Serena’s Review: “Sherwood”

38734256Book: “Sherwood” by Meagan Spooner

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, March 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss+

Book Description: Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

Review: As I mentioned in my brief description of this book in our “Highlights” post for March, I was a big fan of Spooner’s wholly unique take on “Beauty in the Beast” in her YA novel “Hunted.” Now, obviously these two stories aren’t connected, but it is clear by the stylization of the cover art that we’re meant to make associations between the two: both feature a strong, independent female main character and both are reinterpreting a story in which that character had varying levels of agency. I’m definitely not one of those readers who subscribes to the whole “Stockholm syndrome” group fret about Belle/Beauty’s role in her story, but there’s no denying that “Hunted” gave this character a bunch more to do. And here, we have a legitimate side character in Marian being firmly placed in the lead role of the classic Robin Hood tale. It was great to see this book live up to the expectations I had placed on it given my feelings for “Hunted.”

Marian has made the best out of a bad situation: she loves her bow, fighting, and generally running wild and has very little interest or skill in the more “womanly” arts. Luckily for her, her childhood friend Robin has always been her partner in crime in these pursuits, and their engagement seems an obvious route to making the  best of out of an inevitable situation. That is, until he rides off to the Crusades and news reaches her of his death. Devastated by the loss, Marian still sees herself as responsible for the livelihood of the people living on both her own and Robin’s land and when the Sheriff’s taxes rise beyond reason, she finds herself donning not only male garb, but the persona of her deceased fiance, Robin of Locksley. Now, pursued by the Sheriff’s right hand man, a man whose desire to catch “Robin” is only matched in his wish to marry Marian, Marian must lead a double life, and one that can only have a catastrophic end.

I really enjoyed this version of Robin Hood. While I’ve read a fair share of stories that insert a female character as a stand-in for Robin, typically Robin himself is still present in the story, often the love interest. That being the case so much of the time, I truly didn’t trust the book description or the first chapter that laid out the concept that Robin died while at the Crusades. It was probably up until about half way through the book before I really let myself trust that he wasn’t going to just pop up. Not that I have a problem with the Robin character typically, but even by a quarter into the story, Marian herself and the way her story was unfolding was already so intriguing that any addition of the more famous Robin could have only detracted from her. Plus, as I said, in those past versions, even a Robin relegated to a love interest role often rubbed up wrong against what the author was trying to do with the actual main character who was supposedly supposed to be taking on the primary role in the action.

Marian was an excellent lead. Her grief for Robin’s death is real, and I appreciate that this wasn’t glossed over. Instead, we see how his loss affects throughout the entire story, first as a hindrance and further on as a motivation. Over time, she also has to re-assess what she knew about the man she was to marry. We, the readers, get a few extra glimpses into past moments between the two, and it is here, too, that we see small, but very important, differences being laid out between who this Marian and this Robin are compared to what we expect from the typical versions of the story. We also see the foundation for how Marian came to possess the skills necessary to take on the role she does here.

Wisely, Spooner leans in heavily to Marian’s skill with a bow, a talent that, while unusual, wouldn’t fall completely out of the realm of something a lady might have learned. Marian is also described as being exceptionally tall. But that aside, it could still have read as unbelievable for her disguise as a man to be fully bought by those around her had the author not carefully crafted every interaction that “Robin” goes into in a way that plays to hiding Marian’s identity. Indeed, Marian herself is written to understand the limitations of her disguise and to use every advantage she has to work within it, instead of breaking past it in ways that could have read as unbelievable and strange.

I also really enjoyed how many of the secondary characters came into play. Several familiar faces show up throughout the story, and each was given a few extra flares to make them stand out from the usual versions of the characters we’ve seen in other books. But I also really enjoyed the addition of unique characters (or at least vastly expanded upon versions of them). Marian’s father, maid, and horse master all were expanded upon quite a bit and I loved them all.

The most notable new addition, of course, is Guy of Gisbourne who is presented as both the villain and the love interest of the story. Again, because I was expecting Robin to pop back up at any moment, it took me a while to really figure out his role in the story. Thinking back, I tend to attribute this to an intentional decision on the author’s part as well, and not only my own skepticism of how the story was originally presented. Marian herself takes a long time to understand Gisbourne, what motivates him, where his moral compass points, and how he truly feels about her. Her own confusion translates perfectly to the reader. This is both a good and a bad thing. I love slow burn romances, and this is definitely that. But at times I think the book was almost too successful at selling me on Marian’s dislike of Gisbourne and his own coldness as a character. There are a few moments that are meant to show their gradual warming to each other, and they do work, for the most part, but I’m not sure it was ultimately enough. At a certain point, it did feel a bit like some type of authorial-driven light switch was just flicked in Marian’s head because it needed to be, rather than because it was earned.

So, too, her past relationship with Robin was also a bit strained. We only see a few glimpses here and there of their childhood and teenage friendship, but the scenes are all so strongly written and their connection so well established that it almost worked against the burgeoning romance with Gisbourne in a way that I don’t think was intended. I liked the idea of what we’re being told with regards to Robin/Marian/Gisbourne: that people are not always who we initially think they are and that love can present itself in very different ways with different people, and that these ebbs and flows don’t undermine one relationship or the other. But I’m just not sure the reader can actually see this message play out, so much as just be on the receiving end of being told.

Ultimately, I almost think it says even more positive things about the story that the downside I can mention has to do with romance and yet that downside in no way tanks the entire story for me. We all know that if you don’t get the romance right for me, often that can lead to my very much not enjoying a story. And here, it’s not that the romance was wrong, necessarily, just that I felt it was the weakest part of the story. But Marian herself, the reimagining of how the Robin Hood story would play out with her at its heart, the action, and the new characters all provided enough of a counter balance to my questions about the romance to lead me to viewing it with still a very positive light. Fans of Robin Hood re-tellings should definitely check this one out!

Rating 8: A bit muddled in the romance department, but an awesome female Robin Hood saves the day in the end!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Sherwood” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Female Robin Hood” and “YA Modern Retellings.”

Find “Sherwood” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Internment”

38167114Book: “Internment” by Samira Ahmed

Publishing Info: Little, Brown. March 2019

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

Book Description: Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review: I want to extend a thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!

One of the vivid horrible memories I have in the wake of the Trump election (and there are many, believe me) is that one of Trump’s PAC supporters, Carl Higbie, said that Trump’s idea to create a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries had a ‘precedent’ because of Japanese American citizen registries during WWII. Given that those registries led to the unconstitutional and horrific internment of American Citizens, this statement was quite frightening (and given the detention of families at the border and how horrific that practice is, in some ways internment is already present on our soil). Fast forward to a couple years later, when a controversy surrounded the upcoming release of a novel called “American Heart”. The author, Laura Moriarty, had wanted to write a ‘what if’ book that was about Muslim Internment camps in America during a Trump-esque executive administration. But it was from the perspective of a white teenage girl who basically has to be taught why it’s wrong to imprison people for their beliefs and culture, and to be shown the humanity and worth of their lives. It’s a story structure that is pretty problematic in that it dehumanizes a marginalized group so that a non-marginalized group an learn a lesson. And that is where “Internment” by Samira Ahmed comes in. The premise is similar: it is a what if scenario in which Muslim Americans have been put on lists and had laws passed to limit their rights in the wake of a far right administration taking power. But this one is from the perspective of a teenage Muslim American girl named Layla, whose life is uprooted when she and her family are taken to an internment camp.

