n31946I’m not completely clear on the timeline between these books. I’m not sure it’s worth trying to track, but I can’t help myself.

This book doesn’t open with a narration from a murderer, either, so maybe I was wrong to expect it to be a standard for these books. This one is told in first person, but it hops back and forth between Mark and Cara.

It’s shortly after the school year started, and Mark and Cara Burroughs are new students. As near as I can tell, no one’s ever a senior (unless they’re in the Fear Street Seniors spin-off). The two new kids took advantage of their parents being out late to have an impromptu party, and even though they live on Fear Street, a number of kids show up. This included Lisa and Corey, who are still together. I’m done telling Lisa to run. She’ll probably be dead in a future book, but it’s too late to save her.

Corey is still terrible, and Mark spent the whole time making out loudly and aggressively with his girlfriend, Gena. Really, everyone is terrible, but I’m torn about whether it’s bad writing or just an accurate representation of teenagers. They get a visit from a police captain who’s investigating a burglary in the neighborhood.

The next morning, Mark and Cara’s parents still haven’t gotten home, and their cousin Roger, who was boarding with them, was acting suspicious. They discovered the car waiting in the garage, and later found their parent’s bed unmade, which was very out of character. They also found a carved monkey skull.

They call the police captain who stopped by their house and go about investigating the disappearance themselves. More carved monkey skulls appear, and instead of threatening phone calls, the phone line keeps getting cut off. The kids have trouble finding food in the house–they end up eating cereal with soda instead of milk–so their parents don’t really seem like they were all that on the ball before they disappeared. They spot their cousin getting into a shady van, and keep seeing the van and the man inside. Their parents’ employer denies they ever worked there, and things are all generally mysterious.

If you care about spoilers for a 24 year old teen thriller, then go ahead and skip the rest of this review.

In the ‘twist,’ we learn that the parents are FBI agents. So are the cousin and the stranger in the van. They’re investigating a cult, because of course there’s a cult that meets in the Fear Street Woods with goals of running the whole world. They kept it from their kids because of course they did. Despite arresting a whole lot of adults from Shadyside, I bet it never gets mentioned that half the kids in town are suddenly missing one or both parents while they await federal charges.

And the carnage? As graphic as it’s been so far.

Shadyside death count: 13 total: one fake cousin murdered by arrow in the attic and discovered by the kids and one shady van driver/FBI agent shot to death by one fake police captain, again, right in front of the kids.

Additional carnage: The worst guard dog ever. If a dog were trained to silently sneak up on people, then leapt onto someone from behind, knocking them into a pit trap, the person, especially a teenage boy, shouldn’t be able to wrestle with the dog and snap its neck without any serious injury.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m putting this on the parents instead of the kids this time. They made their fair share of terrible decisions (cereal with soda? Really?), but they really did as well as you could expect out of a couple of kids whose parents vanished without a trace. They even called the police, or at least thought they did. However, if you’re in the FBI and you’re going to drag your kids around while you go under cover, you should really have some sort of contingency plan in case you get kidnapped for ritual sacrifice by the cult you’re investigating.


The Overnight

0671746502.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_Can I just say: anyone who goes camping at a place called ‘Fear Island’ deserves anything and everything that happens to them?

This includes nothing, because I know if there were a Fear Island close enough while I was in high school, I probably would have tried to get someone to go camping there with me, and I probably would have been really disappointed when nothing at all happened.

This being a novel, however, something did have to happen.

The third Fear Street book departs from what looked like it would be the standard formula by not opening with a first person narration from a murderer. It opens instead with Della O’Connor, who is hoping to speak to her ex-boyfriend and maybe patch things up with him. It seems she’s the one who broke up with him, so her anger at his having the audacity to be around another girl seems a bit overwrought. How dare he believe her when she broke up with him!

Della, her ex, his new love interest, Della’s best friend, a would-be class clown, and another boy are all of the members of the Outdoors Club. They have an overnight on Fear Island coming up, proving that the bad decisions behind this whole stupid book started well before the book did. The teacher leading the club has to go out of town due to a family emergency, and trusts a group of teenagers to tell their parents the trip has been postponed, so of course they pack up and head off to have a weekend by themselves.

While she’s alone on the island (which is positively filled with birds. We learned in the last book that the Fear Street Woods doesn’t have any birds, and this is something scientists have come to study. Fear Island is located in Fear Lake behind the Fear Street Woods, because of course that’s what they’d all be called. I don’t know if that makes it count as part of the bird-free woods, but it is supposedly full of mutated animals), Della is accosted by a strange man. Because Della has absolutely no sense, she spends the first half of their encounter thinking about how hot his is, and she ultimately pushes him into a ravine, where he breaks his neck and dies.

Because Della doesn’t understand how leaves work, she tries to bury him with dead leaves and is caught by a few members of the Outdoors Club. Because none of them are smarter than Della, they agree that her plan was a good one, bury the body in leaves, and continue about their camp out so no one will be suspicious. That isn’t even the last terrible decision in this book.

Della goes home, where she sleeps just fine, eats a big meal, and would probably forget about that whole manslaughter thing if only people would stop reminding her of it. She and Corey might team up as the bad guys in a future novel. Creepy letters take the place of creepy phone calls, and the Shadyside PD does finally get a chance to do their jobs. It’s a pity so few people are inclined to call them in, because they seem pretty on the spot when they get the opportunity.

This was also the book where I noticed ‘cried’ is RL Stine’s favorite dialog tag. When I mentioned it, a drinking game was suggested, but it showed up twice on a single page. I can read one of these books in a couple of hours, and I’m pretty sure my liver couldn’t handle it, so that’s not happening anytime soon.

And the carnage? Very light again.

