Emily’s Corner: “Ready Player One”

20170202_140222Emily and I (Serena) have been friends since the first week of freshman year of college. Other than a lost purse (I did the losing, Emily did the calming), take a wild guess as to what we bonded over? Yes, that is correct: books. And the fact that we both had plans to be English majors and would go on to coordinate our schedules to have as many similar classes as possible! All that said, Emily has agreed to be a semi-regular contributor to our blog, so keep your eyes open for posts from her in “Emily’s Corner” on random Mondays going forward!

9969571Book: “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline

Publishing Info: Ernest Cline sold the novel in June 2010 in a bidding war to the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House. The book was published on August 16, 2011.

Where Did I Get this Book: Barnes and Nobles

Book Description: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

Review: I adore science fiction, though I often lament the cheesiness that plagues the genre. So I was utterly floored by this book. This is the kind of science fiction that would convert even the most ardent sci-fi hater. Ernest Cline absolutely hit it out of the park on his first try.

“Ready Play One” is set in our world, less than thirty years into the future. The world is a bleak place, with a gaping divide between rich and poor, where the OASIS is the only respite from a reality of war, famine, violence, and disease. This book is believable because both the reality and virtual reality presented hit close to home. Global war is the norm, the populace consists of the uber-wealthy and people living on the streets, there is no middle class. In-game commerce is more valuable than hard cash, and the OASIS has more engaged voters than the actual government does. This isn’t Star Trek; it’s a future that feels hauntingly close at hand.

Wade is the perfect protagonist. Yes, he’s a teenager. He’s whiny at times, and you want to smack him upside the head when he pines too long after his love interest. But you can’t help rooting for him because he represents what it means to be the little guy, to go up against “the man” against all odds. He’s brilliant, but flawed enough that he doesn’t get preachy.

Wade’s story pivots around a global treasure hunt set up within the OASIS by its’ creator, a treasure hunt that is in itself a love letter to pop culture of the 80s. I loved the references I caught (shout-out to Wil Wheaton, who also narrates the audio book!), but wasn’t distracted by the ones that went over my head. I’m too young to catch the majority of the early 80s gaming references, but if anything it made me want to research Pong-era gaming systems. Atari, anyone?

The treasure hunt within the game is an engrossing adventure, complicated by real-world villains in the book, the IOI conglomerate who want to monetize and control the OASIS. Wade, known as Parzival in the OASIS, becomes the first player to crack the first of three clues that lead to both in-game and real-world treasure. He becomes the target of the IOI and cautiously teams up with other top players, known as Art3mis (pronounced Artemis), Aech (pronounced like the letter “H”), and brothers Daito and Shoto to win the game and keep IOI from dominating the OASIS.

“Ready Player One” is a great springboard for discussion on issues of technology, privacy, monetization, and legal liability which are hot topics today. It also provides thoughtful commentary on the positives and negatives of a fully immersive virtual world and the risks inherent to addictive technology. This is a thoughtful book, one that immerses you in the story but also makes you question your own addictive tendencies. Personally, I was struck by the idea that books were the first virtual reality, and wondered if I, as a self-proclaimed book addict, could really judge people who spend hours on video games.

There is a great twist near the end of the book, as Wade’s in-game friends introduce themselves to him in the real world. If nothing else, the reveal of Aech’s identity is worth reading the book for. There is also a teaser at the end which could leave room for a sequel. My guess is that Ernest Cline will wait to see how the movie adaptation turns out before deciding whether or not to pick up the story again.

Rating 10: This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, one that may just get added to my annual reads list.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Ready Player One” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Books About Video Games and Virtual Reality” and “Nerdventure.”

Find “Ready Player One” at your library using Worldcat!

Serena’s Review: “This Savage Song”

23299512Book: “This Savage Song” by Victoria Schwab

Publication Info: Greenwillow Books, July 2016

Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!

Book Description: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

Review: After reading and loving Victoria Schwab’s “Darker Shade of Magic” series, I decided to go ahead and check out her young adult offerings. And while I still prefer her adult fantasy trilogy (though this was a very high bar so most books should be excused from not reaching the same highs, even those by the same author), I very much enjoyed this first book in what will be a completed duology once the final book comes out one week from now.

Schwab herself described this book as “Romeo and Juliet” but with monsters and without romance, and since my biggest problem with “Romeo and Juliet” wanna-be stories is the often trite romantic flounderings of the protagonists, I was excited to see how she would pull this off. I mean, what even is a “Romeo and Juliet” story without romantic nonsense? Turns out its pretty much a gang war in a city that has been taken over by demons of its own creation.

The world building was strong, right out of the gate, from the equally hellish northside and southside of the city and their various approaches to life in a now monster-filled world, to the monsters themselves. Born from human acts of hatred and violence, the city is plagued by three types of beasts. The Corsai, a viscous shadow-like creature that lurks in the dark places of the world only to emerge at night and shred its victims. The Malchai who resemble skeleton-thin humans and drink blood, similar to vampires in all but their ability to walk during the day. And the Sunnai, most rare and least understood of the monsters who can steal a soul with their song. Years ago, with the sudden appearance of these monsters, the city’s population sank into warfare only creating a tenuous peace after a massive disaster took out several city blocks. Since then, the city has been split, north and south, with one side fighting against the monsters and enforcing a strict rule of law for those committing crimes (and creating more monsters in the process), and the other ruled by a gang lord who has managed to rope the monsters into some semblance of control and requires his citizens pay for protection. These are the two sides from which our main characters come. Kate, the daughter of said gang lord, eager to prove herself stronger than the mother who attempted to flee the city so many years ago only to meet a tragic end. And August, a Sunnai, and adopted son of the fighters’ leader, who wishes he weren’t a monster and who struggles to find his role in this war.

Both Kate and August were intriguing, complicated characters. Each struggles with their own tenuous understanding of family, from Kate’s complicated relationship with a father who has distanced himself from her throughout her entire life, to August’s role, alongside his “brother” and “sister,” the only other two Sunnai, who all have been adopted by the leader of the resistance. Not only do the two not fully understand the war that they’ve inherited and the people who have already been fighting it, but each struggles with their own understanding of what is and what is not “monstrous” in this world.

August’s Sunnai abilities were particularly interesting, both the connection to his music and his own limitations. The Corsai and Malchai are fairly clearly described early in the book, while the Sunnai remain mysterious, even while having chapters featuring a Sunnai himself. This exploration of what it means to be a monster and what it means to be a Sunnai specifically was very compelling. All three Sunnai, August, his brother, and his sister, are all different in their abilities, their philosophy on the use of those abilities, and the arc they travel throughout the story.

