A Revisit to Fear Street: “College Weekend”

89804Book: “College Weekend” (Fear Street #32) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: Nightmare weekend

Nothing can ruin Tina River’s big weekend at Patterson College with her boyfriend, Josh Martin. She’s so excited, she doesn’t even mind that her cousin, Holly, will be tagging along.

But when Tina and Holly arrive, Josh is gone. His roommate, Christopher Roberts, says Josh is stuck in the mountains, delayed by car trouble. That’s weird—Josh never mentioned he was going away.

It gets even weirder when Holly suddenly disappears. But Christopher isn’t worried—about Holly or Josh. Christopher seems to have the answer to everything. Tina is confused. But one thing is clear—she’s about to learn more about love and murder than she ever wanted to know.

Had I Read This Before: No.

Review: We open with a short prologue in which our protagonist, Tina, is on the phone with Josh, her college boyfriend. She’s going to visit him that weekend and unfortunately has to bring her cousin Holly with because her Mom doesn’t want her traveling alone. While Josh is a little miffed, they are still excited to see each other and he’s convinced his friends are going to like her. But we find out from the omnipotent narrator that they are going to have some problems that weekend.

Fast forward to Tina and Holly riding the bus from Shadyside to Patterson College. Tina is excited to see Josh because she hasn’t seen him for three months, and Holly is excited to check out all the college boys during the Spring Fling Weekend. Tina wants to be a fashion model, but as of right now all she is interested in is seeing Josh. I’d make fun of her or get snarky, but during my freshman year of college my then boyfriend/now husband and I were in a long distance relationship and I KNOW how it feels like the end of the world until you can see them again. So Tina, you’re a-okay in my book. The train arrives at Patterson Station, and Tina practically drags Holly off the train by her hair. The conductor tells them that they’re the only ones getting off and that the station is super deserted, so they should be careful, but JOSH is supposed to be meeting them so all is well!… Except, big shocker, Josh isn’t there when they get off, and the station is basically empty. Holly says that she hopes this isn’t a sign of how the weekend is going to go, and Holly, you have NO idea. Holly says that she has a bad feeling, but then asks if there are any good dance clubs around because she’s SO breaking curfew and staying out all night, so she’s not THAT worried. They leave the platform and go into the station and it’s JUST as deserted outside of a black cat (BAD SIGN Holly says), and when they go out onto the platform AGAIN Tina sees Josh! Except it’s not, it’s a random creep who demands that they give them money or else. But then another guy swoops in to rescue them from the person who is no doubt a casualty of Reagan Era Social Policy! The guy says his name is Chris and he’s Josh’s roommate, and that Josh got caught on a geology field trip and won’t be back until later that night. Tina is bummed because she wants to have as much time as possible with Josh, but they follow Chris to his Jeep. Chris is confused to see Holly because he thought Tina was coming on her own, but Tina explains the situation of a human chastity belt.

In the car Holly goes on about the drama programs she’s visited, while Chris puts in a CD by Psycho Surfers, which happens to be Tina’s favorite! Chris then tells her that he heard she wants to be a model, and that his uncle is THE Rob Roberts, famous fashion photographer! He could take some photos of her this weekend and then send them to Rob, but Tina says she may not have enough time because she’s planning on spending it all with Josh. They get to the dorm and Chris says that the girls can sleep in his and Josh’s room and he and Josh will crash at his photography studio (I should mention Chris is RICH). Tina asks Chris to call the studio to see if Josh is there yet, but he’s not. Chris leaves for the night, and Holly and Tina settle in. As Tina admires the absurd amount of rocks on Josh’s side of the room, she also notices that the plethora of photos Chris mentioned are all gone. Then there’s a knock on the door, and when Tina opens it a girl is there, who seems to freak out at her appearance. But then she says that Tina just looks like someone she used to know, and introduces herself as Carla. She’s dating Steve, who is in the geology program with Josh, AND she went to high school with Steve and Chris so she’s an old friend. Carla confirms the car trouble situation, and then tells Holly and Tina about Chris’s old girlfriend in high school, Judy. She died in a sailing accident and Chris is still really broken up about it. Carla says that she’s going to talk to Josh when he gets back, because she doesn’t think he appreciates Tina, and Tina thinks that’s a little weird. Chris comes back because he forgot his chemistry notes, and he suggests that they all go to a party to pass the time. Tina is reluctant at first but eventually agrees, and says she needs to put some things away first. But when she opens Josh’s closet, she sees his hiking boots. Why did he leave them behind on a geology trip? The others come back and Carla says that Josh doesn’t deserve Tina because he’s on that trip and he hasn’t seen her in months, but Chris stands up for him and they go to his Jeep. Tina asks Chris about the boots and he says Josh got new ones. He puts in another CD and OH WOW, it’s another band that Tina likes! How coincidental, I’m sure.

They get to the party and Holly is stoked while Tina is intimidated about the COLLEGE GIRLS. Carla takes Holly to meet some drama kids, and Chris asks Tina if she wants a drink. As they drink soda (SUUUUURE) they talk more and they have so much in common! He then asks her if she wants to dance and she says sure. Then they go out to the back porch and he tells her to wish upon a star (Christ). She says that she wishes to be a famous model one day, and he says he can help make that come true by taking her pictures. Then he kisses her. They’re BUSTED by Carla, and Tina is first scared that Josh is going to find out about this. But then she realizes that Holly isn’t there. Carla says she las saw her dancing with a townie. When they go back inside, the party has TAKEN A TURN BECAUSE THOSE ROWDY TOWNIES ARE THERE and perhaps a bike race is the only way to solve all their differences? I’m saying it now, I’m Team Cutters!

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“Breaking Away”, anyone? Anyone? (source)

One of the townies tries to get Tina to drink beer by forcing it in her mouth and no, the Cutters wouldn’t do that, they’re gentlemen, and Tina can’t find Holly anywhere. But she does hear a scream that sounds like Holly, and she runs out back to see a curly haired girl (like Holly) being dragged off “Road Warrior” style on the back of a motorcycle, and Tina chases after them for a bit but tells herself maybe Holly wanted to go with them (UHHHH), but maybe it wasn’t even Holly at all. Then she finds an earring that looks just like Holly’s and yikes. She runs to find help but finds Carla instead, who tells her that she JUST SAW Holly go off with drama major extraordinaire Alyssa Pryor, who Tina remembers from Shadyside High. Phew, thinks Tina, but then wants to talk to Carla about the kiss she walked in on. Carla says Tina shouldn’t worry because in COLLEGE you totally hook up at will, and she and Steve aren’t monogamous so it’s really not a big deal.

Tina is in a mood by the time they get back to the dorm, and she hopes that Josh is finally back. Chris says he’ll walk her up because he has MORE THINGS to grab, and when they enter the room it’s still just them. She worries Josh has been in an accident, and Chris says he’ll call the studio to see if Josh has left a message, and says he’ll call her when he finds out after he gets there for the night. He does so, and claims that Josh did leave a message that he won’t be back until the next afternoon because the garage can’t get the car part they need til the next morning. Tina is now full on peeved and decides to try to sleep. But she’s awakened by a strange sound, and is convinced that someone is in the room with her, and the door is indeed open (there’s a weird moment here where she doesn’t realize it until she turns the light on, BUT wouldn’t the light from the hallway be a tip off??). She closes the door and locks it, admonishing herself for not locking it in the first place. Then she goes to Josh’s desk and finds his CAR KEYS. How is he on a trip WITHOUT HIS CAR KEYS???

The next morning Tina wakes up at tenish, and sees that Holly’s clothes remain untouched. She still isn’t back! While Tina knows she isn’t Holly’s mother, she is a good cousin and wants to make sure she’s, you know, ALIVE. She calls information and asks for Alyssa’s phone number, but there is no one listed under that name. She calls Chris at the studio to see if he’s heard from Josh, but nope. He says he’ll give her a tour around campus, and when she asks about Josh’s keys he says he can’t hear her and hangs up. Subtle. When he arrives with donuts she asks him about they keys again, and he says that he must have taken his spare set, and when she asks why he didn’t just bring his regular set with the quartz key chain she got him, he says he probably didn’t want to lose them. and she TOTALLY buys into it. Look, there’s gaslighting, and then there’s willful stupidity, Tina, and you are being WILLFULLY STUPID right now. He takes her to fraternity row and tells her that Josh is pledging, and Tina thinks that’s odd since Josh has never been into fraternity life, and maybe she doesn’t know him like she thought she did. They can’t find Holly at the drama department or the cafeteria, and Chris says he’ll go grab Alyssa’s number from the student directory at the bookstore. He comes back with it and gives Tina a quarter for a pay phone, but when Tina calls the number the voice on the answering machine is NOT Alyssa’s! Chris suggests that perhaps Alyssa is trying out a new voice because actresses, and once again Tina thinks that’s a very reasonable explanation.

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The absurdity of this. (source)

Carla shows up and tells them that she just heard from Steve and Josh and their car broke down AGAIN, so she’s off to pick them up. Tina says she wants to go but she says no, she can’t come because her car is only a two seater and one of the guys is already going to have to trunk it (I’ve done this before. Don’t be dumb like me, kids!). Tina suggests the Jeep, but then realizes that she should wait around for Holly and Carla heads off to get the boys. Chris suggests that they should go rent a motorscooter and go for a ride. They go around town and he takes pictures of her on his camera, and then they go to the Spring Fling Carnival that afternoon because OBVIOUSLY Holly will turn up there.

As they hang out at the carnival, they run into a guy named Jack, who when to Shadyside the year before. Chris tries to get Tina to head off with him, but Tina wants to hang with her old friend for a bit. She tells him that Holly is here too, but she went off with Alyssa and she hasn’t seen her since. Jack tells her that Alyssa transferred to a school in Seattle and doesn’t go here anymore. Tina FREAKS, and Jack heads off totally unconcerned. Tina says that Carla must be lying, and Chris tells her to relax and that Holly is probably fine and just enjoying a spot of rebellious independence. He suggests they just try to enjoy themselves, and they end up at the Ferris Wheel. And they get stuck at the top, which makes Chris think it’s the perfect time to put the moves on her. They do kiss a little bit, but then Chris gets all pensive and shit. He says he hasn’t been on a Ferris Wheel since Judy, and she comforts him. He starts ragging on Josh for leaving, and says that if HE were her boyfriend he’d NEVER leave her. He then scoots closer, offsetting the balance of their car, and tries kissing her again, and when she refuses he threatens to tip it over because she’s a TEASE. Before he can, though, the car starts up again, and they start to descend. He tells her he was just kidding.  and that he’s sorry. Now Tina is back to the ‘I feel sorry for him’ portion of our reading journey, and thinks that if she’d never kissed him in the first place none of this would have happened. To that I say HELL NO AND I HATE THAT STINE EVEN PUT THAT OUT IN THE UNIVERSE.