Shadyside death count: Up to 11 total. The single death this time happened off-page when a man was murdered during a burglary gone wrong.

Additional carnage: No more dead animals. No pranks or tricks where anyone thought an animal was dead, either.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Oh, gods, let me count the ways: how about not camping at a place called Fear Island? Not going to Fear Island without an adult? Calling the police when someone accidentally dies? This is not a book that should have happened. Everyone made the dumbest possible decisions because plot and no other reason.

The Surprise Party

Fear_Street_The_Surprise_PartyThe second Fear Street book opens with a prologue from the point of view of a murderer. In this case, our killer murdered Evan for the sake of a girl, and apparently murder was quite easy.

A year later, we open with Meg Dalton riding her bike with her best friend, Shannon, and her boyfriend, Tony. Evan, murdered in the Fear Street woods because people can’t die in Shadyside unless they’re located somewhere that starts with ‘Fear,’ was Shannon’s brother and Tony’s best friend. Tony has a hell of a temper and if he’s not the killer, he’s still not boyfriend material, either.

But Meg shouldn’t count on private detective work as a fall back career after she graduates.

The three of them learn that their friend Ellen is coming to town for a visit. Ellen was Evan’s boyfriend, and she found his body shortly after his murder. Despite the fact that Ellen hasn’t contacted anyone since she moved away, doesn’t like surprises, and isn’t big on parties, Meg decides they have to throw her a party. Because Meg’s not too big on considering other people, she also decides to hold it in an empty mansion in the Fear Street Woods.

Shortly after, she starts receiving menacing phone calls because it’s apparently not a Fear Street book without a first person prologue and menacing phone calls. Meg doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, so this party is on.

We did get a few reminders that this is all happening in the early 90s, like Meg thinking day-glo green and pink party invitations were a good idea, and everyone not wearing jeans is wearing white pants or shorts.

Credit where it’s due: this is actually a nice little YA thriller. The story played out well, the ending wasn’t necessarily telegraphed, and Meg manages to save her own ass without needing anyone to swoop in and rescue her.

On a side note: Lisa is a friend of Meg’s. She and Corey have been fighting constantly since they got together at the end of the last book. I knew he would be a terrible boyfriend. Run, girl!

And the carnage? Pretty light this time.

Shadyside death count: 10. 9 from the previous story and only one this time around. There weren’t any background stories about mysterious Fear Street-related deaths, although we did learn that the Fear Street Woods is full of unusually savage and mutated animals, and it has no birds.

Additional carnage: No dead animals this time around. Meg did get a lunch bag full of paint that she mistook for blood because no one in movies or books has a sense of smell.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: No lie, I don’t think there was one. Tony thought he was the murderer, and so did Ellen. If they’d just admitted there had been an accident, the real killer would have gotten away with it. The Shadyside PD doesn’t get a chance to do its job very often, but it’s doubtful most police would sit around looking for a mysterious murderer when they’ve got a reasonable confession and a witness. It’s part of why I’m going to stand by calling this a pretty decent little thriller.

The New Girl

Fear_Street_The_New_GirlHere it is: the book that started it all.

We open with a first person prologue from the point of view of a murderer gloating over his or her victim: Anna. I have a feeling a lot of these books are going to open this way.

In the Shadyside High cafeteria, we meet Corey Brooks, a young douchebag on the gymnastics team who, despite being touted as the star gymnast, proves to be more clumsy than the average realistically flawed YA heroine. He glimpses the titular new girl and is immediately obsessed. He’s also the kind of guy who will blame a girl he’s never spoken with for every single thing that goes wrong in his life while he’s busy obsessing over her.

Before he can convince himself that the mysterious girl is a ghost, he discovers his best friend and neighbor, Lisa Blume, has a class with her, and can give her a name: Anna Corwin. Her crush on Corey is obvious to everyone but Corey, because he has his head up his ass. It also makes the first instance of friendzoning in Shadyside a reverse of the stereotype before the stereotype even existed. She also gives him the bad news that his crush lives on Fear Street, home of the burned out Fear Mansion, ending in the Fear Street Woods, and producer of rumors and deaths and murders and accidents. Also, the name of the series, so it had to come up before too long.

Armed with a name and a piece of an address, Corey calls information. Stalking was way harder before facebook and twitter and stuff, y’all. His first call to her house results in the angry assertion that Anna is dead–which we found out from the prologue.

Cue mysterious late night phone calls that I also suspect will be a staple of the series, more awkward flirting from Lisa (seriously, run girl. I know he’s your best friend and all, but dude is not boyfriend material), more obsessing and inept stalking by Corey, and general being mysterious, helpless, and endangered by Anna.

The ending on this one felt telegraphed from the beginning. I tore through a lot of Fear Street books when I was a kid, but I never read this one, so I was almost disappointed when I called the ending early on. Considering Corey’s crush and behavior in relation to having a girl to obsess over, I’m almost inclined to call his constant clumsiness a bit genius–there isn’t a lot of attention called to it or dwelling over it. It just happens, a nice cue that he’s in over his head. It’s a subtle touch that works.

So, the carnage?

Shadyside death toll: 9 (maybe 10, since Anna died in another town). This includes a family of three who were found murdered in the Fear Street Woods and six people who were in a head-on collision on Fear Street who all mysteriously disappeared without a trace. They’re mentioned as background setting to make sure Fear Street is properly creepy.

Additional carnage: One animal run over by Corey, who didn’t slow down or stop or check or anything. He’s totally going to be the murderer in a future book. Also one dead cat in a locker.

Spoiler-laden point at which all of this could have been avoided: When Corey turned up on Anna’s front door and met her brother. If he’d told him the truth instead of trying to scare him off, we wouldn’t really have much of a story here.