Throughout all of this detailed world and character-building, Schwab manages to insert an action-packed plot full of danger and mystery. Every time that it felt like the plot was reaching a crescendo (ha!), she would wisely pull back for a quiet, character-driven moment. It was this delicate balance between action, adventure, and quite frankly, a lot of violence, with these these slow, beautiful, character introspections that really made this book stand out.

The only thing I will say as a negative was that while I loved Kate and August as characters in their own right, they didn’t jump off the page the same way that Lila and Kel did. There were a few scenes that read a bit flat, a few instances where I felt that Kate and August were slow to pick up the clues that were laid before them, and just a few missteps with dialogue that rang a bit forced. But, really, take all of these criticisms with a gigantic grain of salt. Again, see the overly high expectations that were set by the “Shades of Magic” series. For fans of young adult fantasy who are looking for a completely unique magical setting and two main characters who are blessedly free (so far) of romantic entanglements, definitely check out “This Savage Song.”

Rating 8: A great new YA fantasy, blessedly free of love triangles and any romance at all, really!

Reader’s Advisory:

“This Savage Song” is on these Goodreads lists: “YA Feuding Families” and “Unique special abilities/superpowers.”

Find “This Savage Song” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Stepsister”

842704Book: “The Stepsister” (Fear Street #9) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, October 1990

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

Book Description: Emily wants to like her stepsister, but it hasn’t been easy. As soon as Jessie moves in, she takes over Emily’s room, starts wearing Emily’s clothes, makes secret late-night calls on Emily’s phone – and that’s just the beginning!

Before long, Emily is living in total fear of her stepsister. Emily tries complaining to her parents. But Jessie is such a good liar, no one will believe Emily!

Emily’s terror mounts when she picks up Jessie’s diary and learns a horrifying secret from Jessie’s past. Did Jessie really murder someone? Does she plan to murder again? Emily knows she must find out the rest of her stepsister’s dark secret. Her own life depends on it!

Had I Read It Before: No.

The Plot: So this is the story of Emily Casey and her newly cobbled together blended family. While she and her sister Nancy have been the only siblings in the house for awhile, their mother just married a man named Hugh Wallner and he has two kids, Jessie and Rich. Now that Hugh and Mom (because why should she have a name?) are married, they’re finally moving in together. There’s talk of Jessie and Rich’s mom being an absent parent, but it isn’t really harped on too much. Jessie and Emily are going to share a room, and when they both go up there Jessie establishes herself as a total cooze. First she says the room is too small, then she says that it’s a ‘dump’. It then turns into making fun of Emily’s Mom for being ‘enthusiastic’ and Nancy for having red hair, and bitching about lack of closet space. Then she says she’s sorry because she’s so ‘nervous’ and worried about the changes of becoming a blended family. Yeah, okay, because that makes it alright to be such a bitch. To make matters worse, Tiger the terrier runs in, and Jessie freaks out and shoves him away lest he get fur all over her sweater. Then, as the coup de grace, she ‘accidentally’ rips the head off of Emily’s teddy bear. JESUS. Nancy comes in and tries to quell the tension by talking about Rich and his love for Stephen King (You’re a good man, Rich), and slips in the plot exposition that Emily is now dating Nancy’s ex Josh. Yeah, I don’t think that’s so cool, Emily.

Over cake and ice cream we get to see what a dick Mr. Wallner is.  He makes fun of Jessie’s anxieties, makes fun of Rich for reading and for his cracking voice, and acts indignant when his abuse isn’t seen as funny. He also likes to brag about not reading books. Emily is reminded that her Dad loved to read books. But on a camping trip to Fear Island, when he and little girl Emily were out on a boat on Fear Lake, a wind kicked up and her father fell overboard, drowning. Oof.

The next night after Emily and Josh arrange a time for him to come over, she goes down to eat dinner with the family. And then Jessie comes down wearing Emily’s sweater, but insists that it’s hers. An argument ensues, but no one believes Emily. Mr. Wallner says that he’s glad that he has ‘four women’ in the house to clean up. (SO, not only is he applying antiquated gender roles, he’s also picking on his young and shy son by calling him ‘womanly’. This fucking guy.). After dinner Emily goes to work on her big paper for school. She leaves the room to get an apple, and when she comes back Jessie is at the computer. Emily tells her she isn’t done, but when she tries to pull up her paper again, it’s been erased. As someone who has been there to some degree, I legitimately feel for her in this moment. Emily pitches a fit and attacks Jessie. Everyone runs into the room and believes Jessie when she says she didn’t do it. After they leave Jessie snarls at Emily to not embarrass her in front of her father, and then kicks at the poor dog Tiger. Emily grabs her dog and runs to Nancy’s room. Nancy tells her that Jessie is seeing a therapist a couple of times a week and that she has emotional problems.

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(source)

Josh comes over. As he and Emily make out, Jessie spies on them. Emily ignores it. That night Emily wakes up and hears Jessie on the phone saying ‘I really could kill her!’

A few days later, things seem better, as Emily and Jessie are going to make a cake. Their playful natures come out and they spray whipped cream all over each other, and Nancy too. Emily goes to take a shower. But when she gets out, she sees her hair has become patchy and miscolored. Someone put peroxide in her shampoo! And this time, no one believes that Jessie didn’t do it, because Nancy says Jessie spent a lot of time in the bathroom earlier in the day. Jessie runs off crying, and Emily’s hair is somehow saved by a home haircut that Nancy performs.

Not to be outdone by his sisters, Rich is escorted home by the police for shoplifting.

A few nights later is the homecoming dance. While Emily and Josh have a great time dancing and then making out in the car afterwards, the fun is short lived. Because when Emily gets to her room, she finds that someone has killed Tiger! While Emily accuses Jessie because she always hated Tiger, Nancy accuses RICH because HE LIKES TO READ STEPHEN KING AND IS READING “PET SEMATARY”!! Rich denies it because OF COURSE HE DIDN’T DO IT BECAUSE OF STEPHEN KING, and Jessie offers to run a bath for Emily she she can relax. Emily is interested at first, but as Jessie is in the bathroom Emily decides to read her diary! In it Jessie talks about how in her old town people think that she was involved a murder! She hides the diary before Jessie can see that she was reading it, and balks at the bath because the water looks like Jessie put some kind of crazy chemicals in it! But then Jessie takes the bath instead, because water conservation, and proves that Emily is succumbing to paranoia.