Tina thinks they’re heading back to the dorm, but Chris says they should go to his studio instead so they can take indoor shots. She is reluctant, but he reminds her that his uncle is THE Rob Roberts, and Tina thinks that this is the only way to achieve stardom. As they ride the scooter Tina thinks she sees Carla who is supposed to be going up to pick up Josh and Steve! But when they swoop back they don’t see her, but another girl in similar clothes and with similar hair. So they get to the studio, which is in a basement, nothing sketchy about that, and she looks at all his state of the art equipment. She sees a picture on the wall of a girl who looks a LOT like her, outside of the darker hair and different eyes, and it’s implied that it’s Judy. Chris shows her where she can go get into modeling makeup, and when she nearly opens a closet door he FLIPS and tells her not that one because it holds lots of chemicals. She finds the bathroom, freaks out because she thinks a mannequin is a body (it’s not), and then he starts telling her how to do her makeup for his ‘vision’. He then applies it the way he likes and tells her what kind of outfit to pick out. Lucky for her all of the dresses are just her size! He starts taking her picture and telling her how to pose, and retouches her makeup just the way he likes….

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It’s so fucking creepy, you guys. (source)

And when she compliments the dress he says that it belonged to Judy!!! She continues the shoot, and then he starts calling her Judy and tries to kiss her. She tries to remind him that she is NOT Judy, and he kind of gets it but, like, not really? She realizes that she has to play along or he’s going to flip out on her, and he tells her to put on this old fashioned dress now.

As she’s changing, Tina finds a picture in a drawer. It’s of HER SLEEPING IN THE DORM ROOM THE NIGHT BEFORE. When she exits he says that they’re going to photograph a beach scene, and it makes no sense given her gown but Judy died at the beach so it probably makes sense in his mind. She asks if she can have a soda, and when he goes to get her one she bolts! But all the doors and locked. And as Chris starts to chase her around, he says that he’ll have to kill her ‘again’. SO HE KILLED JUDY TOO. They struggle a bit and he locks her in the dark room. When she finds the light for the room, she realizes that she’s surrounded by pictures of her of all shapes and sizes, the photos being the ones that she sent to Josh, and the last one is of her at the train station the night before. She decides she needs to find a weapon, but when she opens that cabinet, JOSH’S BODY TUMBLES TO THE FLOOR!!! Looks like she threw chemicals in his face and then based his brains in. Chris bursts in and grabs her, calling her Judy all the while. She tries to reason with him, and then tries to throw acid in his face… but it’s just water. Some acid does drip on her arm and it sizzles, and just as Chris is about to lunge she distracts him and then hits him in the head with a tripod.

She runs and tries to think of a way to escape and/or call the police. THen she opens the door that Chris didn’t want her to open, and HOLLY IS IN THERE! Chris introduced her to a guy the night of the party, and when hse got back to the dorm Chris grabbed her and tied her up and threw her in the closet. Tina tells her that she thinks she killed Chris, and unties her. But unfortunately, CHRIS IS ALIVE! He’s about to lunge at them with scissors, but then Carla and Steve enter. THey look like they are taking Chris’s side, talking him down and suggesting that he get one more picture of Judy, the two of them together. Tina refuses, but then does when it looks like it could mean life or death. But when Chris goes to get his camera, Carla and Steve subdue him and tie him up. Carla explains that they were only going along with him to disarm him. Chris had told her that Josh was with another girl this weekend and to cover for him, which is why Carla was participating in the lies. But then Steve told her as she picked him up that Josh would never do that, and they put two and two together. Holly calls the police, and Tina tells Carla and Steve that he killed Judy too, and Carla and Steve feel like fools for thinking otherwise. As Chris rants and raves about developing ‘Judy’s’ photos the next day, Tina runs outside into the night. As she looks up at the first start of the night, she thinks forlornly that no matter how much she wishes it away, she’ll never be able to forget what happened to her and Josh this past weekend. The End.

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Gee, for once I wish we did have a dumb quippy end line. (source)

Body Count: 1, but if we’re going to count Judy it would be 2. The injustice of Josh dying is too much.

Romance Rating: 2. I feel so badly about Josh because he and Tina seemed happy, but we never saw them actually interact. And Chris and Tina is obviously gross and creepy as hell.

Bonkers Rating: 7, just because of the SUPER disturbing ‘dress this girl up like my dead girlfriend’ photo session that sounds like something out of “The Neon Demon”.

Fear Street Relevance: 1. ONCE AGAIN, we aren’t even in Shadyside and the only time Fear Street is even mentioned is when someone says something about Fear Street having a carnival, but NO, R.L., FEAR STREET wouldn’t have a carnival, SHADYSIDE would have a carnival, and it feels like you just forgot to even mention Fear Street and tossed it in at the last second.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“She glanced down at Josh’s body sprawled on the floor. Then she let out a horrified gasp. ‘Chris! It’s Josh! He’s moving! He’s getting up!'”

… But it was just a distraction tactic so she could hit him. I mean, of course it was, but what a stupid cliffhanger. A kid reading it might think this was turning into a zombie story, which would have been SO cool….

That’s So Dated! Moments: Chris’s Jeep is described as not only having a fancy CD player, but EVEN A CAR PHONE!!!! And he has a COLOR MAC WITH A CD-ROM AND A LASER PRINTER!

Best Quote:

“‘Well, I always say,’ Carla continued with a grin, ‘if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.'”

Uh, NO, Carla, YOU don’t say that! Stephen Stills says that, you goddamn plagiarist! And he isn’t exactly the best person to ask for relationship advice, if you’re going to ask a member of CSN about love I would argue Graham Nash is the way to go. He wrote “Our House” for Joni Mitchell for God’s sake (not that she was very, uh, grateful in the end)….

Conclusion: “College Weekend” was surprisingly dark and a pretty good, creepy read. Definitely one of the more twisted “Fear Street” novels I’ve read. Up next is “The Stepsister 2”! 

Kate’s Review & Giveaway: “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”

36341674Book: “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” by Raymond A. Villareal

Publishing Info: Mulholland Books, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher.

Book Description: A virus that turns people into something somehow more than human quickly sweeps the world, upending society as we know it.

This panoramic thriller begins with one small mystery. The body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town, presumed to be an illegal immigrant, walks out of the town morgue. To the young CDC investigator called in to consult the local police, it’s a bizarre medical mystery.

More bodies, dead of a mysterious disease that solidifies their blood, are brought to the morgue, and disappear. In a futile game of catch-up, the CDC, the FBI, and the US government must come to terms with what they’re too late to stop: an epidemic of vampirism that will sweep first the United States, and then the world.

Impossibly strong, smart, poised, beautiful, and commanding, these vampires reject the term as derogatory, preferring the euphemistic “gloamings.” They quickly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society: sports, entertainment, and business. Soon people are begging to be ‘re-created,’ willing to accept the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. The stakes change yet again when a charismatic and wealthy businessman, recently turned, decides to do what none of his kind has done before: run for political office.

This sweeping yet deeply intimate fictional oral history–told from the perspectives of several players on all sides of the titular vampire uprising–is a genre-bending, shocking, immersive and subversive debut that is as addictive as the power it describes.

Review: I want to extend a special thanks to Mulholland Books for sending me an ARC of this novel.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read vampire fiction. I don’t know if it’s because the pop culture fascination with vampires has waned again and not much has come out, or if I have just been oblivious to what new offerings are out there. But when I saw that “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” was about to come out, I was immediately interested by the premise. I liked the book “World War Z” by Max Brooks, which is a similar premise, but with zombies, and was curious to see how such a thing would be done with vampires.

“A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” feels like an amalgamation of “World War Z”, “The Strain”, and Charlaine Harris’s “Sooki Stackhouse” series, a brew that comes together to make a fairly unique new vampire mythos. We follow a few different perspectives and plot points as the rise of the NOBI Virus is laid out on the page. Once a person is infected with NOBI, they have a fifty fifty chance of transforming into a ‘gloaming’, a being that has gained a longer lifespan and other supernatural abilities, but cannot survive in the sunlight and must feed off of blood. This story postulates less of an immediate vampire apocalypse, and more of a slow shift as they appear to try to integrate into modern society. It’s a more in depth analysis than the “Sookie Stackhouse” books gave, and a bit more cynical as well. Villareal is far more interested in how this kind of shift would affect the laws and civil liberties of modern societies, and he has a number of characters who fall on either side of the gloaming ‘issue’. These characters include CDC Investigator Dr. Lauren Scott, the woman who was on the scene when Patient Zero, Liza Sole, is found along the U.S.-Mexican Border, only to escape into the night. Another is Father John Reilly, a Catholic Priest who is going through his own journey regarding the rise of ‘gloamings’ and how it’s changing society. We also follow Joseph Barrera, a political wunderkid and spin doctor who is approached to run the gubnatorial campaign for Nick Claremont, a gloaming who wants to become Governor of New Mexico, and Hugo Zumthor, and FBI Agent whose field is mostly gloaming issues. Along with various perspective sections with these characters we get newspaper articles, message board posts, transcripts, and interviews that slowly show how NOBI rises and changes society over the course of a few years. My favorite parts were definitely the ones that involved Lauren, as the description of the NOBI virus was fascinating and reminded me of “The Strain” series in the virology of this kind of vampirism.

I also enjoyed the various ethical and philosophical debates that Villareal brings up in this book that have been glossed over in other similar stories. The debates of gloamings being able to have similar rights as humans, and the question of tolerance and equity and how to accommodate for this new population, are addressed and waxed poetic in this book, and the legal and cultural perspectives were in depth and well laid out. I enjoyed that Villareal made it a complex and grey issue, with various likable characters having deep prejudices, but also having fair questions and reservations about gloamings and what their ultimate motivations are. Especially as they start coming into positions of power, and what that power does and what it means for the shared space between humans and gloamings alike. Villareal dives a bit deeper into the legal and policy aspects of this quandary than “World War Z” did in its ‘history’, and while it was mostly fascinating sometimes it felt a little bloated, as did some of the medical aspects that come with the description of the NOBI virus. Because of this, at times I was thinking that it was a bit tedious to get through, though overall it was neat that Villareal went the extra steps into the philosophy behind it all.

Overall I enjoyed reading “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising”, and it’s a notable contribution to modern vampire lore. You will need to go in expecting a deeper dive than what you usually find in the genre, but ultimately it’s worth taking a look if you are a fan of vampires and vampire mythos.

And good news! I’m giving away an ARC edition of this book! Given that it’s on a number of ‘Hot Summer Book’ lists, this book is bound to be the talk of the town this season!

Enter The Giveaway Here!

Rating 7: A solid tale in the tradition of “World War Z”, “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” is a creative new take on the vampire mythology.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” is fairly new and not on many Goodreads lists yet, but it is included on “June Buzz Books”, and I think that it would fit in on “Not The ‘Normal’ Paranormal”.