The power and resonance within “Internment” is the timeliness of it all. From the Muslim Travel Ban in this country to the rise in hate crimes against Muslims, the future that Ahmed is painting doesn’t necessarily feel farfetched. While Ahmed doesn’t use specific names, it is very clear that this takes place a couple years after the 2016 election, and she paints a picture of how these policies could easily turn into the policies that we seen within this story. The escalation that is set up, both before Mobius Camp itself comes into play and during the time spent there, is chilling and real, and Ahmed does a good job of drawing comparisons to different internment policies of the past. Not only is the escalation seem based in a probable truth, the power structure of the camp itself also feels very true to life. The camp director abuses his power and uses power plays to harass, intimidate, and commit violence against the inmates. There are Muslim families who have been appointed as leaders of blocks, whose compliance wtih the policy gives them benefits at the expense of other prisoners. And the actions and conditions of the camp has been suppressed from the outside world, so the public doesn’t know just what is going on inside the walls. This all felt VERY real and familiar.

Layla herself is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part I really liked her as our main character. She feels like a very typical teenage girl in a lot of ways; she is trying to assert her independence from her parents, she is very committed to her Jewish boyfriend David, and is interested in geek culture. Her rebelliousness feels very true to her character, and I completely believe her as a young person who wants to fight back against her oppression while her parents are more investing in using silence and compliance in hopes of keeping her safe. My frustrations of her more had to do with her motivations sometimes feeling like they shifted depending on what they needed to be for the plot at the moment. She would rail against her parents for their complacency one moment, then seem to understand their point of view another moment, only to rail against them again. Her tentative trust of one of the guards, Jake, felt like it grew too quickly for her character as we’d seen her up until that point. To me her motivations were muddled. It very well could be that this is trying to show how a traumatic period can affect a person’s psyche and the way they think, so I can’t completely tear Layla down for seeming inconsistent within her characterization.

And as we sometimes tend to see in YA fiction that hopes to make pertinent points within a broader social and political context, sometimes the messages felt a little too spoon fed to the audience. Be it a speech awkwardly plunked down in a conversational setting, or an offhand remark that doesn’t quite fit the greater conversation at hand but has a point to make, we occasionally see these moments within the narrative. I realize that this book is for a young adult audience, and that sometimes people tend to think that teens need to have things spelled out for them. But I wish that authors would trust their audiences more, in that they are able to read between the lines and parse out the lessons in more ‘show rather than tell’ fashions. Trust teens to get nuance!

All in all, I thought “Internment” was an effective and charged read. It paints a grim picture of where our current political climate could possibly lead, and what could happen if we don’t speak out and rise up against it.

Rating 7: With relevant and pertinent themes but a sometimes clunky execution, “Internment” is a frightening read that asks ‘what if’ when it comes to our current political climate.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Internment” is included on the Goodreads lists “Lady Lit-Female Authors”, and “2019 Books by Authors of Color”.

Find “Internment” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”

325564Book: “Fear Hall: The Conclusion” (Fear Hall #2/Fear Street #47) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1997

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Having fled her dorm room, college freshman Hope hides out in an abandoned sorority house on campus where she discovers that the evil she is trying to escape has become a part of her.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: When we last saw Hope, resident of Fear Hall and purveyor of multiple personalities, she was sitting on the fire escape outside her dorm, hiding from the police. And that is basically where we jump back in, with Hope and her two roommates/delusions “Angel” and “Jasmine” hiding out and listening to Melanie, Margie, and Mary (aka the 3 M’s) telling the police about Hope and how she may have committed the two previous murders in Book 1 (though Hope thinks that it’s “Darryl” that did it). We’re reminded that Hope loves Darryl SO MUCH even though he’s a violent looney toon, as she still doesn’t realize that Darryl, Jasmine, and Angel are figments of her imagination. The police then spot Hope on the fire escape, and one of the policemen grab her and yank her back through the window. Then Darryl suddenly appears and chokes the cop enough for Hope to get away. She jumps off the fire escape and lands funny, but still manages to take off into the night. She runs for aways until “Jasmine” and “Angel” tell her they need to stop, and once they do they ask Hope why she ran and didn’t tell the police about Darryl. Hope says that they HAD to run because the police think she’s crazy and believe the 3 M’s over her! She decides that they have to hide out. They walk around fraternity/sorority row, and eventually find an abandoned sorority house to hide out in. They make their way inside, and find a stray black cat the Hope names Lucky. She is also still pissed at the 3 M’s, thinking that everything that’s happened in their fault. Then Darryl shows up and says that he’s going to live there too, but Hope says no can do, buckaroo. Darryl, a dominant personality if there ever was one, tells her that he has a better idea: he’s going to kill the 3 M’s because Melanie has ruined Hope’s life! Hope tells him to get out and never come back, and man, can you imagine what Lucky the Cat must be seeing right now? Darryl gets very mad and kicks poor Lucky, and before storming out he says that she won’t be able to get rid of him that easily.

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Barely two scenes in and I’m already so tired. (source)

Hope plunks down in a chair and stares up at two portrait paintings on the wall. The woman reminds her of her terrible mother who called her Buttertubs, and we get some new anecdotes about her abusive nature. The first one takes place at a summer camp Hope attended. Her mother would address her camp mail as “Buttertubs’. The second is how in front of Hope’s crush Mark her mother said ‘let’s play the game of counting Hope’s chins!’ The third is when she found out that Hope was going to sneak out, so she handcuffed herself to Hope and wouldn’t let her leave, and then locked her in her room for two more weeks. This is the moment that Angel, Jasmine, and Eden showed up, by the way. Hope jumps up in the present and claws at the portrait on the wall.

Flash forward a week or two to Melanie’s dorm room. Melanie is studying for a French test while Mary’s getting ready for swim practice. Normally Melanie would be getting ready for that too but she has to miss to take this make up test. She had to see a therapist three times that past week because of the whole thing with Hope, who still hasn’t been caught. The two girls talk about how scary it all is and how nuts that they could hear Hope talking to herself. Melanie offers to talk Mary to swim practice, but Mary says that she’s fine. Of course, then we cut to “Darryl” and his POV, as he’s stalking the locker rooms after swim practice, waiting for Mary. And honestly, I don’t want to dwell too much on his inner monologue because it’s a whole lot of repetitive nonsense about violence towards women and how nothing is his fault and that kinda garbage. So let’s just cut to the chase. While the swimmers are practicing he finds all the chlorine, dumps gallons upon gallons of it into the therapy Jacuzzi, and then lies in wait. NEVER MIND that it’s a public therapy pool and that ANYONE could use it, but whatever. So yes, poor Mary lingers behind her teammates and gets into the Jacuzzi, and the pH levels are so basic that she gets horrible chemical burns all over her body. She screams bloody murder and staggers out of the pool, and the swim coach runs to her aid but doesn’t know what to do. And then said swim coach sees “Darryl”.

Cut to Hope in her squatter’s shack, waking up to a pounding on the door. She goes to it and it’s Darryl outside. She lets him in and he tells her with glee that he killed Mary, for Hope. Oh, and he shoved the swim coach into the Jacuzzi too because OOPS, she saw him! When Hope asks if she was dead too he says ‘who knows?’ Hope is horrified but he says he did this because the 3 M’s ruined Hope’s life and he’s doing this to show how much he cares.