Emily is awakened from a nightmare by Rich, who really wants to tell her that he didn’t kill her dog. She believes him. Later she wakes up again, and sees that Jessie’s bed is empty! She discerns that Jessie must have snuck out because the window is open, and decides to read more in her stepsister’s diary. Seems that Jessie’s friend Jolie died in some kind of awful accident and everyone assumed that Jessie had something to do with it because she was the one who found the body. I think that’s pretty flimsy, but her reputation was ruined. The next day Emily wants to get away from the house and says that she’s going to a computer lab at school. And when she opens her backpack, Tiger’s corpse is inside.

At dinner that next week, talk goes from talking about Rich getting into fights at school to Jessie talking on the phone at late hours (which she denies of course). After dinner she’s upstairs expecting Josh, and hears voices downstairs. Josh is down there, having a VERY in depth conversation with Jessie! Emily pulls Josh outside and chews him out for talking with Jessie. Josh thinks she’s acting silly.

At school, Emily is trying to enjoy a lunch of suspect macaroni when Jessie’s friend Krysta confronts her about being so mean to Jessie. Emily spills food on her shirt and goes to the girls’ room, only to find Jessie. They rehash the usual fight, accusing each other of being awful, and Jessie leaves. Emily dawdles, and while she’s in there she hears footsteps come and go. And then she smells smoke. Someone has set the bathroom on fire! And when she tries to escape, the door won’t budge and the windows have been painted shut! Luckily the teacher Mrs. Hoffler opens the door and Emily is freed. The school is evacuated and Emily can slowly breathe again after nearly choking to death on all the smoke. Nancy takes Emily home, and it seems like she finally believes her now about Jessie.

Though a bit later they’re all going to a concert together. Emily and Nancy hadn’t wanted to take her, but their parents insisted. Jessie has been very nice to Emily since the fire, but Emily isn’t buying it. At the concert they are up in the nosebleed section, with very steep cement stairs. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that someone shoves Emily when the lights drop of the concert to start. She falls down the steps a few seconds, but someone stops her before too much damage is done. Must have been Jessie! A few weeks later it’s cold out and Emily is walking home, when she sees Josh’s car in the driveway. Did he come to surprise her? NOPE! He’s making out with someone else! JESSIE! Emily starts to run off, but then decides to go home and confront Jessie once and for all (but apparently not Josh for kissing someone else. Typical)!! She doesn’t find them anywhere, but does find a knife in Jessie’s drawer! The one that must have killed Tiger! It’s all coming together.

And now the family is going on a camping trip together. Because Mr. Wallner wants them to act like a family for once. I would argue that he’s one of the main tension factors in the house, but it’s nothing a little wilderness can’t fix. Nancy and Emily are frustrated because they were trying to organize their evidence (and Nancy has SO MUCH HOMEWORK) but now they have to go camping in South Carolina, boo hoo hoo. Once on the trip Mr. Wallner refers to his family as a harem and I think he should seriously be reported to the police, guys. Emily, Nancy, and Jessie are recruited to go get wood. Emily gets separated from Nancy, and in a paranoid moment runs away, convinced Jessie is going to kill her. She runs into an old cemetery, and falls into an open grave!!!! She screams at Jessie to let her out, and she can’t climb out herself, and thinks that she’s going to die in there as Jessie leaves her to rot. But when she looks up, she sees it isn’t Jessie… It’s NANCY!!!! IT WAS NANCY THE WHOLE TIME! Everything that Emily thought was Jessie was Nancy, the dog, the peroxide, the fire, the JOSH! Nancy blames her for their father dying, and for stealing Josh, as they were the two most important men in her life!!!!

But luckily Jessie is there, as she hits Nancy with a shovel to knock her out, and helps Emily out of the grave. I still can’t get over that there’s just a random open grave in an old timey woods cemetery. They go get the rest of the family, because there’s no way this camping trip is continuing.

So we end with assurance that Nancy is getting the help she needs, and Jessie and Emily are finally sorting out their differences. Jessie didn’t kill Jolie, of course, and would disappear at night or be up late on the phone because of her mystery boyfriend that she is seeing. Emily apologizes for blaming her for everything. Rich comes into the room with a new book. But when they ask if it’s another Stephen King story he reveals that it’s, in fact, The Hardy Boys! And the book ends with the three of them laughing and saying “Wow! Things really ARE changing around here!”

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This is how we react to your sister having a psychotic break, eh? (source)

Body Count: One, in the form of poor poor Tiger. We had a good run of not killing any animals in these books, but that ended.

Romance Rating: 1. First of all, I still contend that Emily never should have hooked up with her sister’s ex, and then Josh just happily makes out with Nancy again? Terrible boyfriend. Also, Mr. Wallner is a total prick and his wife can do much better.

Bonkers Rating: 5. Sure, the fact that it was Nancy the whole time was kind of crazy, but it was clear that there was going to be some twist from the start because no way Jessie was doing these horrible things.

Fear Street Relevance: 7. Once again, our characters live on Fear Street, so that’s a given. And the initial ill fated camping trip was on  Fear Island, so I’ll rate it higher than average.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“Struggling to free herself from Jessie’s emotional grip, Emily realized she had never been so afraid in her life.”

…. And then the next scene is them going to a concert together. Doesn’t seem very resonant.

That’s So Dated! Moments: At a school dance, Emily is dancing a song that has the lyrics ‘pump it up pump it up’ and a description of synthesizers in it, and while it wasn’t expressly said I’m thinking it was supposed to be “Pump Up The Jam” by Technotronic? The timing may be off, but it sure seems to line up. Also talk of floppy discs.

Best Quote: 

“She’s totally crazy about him, Emily thought with some dismay. What on EARTH does she see in him? He really IS a sexist pig!”

I like that Emily seems to be hip to feminism.

“The Stepsister” was predictable and kind of flat, and I don’t really know how it warranted a second one, “The Stepsister 2”. But that’s a long ways off in this re-read. Next up is “Ski Weekend” .

Serena’s Review: “Shadowcaster”

30253091Book: “Shadowcaster” by Cinda Williams Chima

Publication Info: HarperTeen, April 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Alyssa ana’Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn’t pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.

Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.

Review: I told Kate that I was struggling with how to start off this review because I have noticed a trend in my own reviews: nit-picky focusing on covers! I mean, the fact that I devoted time to griping about this cover in the limited word count available for our little features in “Highlights” posts…and then STILL want to rant about it more here? But I will resist, so please refer to our “April Highlights” post for my thoughts on this travesty.

“Shadowcaster” is the second book in Cinda Williams Chima’s “Shattered Realms” series that takes place a generation later in her “Grey Wolf Throne” world. I struggled with the first one, feeling that the characters were less interesting than the original cast and that the romance was a bad example of insta-love. So going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Which, as it turns out, was the appropriate approach as, in many ways, this is almost a second beginning to the series. We’re introduced to a whole new cast of characters and a timeline that is largely running alongside the events of the first book. There were still aspects of the series that I am struggling with, but I did find myself enjoying this book more than the first (a bit of a trend, I’ve found with this author, as I had the same experience with her first series in this world.)