Find “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Bruja Born”

33918887Book: “Bruja Born” by Zoraida Córdova

Publishing Info: Sourcebooks Fire, June 2018

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.

Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.

Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…

Review: I first want to say a special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC to this book!

Awhile back I read the book “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Córdova, a fantasy novel that took some influence from “Alice In Wonderland”. I remember liking the characters in it for the most part (well, mostly Alex, our teen witch protagonist), but having a harder time with the fantasy world setting that she found herself in. Look, I have lots of opinions about “Alice in Wonderland,” as you guys know, and that one didn’t really live up to my very high expectations. But I liked Alex and her family enough that I told myself I’d continue in the series, so when I saw that “Bruja Born” was on the way I requested a copy from NetGalley, thinking I had little to lose. But I have great news. If “Labyrinth Lost” has similarities to “Alice in Wonderland,” “Bruja Born” also has a book to which it has similar themes and concepts. And that book is “Pet Sematary”.

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Words that we should all take to heart. Especially if we live on cursed soil in Maine. (source)

The whimsical and dreamy fantasy setting from the first book has gone out the window, and Córdova has taken us straight into dark fantasy/horror for the second book of her “Brooklyn Brujas” series. And this is where, for me, the series has spread it wings and flown high, because THIS is the kind of book I was waiting for. This time, our main character is Lula, Alex’s older sister who was one of those who was in need of rescue in book one. Her emotional and physical scars from her time in Los Lagos have really weighed her down, and she has changed from popular and bubbly extrovert to sullen and bitter killjoy. I was really happy to see that we got to focus on her this time, as while I liked Alex I liked having a new character to explore. And Lula was so flawed and complex, more so than Alex, and getting to know her (as well as Rose, their youngest sister) made this book all the more rich. In fact, this book gave us a better grasp on all of the family members, and world building exploded and really sucked me in. Lula’s relationships, be it with her sisters or her mother or Maks as he becomes the living dead due to a spell that was cast, felt deeper and more rewarding this time around. I also really have to give Córdova props because while I found Lula to be really hard to take at times, I TOTALLY understood the choices that she made and believed every single one of them. And her romance with Maks is so, so emotional and tragic, as you know that it is doomed once he becomes more and more in tune with the undead side of him. But his emotions and feelings and memories are still there, and we have to slowly watch him fall away, and watch Lula potentially lose him all over again. Man was it painful and an emotional rollercoaster, and I, of course, was living for all the agony it was causing me.

The stakes have grown exponentially in this one as well. While those in danger in “Labyrinth Lost” was limited to the Mortiz family alone (which are high stakes for them, of course), the threat of an undead horde threatens all of New York City after the Mortiz Sister’s healing/resurrection spell goes terribly wrong. We get to see how the magical systems within the book not only affect the characters, but how they could potentially affect the world that they live in. There was a lot of loss in this book, loss that actually caught me off guard. This book goes dark, far darker than “Labyrinth Lost”, but I think that it is richer for it. Córdova also brings in concepts from her other stories outside of the “Brooklyn Brujas”, and fits them into this world and the Bruja culture seamlessly. When we find out that this world is not limited to witches, Córdova opens up a world of possibilities that I cannot wait to see her explore as the series goes on. This series has officially gone from ‘yeah, I guess I will go on with it’ to ‘OKAY SERIOUSLY WHEN DOES THE NEXT ONE COME OUT?!’, and now looking at both “Labyrinth Lost” and “Bruja Born” as two parts to the same whole, I’ve gained more appreciation for the former. The stories are very complementary, and the next one, almost assuredly following the youngest sister Rose, can only strengthen it more.

If you like teen horror and an emotional chaser to your terror, “Bruja Born” is definitely a book that you need to pick up. You do need to read “Labyrinth Lost” before going into this story, but given that I have a feeling that the “Brooklyn Brujas” series is going to be VERY strong overall, you’ll be glad that you did. And now seriously, when does the next one come out?

Rating 9: A solid dark fantasy that borders towards horror, “Bruja Born” brings the Mortiz Family into their own and expands into complex and deeply satisfying world building and magical systems.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Bruja Born” is included on the Goodreads lists “Latinx MG/YA Speculative Fiction”, and “#OwnVoices Novels of 2018”.

Find “Bruja Born” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Switched”

2534782Book: “Switched” (Fear Street #31) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: She traded places with a killer…

There’s a little cabin in the Fear Street woods where a girl can really lose her mind. In fact, she can change it into someone else’s. That’s what happened to Nicole and Lucy. Now Lucy is in Nicole’s body, and Nicole is in Lucy’s. What a trip!

But for Nicole, what a trap! Because Lucy is using Nicole’s body to get away with murder!

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: We meet our protagonist Nicole, who is having a REALLY BAD DAY YOU GUYS. She broke a nail, her parents are totally unreasonable in that they want her to tell them where she is and if she’s going to be late (what the HELL parents?), and her boyfriend David has been acting SO distant lately! To make matters worse, when she didn’t hand in a biology paper that she didn’t even both to do (and when asked why she didn’t do it all she can say is ‘I don’t know’), her teacher Mr. Frost says that he will accept it late as long as she gets it in on Monday. BUT YOU GUYS, IT’S FRIDAY, THAT IS SO UNFAIR BECAUSE SHE WANTS TO HANG OUT WITH DAVID THIS WEEKEND!

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Yes, please tell me why your middle class healthy teenage existence is the worst thing in the history of ever…. (source)

Mr. Frost remains steadfast and Nicole is stuck taking responsibility. As she leaves the classroom she runs into David, and is about to break the news to him that she has to cancel their date, but before she can he stumbles through some monosyllabic wishy washing saying he can’t hang out because he made other plans. After more mumbling on his part, she asks if he’s breaking up with her, and he confirms that he is because it’s ‘too much’. She doesn’t know what that means but I’m sure we’re going to find out. He then hurries away but promises he’ll call her. As Nicole leaves the school, she runs into her BFF Lucy. When Lucy asks what’s wrong, Nicole tells her that she had an awful day, but confides in the reader that she trusts Lucy with all her heart and is so happy that she has such a good friend. To that I say ‘uh oh’. Lucy says that she had a bad day too, and says she knows how to fix it all! They should switch bodies!!! As if this is something totally natural, as natural as saying ‘let’s go to Pete’s Pizza!’, or ‘let’s have a slumber party!’.

Nicole is also confused but follows Lucy through Fear Street Woods and past the old Fear Mansion. She asks Lucy if they are REALLY going to switch bodies, and Lucy wants to be sure that Nicole is all in. Nicole says that she is, because 1) she’s so sick of her life right now, and 2) she wonders what it would be like to be with Kent, Lucy’s boyfriend. I feel like there is an absolute consent problem going on with that though, and even she herself admits that these are sick, strange thoughts. But they sally forth, and come upon a stone wall in the forest. Lucy says that her grandfather told her that no one knows how the wall got there, but it’s called the “Changing Wall”, and criminals would force innocent people to switch bodies with them so they could get away from the consequences of their crimes while someone else took the fall. Her grandfather learned this from the caretaker at Fear Street Cemetery. Lucy explains that all they have to do is climb to the top of the wall, grab hands, and jump. When they land, they will have switched bodies in a “Freaky Friday” kinda scenario. Nicole is skeptical and hesitant, but when Lucy insists that they HAVE to she’s convinced. They climb up the wall, and a bird’s freaky-ass screech is kind of putting Nicole off, and she wonders if it’s a warning? But to hell with it, because they grab hands and jump!…. AND IT WORKS! They have a moment of giddiness, and swear that the won’t tell anyone and that when they’re sick of it they’ll come back and change back. Nicole admits that she may not want to change back, and tells Lucy that David dumped her, and Lucy says that she may just try to win him back. When Nicole brings up the VERY UNETHICAL fact that she will be wooing Kent under FALSE pretenses, Lucy says that she doesn’t care. They start to walk back (though Nicole is having a hard time at first, not used to this body, which is actually kind of an interesting concept), and they part ways, Nicole excited to be trying out a fun, new life…. Until she gets to Lucy’s house, because when she opens the door, the finds Mr. and Mrs. Kramer SPRAWLED OUT DEAD ON THE FLOOR IN POOLS OF BLOOD!!!!

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THAT WAS FASTER THAN I EXPECTED. (source)

Nicole SPRINTS back to her own house, wanting to tell Lucy what happened, but no one is home. Which is ODD, because wasn’t Lucy going straight to Nicole’s house? Regardless, Nicole has no luck there, and decides that she can tell Kent EVERYTHING because Kent will OBVIOUSLY believe her, right? I am DUBIOUS, but she does run to Kent’s house and when he answers she immediately spills her guts about the Changing Wall and finding Lucy’s parents dead, and he seems to believe her story… But then when he goes to get her some water, she hears him talking to someone. When she looks into the kitchen, he’s on the phone with the police. Whoops. He comes back with water, but Nicole bolts and decides to go back to Lucy’s, get into clean clothes, and make a plan from there.

She goes back into Lucy’s house and goes to her room to change, but finds that her closet is empty! And so are her drawers! And what’s worse, there’s a bloody knife on her desk. Nicole is blindsided by this, but honestly, I’M not because of COURSE Lucy was going to be the worst because it’s fucking written on the back of the book! Lucy also left behind a note in her handwriting, with a bloody fingerprint and everything, saying ‘I HAD TO KILL THEM, I COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE’. So now Nicole finally figures out that Lucy killed her parents, convinced Nicole to switch bodies on her, and is going to let Nicole take the fall since she’s in Lucy’s body and no one will EVER believe her.

So as Nicole tries to formulate a plan (force her to switch bodies again? Kill her?), but decides that just finding her for now is the best first step. But then there’s a knocking on the door. She goes back to the main area and she peeks out the curtain and sees two police officers on the front step. Determined not to give up without a fight, Nicole escapes out the back. The police pursue her on foot for a bit, but she escapes through the trick boards in the back fence and hides in a neighbor’s play house. The police don’t find her, and once they leave she climbs out, formulating a new plan in her mind.

And I am SO FUCKING EXCITED THAT THIS BOOK IS SO BATSHIT INSANE.

