time, and explains that there was a bottle of cleaning solution in the bathroom next to the wastebasket. Diane isn’t pleased, but Andrea is elated. School is cancelled for the rest of the day (that’s it?) and they all go for a picnic and swimming at the cabin that Diane’s parents bought on Fear Island. The boys all have a swim race, and Gabe wins. Andrea makes her interest known, and Diane says she doesn’t care if they date, though doesn’t seem convinced anything will come of it. The friends eat hotdogs and then Diane surprises Gabe with one of his old guitars he gave Diane. As he plays (and is perfect, of course), Jill thinks about how much has changed since he got to Shadyside (a day ago?) and that things have really changed for the better. IIIIIII’M SORRY, he’s a psychopath, Jill! He then holds the lighter under his hand, mesmerized by the flames.

Soon after Jill, Diane, and Andrea are shopping. Andrea keeps grilling Diane for information on Gabe, and Diane talks about how she’s known him since Kindergarten. They pass a pet shop and Jill notices that the cats in the window look like her cat, Mittsy. Oh boy, does this mean Mittsy will be relevant later? Don’t you kill another cat, Stine! The girls go to try on new clothes, but when Andrea tries to go into Diane’s dressing room, Diane freaks out and starts screaming at her. Andrea is shocked. She knew that Diane was modest, but this is nuts! Andrea goes home and after having a pointless conversation with her Mom, she gets a call from Gabe, who asks her out. Even though she thinks that he’s kind of a wackadoo, she also thinks he’s cute, so she says yes. Because bad boys, right?

Sometime after, the group of friends are driving around Shadyside showing Gabe the sights. He’s not too impressed, but when they get to Fear Street his ears perk up enough to only make SOME disparaging comments about it. I assume it’s because he’s evil and feels at home there. They tell him about the time a crazy guy tried to kill people with a chainsaw (“The Wrong Number”), when an old house burnt down after a Halloween party gone awry (“Halloween Party”), and how two kids parents just vanished without a trace (“Missing”, though to be honest they were found pretty quickly…). Gabe thinks that they should go look at the cemetery. He then suggests that it’s time to start another fire, and it’s Nick’s turn. Gabe suggests an abandoned shack in the cemetery, and Nick refuses. Gabe tries to call his bluff, but then decides ‘ah, fuck it’, and sets it ablaze himself. They run off and watch the fire department come at a distance. When they get back to the car, Andrea, pushed to her sexual limits, starts making out with Gabe in the backseat of the car.

Later, Jill, Diane, and Andrea are hanging out watching videos at Andrea’s house. She shows off her new computer, lamenting that the ink in the printer is blue instead of black, but still writes a poem about how horny fires make her. The police are starting to think that there’s a pattern here, and while Jill and Diane are nervous, Andrea is still aroused. Diane says they should stop playing this game, but Andrea refuses to stop saying that it’s way too fun to commit arson. The phone rings, so Jill answers (even though it’s Andrea’s house?) and though the person on the other end says they’re from the fire department, it turns out it’s really just Max playing a trick. Jill hangs up, and demands that they stop the fire game. Andrea finally concedes that they can ‘slow down’ at least. While Diane is in the bathroom (totally happy that the game is going to maybe end), Jill tells Andrea that she has a date with Gabe the next night. Andrea sees it as a challenge.

On the date, Gabe is actually acting like a pretty nice and romantic guy towards Jill. He plays the guitar, opens up about some of his past, and they have a heartfelt conversation. Though when Jill brings up the fact that the girls want to stop the game, he’s dismissive of her and her feelings…. Until they get to Pete’s Pizza and they find that someone has set his father’s car on fire!!!

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NOT SO FUNNY NOW, HUH? (source)

He and Jill think that Nick must have done it out of jealousy. She calls Nick later that night to ask him why he did it, but he denies it and hangs up on her. Then she calls Andrea to tell her what happened. Andrea is more concerned that the date ended without getting anywhere, but concedes that maybe the game will be done now. That night Jill wakes up to smell smoke, and then finds her cat Mittsy burnt to a crisp!!.. But then it’s just a nightmare, thank GOD, I’m glad no cats had to die for a plot twist this time.

The next day Jill and Nick talk a bit, and he asks her over that night to study together. When she goes to his house, she sees him and Max getting into a car and driving away. Suspicious (And miffed he’s breaking their study date), Jill follows them. They drive to Fear Street, and of course as soon as she turns down the street, her car lurches to a stop and dies. She starts to panic, but is helped by a kind policeman who saw her stranded. He gets her car going again, and she continues to drive. She parks near the cemetery, and gets out to walk on foot… And then sees their car by an old abandoned house… WHICH SOON BURSTS INTO FLAMES!! Jill sees Max and NIck running away from it! She drives to a fire box to alert the authorities, but then drives home. After trying to calm down with yoga and “Three’s Company” re runs, she turns on the news… and finds out that there was a homeless man in the house that burnt down!! Nick and Max are murderers!!