This time around, our two main characters (though there are several others with POV chapters, including a few from Jenna, a character from the first book) are Lyss, the reluctant heir to the Grey Wolf Throne, and an Ardenian captain, Halston, who after being capture by the enemy begins to learn more about the other side of this war and story.

First off, I think the main reason I enjoyed this book more than the first was the fact that I enjoyed both of these main characters more. Lyss especially was very fleshed out and well drawn. Her struggles with identity and with her relationship with the queen, her mother, are thoroughly explored throughout the course of the story. After her sister’s death, a sister who Lyss and the entire country revered as the ideal princess heir, Lyss finds herself in the impossible role of needing to fill those shoes. Further, her own talents for warfare and military strategy, combined with her physical fighting prowess, call her to a role of action. Throughout the years, she has gained respect and acumen for her success in the war against Arden, but whenever she returns home, the duties of ruling chafe, especially given her penchant for frank and perhaps less diplomatic language and ideas. All of this, plus the shared loss of all their family (or so Lyss believes, not knowing as we do that her brother lives) creates an ongoing tension point in her relationship with Raisa, the queen. Lyss was a brilliant character, and her journey throughout the book neatly tied the plot’s action to Lyss’s own growth and challenges.

Halston received less page time, but he too was a compelling character. Throughout the story, Halston’s story makes it clear how difficult life in Arden is. Politics is tangled around every aspect of life, with the fear of angering the cruel king tinging every decisions. After being captured by Lyss and her troops, Halston begins to see the falsehoods that have been spread by the King about the war and the northern country with whom they fight. However, loyalty and a fierce desire to protect his family must drive his every decision.

One of my primary concerns with the first book was the insta-love relationship that seemingly evolved out of nowhere. With that in mind, I was extremely pleased to see the more developed and extended relationship that was drawn between Lyss and Halston. Both characters are given the proper amount of time and shared experiences to make a budding relationship between the two enemies believable. I was much more invested in this relationship than I ever was with Jenna/Ash.

While Ash was referenced in this book, only Jenna had page time out of the original characters. Ultimately, while I did like elements of her chapters, especially now that we have her dragon pal to appreciate, I did question these inclusions. Her story line felt largely separate from the rest of the action and her reference to Ash only reminded me how much I disliked that relationship from the first book. There were a few plot points that were introduced and helpful to driving the larger story line crossing between books, but these chapters were so few and so disconnected from our main characters and plot that I question there inclusion.

Adding to all of these POVS is another, fourth perspective from a young man who has a mysterious gem or mage mark on the back of neck similar to Jenna’s. His role is more important to the driving factors in this story, and as a character I found his story and history interesting.

However, all of this highlights my biggest concern with this book and now the series as a whole. There are so many characters! The first book had around 4 POVs if I remember correctly, and this one introduced another 3. It was obvious in the first book that certain narrators were stronger than others, and the rushed elements of the book (the romance, specifically) I directly attributed to the choice to include so many. There is simply not enough page time in an already lengthy book to fully develop this many characters and their relationships with each other. So, here, we are given even more characters. And while I liked the main characters in this story more than I did those in the first, this just presents me with more concerns. Even in this book I found myself skimming through characters’ chapters (specifically Jenna’s) to get back to Hal and Lyss. What’s going to happen going forward when they all need to share page time together? I don’t want to lose the awesomeness of Lyss, for the less interesting Ash. Or, even worse, focus on the shallow Jenna/Ash relationship at the expense of Lyss/Hal.

While I enjoyed this book more than first, largely due to the strength of its main characters, I came out of the reading experience even more worried about the direction of the series as a whole than I did in the first. After that book, I had hoped that my concerns would be addressed by spending more time with Jenna/Ash so that I could get more on board with these characters and see their relationship flesh itself out further from its unfortunately rapid beginning. But now not only is that not the case, but I’ve been given character alternatives whom I enjoy even more and who are ultimately will have to give up their page time and stories to these originals. Not only do I not know how all of these characters will be given their due in a limited number of pages left in the series, but I now have a strong bias for/against a few of them. But I guess I’ll just have to wait and see, fingers crossed.

Rating 7: A stronger book than the first, but one that raises questions for the series as a whole.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Shadowcaster” is a newer title and isn’t included on any relevant Goodreads list, but it should be on “Music in Fantasy Fiction.”

Find “Shadowcaster” at your library using WorldCat.

Previously Reviewed: “Flamecaster”

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Halloween Party”

176271Book: “Halloween Party (Fear Street # 8)” by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1990

Where Did I Get This Book: Interlibrary Loan from the library!

Book Description: The invitation arrived in a black-bordered envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fitting for an all-night Halloween party on Fear Street. But Terry and his girlfriend Niki wondered why they had been invited. They barely knew Justine Cameron, the beautiful and mysterious transfer student who was throwing the party.

The party was well under way when the lights went out. That’s to be expected at a spooky Halloween party. But when the lights come back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

For Terry and Niki the trick-or-treating has turned to terror. To their horror, they realize that someone at the costume party is dressed to kill!

Had I Read This Before: Yes.

The Plot: We start in the Fear Street Cemetery, where Terry and Niki are going for a leisurely walk before going to a Halloween party. It is Halloween night after all. Niki, who is almost totally deaf but can read lips, remarks that she forgot her mask behind at a tombstone they were looking at, and goes to retrieve it. Terry follows because he worries about her or something, but as he catches up he hears a horrible scream. Deciding they need to book it, but now, Terry and Niki run for the gate… and are confronted by a zombie!! Except it’s not a zombie, it’s a dumb jock named Murphy who is also attending the party. He implies that it’s going to be a wild night, and I have a feeling they don’t know the half of it.