Nicole runs back to the school, and is able to get into her car because she is one of those people who hides an extra key in a magnetic box under the fender. So lucky for her it actually came in handy with it’s intended purpose, and didn’t end up being used by a car thief who knows all the tricks. As she drives, hoping to find Lucy at her house, she thinks about what she’s going to say, going for ‘I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS’ kind of guilt trip. But there isn’t a car in the driveway and no one appears to be home, but the lights they leave on when they are gone AREN’T on so Lucy must have taken their car? It seems like a strange tidbit, but this is by far the strangest Fear Street story yet so I’ll let it slide. She eventually finds Lucy at Pete’s Pizza hanging out with some other girls, their friends Margie and Hannah, seeing her through the window (but seeing her in Nicole’s body, which has to be weird no matter how you slice it). The girls are arguing over the last slice of pizza. Nicole goes into the pizza parlor and Margie and Hannah look shocked to see her, AND they know that she’s Nicole instead of Lucy? So Nicole surmises that they must be in on it, and when she asks where Lucy is they say she isn’t there, and hasn’t been here. But Nicole points out that if they haven’t seen her how do they know that SHE is actually NICOLE? When they are still playing dumb, she leaves, thinking Lucy can’t be far. But she can’t find her, and when she gets back to her car she THINKS that she’s seen her, but no, it’s Margie, and she and Hannah say that they just want to talk. But Nicole CAN’T be bothered and zooms off, wondering why they looked so scared, and thinks that Lucy must have threatened them, and decides to go back to Kent’s house. She thinks that maybe she can threaten him for information and grabs a knife, but when she enters the den she finds that he’s been DECAPITATED!! And to make matters worse, as she’s processing this two police officers peek in the window and see her with a knife in her hand!! When they enter they also know that she’s Nicole…. And I finally see where this is all going. But anyhoo…. She tries to run to the back door but finds herself cornered, so she instead runs to the basement, dives into the coal shoot, and shimmies her way out and into the night.

She runs all the way to Fear Street and finds herself thinking about Lucy, whom she thought was her best friend, and the stuff in her life that might have driven her this far. Her parents didn’t like that she and Kent were so serious, but Nicole had always liked him. And when Lucy was in that car accident while back Nicole had stayed by her side in the hospital, never giving up on her when others had. She then remembers that she has a picture of Lucy in her wallet, and thinks that maybe she can use the picture to switch bodies back! So finds the Changing Wall, climbs up on it, and jumps off… but yeah, it doesn’t work of course. So in despair she falls asleep in the dirt.

The next day Nicole decides to try and get into some new clothes at her parents house, and when she arrives she scans the newspaper on the stoop for any news on the murders. There are no stories, but Nicole figures that perhaps they aren’t letting any info out until she’s caught. She peeks in the window and sees her parents looking way stressed and worried, and while she wants to go in and tell them that she is there she knows they won’t believe her. They get in the car and drive off, and Nicole sneaks inside, showers, and thinks that if she can just talk to Margie and Hannah again she may get information about Lucy. So she goes to the school, avoids the grey suited police officers from the night before, and hides until they leave (after a crazy rigamarole involving a bus, a hedge, and a crabby woman with a hose). She goes inside the school and runs for the girl’s locker room, knowing Margie has gym fourth period. She hides in a closet and waits. Eventually fourth period comes by and familiar girls voices fill the locker room, including Margie’s, who SCREAMS! When Nicole runs out to see if she’s okay, it turns out a Charley Horse just got the best of her. The other girls go ahead of her when Miss Hawkins blows the whistle, and then Nicole confronts Margie. Margie asks her to sit so they can talk but Nicole tells her EVERYTHING, the Changing Wall, the dead people in Lucy’s life, and she asks if Margie knows where Lucy is. Margie says she does, but before she can say any more people come into the locker room. Nicole hides in the closet again, and when she leaves MARGIE IS NOW DEAD ON THE FLOOR WITH A SKULL CRUSHED BY A SHOT PUT!!!

Nicole is now convinced that Lucy is following her because whenever she talks to someone about this, they end up dead. So for whatever reason her new plan is to go visit Lucy’s grandmother Carla who lives on a farm out in Conklin. Nicole used to spend a couple weeks of the summer there with Lucy and Carla, and Nicole thinks that maybe Lucy is there because she took all of her clothes. And Carla knows Nicole so if she saw Lucy in Nicole’s body it wouldn’t be too weird. So Nicole gets on a bus to Conklin (side note. I’m pretty sure that the witch girl in “One Evil Summer” was named Conklin, surname wise), and ends up at Grandma Carla’s farm. She knocks on the door, and Carla lets her in, happy/surprised to see her. She asks Carla is ‘Nicole’ is there, and Carla dodges the question and offers to give her some soup because she’s made a large pot today. When Nicole asks if ‘she’ has been there, Carla balks and goes to get the soup… and then calls the police. When Nicole confronts her about it, Carla suggests that they talk about it, but Nicole runs again and hides in the barn, certain that the cops are coming for her. And in the barn, who does she see? LUCY!!! When Nicole grabs her and confronts her, Lucy says that her name is not Lucy, but NANCY, and that Lucy made them switch bodies too!! Nicole freaks out but then ‘Nancy’ says no she really is ‘Lucy’ and she bolts out the barn door. Nicole follows her, but then is tackled to the ground by…. KENT!! He says that he has come for her to help her, and Nicole sees Lucy fall into the well, and hears her asking for help. Kent says that Nicole should just ‘let her drown’, and YOU GUYS KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT?!?! Nicole elbows him away and runs for the well to help Lucy, but it’s no use, she can’t pull her out, and Lucy drowns in Nicole’s body. Kent does come back to her and pulls her away, and he leads her back to Carla’s house. As they walk up the drive, suddenly Lucy appears and tells Kent that they should switch bodies….. AND PULLS HIS HEAD OFF LIKE IT WAS ATTACHED WITH VELCRO. Nicole freaks, but then a car door slam gets her attention. The Grey Suited police officers are here, and they come up to get Nicole. When Nicole turns back to Kent and Lucy, they’re gone. Then ANOTHER car comes up the drive, and who is inside???? Well, Nicole’s parents, for one. But then THE KRAMERS!! LUCY’S PARENTS!! THE ONES WHO NICOLE FOUND DEAD!!!  AND THEN KENT TOO!!! They all swarm her, making sure that is is okay. Because Y’ALL, LUCY IS LONG DEAD. SHE DIED IN THAT CAR CRASH AWHILE BACK. And Nicole has been having delusional spells ever since, imagining that Lucy is still alive, or SOMETIMES imagining that she IS Lucy!!! Those grey suited men?? NOT police officers!! THEY’RE DOCTORS!!! AND APPARENTLY, sometimes Nicole ALSO has hallucinations of people around her dying awful, violent deaths!! So The Kramers, Kent, and Margie are ALL just fine!!

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R.L. STINE YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!!! (source)

We last see Nicole in a mental ward, feeling like the worst of her hallucinations are behind her.  She’s going to be let out any day now, given a clean bill of health. And the best part is that Lucy has been by her side the whole time. Nicole knows that when she and Lucy are let out they are going to graduate together, and it will all be perfect. THE. END.

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BRA.VI. SI. MO. (source)

Body Count: None, I guess! Except for Lucy off page before the story started.

Romance Rating: 1 because David dumps Nicole in the first chapter and there’s nothing else to see, romance wise.

Bonkers Rating: 10!!! A perfect 10!! This was actually a really great twist, the kind that you see all the time in thriller and mystery books now, but I didn’t expect R.L. Stine to craft it back in 1995 for his “Fear Street” fans!….. So did he actually write this?

Fear Street Relevance: 8, because the Changing Wall is in the Fear Street Woods and we revisit the good ol’ Fear Mansion ever so briefly.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: Honestly, they were all golden. There was not a dud in the bunch. All were relevant and none felt like cheats.

That’s So Dated! Moments: At the mall there is still a CD store to make note of.

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Rest in Peace, Sam Goody. (source)

Best Quote:

“I wore a black tank top and dark denim jeans. Black to match my mood.”

2Edgy4Me.

Conclusion: “Switched” was AWESOME. It has a place up there with the other books I’ve greatly enjoyed in this series, like “Missing” and “The Secret Bedroom”. Definitely read this one if you have the chance because it won’t disappoint!! Up next is “College Weekend”! 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Final Grade”

176560Book: “Final Grade” (Fear Street #30) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: Everyone thinks she killed her teacher

Intense, competitive, Lily Bancroft had good reasons to hate him. She lives to win, and he was about to destroy her dreams. But murder? That was going too far, even for someone as driven as Lily.

She’s innocent. But that hasn’t stopped the whispers behind her back. Or the weird phone calls late at night. Then someone else is brutally murdered and suddenly Lily is drawn into a nightmare she can’t begin to control. Will her final grade be her last?

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: We meet our protagonist Lily Bancroft as she’s arguing with her social sciences teacher Mr. Reiner. Seems that he gave her a B on her test and she feels that she deserves an A because she just does, okay? Mr. Reiner isn’t swayed, and after having a fantasy about killing him, Lily leaves the room, angry that she may not get the A that she needs to be Valedictorian at the end of the year to get the scholarship she needs. She runs into her friend Julie and says that she could just kill Mr. Reiner, which is poor phrasing and Julie’s older brother was murdered during a grocery story robbery, but hey, Lily is a Type A personality who is very much in her feelings. Besides, both of her older sisters were Valedictorian and she needs to keep up with them in her parents eyes. They stop by the library so Julie can drop off some books, and run into Lily’s boyfriend Alex, who used to date Julie but whatever, hormones gonna hormone. They then run into Scott, the editor of the school literary magazine The Forum, who mentions the deadline they have. But Lily says she can’t go to the meeting today, she has to work at her Uncle Bob’s pharmacy that night. See, her mother had a stroke and now Lily has to bring in a second income to help make ends meet at home. Damn, I feel like the college application essay alone will get her into any school she wants with a full scholarship, but hey, that’s not my business.

As she’s starting to walk to work Graham, Julie’s cousin and Lily’s rival for Valedictorian, offers her a ride in his sea foam green Porsche. He’s a total douchebag, but Lily accepts the ride because she doesn’t want to be late to work. He then brags about his grades and asks her if she’s ready for the state trivia contest they’re both trying to get a seat on, and she grits her teeth until she gets to work and thanks him for the ride. She really wants to win that because there’s a cash prize. While at work that night Lily is trying to do her homework as well as serve customres, when all of a sudden a guy pulls a gun and holds up the place. Uncle Bob comes out of the back room and then grabs the pistol he keeps in the drawer. The robber chickens out and runs off, and the new pharmacy delivery boy Rick runs after him (like a dope). Lily calls the police and Rick comes back empty handed. When Bob points out that he could have been killed, he shrugs in a ‘macho’ manner, and oh, he’s gonna be one of THOSE characters. He asks Lily what she’s doing, and she says homework. Then he asks her out, and is only swayed when she says she has a boyfriend. He confides that he’s a drop out because he had problems in classes, and she tells him that hey, she has problems too, and tells him all about that AWFUL Mr. Reiner. He asks her out again, and she says nope.