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You know, at least when J.D. pulls this shit he has a moral philosophy regarding the banal evil of society and his unhingedness has purpose and reason. (source)

Hope tells him that he has to stop killing and he tells her that she doesn’t actually want him to stop. She says goodbye and closes the door behind him, and stomps back into the main room. She then finds a note addressed to her, that says ‘I’m coming for you, Hope. You can’t run away from me.’ The handwriting is familiar, but Hope doesn’t know how they could have gotten in without her noticing.

Now the perspective is from Chris! Wait, Chris? Who the hell is CHRIS? Well, Chris is a boy who has to move into Fear Hall because his apartment building burnt down and the school opened up the second floor to guys for supplemental student housing. Chris is kind of shy and not very athletic, and gee, I wonder what purpose HE is going to serve? He had talked with his former roommate Big Al, who asked him about the fact that a murderous co-ed used to live in Fear Hall, and Chris laughed it off. So now he’s moving in, and his new roommates Will and Matt greet him and help him move his stuff into their room. Chris reiterates his shyness to the reader for some reason, and then once he’s unpacked Will and Matt ask him what he knows about Fear Hall’s reputation. Chris admits not much, and they proceed to tell him about howls at night, missing students, blood in a bathtub, and a girl who keeps seeing a ghostly reflection in her dorm room mirror. Frankly, I’d read the HELL out of ANY of those stories over this lame excuse for a “Fear Street” novel! Chris tells them that he doesn’t believe in that stuff, and goes to take a shower. Of course, once he’s in the shower the water starts to turn red! Into BLOOD!! He starts to scream his head off, and then Matt and Will burst into the room, laughing at him. They put Jello in the shower head! Chris is horribly embarrassed, and you’d think he just lived the opening scene of “Carrie” he’s so humiliated.

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Come talk to me when this happens to you, buddy. (source)

Chris goes to a dorm mixer, which I imagine is a way for the new dude residents to meet the ladies they COULD be banging. He’s shy and afraid of going there alone, but has no choice. He then meets Melanie and Margie, and is immediately struck by how pretty Melanie is. They introduce themselves, and try to make small talk, but inevitably Melanie and Margie bring up the fact that their roommate Mary was murdered. Chris, having heard about it, sticks his foot in his mouth when he says he saw the footage of her body on TV (the FUCK does local news have THAT footage for?!), and Margie and Melanie get very upset. They say that with three murders and a grievously injured swim coach on their minds, they shouldn’t have come to the party, and graciously part ways from Chris. He hangs out at the party a little longer, but then leaves, opting to go get a coffee at Java Jim’s. And while he’s at Java Jim’s eating his cookie and drinking is 9pm coffee, he meets another girl! They start to talk, and he tells her that he lives in Fear Hall. She looks surprised, and he compliments her straight dark hair. She says that he probably shouldn’t talk to her because she just broke up with a jealous boyfriend. He asks if maybe he could call her sometime, and she says no and gets up to leave. But before she does, she says that she could meet him the day after the next at Java Jim’s, and he says sure! He says his name is Chris, and she introduces herself as Karen. Yeah. Sure. ‘Karen’.

Hope runs home, and tells Angel and Jasmine that she has awesome news. And yes, she has changed her hair so as not to be recognized. She tells them that she met a boy named Chris and that he’s the boy of her DREAMS! Based on the five minute conversation they had she knows that he’s perfect and she really likes him and she never expected to love again, not with the bad luck they’ve been having. Angel asks her about Darryl, and Hope says that he still wants to kill Melanie and Margie. Jasmine says that Hope isn’t ever going to be safe with Chris if Darryl is around. Before she can protest, there are suddenly voices outside the house. Turns out this house is for sale because she hears a couple say that this is the house for them and they totally want to buy it. Oh yeah, because you two random people want to buy an abandoned house, sight unseen, that is in the middle of a college campus?! They then leave, and I guess that was just there to show that Hope can’t stay forever. Then the phone rings (and by the phone rings I mean Hope’s delusions ratchet up a bit because no, there’s no phone in this house), and when Hope answers it’s Darryl. He tells her not to worry, he’s still going to kill Margie and Melanie!

So now we’re  back in Darryl’s head, so once again I’m going to skim this because I really, really hate his POVs. He stalks Margie to where she works, a dry cleaner shop, and then kills her by putting her in the steam press. Creative? Absolutely. But I hate this. The “Fear Street” books that have an actual mystery and whodunnit are far more interesting than the ones where we know who the killer is for a majority of the novel, and I have to say I’m having a VERY hard time with following this stupid prick around as much as we are as he picks people off. It’s repetitive and stupid, and it feels more gratuitous to have to see the actual deaths over and over instead of just a goofy aftermath. I don’t know. I’m getting burnt out, I think.

Hope and Chris meet at Java Jim’s for coffee the next day and Chris is upset about Margie’s death. Hope tries to play it cool even though she knows ‘Darryl’ did it. They have a nice date, and after they do a little kissing her offers to walk her home so she feels safe. She declines, as she doesn’t want him to become suspicious of the fact she’s squatting in an abandoned sorority house (whyever not, Hope?), but he gives her his number and she promises to call him. She practically skips back to her hideout, but who is on the front lawn. DARRYL. She tells him to stop killing people and he says ‘nah, I’m good’, and then says that he saw her with Chris and that he can’t ‘allow’ that. And in a moment of actual spine, Hope tells him that he has no right to ‘allow’ her to do ANYTHING, channelling her inner Diane Keaton, Bette Midler, and Goldie Hawn or some shit! He tells her that Chris will only hurt her, and she tells him to go away and leave Chris alone. Darryl then reminds her about MARK and what he did to her, and we get a new flashback! Seems that Mark had asked Hope out and she was quite smitten with him. But then she found out that the only reason Mark asked her out was because he lost a bet, and it was all a joke. Hope was so humiliated, but that was around the time that Darryl showed up and swept her off her feet…. oh, and ran Mark over with a car, over and over and over again. After the memory fades, Hope realizes that Darryl has disappeared, and laments that she can’t control him.

Cut to Chris and Will playing pool at the student union. They run into Big Al, who makes a tasteless joke about the kids in their dorm dropping like flies. Chris and Will part ways with him, and while they’re walking back towards their dorm Will asks Chris about Karen and what Chris knows about her. Chris admits not much, that she doesn’t want him to know where she lives nor does she want to give him her phone number, but Will says that maybe she just wants some action. And that’s a legitimate theory. As they’re walking, though, a car suddenly revs up and speeds towards them!! THey jump out of the way just in time. Is it Darryl? Psych! It’s actually Matt! This was his idea of a joke, and to that I say YIKES. He offers to give them a ride back to the dorm, and they agree, with Chris telling the reader that he had no idea who scary the next few days were going to be.

And now it’s Darryl again. So we’re skimming again. He sneaks into Fear Hall, planning to finish off Melanie and solve all of Hope’s problems. So he creeps into the dorm she lived in with Margie and Mary, and in the dark puts a pillow over her face… But oops, she groans and rolls over… and it’s not Melanie! It’s some random other girl!!! She screams, and wakes up the other girls in the room!! YOU FUCKED UP, DARRYL!!! Darryl makes a break for it, and while the girls try to grab him he is able to get away. He’s also VERY confused that they keep referring to him as a ‘her’! He runs and runs, and then eventually fades away…. into Hope! Hope finds herself running in the middle of campus and has no idea how she got there, and no memories of leaving her squatter shack that she is still squatting in even though those two people were going to make a bid on it? Maybe they went inside and saw that it was a disgusting hovel and balked, who knows. She gets back to the sorority house, but finds the door open. And when she looks inside the place has been trashed, and there’s a note that says ‘You cannot escape from me’.