We go back in time two weeks when this mismatched group of teens at Shadyside High get their invites to popular new girl Justine’s upcoming Halloween party. Terry’s invited, as is Niki, as is his friend Trish. Terry thinks that maybe Niki won’t have a fun time since it sounds like none of her friends are invited, but Niki, being super kind, says she wants to get to know Justine better. And oh boy, Justine lives on Fear Street in the old Cameron Mansion, whose owners had been killed in an accident years before which sounds super intriguing and the perfect place for a Halloween party! Lisa, school newspaper girl, tells them that apparently Justine and her uncle have been traveling the world and have now settled down there. In biology class Terry is talking with Ricky Schorr (of “The Overnight” fame!) who says he’s been invited too, and when the rest of the guests has been revealed (only nine? Seems quaint) Terry is dismayed to find out his ex-best friend Alex is on the list. Alex dated Niki before she dumped him and hooked up with Terry. Seems like bad form, but what do I know? When the guests find out about each other, they, for whatever reason, decide to divide into a Geeks vs Jocks kind of scenario, though Justine claims she just wants to get to know all of them better. Resident bullies Bobby and Marty ask why they aren’t invited, and Justine blow them off. They jump on their motorcycles (preferred mode of transport for bullies in Shadyside) and drive away. Justine reiterates that only those on the list can come, no dates, no one else. Jocks vs Geeks/Wimps is reiterated, and Alex and Terry find themselves on opposing teams (poor Terry is a wimp I guess). Niki is upset that they’re fighting over her.

A prank war between Jocks vs Wimps starts at school, as a warm up I guess. Terry is mad that Niki still talks to Alex, saying it’s because they’re on ‘different teams’ but we all know better and Niki is no fool and won’t be told who she can and can’t talk to. Terry finds Bobby and Marty harassing Justine about not being invited to her party, and scares them off. Justine is pretty flirty with Terry, saying she’s glad that he and Niki are coming. WHen he gets back to Niki’s locker, there’s a note inside that says ‘You’ll Wish You Were Blind Too’. Terry is convinced it’s Alex, but Niki doesn’t want him to start anything. Instead they go out for pizza. They see Justine there, on a pay phone. Niki, able to read her lips, says that she’s saying that she’s going to ‘make them all pay’.

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(source)

Not to be swayed by possible threats upon their lives, it’s now Halloween and they are still going to the party. They get to the front of the house with Murphy (who scares Terry again, this time with a fake spider), and then are let into the Cameron Mansion. And it is DECKED OUT, as Justine, dressed like what can only be Elvira based on the description, is playing an impeccable hostess. There’s food from all over the world, all places she and her uncle Phillip have lived (he is there as the chaperone and dressed like a clown. Choices, Phillip). As the guests all arrive and the dancing begins, Justine encourages them to dance really fast. They do, but then the music stops and the lights go out. Phillip goes to investigate, as Justine says that she didn’t plan this. When the power comes back on, one of the partygoers, Les, is on the floor with a knife in his back!!

But it’s just another joke, of course. Score one for Team Wimp! Terry and Alex exchange some words and Niki, wanting to be friends with everyone, agrees to dance with Alex, much to Terry’s chagrin. So Terry dances with Justine. But the dancing only lasts so long, because Bobby and Marty, ON THEIR MOTORCYCLES, crash into the party. They rough up Alex and Terry a bit, throw their weight around, but then the party guests come together to force them to leave. It all seems so pointless. Justine isn’t down with calling the police, and insists that they just keep partying, because the treasure hunt is going to start soon! Each guest is given a list of items hidden in the mansion. Niki takes this opportunity to do some snooping, because she just doesn’t quite trust Justine. She goes into Justine’s room, and finds some things that strike her as odd. First of all, there’s no desk. HOW IS SHE SUPPOSED TO STUDY WITHOUT A DESK? There’s also a picture of a couple from the 1950s. What’s more intriguing is that inside the closet there is a release that reveals an even LARGER closet, with lots of clothing that Justine has never worn to school before, such as evening gowns, stoles, and fur coats. Niki goes into the bathroom and finds prescriptions for a woman named Enid Cameron. She decides to find Terry. Presumably because she’s a teen and just found a serious score of pills they can experiment with?

Terry, on the other hand is really cleaning up on the treasure hunt. But when he opens a closet, he finds ALEX HANGING FROM THE CEILING, BLOOD DRIPPING ONTO THE FLOOR! He gathers up his team and Justine and brings them back to the closet, but the body is gone!! Turns out, and I’m sure you guessed it, the body is now on the bed and it’s just Alex’s Halloween costume stuffed to look like a real person, with fake blood and everything. Alex scores one for the Jocks. This all seems so sociopathic. Terry realizes that he still cares about Alex, because why else would he have been so upset? I mean, you thought a body was hanging in the closet, dude, anyone would be upset. Niki tells Terry what she found and her suspicions that Justine isn’t what she seems, but Terry blows her off. Justine announces that the Jocks Team wins the treasure hunt, and as she’s giving Alex a box of Parisian Chocolates, the banister she was leaning against GIVES WAY AND SHE FALLS TO THE STORY BELOW!! Luckily she lands on a couch and is unharmed outside of a sore wrist. Phillip says that someone sawed through the railing!!! Still wanting to just be the best hostess ever, Justine wants to forget about it and continue the party. Terry is jealous when Alex and she share a moment.

Niki still doesn’t trust Justine, and she and Terry fight. He accuses her of being jealous of Justine because she still has feelings for Alex, so she decides to go sleuthing on her own. The lights go out again, and when they come back on Justine says they’re going to play ‘tell us the worst thing you’ve ever done’, a true corker of a party game. Terry worries about Niki and goes to find her, but instead FINDS LES’S BODY IN A CLOSET WITH A KNIFE IN HIS CHEST!! And this time there’s no prank!!! He gets partygoer David to come with him, and when they return to the scene of the crime the body is gone! Someone threw poor Les on the roof! They pull the body back into the house, and cover him with a blanket. They try to call the police, but the phone lines are cut . They try to find Phillip but he’s nowhere to be seen. Someone in the house is a murderer. They look out the window and see a bloody clown costume. The other party guests start to panic, but they can’t leave because Angela sprained her ankle and Niki is nowhere to be found. David volunteers to go to get help, while Terry and Alex go looking for Niki. David finds that their cars tires have been slashed, and while on the road runs afoul a drunken Bobby and Marty. While scuffling he slips and hits his head, and Bobby and Marty decide they have to hide his body.

Terry and Alex find Niki, who has been knocked out and left in the basement. She wakes up and tells them she went back to the secret closet and did more snooping, and found a newspaper clipping about a couple who died thirty years prior, 26 year old Edmund and 20(?!) year old Cissy. They were killed in a car accident where teenagers were drag racing and hit their car. The teens survived, and they all happen to be the parents of the party guests one way or another! The couple left behind a baby girl named Enid. Niki is convinced that Justine in Enid, and also almost thirty, WHICH IS THE MOST HORRIFYING THING OF ALL. They confront her in front of the other guests, but she plays if off like all part of the joke…. Until she locks them all in a room. She confesses to them through a security gated window that yes, her parents were killed in a car crash, and she and her Uncle Phillip have come back for revenge. She then plays a tape of a car accident and sets the house on fire. Like ya do.