She gets off the bus at Fear Street and starts walking home. Then someone jumps out of the bushes, but it’s just Alex. She tells him about the robbery and he’s worried about her, but he also gets frustrated when she says that she has to go inside and study instead of sitting and talking with him for a bit. But he does agree, and lets her go inside. Her father seems less concerned about the robbery and more concerned about the B grade she got on that test, so Lily is more determined than ever to study her butt off. Her room phone gets a strange call, where the person on the line says that they know her and watch her ‘all the time’. They then hang up, and Lily focuses on her work.

The next day on the bus to school Lily is exhausted, but has decided that she is just going to ask Mr. Reiner if she can do some extra credit work to boost her grade. Alex says that’s a good idea, and they get off the bus and part ways. At her locker Lily runs into Lisa Blume, who heard about the issue with Mr. Reiner and needles her a bit. Lily says that she’s going to get her A ‘one way or another’, and Lisa, being a huge gossip, is probably not the person to say that to. When Lily goes to Mr. Reiner’s classroom to propose the extra credit idea, she finds him sprawled on the floor, a ladder and a broken lightbulb on the scene. And the poor man is dead.

So while Lily does feel bad about her bad thoughts about him, and the fact that there are rumors about her maybe killing him instead of it being an accident where he fell off the ladder and died, she is pleased that she is potentially going to get a better grade now, as the substitute has given her more options to raise it. She’s playing a friendly couple of games of tennis with Alex, Julie, and Scott, and this is the one place where she isn’t competitive (much to Alex’s chagrin). After the games Scott suggests that they all hang out some more, but Lily says she has studying to do, which miffs Alex even more. As she’s walking home Graham drives up next to her and offers her a ride. She agrees, but gets mad at him when he insinuates that maybe she killed Mr. Reiner over her grade. She gets out of his car and storms off. That night she gets another weird phone call, and the caller says that he knows she got what she wanted. So now she thinks that Graham is the caller.

Maybe a day later Lily meets up with Scott to look over her essay and the covers for the forum. Scott says that her essay is great (natch!) and that she should come to the paper mill that night to watch them print out the new edition on a huge printing press. She says that sounds fun and that she’ll come by after work, and then he asks her to help pick a cover. Alex comes in and is jealous, and when Scott leaves he tells Lily he doesn’t like that Scott likes her. Lily assures him he has nothing to worry about, and he trusts her. At work that night Rick comes in and starts pestering Lily. He teases her about Mr. Reiner, and she blows up at him. He asks her out again and she says no, and he GRABS HER HAND and asks her if she’s stuck up and he only ‘wants to get to know her better’, and she tells him to knock it off. He then apologizes profusely (of course) because he ‘needs this job’ so please don’t say anything to Bob. Stine LOVES these characters, the assholes who are actually just ‘misunderstood’. It’s so 90s. I like me a good bad boy trope as well, but you are NO Bender in “The Breakfast Club”, Rick, so fuck off. Uncle Bob asks if everything is okay, and Lily says yes, saving Rick’s undeserving ass from a swift firing.

Lily goes to the paper mill after work to meets her friends, but as she enters a bunch of HUGE rolls of paper start rolling towards her a la Indiana Jones. She jumps out of the way before being crushed to death, and her friends and the night foreman Mr. Jacobson all find her. He says that he has no idea how that happened, but now they’ll have to reload and delay the printing until later that week. Graham says that Jacobson is an idiot and that HE would know how to run this place better, and fuck yourself Graham because he’s the foreman and you aren’t. I don’t care if your Dad owns this place. They all decide to go to pizza instead. But because of this Lily doesn’t get home until after 11, and the trivia contest is the next day. She gets another weird phone call. Now the voice is saying that it wants to ‘help her’.

At the trivia contest it’s Lily vs Graham, and at first she’s holding her own pretty okay. But then Graham tells her that he saw his midterm grades, and that he’s getting basically all A’s. So poor Lily gets inside her own head, and the stress and exhaustion prove to be too much, and Graham ends up winning. Lily is devastated. As she’s walking home, Rick just happens to be in the neighborhood making deliveries, and offers to walk with her. He actually acts like a decent human being as they walk, but then he says that he wondered if he could ‘help her’ somehow when it comes to cheering her up. She then asks if he’s the person who’s been calling her….. And he says he has. She freaks out on him, but he swears that he never actually waits for her to pick up and always hangs up before she does. Lily doesn’t believe him, and when there is no call that night she is further convinced that he was the caller all along. But it’s NEVER that easy on Fear Street.

The next day the midterm grades are posted for all to see. How humiliating for those who aren’t doing so well!! I don’t understand why schools would do this. It was bad enough that my school posted the names of those on the Dean’s List AND posted the name of the ‘most improved’ student for the semester. That’s not encouraging, it just opens up for your asshole classmates to be like ‘HOW BAD WERE YOU BEFORE?’ Anyway, Lily is indeed humiliated because she is number 2 behind Graham. When her friends try to comfort her at the magazine meeting, because number 2 is still pretty good and there is STILL TIME for her to get her grades back up to snuff, she yells at all of them and storms out because

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(source)

Lily leaves work early because the store is dead and Uncle Bob takes pity on her, so she goes to the paper mill to see the magazine get printed. When she arrives Mr. Jacobson has left a sign that says he’ll be back at 9:30. It’s 9:20, but Lily finds the door open. She goes in, hearing the printing press. She figures they must have started after all, so she heads towards the pressing room. She walks in and covers her ears because it’s so loud as it prints, and she gets splattered in the face with red ink that runs through the press. But wait, it’s not red ink. It’s BLOOD!! She runs around the other side and finds Graham HEAD FIRST IN THE PRESS!! She turns it off and checks to see if he’s still alive, but he’s not. She faints, and only comes to when her other friends arrive, and ask her how she got all that blood on her. I mean, there’s a bloody corpse next to her, guys, there are LOTS of ways it could have gotten on her.

The next morning at breakfast her mother asks her why she’s not eating. I ask HER why Lily hasn’t been taken straight to a therapist after seeing what she saw. Lily gets in Alex’s car to go to school (!?!?!), and he tries to comfort her. It doesn’t help that a bunch of Graham’s friends proceed to cut them off and stare at them, and Lily thinks that this is somehow all her fault, even though the police said that it was a tragic accident. When she gets to school she can’t help but gleefully think about how she is number one now. Kinda ghoulish. You get me to a sympathetic point and then knock it all down, Lily.

At the funeral Lily is really starting to lose it. She feels like people are looking at her, and when she goes to the viewing of the closed casket she hallucinates that Graham sits up and accuses her, but she gets her wits about her enough to understand that Julie is really hurting, as she just lost her brother and now her cousin is dead too. The funeral retreats to Julie’s house for refreshments (this officially isn’t the Midwest small town dynamic because it’s not in the church basement and there isn’t a spread of various bars to go with an unabashed reluctance to a bother anyone in any way), and as Lily and Scott are talking, but when Graham’s mom gives her a suspicious stink eye Lily takes that as her cue to leave. She rushes home to her empty house, and has a nice cry. As she empties out her purse looking for some tissues, she instead finds Graham’s glasses!! Suddenly there’s a bang and footsteps coming up the steps, and Scott is there! He says he was worried about her, and she tells him about the glasses. Which which Scott says that of course he knew about it, as he put them there! He wants her to know everything that he did for her to prove his love, aka killing Graham!!! He got the idea after Mr. Reiner’s freak accident with the light and slipping off the ladder. He told Graham to meet him at the printing press at nine, knowing the foreman would be on a break and then pushed him into the press so that Lily will be number one! He also was the one making the phone calls, and now they can be together forever! Lily tries to leave the room to call the cops, but he says that he’ll kill her if she leaves the room. Oh, and if she DOES try to turn him in, he’ll say that it was all her idea and that she also killed Mr. Reiner because she wanted to badly to be number 1. He grabs Graham’s glasses for collateral, and tells her that they can be together now. He leaves, and Lily doesn’t know what to do.

At the magazine meeting the next day Scott suggests that they make a special tribute issue to Graham. Lily thinks he’s demented but goes along with it. Julie is driving her to work afterwards and apologizes for being so distant lately; she’s just sad that Lily has no time for her outside of studying and Alex. Lily is relieved that Julie doesn’t blame her for Graham’s death. But then Julie, being a regular Nancy Drew, says that she isn’t convinced that Graham died in an accident, and believes that he was murdered! After all, his dad owns the paper plant, so of COURSE he knows how to use the press and not get caught in it. Julie assures Lily that she doesn’t believe the rumors and thinks that someone else killed him. Lily is scared that Scott will hurt Julie if she voices her suspicions or goes too deep. That night Scott calls Lily and tells her to break up with Adam and start dating him. Lily tries to deflect, saying people may be suspicious if she does that and may ask more questions. Then she IDIOTICALLY tells him that Julie is suspicious. He then threatens Julie, so Lily agrees to go out with him.

The night of the shitty date she has to go on, Lily runs into Alex outside her house and makes up a lame excuse about the library and studying. He gets miffed and walks off. She then meets up with Scott and has the actually pretty good idea of making it a terrible date for him so he’ll not want to do it again. She makes him drive to a town twenty miles away to see a movie, won’t hold his hand, and then makes him take her to a scary pool hall frequented by bikers and potential meth heads for dinner. Unfortunately they run into Rick, who just makes polite conversation, which gets Scott all possessive. As they leave he says that she better not be into Rick and that she better dump Alex or else. He drives her home, basically assaults her when he tries to kiss her and won’t let her go, but she squirms away and he walks her to her door. He tries to kiss her again but she ducks inside, and tries to figure out what to do…. Maybe CALL THE COPS!!! SCOTT HAS THE GLASSES!! There is EVIDENCE that he says he’s holding on to for collateral but EVIDENCE IS IN HIS POSSESSION!!!!

Lily avoids Scott okay at school that Monday, but at the magazine meeting he talks about their date in front of everyone. Including Alex. Alex, angry that Lily has been lying to him and has made time for Scott but not him, dumps her. Later that week (maybe? Time is being weird in this one), Lily is at work and Julie calls her telling her that she thinks she knows who killed Graham, because someone left a message for Graham at the paper plant the night he did. She asks Lily to meet her there the next night, because she wants to tell her in person. Lily tries to dissuade her, but when a customer comes in she has to hang up but says she will call her back. But she never gets the chance, because after a number of customers and Rick take up her time with all their bullshit, Scott comes in with a flower and an urge to make out. He starts to get grabby again (so much casual sexual harassment and assault in these books), and Lily blows up at him, saying that they won’t be together forever because Julie is figuring it all out!

 

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YOU ARE GOING TO GET ONE OF THE TWO LIKABLE PEOPLE IN THIS BOOK KILLED, IDIOT!!! (source)

So Scott says that they’re just going to have to kill her then. Ugh, SEE? She tries to get him to think that they can talk to her together and change her mind, and then SWEET KIND UNCLE BOB, in a moment if ill timed kindness, tells Lily that she can leave for the night and go have fun. Thanks, Uncle Bob! When he goes back to the back room with Rick to build some shelving, Scott tells Lily they’re going to take care of Julie now. Lily opens the drawer, hoping to grab the gun to intimidate him into stopping this whole thing, but oops, he grabs it first, and points it at her saying she better call Julie.

