Lights Out opens in familiar territory–we get a narration from a killer, this time in the form of a letter addressed to Chief. Then it immediately yanks us away from Shadyside to Camp Nightwing. Yup, like Ski Weekend, we’ve got another book that’s only related to Fear Street in that the main character lives there. There’s a practical joker who no one thinks is funny because of course there is, and he lampshades Friday the 13th pretty quickly.
How many Shadyside High students have lived on Fear Street so far? I should go back and count. It seems like a lot for a street that’s supposed to be filled with abandoned houses that everyone’s afraid of.
In any case, our heroine this time around does not immediately endear herself when the first thing she does it have a fit over a spider on her pillow. In a bunk at a camp. She also throws the pillow onto someone else’s bunk, spider and all, instead of either killing it or tossing it outside. She doesn’t like bugs or really anything about being outside, but she’s working at the camp to help out her uncle.
Her uncle purchased Camp Nightwing in his latest doomed business venture. I’m always curious about the kind of people with no business sense and terrible luck who somehow still manage to acquire the funds necessary for yet another bad idea. I’m not sure what kind of track record summer camps have as money makers, but a child died at the camp the previous year, so he’s desperate for counselors. You’d think he’d also be motivated to find experienced counselors, or at least someone who knows how to handle a spider. Apparently he’ll settle for his whiny niece.
Holly is ‘on a break’ from boys after breaking up with her boyfriend, which means all the boys in camp are immediately all over her. It turns out her former best friend, who hates her, is also a counselor at the camp, so everyone knows right off that their boss is also her uncle. The senior counselor Holly is partnered with is framed as a total bitch, but it seems more like a Devil Wears Prada (movie version) kind of situation with someone who just wants everyone to do their damned job already. Then it turns out that evil, bitchy Debra was the counselor on duty when the kid died, so maybe she’s got good reason to be a little touchy?
Holly doesn’t make a very good impression with Debra and likewise loses all of my good graces when a bat gets into the cabin and she tries to beat it to death with a canoe paddle, because Holly is kind of the worst. Luckily, Debra’s got shit handled.
Things start going wrong at the camp pretty quickly, starting with a big shelf in the arts and crafts cabin coming loose and falling on Holly’s uncle. Holly finds a red feather, and she finds another later affixed to a canoe that gets a hole punched in it. She tries to tell her uncle about her suspicions that someone is sabotaging his camp, but he’s got no time for her. Since she’s also got a problem with her senior counselor and one of the other counselors and she’s got an established history of being totally whiny, it’s hard to blame him, even if she’s right this time.
We get regular updates from our killer, who is planning revenge and really upset that Chief isn’t writing back. Since no one will listen to her, Holly takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of what’s going on, even though it doesn’t really endear her to anyone. She might not be my favorite, but she gets points for sticking with it. She gets more points when she walks in on the most gruesome scene in the series so far and handles herself better than she did with the spider or the bat. Debra’s necklace gets caught in a pottery wheel, dragging her down and grinding off her face. We, the readers, get all the grisly details, including mention of a battered feather in Debra’s necklace.
The police are summoned, and Holly gets more points when she actually shares her suspicion. The police, however, determine it was an accident. I bet the Shadyside PD would have listened. We’re not in Shadyside, however, because this is only a Fear Street book in name.
There’s a lot going on in this story, and unlike Ski Weekend, I enjoyed it well enough. Holly’s snooping gets her right in the middle of a forbidden affair, and there’s a particularly uncomfortable subplot with an absolute jerk who doesn’t take no for an answer and who treats Holly like crap for turning him down. He even teams up with Geri and someone else who doesn’t like Holly to chase her down and throw leeches on her. They completely get away with it, too, because Holly has figured out that everyone’s tired of her crap. I’d like to argue that hazing or bullying like that shouldn’t be tolerated, so she should have spoken up that time, but the reality is probably that her uncle was done hearing about it and wouldn’t have helped.
Even after all that, Holly’s still gullible enough to get up before everyone else and strike off alone in a canoe with another counselor, because who needs to think anything through? She does end up with the right to the biggest “told you so” in the series thus far.
So, the carnage?
Shadyside death count: Still 22. A child did die the year before the book opened, and this one does feature a truly gruesome death, but none of it happened in Shadyside.
Additional carnage: Surprisingly, none. You’d think this would be a prime location for some horribly slaughtered animals, but we’re spared.
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m going to assume that Debra is a pretty capable counselor, and the death the previous year was one of those freak accidents that you really can’t properly prepare for or avoid. Our killer was the kid’s older brother, but Holly’s uncle didn’t realize because they had different last names. I’m really going to put this on the killer’s parents. Why would you send your kid to a camp where another of your kids just died?
I want to add that I appreciate that we’ve got a killer who ‘just snapped’ who isn’t a girl this time. It’s one of my least favorite tropes, but it’s nice to see it turned a different direction from the usual.