Jill calls Nick to confront him. He balks at first, but then admits that he DID ditch her that night to go to Fear Street with Max, but that they didn’t set the fire! Someone left a note on his doorstep (and Max’s too) telling them to go to Fear Street, and when they got there the fire started. Jill thinks that then it must be Gabe who did it! She calls Diane to go with her to get the note from Nick. But when they get the note, they see that it’s printed in BLUE INK!!!!! LIKE ANDREA’S PRINTER!

SO, Cagney and Lacey go to confront Andrea. Andrea says she didn’t do it and that Jill is only accusing her because her date with Gabe went sour. When they don’t believe her she yells at them to get out and never come back! But then in the middle of the night she calls Jill to ask her to meet her at the gym before school the next morning, because she thinks she may be close to figuring out what’s happening… and that it may involve Gabe! Jill agrees, and the next day she goes to the gym to find Diane there, who says Andrea called her too… BUT THEN THEY FIND ANDREA, AND SHE’S DEAD! Wait, not dead, knocked out. So an ambulance comes to get her. The gym teacher thinks she fell of the balance beam to have hit her head, but they can’t know until she comes to. Jill wonders if Gabe found out that Andrea was on to him, however….

Jill insists that the rest of the group come together, and suggests that perhaps it’s a stranger setting the fires to get to them (though Gabe is still a contender in her mind). It doesn’t go well, as they all start accusing each other of setting the fire and trying to kill Andrea. As Jill is walking home Gabe catches up to her and gives her a ride home. She’s convinced that he’s the one who did it, but doesn’t want him to catch on. He says he has a feeling the fires are done, and that he never should have come to Shadyside or none of this would have happened. I have to agree. Jill, unable to resist his charms in spite of the fact he’s a creep, agrees to go out with him again, especially after he assures her that he’s not interested in Andrea. Jill’s questionable happiness is short lived, as the police show up that night, asking her if she saw anything the night of the fire, since she was in the vicinity. She lies and says no.

Diane invites Jill to her family cabin on Fear Island to unwind. Jill breaks her date with Gabe, and is having a great girls weekend with Diane… Until Andrea calls. Andrea starts to threaten Jill, saying that she knows that it was HER who tried to kill her and that SHE was the one who wrote the note by using her computer!!! But then she says ‘Diane’. SHE THOUGHT JILL WAS DIANE!!! DIANE IS THE ARSONIST/MURDERER! Andrea tells Jill to leave, but after she hangs up Jill can’t find her keys!! So she runs into the woods, but of course gets lost, and of COURSE Diane finds her. When she acts perfectly normal, for whatever reason Jill goes back with her… But yeah, Diane is indeed nutty, and is the one behind all of this. Her motive, of course, is because of Gabe. She tried to take out Andrea for going on a date with him, and set Gabe’s car on fire because she saw him and Jill at a distance. Oh, and also, she is obsessed with fire because, shock and awe, her body is covered in burn scars after she was in a fire when a kerosene lamp exploded when she was a girl. Gabe was so sweet to her when she was recovering, she fell in love with him and has been obsessed with him since. But because of her scars, THEY CAN NEVER BE. Good God. Diane then starts setting the cabin on fire. She is about to set Jill ablaze, but Gabe bursts in, as Andrea told him where he could find them. They all get out of the cabin, and Gabe apologizes for setting off Diane’s psychotic break with his ‘fire game’. The end.

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Body Count: 1. I always find it a bit cheap when a homeless person is used as a convenient dead body. Let’s just dehumanize them a bit more, why don’t we?

Romance Rating: 3. I gotta admit that Gabe playing the guitar for Jill was pretty romantic, but then again, he’s also happily stringing along Andrea and Diane to an extent. Also, he’s a complete psychopath.

Bonkers Rating: 2. This was just about a bunch of arsonists being the goddamn worst. Nothing bonkers about that outside of the sheer despicableness of it all.

Fear Street Relevance: 8. The biggest fire with the most dire consequences took place on Fear Street, but more importantly we got a nice little run down of previous “Fear Street” plots in this one! That walk down memory lane easily bumps the number up!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“‘I don’t believe it!’ Diane cried. ‘She’s dead!'”

… And then, she isn’t dead. She’s very much alive. Wishful thinking, Diane.

That’s So Dated! Moments: There is a whole scene in which Andrea is showing off her new computer. It’s so amazing it can do calculations, has games, and even a ‘word processor’ on it. It was so quaint and cute. And there is also a scene in which a lime green shirt is the pinnacle of fashion.

Best Quote:

“‘Well I’m not sure about the Undead,’ Jill admitted, ‘but there is something very creepy about Fear Street.'”

It was as if R.L. had to remind us of the premise of this entire series.

“The Fire Game” was really just about a bunch of arsonists with far too much privilege for their own good. I’m hoping that our next book, “Lights Out”, has more responsible (and less sociopathic) protagonists.