So they go to the paper plant, and Scott lets them in with his personal key the magazine has. Mr. Jacobson is nowhere in sight, and they wait for Julie. When she arrives, Lily screams at her to run before Scott can get the jump on her, but sweet idiotic Julie just stands there asking what’s going on. Scott confesses that he’s the one who killed Graham, but then tries to pin it on Lily as well. Julie doesn’t know what to think, but what does it matter because Scott presses her up against the press and points the gun right at her as Lily begs him to leave her alone. There’s a scuffle, and Lily almost gets the gun away from him, but to no avail. Scott aims the gun at Julie and shoots, and she falls to the floor. Lily cries over her best friend, and Scott says that they can be together now. He lets his guard down and puts the pistol in his pocket, but Lily gets the gun and aims it at him. She says that she’ll shoot him, but he calls her bluff. And he’s right, she wont’ shoot. So he embraces her…. BUT THEN JULIE STANDS UP, GRABS A LARGE METAL BAR, AND HITS HIM IN THE HEAD. He collapses, and the BFFs are reunited. Lily says she thought Julie was dead, but Julie says that nothing hit her. As they try to figure out why, Scott rallies for a moment, but then does drop dead while saying Lily’s name over and over.

So the police and medics come, as do Uncle Bob and Rick to pick them up and take them home. And turns out the gun was a starter pistol, and that’s why Julie wasn’t shot. Bob thinks real guns are too scary, and I LOVE Uncle Bob. Julie then eyes Rick and asks Lily if he’s single, and Lily says that Julie can have him because SHE needs to make sure that she keeps her grades up! After all, there’s still time to finish first, and she KNOWS that she will. THE END.

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That’s absolutely what you should be thinking about right now, Lily. (source)

Body Count: 3. I feel bad for poor Mr. Reiner. Dealing with entitled kids all day and then he dies because maintenance won’t fix the damn light in his classroom is a rough way to go.

Romance Rating: 2. Alex was okay and I felt for him, but he didn’t support Lily’s need to succeed and was more focused on his own entertainment. Scott is a sexual extortionist, and Rick is definitely toxic in his own right so JULIE DON’T DO IT DON’T GO OUT WITH HIM.

Bonkers Rating: 4. Because of the printing press death. Everything else was pretty run of the mill.

Fear Street Relevance: 3, if only because Lily lives on Fear Street and because the past two books had absolutely NOTHING to do with Fear Street so that’s no doubt shading my opinions.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Then she realized there was an answer. An answer that had been there all along. ‘I’ll kill him’, she thought.”

…. And then it’s NEVER brought up again. EVER. She goes back to just wondering how she’s going to get out of this mess.

That’s So Dated! Moments: There’s the fact that Lily says that Julie prefers reading while most kids their age like spending their time watching MTV, and I have to assume that it was a reference to the music videos and not to shows about teen pregnancy. Also, there’s a mention of Winona Ryder’s new romantic movie. But to be fair Winona has made a comeback and I’M SO PROUD OF HER!

Best Quote:

“She moved the press. She tugged at his waist. She pulled frantically. ‘Are you alive? Graham? Are you?'”

NO HE’S NOT ALIVE, HE’S HEADFIRST IN A PRINTING PRESS!! This reminded me of the scene in “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” where that one kid jumps head first into the wood chipper and Tucker freaks the hell out, turns if off, and asks ‘hey, you okay?’

Conclusion: “Final Grade” was better than “Dead End” but that’s not really saying much. Up next is “Switched”. 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Dead End”

176579Book: “Dead End” (Fear Street #29) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: Natalie Erickson and her friends share a terrible secret. They were all in the car that foggy night — the night someone died at the dead end. 

Now someone knows too much, and there’s danger ahead. Natalie just wants out of this nightmare. But that’s the problem with dead ends — there’s no way out!

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We open with an unnecessary prologue about how accidents happen, as told to us by the narrator of this book, Natalie. Then we cut to her at a raging party at Talia “I’m a plagiarist” Blanton’s house. There we meet Natalie’s other friends: nerdy Carlo, sexy Gillian, sweet Randee, and macho Todd. Also, there’s Natalie’s boyfriend Keith who is more interested in getting a beer than hanging out. Randee and Natalie talk about how Todd may be jealous of Carlo because of his flirtations with Gillian, and Natalie laments that Keith is boozing. Then Keith falls down the steps, cementing his place in the doghouse with his girlfriend, and then he goes to vomit. Puke and rally, Keith, it’s gonna serve you well in the future. As he vomits Todd badgers Natalie into dancing with him, and we find out that he’s a real creep who has long blond hair that’s ‘long on the top but shaved on the side’, and I can’t decide if he’s supposed to have a mullet or a fashy. Either way, yuck. Keith returns and seems to be better, but two hours later when everyone is starting to go home Natalie says she’s NOT riding with him because he’s too messed up. I like that she doesn’t want to get in a car with him, but I question that she doesn’t seem to mind him driving SO LONG AS she isn’t in the car with him. Regardless, she decides to hitch a ride with Randee, Todd, Carlo, and Gillian, with Randee driving.

While they’re driving home a major fog worthy of Carpenter rolls in. As Randee drives she has a harder and harder time seeing, and though she claims she knows where she’s going she clearly doesn’t. They turn down Fear Str- wait. River Road? What the FUCK is River Road?! How is the terrible peril not on Fear Street within a FEAR STREET BOOK?!

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(source)

Randee drives past Cedar (I guess Todd lives on that street. Whatever) right by a DEAD END sign, and then Randee loses control of the car somehow and they slam right into another car. Natalie sees someone move inside the car, but Randee throws the car into reverse and peels the hell out of there, therein committing a hit and run. When Natalie says they need to go check on the other car, Randee says that she’s grounded and isn’t supposed to be out, Gillian is the same boat, and Todd agrees that his Dad will kill him if he finds out that they hit someone. Especially since his father just got a new job in the mayor’s office and this will be a nightmare! And Carlo’s Dad is in the hospital, and Carlo doesn’t want to stress him out. So they flee the scene. You know, this sounds super familiar to me…..

OH THAT’S RIGHT, THIS IS THE PLOT TO “I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER”!!! If “One Evil Summer” was vaguely lifting themes from “Summer of Fear”, this one is straight up ripping Lois Duncan’s masterpiece off. And making it SUPER lame.

The next day Natalie is awakened by the phone in her room ringing. When she answers it’s Todd, and he has some REALLY bad news: the woman in the car they hit? She’s dead. She was also the mayor’s sister, so you know that Mayor Coletti is going to be on the hunt Liam Neeson style. Natalie is more wracked with guilt than worried about her own ass, and wishes that they would have stayed, or called someone, or something, but now is going to live a life of paranoia that the next phone call will end her. Then the phone rings, but luckily it’s Keith, and he’s just calling saying that he needs to talk to her, but she brushes him off because she has bigger problems. She meets Carlo, Todd, Gillian, and Randee in the park that afternoon to reconvene and recalibrate in light of this news. Todd vacillates between bad jokes and dark brooding, and when Carlo says that they have to confess everything Randee balks and Todd threatens his life. So okay, Todd is the Barry in this story, and just as wretched. He says that if he confesses his Dad will lose his job with the Mayor and then Todd will be in serious trouble (like, outside of participating in a conspiracy and cover up of vehicular manslaughter?). Everyone (except Natalie) acknowledges that they have a lot to lose, and Todd says that he can keep an eye on things through his Dad so they can keep ahead of the investigation. They take a vow to not tell anyone about what happened, not even Keith (Natalie is fine with this). And then narrator Natalie informs us that people are going to die because of this secret. To which I say no shit.

That evening Natalie tries to take her mind off of the whole thing by writing some free form poetry. That’s her thing, you see. But for whatever reason she just isn’t feeling too poetic. Then she sees that Keith is in the doorway to her bedroom, and he tells her that her mother let him in. He says that he knows her secret, and Natalie momentarily panics, but lucky for her he’s the type that thinks of himself first because he thinks she wants to dump him for Todd. Natalie assures him that’s NOT the case, and that she’s actually kind of scared of him. Keith scoffs at that, proving that he’s also the type of guy to brush off women and their legitimate fears about toxic men, so that’s great. He then says that they still have to talk about something, but Natalie worries she’ll break the vow she made and tells him that she can’t talk right now. He then asks her if she’s going to Carlo’s uncle’s cabin for the big weekend that was coming up, and she says she forgot about it. Sadly, Keith can’t go, but says that Natalie still should. After he leaves Natalie calls Todd to see if he has any updates and he yells at her not to call him and hangs up.

We jump to Tuesday and Todd says that the mayor is OBSESSED with finding his sister’s killer. Well, no shit, asshole. Then we jump to Friday and Natalie is getting ready to go to the cabin, and Todd gives her a call. He says that they have to do something about Carlo, because he seems like he’s about to crack. He says to meet him and the others at Pete’s Pizza in fifteen minutes. When they all arrive, Gillian says that Carlo said that he was definitely going to the cops, and Todd says that maybe Carlo should have his own accident. When Natalie asks if he’s joking, he says a lame ‘yeah sure’.

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He and Barry are two sucky peas in a dickweed pod. (source)

That Saturday they’re all driving up to the cabin and talking about hunting. I smell some foreshadowing. Todd says something about how girls don’t hunt and have to wait for the men to come home with the kill, and I want him to have an accident. Randee says that she’s actually a great hunter, and Natalie says she’d rather hike. They arrive at Carlo’s uncle’s cabin and things are going okay for awhile. Natalie and Gillian tell the guys that they aren’t going to hunt for pheasants with them but will hike along instead, but Randee says that she’s in. Natalie thinks that it’s to impress Todd, and my big question is WHY. While Natalie goes back to her room to get gloves, there’s a booming noise and a scream. She runs back outside and Todd accidentally(?) shot off his rifle, scaring everyone but not hurting anyone. They all go into the woods. And I guess Natalie doesn’t like the woods because once when she was eight she got lost overnight in a forest. Oh, okay. A legitimate trauma is just kind of thrown out there like nothing. But it’s a device, because that afternoon on the hike she gets separated from the group! And as she’s stumbling through the woods, she fins a horrific sight: Carlo. He’s dead. And his head is basically gone because of the birdshot? Okay, I guess we’re doing this again.

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Trinity Taylor is not here for this BS. (source)

I do not doubt that getting shot in the face with birdshot could have deadly consequences. Hell, at point blank range I bet it could mess your face up but good, as it is intended to kill smallish animals. But to practically blow one’s head off? Do you REALLY want ammo THAT powerful if you’re trying to shoot pheasant?! I’m seriously asking, I have no clue about how any of these things work, but I DO know that Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face with birdshot and THAT guy ended up apologizing to HIM, so…..