The next day Hope wanders aimlessly around campus trying to think of a plan. Then she sees Chris and Melanie talking, and jealous mode kicks in. Why is he talking with Melanie? Is she telling him about her? Are they together now? Why aren’t she and Chris together? She goes to Java Jim’s to wallow and stew, but her paranoid thoughts start to be too much and she bolts. When she gets back to the sorority house, she is shocked to see Chris leaving the property. When she confronts him, he says that he was looking for her. She points out that she never told him where she lived, and he admits that he followed her home one night after a date because he was curious where she lived. This is framed as sweet, but frankly, it’s not. Even if she is a murderer, there are boundaries! He asks her why she lives in an abandoned house, and then, wouldn’t ya know it, Darryl takes over and starts to strangle Chris. Hope begs Darryl to stop, and Chris is able to pull away. He asks Karen what the HELL that was, and she says that she can tell Darryl to go away. Chris, realizing that he’s in WAAAAY over his head, says

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(source)

and peaces the hell out. Hope, devastated that he’s skedaddled, rushes into the house looking for Darryl, but finds another note instead. But then she realizes that the handwriting is HERS!

Hope sits for hours, angsting about the note, and when Darryl finally shows up she confronts  him about it. This leads to a Yalta-esque summit of ALL of Hope’s personalities, and Angle and Jasmine agree that he needs to turn himself in. He says that if they cared about him they wouldn’t ask him to do that, and that he’s going to kill Chris tonight! And in a case of terrible timing but obvious exposition, Chris is suddenly at the door, asking to be let in. Darryl says that this is perfect, and lets him in. Chris is there, but he isn’t alone! He has MELANIE with him! And not only Melanie, but FOUR POLICE OFFICERS! Chris and Melanie NARCED HER OUT! Melanie confirms that Hope is Karen, and Chris says that he had hoped it wasn’t true, but when Melanie described Hope to him he knew it was. Hope and her personalities run up the steps, determined to get away from the police. The police follow saying that they want to help, but Hope, Jasmine, Angel, and Darryl are not to be stopped, and they gather on the balcony, say their goodbyes, and all hug each other. WHen the cops do enter the tiny porch, the railing breaks, and Hope falls to her death. Chris and Melanie see the whole thing, and she buries her face in his chest and cries. The police go check on Hope, and confirm that she’s dead. They tell Chris and Melanie that they don’t have to stick around, and that they can follow up with them at a later date. They tell the cops they live in Fear Hall, and the cops say don’t seem surprised by this. As Chris and Melanie leave, he finds a piece of paper. It’s a note that Hope wrote, that says ‘There is no escape, Hope. No escape from yourself.’ THE END.

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It’s finally done. (source)

Body Count: 4 if we count Mark in the past.

Romance Rating: 2. And that’s only a two because I feel like Chris and Melanie could have some potential. Everything else was decidedly not romantic.

Bonkers Rating: 5. It didn’t really do anything too nuts, though a couple of the deaths were wacky.

Fear Street Relevance: 6 this time, as a lot of the action was in Fear Hall again AND we find out that Hope was from Shadyside the whole time.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“I fell for a lifetime. Or a second or two. And I died before I hit the ground.”

… But no she didn’t. She was fine.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Honestly, nothing really stuck out! Stine didn’t put anything in that dates this thing, which was surprising and just another layer of disappointment to this reading experience.

Best Quote:

” ‘You don’t own me!’ I cried. ‘You can’t say what you’ll allow and what you won’t allow! Do you really think you can control my life? Do you really think you can control who I seen and who I don’t see?'”

This is EXACTLY right when it comes to relationships!

Conclusion: “Fear Hall: The Conclusion” was a lame end to a lame start, and it also just isn’t how dissociative identity disorder works. Definitely a hard pass and a clear sign that “Fear Street” had started to run out of steam as it neared the end of the original run. Next up is “Who Killed The Homecoming Queen?”

Serena’s Review: “Mahimata”

37868558Book: “Mahimata” by Rati Mehrotra

Publishing Details: Harper Voyager, March 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: Edelweiss +

Book Description: Kyra has returned to the caves of Kali, but her homecoming is bittersweet. Her beloved teacher is dead and her best friend Nineth is missing. And gone, too, is Rustan, the Marksman who helped her train for the duel with Tamsyn–and became far more than a teacher and friend.

Shaken by his feelings for Kyra and the truth about his parentage, Rustan has set off on a quest for answers. His odyssey leads him to the descendants of an ancient sect tied to the alien Ones–and the realization that the answers he seeks come with a price.

Yet fate has plans to bring Kyra and Rustan together again. Kai Tau, the man who slaughtered Kyra’s family, wages war on the Orders of Asiana. Hungering for justice, Kyra readies herself for battle, aided by her new companions: the wyr-wolves, who are so much more than what they seem. And determined to keep the woman he loves safe, Rustan joins the fight to ride by her side.

But will this final confrontation ultimately cost them their love…and their lives?

Previously Reviewed: “Markswoman”

Review: I had some mixed feelings about “Markswoman,” but I was particularly intrigued by the interesting mixture of sci-fi elements, a post apoplectic (?) world, fantasy and a region/religious order that pulled heavily from Indian influences. My hangs ups (as they often are) had largely to do with the characterization of the main protagonists and, to a certain extent, the secondary character as well. Unfortunately, this book didn’t raise the bar on my overall feelings and I was left reflecting back on the completed duology in much the same way that I viewed the first book alone.

Kyra and Rustan have been separated and the board, in many ways, has been re-set. Each on their own paths of self-discovery, larger events force them back together at last when the evil  Kai Tau begins a war on the Orders. As mysteries begin to unfold and new ones to be discovered, Kyra and Rustan must, again, fight for not only their love but for the future of all they hold dear.

The story started off on the wrong foot right off the bat by committing one of the cardinal sins of second books: recapping the entire first book. Yes, it’s important to re-establish a few basic things, but I don’t think there’s ever really any excuse for an info-dumping, all out recap of a previous book. Especially not in a series that is only a duology and only had one year between publishing dates for the book. This type of thing immediately sets the wrong tone, most especially in that it essentially cripples this book itself in lieu of trying to serve some imagined need of the first book to be recapped.

And then once the story starts, I was back to being reminded about all that troubled me with the first book. Most especially Kyra and the bizarre ways that those around her interact with her. In the first book, I couldn’t understand why she had been promoted to a Markswoman in the first place, and here, that same idea is taken to the next level with Kyra taking over as leader of her order. But…she’s a teenager! With very few years of experience! It’s hard to imagine that such a well-organized and long-lasting organization such as the Order of Kali would be set-up in such a way that a decision like this wouldn’t lead to extreme confusion and outright rebellion. Yes, yes, Kyra has to be “special” because she’s the protagonist. But there’s “special” and then there’s special to the point that you have to make every character around said special character operate in a completely unrealistic way to justify said special character’s specialness. If the special thing you want to do with your character doesn’t work without undercutting the believability of your established world norms and characters, then maybe you should look for a different way to make that character stand out, one that holds more in line with who they are and what they are, realistically, capable of.