Niki continues to be awesome. Being deaf she isn’t distracted by the sounds of car crashes, and remembers that Justine mentioned a dumbwaiter system. She finds the system, and gets Terry and Alex to operate it and lower her down, hoping to find a way out through the basement. She finds a boarded up window, and starts to kick it out. A hand grabs her, but it’s just Mr. Complicity himself, Uncle Phillip, who has been tied up and left to die as well. She unties him, and he grabs a crowbar and they get the boards off the window. They scurry out, and then go to the security grate. Phillip pries it off and the teens are free! He tells them that he wanted revenge for his brother’s death, but then changed his mind. But poor Justine/Enid was hellbent. David comes out of the woods, not dead, just suffering a konk to the head, and the police are on the way. Justine tries to kill herself by jumping into the fiery blaze, but Terry and Alex stop her, nearly getting themselves killed like IDIOTS. But their combined stupid selfless act helps them bury the hatchet once and for all, just as the cops arrive with an ambulance. Niki asks what will happen to Justine, and Phillip says she’ll get the help she needs. Niki ends the book with “It’s always Halloween on Fear Street”.

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We’re letting it slide because she’s too wonderful (source)

Body Count: 1. Les never saw it coming.

Romance Rating: 4. Niki and Terry are happy enough and he calls her ‘Funny Face’ which is cute. But he sure likes to dismiss her and she’s WAY too good for him.

Bonkers Rating: 6. The twist was fine but after the whole time traveling ghost plot of “Haunted” it’s not really jumping off the page.

Fear Street Relevance: 7. I mean it takes place in a mansion of Fear Street and the cemetery is the way to get into said mansion.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“Then, as everyone watched in shock, two gleaming motorcycles bombed right into the living room!”

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(source)

That’s So Dated! Moments: This was yet another one of those ‘updated’ versions of a “Fear Street” book. But we still get references to tape players (in spite of the fact the song ‘Get UR Freak On’ is playing). It’s weird seeing the blatant ‘gotta relate to the youths’ changes, as at one point Ricky is described as being ‘punk’d’. ALSO, I just want to say that they never bothered to change the time period for Justine/Enid’s parents’ deaths, still saying that the photo of them was a 1950s couple which would have made her QUITE A BIT OLDER THAN THIRTY when this new ‘revamped’ version was published in the mid 2000s.

Best Quote:

“Niki wasn’t the prettiest girl in Shadyside, or the smartest, but she as definitely the most special.”

Wow. Just…… WOW. And yet she ends up being probably the most likable “Fear Street” heroine we’ve gotten yet, so EAT ME, STINE.

“Halloween Party” was pretty middle of the road bordering on mediocre. Niki was the only thing I liked. Next time we’re tackling “The Stepsister”.

Serena’s Review: “Hunted”

24485589Book: “Hunted” by Meagan Spooner

Publishing Info: HarperTeen, March 2017

Where Did I Get this Book: the library!

Book Description: Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Review: Just in time to cash in on my “Beauty and the Beast” phase that has been reignited by the recent movie release (though, let’s be real, I’m almost always interested in “Beauty and the Beast” stories) comes this new release by Meagan Spooner with a re-imaging of the classic fairytale. And, what a relief, it is actually a true re-imagining! And a very enjoyable one at that!

Similar to my love of Jane Austen re-tellings, I’m always on the look out for a good fairytale re-imagining, and my favorite is “Beauty and the Beast.” And, just like the Jane Austen wanna-bes, many of them fall sadly short, so I’m always slightly nervous going in. Will this one be yet another let down? Or…?

In Spooner’s version, Beauty, or Yeva, and her two older sisters are the daughters of a wealthy merchant father. But this time, her father’s rise to fortune came upon the back of his skill as an archer and hunter in the mysterious forest that surrounds the city. From him, Yeva has also learned to tread the forest pathways, bow in hand, and developed a deep love for the woods and its denizens, both the ordinary and the fabled. After the family’s inevitable fall from fortune and her father’s subsequent disappearance on a hunting trip, Yeva sets out to find him only to become entangled in the plot of a Beast who is on the lookout for a skilled hunter to free him from a curse.

What I most loved about this book was the blending of familiar aspects from the classic tale (the main plot points are all there) alongside the truly unique new take on the story as a whole. And these new aspects weren’t only superficial changes. The entire curse is changed in a way that effects the action of the story, the characterization of its main characters, and the gradual build in the relationship between Yeva and the Beast.

First, for the familiar aspects. I was overjoyed to see one of the only other examples I can think of of a “Beauty and the Beast” story where the sisters were as well-handled as they were in my all-time favorite version, Robin McKinley’s “Beauty.” In particular, Asenka, the middle daughter who was born with a clubbed foot, is incredibly well-rounded and made to be a character in her own right. The relationship between all the sisters is lovely, shown and not told through small moments, like their ritual of break-making each night, and the larger interactions that come from the traumatic events that befall the family throughout the story. We all know that I am a sucker for sister stories, and this one was completely satisfying in every way.

And, as I said, the main bullet points of the fairytale are all there in this book. The family’s fall from fortune, Beauty’s time with the Beast, her return to her family, and her choice to go back to the Beast and save him from the curse. But, as I said, all of these traditional plot points were handled in completely unique ways. Beauty’s motivation for staying with the Beast is different. His motivations for wanting her there are different (we get small insights into his thoughts between chapters). Their relationship develops along different lines than those we expect (hunting trips in the woods rather than elaborate, enchanted dinners in a castle.) And the curse itself is set up in a completely new way.

I loved how naturally all of these elements came together, new and traditional. Yeva’s love of hunting isn’t simply thrown in as an aside that makes here character “strong” but is actually integral to the story. The relationship between the two builds slowly and naturally, never easily side-stepping the challenging aspects of the situation they find themselves in. There is no quick forgiveness or trust, but instead, a natural transformation. I also particularly liked what Spooner did with the Gaston-like character, Solomir. He was another excellent example of fleshing out a character who can often come across as just another stock character.

Lastly, Spooner added a level of depth to Yeva’s internal struggle throughout the book. Yes, circumstances force her into situations that she wouldn’t have chosen for herself, but from the very beginning her desire for something more is made clear. I appreciated how deeply the author delved into this sense of wanting and dissatisfaction, and how neatly these aspects of Yeva’s character were tied to the story and curse as a whole. Again, it wasn’t an aside to make Yeva more well-rounded, but an important aspect of the story itself. My only complaint would be that I feel Spooner may have missed an opportunity to push this theme further in the end of the book. It seemed like she walked right up to the edge of making a more powerful statement about this, but then side-stepped it a bit. She still made her point clearly and tied it together well, but I personally feel like it could have been taken a bit further, even.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this book. It is always so exciting to see an excellent fairytale retelling, especially of “Beauty and the Beast” which I think is probably one of the more challenging tales to do well. I strongly recommend this book to fans of the original story and of fairytale retellings in general!