Anyway, Carlo is dead and I feel awful for his family. His Uncle must feel terrible, as his brother is in the hospital and that brother’s son is now dead. Jesus Christ. Todd stumbles up behind Natalie and grabs her close, and says ‘don’t tell’. It’s unclear if it’s in a threatening way or a desperate way. So Uncle George has gone full catatonic and I hate this book. The next day back at home Natalie reads in the paper that it’s speculated to be an accident, and Natalie thinks that maybe Todd did it. When someone comes into her room she freaks out thinking it’s Todd but it’s just Keith, there to comfort her after hearing what happened. Natalie spills the beans on everything, and feels a weight has been lifted. But then the doorbell rings and it’s TODD. He asks if he can come in and Natalie says nah, and then she asks him if he killed Carlo. Todd goes off, saying that there’s no way that he did and the joke from Pete’s Pizza was JUST A JOKE, and he clearly wonders how much Keith knows. As he leaves he tells Natalie that he wasn’t the only person in those woods with a gun.

The next night Randee and Natalie are trying to comfort Gillian, who is sad about Carlo since they were tight. Natalie starts to wonder if Randee could have done it, but brushes it off because they’re BFFs after all. But maybe she and Todd did it together? Gillian pulls out her backpack to study, but when she opens it a nasty smell wafts up into the room, and a rotting piece of meat slides out, along with a note. It says ‘you can be close to Carlo again. In the grave. This is you. Dead Meat. If you talk.’

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This is far more panache in it’s simplicity. (source)

Gillian freaks, Randee tries to convince everyone its just a joke (in spite of the fact that Carlo is VERY dead), and Randee gets defensive for Todd. Again, WHY. Gillian says it has to be him because no one else knows, but Natalie admits that Keith knows. Gillian doesn’t think it’s him, but Randee isn’t so sure, but she’s pretty biased right, given that she wants to get with him? As Natalie is picked up be Keith she asks if he told, and says no, and that it’s been two weeks and the police have no leads so it’s going to be over soon. But omnipotent narrator Natalie tells us that isn’t the case.

At school that week Gillian and Natalie are leaving math class and Gillian says that she can’t take it anymore and is going to the police. She tells Natalie that she and Carlo had a long talk the night before the hunting trip and he told her ‘everything’, but before Natalie can find out what that means Todd and Randee show up and the talk ends. Later, Natalie and Keith are at the ice rink and are talking about this turn of events. Natalie asks Keith if Carlo said anything to him, and he says no, and asks Natalie if she knows what it was that Carlo told Gillian before he died. No such luck, and Keith gets all upset about Carlo and says he has to go, and she says she’ll get a ride from someone else, and skates awhile longer. As she’s leaving the ice rink though, Todd and Randee track her down. They say that they have to go to Gillian’s house because she’s going to tell and they have to stop her. So they drive out to Gillian’s, but when they knock on the door no one answers. Natalie suggests that they’re all asleep and Todd says it’s only ten thirty. Fun fact, when I was in high school my house was usually asleep by ten thirty but we were lame. They let themselves in, and oh no, Gillian is at the bottom of the basement steps and her head is turned all the way around. Todd surmises that it must be an accident as Randee calls the police, but Natalie thinks they did it.

That night after she gets home Natalie is convinced that they pushed Gillian down the steps and then brought her there as a warning to her. She decides to go to the police station and confess, and as she’s about to leave Randee shows up. Randee tells her that she’s decided to go to the police too, and they should take her car because it was the one that was used in the accident. Natalie isn’t sure whether to trust her, but gets in and they start driving. Though Randee gets all turned around (is it because she’s going to kill Natalie? Nah, she’s just nervous), but they eventually get to the station and fess up. They tell the police everything, the hit and run, the timing, the fog, everything. The cops have them show them the car, and then ask them if they’re playing a joke on them. Because they couldn’t have killed Mayor Coletti’s sister!! The paint left behind was blue, not green, and the tire treads don’t match. The girls are in trouble for leaving the accident scene, but are going to look into Carlo and Gillian’s deaths. Todd shows up, as Randee had told him that she was going to the police, but they assure him that they aren’t murderers, just reckless douchebags! Randee and Todd suggest that they go hang out, but Natalie isn’t interested, wanting to be alone.

She walks home in the rain, ready to tell her parents everything, when she sees Keith’s car in her driveway. She’s happy to see him and runs to him telling him she went to the police…. but then realizes that HE HAS A BLUE CAR!! AND A DENTED BUMPER AND FUNKY TIRES!! IT WAS KEITH!! He then tells her to get in the car, and he practically forces her in but says he wants to explain as they drive in the rain. He tells her that he followed her and the others the night of they party, and that he was definitely too drunk to drive (don’t drink and drive kids), and he got messed up and smashed his car into the mayor’s sister’s car, killing her. Oh, and he killed Carlo and Gillian too. He killed them because 1) he confessed to Carlo after Natalie had hung up on him the morning after, as he needed to tell SOMEONE, and Carlo was going to rat him out. Todd’s threat (that Natalie told him about vaguely) gave him the perfect out, and 2) Gillian called him and told him that Carlo told her everything, and so he started threatening her and then killed her after the meat incident. Which makes NO sense, because she adamantly said that Keith couldn’t have done it when the rotting meat fell out of her bag, so why hadn’t she just said then and there KEITH DID IT?????? This is garbage.

So now he’s giong to kill her too by driving his car off a cliff and jumping out right before, so it can be another accident. As he drives super fast in the rain, the spare tire pops on his car (the one that made the tire tracks funky), and in the surprise and confusion Natalie jumps out the passenger door, and then watches the car go off the cliff. The reason Keith couldn’t jump out she figures, is that his driver door sometimes stuck. Super convenient. Just to confirm that he’s dead, there’s an explosion, and Natalie realizes that when she stood up she grabbed onto the “Dead End” pole. She then starts the walk back to town to tell the cops. The End.

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IT EVEN ENDED UP BEING THE MAIN GIRL’S BOYFRIEND. You owe Lois Duncan SO MUCH, STINE. (source)

Body Count: 3 (4 if you count the mayor’s sister). Carlo’s death was particularly gruesome.

Romance Rating: 1. Keith turns out to be a killer and there aren’t really any other solid relationships, outside of maybe Randee and Todd and he’s a dick.

Bonkers Rating: 3, and that’s only because Carlo was practically decapitated by a birdshot blast somehow. Everything else was stolen from Lois Duncan and gets no credit.

Fear Street Relevance: 2. Not even mentioned, but it gets more points than “Truth or Dare” since at least it was in town this time.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“I started to answer. But I was interrupted by some kind of commotion. Talia, Randee, and I moved to see what the noise was about. A girl’s shrill, frightened scream rose over the music. And I stepped into the room in time to see a body come tumbling down the basement stairs.”

… And it’s just a drunken Keith tripping down the steps. Which I suppose would be a little scary, but he’s fine.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Honestly there wasn’t too much this time around, outside of references to CDs and some pretty gnarly fashion sense descriptions. I think that Stine started trying to be a bit more timeless as the books went on.

Best Quote: 

“‘Come with me. Have a beer.’ ‘No way!’ I tugged myself free. ‘You know I hate beer. It tastes like soap!'”

Conclusion: This is just a total and blatant rip off of “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Don’t waste your time and go read Lois Duncan instead. Next up is “Final Grade”.

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Truth or Dare”

176401Book: “Truth or Dare” (Fear Street #28) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1995

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

Book Description: The truth hurts.

What else is there to do, with all seven of them stuck in Dara Harker’s luxury ski condo? There are three guys and four girls—some of them friends, some nearly strangers—all of them trapped. A blinding blizzard has stilled the lifts, blocked the roads, and killed the phones.

A game, they think, will help them break the ice. Who will tell the truth? Who will take a dare? And how far will each of them go?

But then the game turns deadly. One of them, it seems, would rather kill than tell the truth.

And kill again.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: We once again depart from not only Fear Street but Shadyside itself for a winter based tale of terror, and given that we here in Minnesota are digging ourselves out of a monster, historical blizzard that clobbered us a couple days ago it feels all too appropriate and snide for a setting. We join our group of protagonists as they are riding in a limo up into the snowy mountains. There’s April, our first person main character, her best friend Jenny, Jenny’s boyfriend of years and years Ken, and Josh, a boy who isn’t from Shadyside but is friends with their excessively rich host Dara. Dara is coming up separately in her Jeep (there is debate if it’s a Grand Cherokee or a Renegade). As Jenny and Ken make out, April tries to make small talk with Josh, who isn’t really into conversing. She does notice is lighting bolt earring though. They arrive at the mountain lodge just as it starts to lightly snow, and Dara pulls up as well. She confirms that her parents aren’t going to be around that weekend, and then says some snide stuff to Josh before gushing over April’s blue parka. After the limo driver unloads the bags he’s driving back home to Shadyside, so that means it’s going to be a weekend of teens doing God knows what. But when they get inside, they hear footsteps and coughing. They aren’t alone!! They go to investigate and find a boy named Tony and his girlfriend Carly Rae! Seems that Dara’s parents and Tony’s parents both own the lodge, and Tony thought that it was his family’s weekend, so he brought Carly Rae up for some heavy petting, pretty much making Dara and her crew a bunch of cock blockers. Dara temper tantrums, but Tony suggests that they just share the cabin for the weekend. Dara grudgingly agrees, and the guys and girls split off to unpack in their very separate rooms (with guys bunkbedding and girls getting their own spaces).

After unpacking and noticing that the snow is starting in earnest, the group reconvenes in the main room. While Tony and Carly Rae are content making out, the Shadyside Crew (+ Josh) decide that they should play a game to break the ice since they don’t all know each other very well, Dara being a new kid and Josh being a lump who’s inexplicably there. Ken suggests Truth or Dare, and Josh doesn’t want to play, which seems to make Dara want to play even more. Once the rules are explained no doubt for the reader’s benefit, they start. It starts pretty tame, with a confession of picking up a ten dollar bill that wasn’t his (Ken) and a kissing session that ended with gum ending up in the other person’s mouth (April). But then Dara is asked who the worst kisser she’s ever had is, and she makes it pretty clear without being totally forthcoming that it’s Josh. Josh, realizing she’s about to name him, suddenly flips and runs at her with a fireplace poker! But he drops it right before beating her with it and runs towards the door. What the FUCK. Dara runs after him and drags him back, apologizing, and I have opinions on that choice. Dara then turns to April, and asks if she has a secret about someone that she wishes she didn’t know. April proceeds to say ‘I wish I didn’t know about the girl on Sumner Island’…. and then plays totally coy, regretting that she even said anything.