I also had a hard time fully connecting to Rustan and his story line, once again. Again, I’m not sure that many of the choices we see him make in this book really align with the character that had been established in the first book.

Some of the mysteries in the world-building also came with distracting or confusing resolutions. I’m couldn’t quite understand how some of them even made much sense. At times, it felt like the book was suffering from its own restricted page count and some of these explanations felt truncated simply due to that. Again, if an author is going to put the effort into creating such a unique world as the one that was given to us in the first book, it’s really disappointing to get to the second and final one and find yourself marooned at the end feeling as if any explanations given just opened up even more questions.

So yes. This wasn’t the duology for me. Many of my struggles with the first book carried over to this one, and ultimately it’s not a series I would recommend. I know a lot of readers enjoyed the first one and early reviews seem to be positive for this one as well, but for me, the diversity and unique world-building isn’t enough to get past the failings in the more basic parts of writing: good characterization and strong plotting. If you enjoyed the first book, this one will probably hold up for you. But if you were on the fence with that one, as I was, this one’s probably not worth the time or effort.

Rating 5: This seems really low, but I was just that bored with it all.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Mahimata” is a newer title, so it isn’t on many Goodreads lists. It is on “YA Releases of March 2019.”

Find “Markswoman” at your library using WorldCat!

 

Kate’s Review: “The Everlasting Rose”

39080472Book: “The Everlasting Rose” by Dhonielle Clayton

Publishing Info: Freeform, March 2019

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

Book Description: In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia’s Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider’s Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.

Review: I want to extend a big thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

Last year you may remember that Serena and I both reviewed the book “The Belles” by Dhonielle Clayton. We both enjoyed it for the most part, it’s fantasy world focused on beauty and opulence a neat new theme to bring to a fantasy story. I was lucky enough to snag a copy an eARC from NetGalley, and while I gave it some time on my Kindle I finally caved and had to read it around the beginning of 2019. Given that it’s kind of rare for me to enjoy fantasy novels, I had really high hopes for “The Everlasting Rose,” the sequel and final installment in this duology. And there will be allusions to plot points of “The Belles” in this review, so tread carefully if you want to remain spoiler free for that book.

When we left off in “The Belles,” Camille, her fellow Belle/sister Amber, and former Imperial Guard Remy had escaped Orleans after the sociopathic Princess Sophia was positioned to take the crown after his mother died. Meeting up with rebellious and escapee Belle Edel, the group now knows that the only way to save Orleans from a cruel and capricious ruler is to find her sister Charlotte, believed dead but possibly only in hiding (and still comatose). So the stakes are high from the get go, with Camille under threat of capture and certain torture, if not death. There is so much action and so many plot points that need to be introduced that there are few moments of quiet and organic exposition. For the most part this wasn’t a bad thing; it made it so the action was fast paced and kept me in its thrall. But I did find it to be too bad that, unlike in “The Belles”, that these points couldn’t slowly unfold at a more ruminative pace. But I did like a good number of these points, from information on what Sophia is doing to The Belles who didn’t escape (sufficiently horrifying!) to how the kingdom is starting to fight back against her upcoming coronation and reign. It just felt a bit stuffed in. On top of that, the ending was a bit rushed, and I ended up wanting more focus and exposition there as well. I know that people are burnt out of YA trilogies, especially in stories of fantasy and dystopic themes, but I think that perhaps this series could have benefited from one more book.

I also was on a higher alert after I read some criticism of “The Belles”, a criticism I feel like I should have seen last time. A number of people were critical that in “The Belles”, the two prominent LGBTQIA+ characters were killed off for plot device and character conflict. The “Bury Your Gays” trope is certainly one that is not only overdone, but can also be damaging and hurtful to LGBTQIA+ readers. It was with that new perspective in my mind that I went into “The Everlasting Rose”. The good news is that there are more LGBTQIA+ characters in this one, and no, not all of them get fridged, but I would warn readers that there may still be some problematic optics regarding these characters. I don’t feel that I can say for sure given that I’m a hetero and cis, but just know that there were still things that I found a bit questionable.

But some of the huge strengths this book does have are the characters and the setting of Orleans. I was once again completely taken in with the descriptions of the world, from the tea cup animals (and YES, there are TEA CUP DRAGONS THIS TIME!!) to the descriptions of the foods and the colors and the beauty treatments. Clayton’s writing makes it so that the reader can really visualize what she sees in her mind’s eye. And I loved seeing more of Edel, my favorite Belle, whose rebellion and questioning personality has made her a formidable member of the Resistance. She and Camille are great foils for each other, as they have both experienced similar things in different ways, which makes them have to see the other’s perspective. Camille herself has changed a lot from the beginning of the first novel, and I still like how developed she is, from her strengths to her flaws. Her relationships all feel real and filled with complexity. Her burgeoning romance with Remy feels very in character with both of them, and while Clayton does tread a bit too much towards love triangle for my tastes, the interactions she does have with Auguste (her initial love interest and now consort of Sophia) aren’t overwrought or too sappy. It, too, felt a little quick to resolve, but ultimately it went in a satisfying way.

It was kind of a bummer that “The Everlasting Rose” was a bit of a disappointment, but I’m glad that we got to go back to Orleans one last time, and that we got to see how Camille’s story ended. If Clayton wanted to revisit this world, I would absolutely go along for the ride.

Rating 6: A bit of a let down from its predecessor, “The Everlasting Rose” was an okay finish to a story filled with beauty and darkness.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Everlasting Rose” is included on the Goodreads lists “#ReadPOC: List of Books by Authors of Color”, and “Most Anticipated 2019 SFF Books”.

Find “The Everlasting Rose” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:

Serena’s Review: “Dark of the West”

32949202Book: “Dark of the West” by Joanna Hathaway

Publishing Info: Tor Teen, February 2019

Where Did I Get this Book: Netgalley

Book Description: Aurelia Isendare is a princess of a small kingdom in the North, raised in privilege but shielded from politics as her brother prepares to step up to the throne. Halfway around the world, Athan Dakar, the youngest son of a ruthless general, is a fighter pilot longing for a life away from the front lines. When Athan’s mother is shot and killed, his father is convinced it’s the work of his old rival, the Queen of Etania—Aurelia’s mother. Determined to avenge his wife’s murder, he devises a plot to overthrow the Queen, a plot which sends Athan undercover to Etania to gain intel from her children.

Athan’s mission becomes complicated when he finds himself falling for the girl he’s been tasked with spying upon. Aurelia feels the same attraction, all the while desperately seeking to stop the war threatening to break between the Southern territory and the old Northern kingdoms that control it—a war in which Athan’s father is determined to play a role. As diplomatic ties manage to just barely hold, the two teens struggle to remain loyal to their families and each other as they learn that war is not as black and white as they’ve been raised to believe.

Review: I’m pretty sure I came across this book just by browsing through NetGalley one day and being intrigued by its rather simple cover. The fact that I couldn’t really guess what it was about based on the cover was mystery enough (this is a fun little game if you’re a book lover and have too much time on your hands: the match the cover with the general synopsis game). Then I read the description and became even more intrigued. Spies, and royalty, and…wait…fighter pilots? One of these does not go with the other!