Rating 9: An excellent story, perfectly blending the familiar elements of the fairytale and unique characters and plots!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Hunted” is on these Goodreads lists: “Best retellings of Beauty and the Beast” and “Archery.”

Find “Hunted” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “Haunted”

176339Book: “Haunted” (Fear Street #7) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1990

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

Book Description: Melissa woke up screaming. The prowler was at her window…or was he? The recent headlines about a Fear Street prowler had everyone on edge. Her father now kept a loaded pistol in his bedroom. That made it even more frightening—and real.

Then the haunting began: her new car driving as if someone else had taken control; her birthday presents ripped open by unseen hands; an invisible force trying to push her out the bedroom window.

Out of the shadows of her bedroom came a menacing figure. Who was he? Did he really come from beyond the grave? And why had he come to kill her? If Melissa doesn’t solve the mystery fast, these questions will haunt her—to death!

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Melissa Dryden is awakened in the middle of the night by a scratching at her bedroom window. She screams her head off, and her loving (and actually pretty functional) father come running. When she tells him that she’s convinced it’s certain death outside, he discerns that it is, in fact, a tree branch tapping at the glass. Mrs. Dryden comes in next, more irritated than concerned. Melissa says she thought it was the Fear Street Prowler (oh Fear Street!), and Mrs. Dryden says that’s silly because they’ve lived here for so long and nothing bad has ever happened to THEM, so why would badness happen now? Solid reasoning. She also points out that Melissa’s hair is super tangly (to denote that it’s ‘wild and blonde’), and Mr. Dryden asks why she’s wearing one of his pajama tops to bed (to denote that she is ‘quirky’, I guess?). He then assures her that she shouldn’t be scared because he has a new silver pistol, which he reveals to her after making her come with him to her parents bedroom, and proceeds to spin on his finger, in spite of the fact it’s loaded. I take it back, Mr. Dryden isn’t as functional as I said before. Before falling asleep she reminisces about her boyfriend Buddy, who got a little handsy and wasn’t really down with taking ‘no’ for an answer. So there’s that.

The next day we find out that Melissa’s birthday is coming up. This is made further evident by her father giving her a brand new Pontiac Firebird. Whoa damn. This, of course, also let’s us know that her family is SUPER wealthy, but we find out that her father didn’t start that way and pulled himself up by the bootstraps to get there. I could go into a lecture about the GI Bill and various other Homestead Acts making this a nonsense argument, but I won’t. Melissa takes it out for a spin, thinking about how envious her friends are going to be… But then the steering wheel starts to spin out of control of it’s own volition and she almost runs into an oil truck.

At her birthday party we are introduced to Melissa’s friends. One of whom is Della, from “The Overnight”! And since it seems that Melissa is now Della’s BFF, we can surmise that Della finally dumped that histrionic and selfish bitch Maia. Good for her! Buddy eventually shows up and some of the boys at they party start making innuendoes about their sex life, and I felt more uncomfortable than Melissa did. After some dancing and some cake, Melissa goes to open her gifts… but they’ve been ripped open and strewn about! How odd. After her friends leave and her parents come home, Melissa feels secure enough to go to bed, wondering who could have possibly ripped her gifts apart. As she’s falling asleep, a strange looking young man steps out of the shadows!! Thinking it’s the prowler, Melissa starts to scream. When her parents bursts in, the Shadow Guy has disappeared, and they can’t find him anywhere. Melissa is convinced she saw something, and while Dad is willing to coddle her Mom isn’t having any of it. They tell her to go back to sleep, and she says she will. While gazing out the window, strong hands try to push her, and while she pulls herself back in, when she turns around there’s no one there.

The next day Melissa goes to tell Buddy what happened. Predictably, he thinks that she’s just imagining everything. So she decides to go hang out at the mall with Della and some rich bitch named Krissie who has fun poking fun at people who aren’t as stylish as she is. Melissa actually has a pretty compassionate moment where she tells Krissie that they, as wealthy girls, have no right to feel superior because they just lucked into their wealth and didn’t earn it. Damn, girl. As she’s driving home in the non-Firebird car (still in the shop), it gets really cold, and suddenly in the front seat, from the description given, Ralph Macchio’s Johnny from “The Outsiders” is there!

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Sans french fries, though. (source)

Melissa, so surprised, rear ends the car in front of her. When the angry businessman in the vehicle confronts her, she realizes that she’s alone again. The man, thinking that she’s stoned, decides to just let it go because their cars are pretty much fine, and he must be able to tell that she is a little off.

At dinner that night, Melissa doesn’t bring up the accident but does tell her parents that she’s being haunted by a ghost. They brush it off, chalking it up to a need for attention, and invite her to go with them to their ‘lawyer convention’ in Las Vegas. Okay, as a daughter of two lawyers, I can tell you that they never went to ‘lawyer conventions’. This is indeed a strange universe. Melissa doesn’t want to go, and they say that she needs to get out more. Luckily she has a date with the sexual predator Buddy, so she can throw that at them. When she’s getting ready, Ralph Macchio shows up again, and this time he actually talks to her through a sneer. When she says he made her dent her parents’ car, he basically says ‘So what, you can just buy a new one, right?!’ Oh. I see. This really is the greasers vs the socs and Melissa is going to be Diane Lane’s Cherry. Ralph Macchio tells Melissa that his actual name is Paul, and he is here for a reason: HE’S HERE TO KILL HER BECAUSE SHE KILLED HIM. Honestly he’s less Johnny and more Dally because of this. Melissa has no idea what he’s talking about, as she thinks she’d remember if she killed someone, and Paul admits that, yeah, his memory is kind of fuzzy. But she’s rich, and rich people are liars, so she must be lying! Melissa strikes a deal, saying that if he doesn’t kill her she’ll help him find out who did, and he grudgingly accepts.