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Then WHY did you say it?! (source)

Apparently that past summer April saw Ken do something but isn’t ready to reveal it to the reader, yet, and lucky for her Tony decides in that moment to bring the attention back to him by scaring April and then hitting on her in front of his ladyfriend. Dara ropes him into the game and he takes a dare from Dara because privilege no doubt makes him feel invincible. It’s starting to snow hard now and Dara tells them all to go outside for this dare. Dara dares Tony to climb on the roof and get the Frisbee that he got stuck up there God knows when. Tony says no problem despite the protests of Carly Rae and April. But Dara tells them to shove it because she likes to revel in other peoples’ potential demises. Tony grabs a ladder from the garage and climbs up on the slippery roof, but before he can get it he does, indeed, slip and skid down to the gutters. He manages to grab on and gently drop, but he’s pissed at Dara even though HE was the one who took the dare eagerly. April thinks about her previous answer, and apparently she saw Ken making out with some mystery girl who was decidedly NOT Jenny and has kept it a secret ever since. They all go back to the cabin and decide to turn in. April sees Dara in the main room and Dara says she’s going to the woodshed to get wood for the next morning, and April goes to bed.

April wakes up the next morning and enters the kitchen for breakfast. The radio says that the snow is going to get to be eight to ten inches but the wind means that the ski lifts won’t be running, which means they won’t be able to ski. They all pitch in to make breakfast, but notice that Dara hasn’t come down yet. April goes to her room to wake her, but she isn’t there and her bed is made and her bag is still packed. And Josh is missing too! Since he was the top bunk none of the guys noticed if he was there or not. There’s also no firewood, so Dara never came back, and when they look in the driveway the Jeep is gone! Tony thinks that they left together to go to one of the ski resorts, but April isn’t convinced and thinks they should call the police. Tony balks, and he and Carly Rae admit that their parents don’t know that they are up here, and if the police get involved they’ll get in trouble. Carly Rae asks if they can just wait a bit, and then something slides off the roof and thuds to the ground. April freaks out, but Jenny confirms that it was just a huge snow blob falling to the ground.

Lunch rolls around and the snow keeps piling up and Josh and Dara are still nowhere to be seen, and when April asks what they should do Ken says ‘NOT TRUTH OR DARE’, which makes April think that he caught her little ‘accidental’ slip up. There’s a sudden thudding noise, and they think that maybe it’s someone at the door, perhaps Dara or Josh? But it’s not knocking, it’s the door to the ski locker thudding in the wind. Ken and April venture out to close it so the noise will stop, and what should fall out of the locker??? DARA’S FROZEN CORPSE WITH A HATCHET BURIED IN HER BACK!!! April and Ken run back inside and insist that now is the time to call the cops, but Tony STILL says NO!… But this time it’s because the line is dead due to the storm, and they can’t leave because it would be too dangerous because of the snow and the cold. April thinks that they are all in danger, but Tony thinks that the killer was Josh, who then took the Jeep and made a getaway. He says that all they can do is lock the doors, keep the fire going, and wait for the weather to clear, and then they can call for help. Wow, a character with actual survival instincts! April says they should search the boy’s room to see if Josh left is stuff, because if he DID maybe he was killed too. They go searching and do find his bag, but when they go back to Dara’s room to look for more clues they also find a note written in red ink. It’s from Josh to Dara, asking her to meet him at midnight and that she’s humiliated him for the last time! So maybe he did do it! Jenny starts to freak out, thinking he’ll come back to finish the job if he remembers the note he left. Tony seems to recall that Dara’s Dad had a gun in this house at one point, and April is suspicious of him, and the others say they don’t feel totally good with that idea so they should just leave it and try to wait it out.

That night April can’t sleep and to make matters worse, she hears footsteps in the main room. Convinced that it’s Josh coming back to finish the job, she grabs a ski pole and goes into the darkness to confront him… when she’s tackled!! But it’s just Tony, who also thought that she was Josh coming back to kill everyone. She asks why he’s awake, and he says that he heard noises and came to investigate, and April is SUPER suspicious  because WHY would anyone do that…. even though she just did that. He confides in her that he and Dara used to go out at one time, but that it was JOSH that Dara really hurt. They go into the kitchen to get some water, but then Tony starts to freak out. When April turns towards the window, she sees Josh!!! And he looks like he’s frozen to death! April screams, which brings the other out of their rooms, but Josh isn’t dead, he’s knocking on the window… But yeah, probably on the verge of death because he’s been outside who knows how long. They let him in, but then tell him that they know what he did!!! They let him have some hot water as he thaws out, and he says that he’s been wandering in the snow all day, and he has no idea what they are talking about, and what do you MEAN Dara is dead!? They show him the letter, and he says that it isn’t his handwriting. Sure, he was unreasonably murderous LAST night because she teased him and his fragile ego couldn’t take it, but all he wanted to do was STRAND all of them there, so he committed grand theft auto and drove off to teach them all a lesson because man, Dara is such a BITCH, right? But then he drove off the road and got stuck, and had to come back because no one was coming for him. April thinks that he’s sincere; he’s not a murderer, just a ‘Nice Guy’ wronged by a girl and bound for the Incel Movement. Which isn’t much better, frankly. But if Josh didn’t kill her, who did? Because it has to be someone in that room.

The next morning April wakes up early hoping the phones are back, but they aren’t. Ken asks if they can talk about what she saw on Sumner Island, but April brushes it off and jeeze, how is he so fixated on THAT of all things in this moment, she wonders. She goes back to her room to find Josh rifling through her things (fucking creep!), and when she demands to know what he’s doing he says that he’s looking for the red pen that wrote that note, as whoever has it must be the one who framed him for Dara’s murder. She tells him to get out and starts to put her stuff away, but realizes that her blue parka is missing…. And then she realizes something pretty upsetting: Dara was wearing her blue parka when they found her body. She goes to look at the body again to confirm it, and then realizes that if Dara had been wearing the parka in the dark, the killer must have thought that it was April, not her… And therefore the killer actually wants to kill her! She decides that she needs to take her chances, and grabs the first coat she can find inside. It’s big and red, and it must be Ken’s because of the size. She doesn’t grab any other winter essentials such as a hat, scarf, or gloves, and ventures into the literal blizzard in an ill fitting coat.

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Probably her thoughts for the first few yards. (source)

But as she shoves her hands into the pockets (because you know, no gloves), she realizes that there’s something inside one of them. She pulls it out and realizes that she’s holding a red pen!!!! So that means that Ken MUST have written the note that framed Josh! New theory: Josh thought that Dara was her, and was hoping to kill her because he was worried that April was going to tell Jenny about his kissing session with the random girl on Sumner Island. That sure seems like a CRAZY reaction, but hey, Josh proved himself to be a complete maniac so why not Ken as well? April tries to keep moving, but then hears grunting and huffing behind her… It’s Ken!! And he tackles her to the ground!! When she tells him to get off he tells her that he’s taking her back to the cabin because she is going to die out here and needs to stay indoors. He seems to realize just in the moment that she is wearing his coat, and tells her that Jenny is the one who sent him after her and noticed that she was gone. April doesn’t believe him, but also knows that she is going to die out here, and maybe she can take her chances inside with him if she plays it cool. They start to walk back, and he brings up the Truth or Dare game again. April, in a seemingly ‘ah FUCK IT’ gambit, blurts out that she knows about him and the girl on Sumner Island but she hasn’t told Jenny. She then runs ahead of him all the way back to the cabin. He still insists on talking about it but she breaks away to go find Jenny. I guess the gamble is that if she tells Jenny then Ken won’t kill her? She then says to Jenny that she has deep dark secrets to tell her and that they need to get out of there ASAP, suggesting that they ski their way out to find help! Jenny agrees to go with her.

They ski through the woods and end up at the ski lift. It’s running again now that the snow has calmed down. They ask an old man who’s running it where they can get help, and he says there is a phone at the top. So they get on the lift, and start the slow slow climb up. So clearly they’re going to be okay! Clearly they’re going to be safe!…. But then, Jenny suddenly turns to April, says ‘sorry’, and shoves April off the bench!! April grabs onto the side, and they start to fight in the lift! Jenny says that April must die because she knows about the Girl on Sumner Island! April is rightfully confused. April says that she caught the clue during the Truth or Dare game, that April knew that Jenny had killed her for trying to steal Ken away! Apparently Ken had met this Barbara girl and didn’t want to stop seeing her, and Jenny went to confront her and accidentally killed her. The police never figured out who killed Barbara, but Jenny has been living in fear ever since. And when April mentioned Sumner Island, Jenny decided to kill her too, but killed Dara by accident instead, and left the note to frame Josh, leaving the pen in Ken’s coat because he wouldn’t tell on her. April says that she NEVER knew any of this, but Jenny still shoves her out of the lift. Luckily, they’re basically at the top so April only falls a few feet. But of course, Jenny is still there and attacks her with a ski pole. Before she can do too much damage, Jenny gets hit in the back of the head with one of the lift chairs, and then Ken shows up right behind it in the next one. He says that he did find the pen and recognized Jenny’s handwriting, but didn’t want to believe it was her. Jenny weeps about her secret just as two ski patrol men come up to see what the ruckus is about, and April tells Ken that the game of Truth or Dare told more than anyone thought it would. And she says that next time they should just stick with Trivial Pursuit. The End.

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Oh good, I see we’re back to the completely inappropriate reactions in the face of senseless death and destruction. (source)

Body Count: 1 on page. But it was a solidly badass way to go! A hatchet in the back is pretty wicked.

Romance Rating: 2, just because Jenny turned out to be nuts, Ken is a cheater, and Tony and Carly Rae were just gross in their constant making out. But it was kind of refreshing that April didn’t have a love interest and didn’t seem to mind that!

Bonkers Rating: 4. A hatchet to the back is a good start but ultimately it was all about petty jealousy and lousy weather.

Fear Street Relevance: 1. Once again, we find ourselves off site for the plot.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“He let go of Carly and took a step towards Dara. His expression hardened. He balled both hands into fists. He’s deliberately trying to scare us, I realized. ‘I know how to settle it,’ Tony said, coldly.”

….. And he graciously says that they can all share the space for the weekend.

That’s So Dated! Moments: There wasn’t much that really stood out this time outside of a reference to cassette tapes. Though the fashion styles certain reference very, uh, FLASHY colors (like the bright orange coat on the cover) you saw all over the 1990s.

Best Quote:

” ‘Hmmm. Lawyer dudes!’ Tony exclaimed.”

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As a daughter of lawyers, sister of a lawyer, and wife of a lawyer, I am VERY familiar with ‘lawyer dudes’ (AND dudettes). (source)

Conclusion: “Truth or Dare” was another one of those books that could have been a standalone and shouldn’t have piggybacked on the “Fear Street” series, but I will admit that the final twist surprised me, so hey, good for you, Stine! Up next is “Dead End”!