The world is teetering on the brink, torn between a past that was ruled by a council of kings and queens who all regarded royal blood as the necessary component in leadership in their various countries, and a new world that, built on the back of technology, would suggest that leadership and charisma, regardless of the birthright of the one who carries these traits, are all that is needed. If the people follow you, your family history means nothing. Aurelia and Athan each come from opposing sides of this political stand-off. Aurelia has grown up a princess, confident in her place in the world, if still struggling to find a path forward that will fulfill her. Athan has had his life’s plan laid before his feet by his ambitious military leader father since the day he can remember. Neither fully understands the complicated history and political environment they have been thrust into, but in each other, they find a kinship that is as unexpected as it will be challenging.

This book took my so happily by surprise! Even with the book description, I had very little idea what I was getting into (part of the appeal, of course), so I turned to page one with a bit of hesitation. But immediately I was drawn in. For one, the writing in this is so solid. The very first chapter had me convinced that I had made the right choice in picking this one up. It’s one of those parts of reviewing books that I find most challenging: how to explain exactly what it was about the writing style that appealed to me.

For one, the book is a shared dual narrative between Aurelia and Athan. The challenge here, of course, is to effectively differentiate the voice between two characters who should read very differently. And right away, this is expertly handled. I think I ended up preferring Athan’s narrative style, but this potentially could have to do with his story being the one with the larger scale view of happenings in mind. Aurelia spends much of her time much more out of the loop. But either way, their voices were immediately distinct and their characteristics informed the way they spoke about and looked at the events unfolding around them.

From a more basic level, the writing is varied and complex. This is the weird part of evaluating writing where one feels tempted to start talking about the extent of the vocabulary used or the sentence structure. Again, not too sexy of a topic for book review material. But these are the kinds of things that you know when you see them, that make a book immediately pop out from the very first few pages.

All of this emphasis on writing is very important for a book like this. It’s a longer title and, as far as action goes, it’s a slow read. There’s a lot of complicated political and military tactics that are discussed, hidden, and revealed throughout the story. Our main characters are often only aware of the tip of the iceberg of it all, and that is felt by the reader. Schemes only become clear in the very end, and even then, one is never quite sure they have a finger on who all the players are in all of this. I believe there will be a map in the final version, but without that as well, the complicated geographical relationships between the various countries could also be overwhelming. To sum up: there’s a lot of talking and thinking in this book. Without strong writing, it could come across as pretty dull. But for me, it all came together perfectly.

This is also a strange book to assign to a genre. It’s technically referred to as a YA title and fantasy. But that said, I feel like this could easily be new adult or simply adult fiction; and any fantasy involved has to do with it being a made-up world. There aren’t any dragons or spells flying around here. Instead, the fascinating mixture of a completely invented world and history with very familiar, WWII level technology was refreshingly new.

There is, of course, a romance at the heart of the story. And I really enjoyed how this played out as well. Aurelia and Athan don’t simply fall instantly in love and all of their differences fade away. They come from different worlds, with different parental figures who have imparted very different lessons on their children. Throughout the story, no easy answers are provided and instead a slow sense of dread builds to what will be an inevitable clash.

As I said, this book took my completely by surprise. Luckily for me, it hit a lot of the tick boxes I look for in a story, but I can also see how the very unknown nature of it could leave other readers cold. If you go in with your typical YA/fantasy expectations in place, there’s a good chance this will feel like a slower, less interesting read. But for those looking for a more complicated, politically-focused story with a hard look at warfare and nationalism (with a dash of young love added in), this will be the perfect book for you!

Rating 9: Complicated and well-written, this book will appeal to fans of “Game of Thrones” who would be ok without all the dragons/white walkers stuff.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Dark of the West” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Books Marketed as Young adult that might be New Adult, Adult Fiction” and “YA Second World Fantasy.”

Find “Dark of the West” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Fear Hall: The Beginning”

809538Book: “Fear Hall: The Beginning” (Fear Hall #1) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Turtleback books, January 1997

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Dear Readers:

Come with me to Fear Hall. That’s the creepy college dorm built years ago by the cursed Fear family.

Hope and her roommates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great…until one of them becomes a murderer!

Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream!

I hope you’ll join me for Fear Hall. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

P.S. You’ll never believe what I came up with for the next book…

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: I first want to note that I was taken aback by the sudden design change in the cover. At first I thought it was just because of the new location of Fear Hall, thinking that a college off shoot story may need to stand out from the usual Shadyside malarky. However, the last two books in the Original “Fear Street” series have the same design, even though right after the Fear Hall books the next two go back to the original, better known template. What was the purpose here? What was the motivation? Why the switch up, then rescinded switch up, back to a switch up?

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I am possibly overthinking this. (source)

Regardless, we find ourselves not in Shadyside, but at Ivy State. We haven’t heard of Ivy State yet, at least to to my recollection, but this is a college with big enough connections to Shadyside that the Fear Family gave enough money to get a dorm named after them. And that is where Hope, our first narrator, lives, on the 13th Floor of Fear Hall with her roommates Angel, Eden, and Jasmine. Here is the run down about all of the roommates. Hope is plain and ‘chubby’, Angel is thin and a boy magnet, Eden wears plaid and isn’t interested in things Other Girls™ are (but is loud and likes letter writing to her Mom), and Jasmine is shy and intelligent. Hope says that they are all super close because they’ve known each other for a few years even before this, their freshman year. They are a happy rag tag bunch in 13-B, which is why Hope is sad to tell us about the night that the ‘troubles started’.

Hope is awakened in the middle of the night by her boyfriend Darryl. He has beer of his breath, natch, and Hope asks him what he’s doing because boys aren’t allowed on this floor at this time of night. He tells her that he’s in trouble and that he did something terrible. Seems that he followed Hope earlier that night and saw her out with some guy named Brendan. She tells him that it wasn’t her out with Brendan, it was Angel, and he proceeds to grab her and scream at her about lying to him. Oh. He’s one of those guys. She keeps insisting that it was Angel who was out with Brendan, but Darryl continues to shake her and yell at her that she’s lying. Hope also lets the readers know that she LOVES Darryl so much and is so happy he’s at Ivy State with her, and that he saved her from a real creep named Mark. The only downside is that he’s just a little possessive. And by a little I mean he doesn’t even like other guys looking at her. He tells her that he ‘carved’ Brendan. Hope screams, and Angel, Eden, and Jasmine wake up. They demand to know why Darryl is there and he tells them what he saw. But Angel confirms that she was out with Brendan and had borrowed Hope’s outfit. Darryl has the gall to not only tell them that he’s pretty sure he killed Brendan, but that THEY HAVE TO HELP HIM COVER IT UP. Angel tells him that they’re going to call the motherfucking cops on his ass and Eden says that they aren’t going to help him.

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Eden and Angel, probably. I’m gonna like them, I think. (source)

Darryl shoves Angel and threatens her, and before she can scream there’s a knocking on the door. Hope thinks that it’s the police already (in spite of the fact no one has called yet) and she shoves Darryl in her closet. She answers the door, but it’s not the fuzz, it’s Melanie from across the hallway. She is one of the ‘3 M’s’ that lives across the hall, the others being Margie and Mary, and Hope hates them because they’re preppy and went to private schools and is convinced that they hate the girls in 13-B because they are all public school girls. This seems like it may be projecting. Melanie says she heard some loud noises and wanted to make sure that everything was okay, and Hope says that it’s just her and her friends having way too much fun. And Melanie, being the bitch that she is, is hesitant and concerned and asks Hope if she’s sure that everything is okay. Oh wait, that’s actually a really nice and considerate thing to do, isn’t it? She says that Mary is still out and was waiting up for her, and is about to go back to her dorm when there’s a scream. Mary comes tearing down the hallway, saying she saw a dead boy outside. Basically everyone in the dorm hear the commotion  and runs outside, and indeed it’s Brendan, his body all cut up/’carved’ (what an awkward phrase!). Melanie asks Hope if she was out with Brendan that night, and Hope gets REALLY defensive and says NO and maybe Melanie needs to get her eyes checked!!! Zing. As everyone else freaks out the sound of sirens start up, and Hope rushes back to her dorm room. She finds Darryl still in her room, and he tells her not to go out with another guy or he may kill someone again. He stumbles out.