Deciding to confide in Buddy (who seems more interested in driving her newly ‘fixed’ car than talking with her), Melissa asks him if he remembers a boy named Paul who died recently. Buddy has no memory of this, so she tells him the whole story, I guess forgetting how condescending he was earlier. He tells her that she straight up needs some therapy. Thinking she can prove it, she takes Buddy back to her house, thinking that Paul will just appear at her beck and call. They get to her house, and Melissa notices that her parents’ car is gone. So they are KIND of alone, except for the live in house keeper, Marta. Melissa pulls Buddy up to her room, and they do hear strange footsteps… But it’s just Marta, telling Melissa her parents are out and that she’s wrapping up the dishes and then going STRAIGHT to bed. Marta basically falls short of tossing Melissa a condom and winking. Eventually Melissa and Buddy do start kissing, but their make out session is interrupted when Paul appears and tries to punch Buddy in the back of the head. Melissa freaks out, but Buddy sees nothing and feels nothing. Thinking his girlfriend is nuts, he leaves. Melissa and Paul argue, and Paul says that he isn’t going to kill her yet. He wants to have some ‘fun’ first. I think this is suppose to be showing he’s a rogue, but it comes off as gross.

The next day Melissa goes to the library to try and do some research, but doesn’t find anything about a dead boy named Paul, and wonders if he went to South instead of their high school. She runs into Della, who says her cousin Tracy goes to South. It’s a dead end, though, as while a boy DID die at South, his name wasn’t Paul, it was Vince.  Melissa goes home and finds Buddy is there, having been let in by her folks, who have left again. They go on a date to a dance club called Red Heat, which apparently was an old machine shed. They talk a bit, but then she brings up Paul again and Buddy is DONE. They get into a fight and Melissa leaves the club, finding a bunch of greasers on some car hoods… INCLUDING PAUL?!?!?! He says that he doesn’t know who she is, and starts to hit on her really aggressively. See, such a Dally, like I said before. Of course, if Melissa is our Cherry for this metaphor….

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Sorry guys, “The Outsiders” analog is here to stay. (source)

But, like Dally, Paul is a real jerk, and grabs her a little to tightly. Something a ghost can’t do. Melissa ends up running back to Buddy and he takes her home. When she gets home Ghost!Paul is there, but she doesn’t ask him why she saw him very alive earlier, and just tells him to buzz off.

Melissa tracks down one of Paul’s friends, Frankie, and starts interrogating him. He tells her that Paul is his best friend, and he is very NOT dead. Melissa sees this for herself again when she runs into Alive!Paul, who continues to act like a total jerk to her. She asks why he’s acting this way when she just wants to help him, and he’s very confused. She leaves.

Jesus this is a long one guys.

She gets home and confronts Ghost!Paul, who says he was NOT at the club nor did they just see each other. So they come up with the theory that Ghost!Paul isn’t from the past, but from the FUTURE, and that Melissa hasn’t killed him yet!! Now things are getting interesting! Melissa says that it’s easy, she just won’t kill him. Girl hasn’t read any Greek tragedies, has she? They decide to go find Alive!Paul and try to warn him. But, shock and awe, Ghost!Paul can’t be seen by Alive!Paul, so she just ends up sounding like a crazy person. Alive!Paul goes to meet up with his friends, and they talk about this hot rich girl who is following him, AND the fact that it is, indeed, Paul who is the FEAR STREET PROWLER!!! Oh man, this just gets better and better. It’s at this point I figure out where this is all going. Ghost!Paul follows Alive!Paul and is horrified by his life choices, making my metaphors work perfectly, because Ghost!Paul is clearly Johnny and Alive!Paul is Dally and now I’m legit going to go watch “The Outsiders” after this is all said and done. Ghost!Paul goes back to Melissa’s house, and she reiterates that she will NOT kill Alive!Paul because she, apparently, cares too much about Ghost!Paul. My heart.

Melissa is now home alone, as her parents are on their Vegas trip for their “CONVENTION”, Marta has gone to visit family, and Della can’t give her a home to sleep in until the next day. So Melissa decides to go find Alive!Paul and tell him to stay away from her. It goes as well as you think it would, as when she confronts him in front of his friends he gets belligerent and tells her he knows where she lives. You all know where this is going. Melissa goes home, a little nervous to be alone with the Fear Street Prowler still on the loose, but knows that Ghost!Paul will be there with her. She tries to sleep in her parents room that night, but then….. someone is crawling through her parents window!! It’s Alive!Paul, and he says ‘see, I told you I knew where you lived’. Realizing he was the prowler the whole time, Melissa thinks of the gun she really doesn’t want to use. She grabs it, but Alive!Paul knocks it away from her. As they wrestle over the gun, Alive!Paul manages to wrestle it away from her, and points it at her saying he’s going to kill her… BUT THEN SOMEHOW, I GUESS THROUGH THE POWER OF LOVE, GHOST!PAUL KNOCKS THE GUN FROM HIS HAND!! And Melissa, devastated to do so but knowing she must, shoots Alive!Paul, killing him instantly. And then Ghost!Paul starts to fade. When she asks why he did that and let her kill him, he says that he’d rather she live, even if it meant he was going to die. He then disappears. As Buddy comes into the room (ugh, he’s the worst), Melissa runs into his arms. When asked who the guy on the floor is, she says, sadly, ‘That’s just some prowler.’

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Stay gold, Ponyboy. (source)

Body Count: 1. Sorry Paul. Nothing gold can stay.

Romance Rating: 5. Buddy is no gentleman, and while I’m a sucker for ghost romances alive!Paul is a bit of a damaged creepazoid. But ghost!Paul does sacrifice himself for Melissa because of his affection for her, which gets automatic romance points.

Bonkers Rating: 8. I MEAN, we got our first actual totally supernatural plot line AND time travel paradoxes in this one. Solidly bonkers!

Fear Street Relevance: 8. With Melissa living on Fear Street and the Fear Street Prowler at large this one definitely felt like a Fear Street relevant book.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“There was something so frightening about that little silver pistol, lying there is the drawer, just waiting to be used.”

… And that’s it. No follow up in the next chapter, Just Melissa going on about her life. That’s no cliffhanger, that’s just a statement. Just a Chekov’s Gun situation.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Melissa makes references to Walkmans, one of the characters is rocking a Hard Rock Cafe tee shirt again (because there was a time that that was STYLISH, guys), and, of course, Melissa looking at microfiche at the public library. Sure, it does happen still from time to time. But many public libraries don’t even have that option anymore.

Best Quote:

“‘Goodnight, everyone,’ Buddy said, and made a hasty exit.

‘Strange kid,’ Mrs. Dryden muttered.

‘What?’ Melissa asked.

‘Beautiful pendant,’ her mother said, lifting it up and turning it over to read the back.”

Mrs. Dryden is the shadiest Mom I’ve seen yet in a “Fear Street” book and I LOVE her.

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(source)

“Haunted” was a pretty solid story that had me guessing over and over again. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think it’s one of the better “Fear Street” books we’ve tackled so far!! Plus it made me feel. Up next is “The Halloween Party”.