Now it’s from Jasmine’s POV! We see her at her diner job at the Campus Corner. It’s a tough job but she likes it, and for some reason this segues into the fact her mother was always mean to her and gave her the nickname ‘fish’ because of her personality being like a cold fish. Sheesh. She wishes she could be as outgoing and cool as her roommates. She also notices the 3 M’s in a booth, talking in low tones and looking at her. She can hear them talking about Brendan, and how sad they all are, and by the time Jasmine does approach them she outright asks them why they’re all staring at her. I have a feeling this probably reflects worse on Jasmine than it does them, but the 3 M’s are gracious enough to say that they just hoped Jasmine would notice them and come take their orders. Shortly thereafter Eden and Angel walk in and take a seat, and Jasmine joins them on her break. They all agree that Darryl needs to be locked up, but that Hope isn’t going to let them call the police, as if they can’t just call the police of their own volition. As they discuss what the should do, the 3 M’s stare at them. Jasmine feels self conscious and says they can talk about it at home. At the end of her shift her boss Marty asks her if she’s okay, and she says yes, and heads for home. But on the way home she’s surprised by Darryl (gross). He asks her if she’s going to keep her mouth shut and she says yes, but tells him that he needs to get help. He in turn tells her that he’s not going to kill anyone again, ‘unless [he] has to’. I, for one, do not find this comforting.

Now it’s an Eden section! I’m excited for this because I feel like Eden is the one I am going to relate to the most! She’s writing a letter home to her Mom, and Hope makes a snarky comment about it. She then asks Eden and Jasmine if she ever told them what her nickname was, bestowed upon her by her mother. Jasmine takes this as a Bad Mom Pissing Contest and brings up ‘fish’ again, but Hope says that her mom used to call her ‘buttertubs’, and then goes on to tell a story of how her mom once made her eat four bowls of ice cream in front of some of Hope’s school friends, and then smashed her face into the ice cream carton afterwards. I think Hope wins. She then says she wants to go out, and Eden, leaving her letter to her nurturing and well adjusted mom behind, accompanies her to the Blue Tavern for pizza.

And when we arrive Stine emphasizes not once, not twice, but thrice times that YOU CAN GET BEER HERE. This is NOT Pete’s Pizza, esteemed readers! Eden and Hope order a pie before sitting down, and two guys in a booth across from them start making eyes at them. Eden is into it, but Hope is clearly uncomfortable and says they should leave. Eden asks her what the issue is, and Hope tells her Darryl is the issue. Eden asks if he’s followed them here, and Hope says he’s close by. Eden feels a hand on her shoulder, but when she turns around it’s just the cute guys from the table across from them. They ask if they can join, and Eden hesitates, mentioning that her friend may not be comfortable. They ask ‘what friend?’, and when Eden looks over she sees Hope is gone! She’s at first worried Darryl came in and grabbed her, but then assures herself she would have noticed such a commotion, and decides Hope must have just slipped off. She invites the guys to eat her pizza with her, and they introduce themselves as Dave and Gideon. They all chat and eat pizza, and when she tells them that she lives in Fear Hall, and they think that’s so cool since it’s rumored to be haunted. They ask her if she knew anything about the recent murder there, and Eden takes that as he cue to leave and to check on Hope.

Eden gets back to 13-B, but unfortunately Darryl is there, and he holds up the letter Eden was writing to her Mom, where she mentioned the murder. He demands to know if she was going to tell on him, and she tries to snatch it away but he grabs her and violently holds her in his grasp. There’s a knocking on the door again, and Darryl lets Eden go and runs into the bathroom, Hope right behind him, and they slam the door to hide. Angel wakes up briefly, and Jasmine sleeps through it all (I don’t see how!), and Eden goes to the door, opening it a crack. It’s Melanie and Mary of the 3 M’s, checking to see if everything is okay again. Hope is so catty about them, but they seem like concerned neighbors more than anything else. Eden says that it was the radio, and when it’s pointed out that the radio isn’t on she says she turned it off when they knocked. Melanie and Mary say that they’re all really freaked out, and Eden agrees that she and her roommates are freaked out too, and a moment of awkward silence happens before they tell Eden they are trying to organize a safety meeting for the dorm so they can figure out how to keep themselves safe. I have a suggestion that’s pretty proactive, and that is for Eden to just call the damn cops already! She says that she and her roommates will come to the meeting, and the 2 of 3 M’s give her another look and then say goodnight. Eden thinks that they are strange.

On the way to class the next day Eden runs into Dave from the pizza parlor, and he asks her out for coffee after her class. She says yes! But when she gets to class something weird happens. The professor doesn’t have her name on his class roster, but he does have Hope’s, even though Hope isn’t in that class. He says that she has to suss it out with the Dean, and MY question is how this just became a problem now?

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Unless….? I think I’ve cracked the code. (source)

Eden has to leave the class, and she wonders if she’s going crazy because of all this Darryl stress. She goes back into the building from whence she came and goes to a pay phone bank, intent on calling the cops, but before she can Hope taps her on the shoulder. Eden asks her if she’s taking any history classes that semester, and Hope says no, so Eden is definitely convinced the professor had the wrong class roster. Hope asks her who she was calling, and Eden tells her that she was going to call the police because Darryl is a straight up violent criminal. Hope begs Eden to wait a little bit longer, as if Hope could possibly do ANYTHING to quell that psychotic goon of a boyfriend of hers, and Eden agrees.

That night Eden goes on a date with Dave. She’s wearing one of Hope’s outfits since her closest is usually more Seattle Grunge couture, and the date is going well. She and Dave are walking around campus and the 3 M’s see them from across the courtyard, and mistake her for Hope. Eden says she’s just wearing Hope’s clothes, but she’s Eden, and asks Dave if she and Hope even look alike. He says he’s never met Hope, so how would be know? Gideon sneaks up on them and nearly gives Eden a heart attack, and then Dave suggests that he and Eden go to the driving range for the end of their date. Oh, how romantic. But Eden is game. They go to the driving range right before closing, and they are the only two there, the area lit up by big lights. But just as Dave’s about to show Eden how to do the perfect drive, Darryl shows up, grabs a club, and BEATS HIM TO DEATH RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN. Eden, covered in blood, runs away, screaming.

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Damn, that really escalated. (source)

Now it’s back to Hope’s POV. She is comforting Eden, who is reeling and sobbing about the horrific trauma she just experienced, and Hope says that she wants to tell Eden a story. She goes on to tell her about how when she was still living at home her mother deliberately bought her clothes that were far too small for her, because she liked watching Hope try to squeeze into them and end up humiliated about the bad fit. But Darryl never cared that she was overweight, and that is why she could NEVER turn in the guy who has violently murdered two innocent people. Because she doesn’t think that anyone else will see past her weight.

ARE. YOU. FUCKING. KIDDING. ME.

First of all, the highest size that Stine ever puts Hope at is a ten, which isn’t considered plus size at all. And even if she WAS overweight what the hell kind of fucked up message is it to give the readers that overweight people should be glad to get whatever kind of love they can, even if it’s from abusive, violent psychopaths? It would be one thing if this kind of mindset was at all pushed back against, but instead of that Eden instead falls asleep as Hope comforts her, which in turn leads to Darryl showing up and saying that now Hope can ‘strangle’ Eden. Hope is shocked, and he back paddles really fast but tells her that he can explain what happened. Hope gives him the platform to do so, but then he says that there is no explanation, but that Eden saw everything and what if she tells? Well GEE, ASSHOLE, maybe you shouldn’t have slaughtered her date right in front of her!!! Hope tells him that he has to leave, but before he does he throws a few good threats toward Eden for good measure.

The next day the news breaks the story about Dave, and when Eden wakes up she wants to call the police. Hope begs her not to, but Eden, rightfully so, tells her that she’s not protecting Darryl anymore no matter WHAT Hope wants. So Hope, in a moment of panic, smashes her in the head with Angel’s hair dryer. She doesn’t kill her, but she does stun her, and while Eden is in a daze Hope ties her up, gags her, and throws her in the clothes closet. After she takes in a few breaths, she turns and sees Melanie in the doorway. She thinks she’s been caught and tries to calculate if she could do the same thing to Melanie, but luckily Melanie is just there to remind her about the campus safety meeting. After she leaves Hope’s paranoia gets the best of her, and she decides to has to tell Darryl he has to run away. But when she gets to the quad, she sees police officers taking Darryl away! She thinks that maybe she could make up an alibi for him, but remembers she still has to get dressed. She runs back to her room, and remembers as well that she threw Eden in her closet. But then, maybe she didn’t, because Eden suddenly sits up in her bed, with no memory of what Hope did! Hope is thrown for a moment, but then remembers Darryl, and goes to the window to see if she can see if he and the cops are still there. The cops are gone, but Darryl is standing below, glaring up at her.

Back to Jasmine’s POV. She is running to work, as she’s very late and doesn’t want to get in trouble. WHen she arrives, twenty minutes past her start time, her boss Marty asks to speak with her. He tells her that he needs someone who is more responsible, and that he has to let her go. She says that she won’t be late again, and he says that it’s one thing to be late, it’s quite another to not show up like she did yesterday. Jasmine is confused, she doesn’t think that she was working yesterday, and when he asks her where she was she doesn’t remember. He gives her her last paycheck, and she leaves, distraught that she can’t remember anything about the day before. And yes, this clinches my suspicions. Jasmine goes to the cafeteria to try and remember what happened the day before, but alas and alack she runs into Darryl. He tells her that Hope said he should leave, but he REFUSES to go! He also tells Jasmine that he was so mad at Hope for suggesting it, and he ‘hurt’ her.

And now we’re back to HOPE’S POV. Jasmine returns to the room to find Hope sobbing on her bed. Jasmine asks her what Darryl did, if he hit her or anything like that, but Hope informs her it’s worse, MUCH worse. He called her a fat cow, and that she’d rather be beat up than called that. Okay, I’m not going touch any of that with a ten foot pole. She tells Jasmine that she should go to the safety meeting and tell everyone what Darryl has done, and as she spirals out of mental control she suddenly screams her head off, and runs out of their room and down the hall, with Melanie calling after her. HOO boy.

Now it’s ANGEL’S POV? We haven’t gotten this yet! Angel is making out with a boy named B.J. in a car, because YAS GIRL. Apparently she just saw in at the coffee shop and one thing led to another and now they’re here. They are suddenly interrupted by, you guessed it, Darryl, and as she starts to scream at Darryl to leave them alone, Darryl throws out the usual generic threats. B.J. gets freaked out and leaves Angel alone with Darryl…

Now it’s Hope’s POV again. She’s returning to the dorm around 11 after her ‘moment’, and runs into Melanie in the elevator. Melanie says she’s sorry she missed her at the meeting, and Melanie says that they still have no leads. They part ways, and Hope goes into her dorm. Eventually Angel, Eden, and Jasmine return, and they tell Hope that they NEED to do something about Darryl, and HALLELUJAH, Hope finally, FINALLY, agrees with them! Eden calls the police and tells them everything, and they tell her they will arrive in ten minutes. Which will be ten minutes too late, because DARRYL CLIMBS THROUGH THE FIRE ESCAPE! And he heard everything, of course, and he takes it about as well as one might expect. So he attacks Eden, pulls a Bane Breaking the Bat move, and then throws her out the window! Hope screams in shock that Darryl killed her friend, as if this wasn’t a completely foreseeable conclusion given his past behavior, and Darryl nods and jumps back onto the fire escape and scampers off into the night. Jasmine and Angel are screaming, and then there’s a pounding on the door as the police announce their presence. The three remaining roommates climb onto the fire escape as well, hiding from the cops as they come in, but Hope overhears them talking to Melanie as she comes to investigate. They tell her that a girl named Eden called them, and Melanie says that no girl named Eden lives in this room. It’s just one girl named Hope, no roommates besides her! Hope listens to the 3 M’s talk to the police, and apparently not only does she live alone, but there is no boy’s floor that Darryl lives in in Fear Hall. It’s an all girls dorm! The police say that it sounds like a dangerous ‘looney’ (real professional guys) may be on the loose. Hope is offended by all of this, and she says to Angel and Jasmine that the 3 M’s won’t get away with saying all this bad shit about her. They agree. Then Darryl appears at Hope’s beck and call as well, and they agree that the 3 M’s have to die. So this whole time this was a quasi split personality psychosis kind of deal, but it wouldn’t be ACTUAL dissociative identity disorder because for that to be the case there would have to be a main personality that didn’t know that there were other personalities! We are left with the cops seeing Hope on the fire escape! TO BE CONTINUED!!

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Me, realizing there is a WHOLE OTHER BOOKS WORTH OF THIS MESS. (source)

Body Count: 2. And I’m still not over the use of ‘carved’ as a descriptor in the first instance.

Romance Rating: 0. Darryl is literally killing any boy that he sees Hope interact with, and if that doesn’t say unromantic I don’t know what does. Of course, given that Darryl doesn’t even exist it kind of makes it a non-relevant category.

Bonkers Rating: 5, just because the GIANT TWIST is so old hat and lazy that I’m not impressed by it.

Fear Street Relevance: 7, as Fear Hall is named after the Fear Family.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“A grin spread over his face. A grin of triumph. And that’s when I decided to kill him.”

…. Except she instantly clarifies that she didn’t REALLY want to kill him, just get him out of her life. I wouldn’t blame Eden if she did kill Darryl though.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Hope refers to J. Crew as ‘preppy’ clothes, and I don’t think that that label is REALLY seen as a status symbol anymore, at least not among young preps.

Best Quote:

“‘Someone told me a story about Ollie [the night guard at Fear Hall]. They said he died thirty years ago. But his ghost refused to leave Fear Hall. He takes his guard post every night, even though he’s dead!'”

… Honestly I’d rather read that book that the conclusion to this.

Conclusion: “Fear Hall: The Beginning” was lazy and paint by numbers, and the big reveal at the end didn’t get me very hyped to move on in the series. And yet, in spite of that, next up is “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”.