The Dare

0671738704We get a prologue from a murderer again. And we get a prologue that takes place weeks after the story actually opens. My favorite. Yay.

Johanna Wise is one of Shadyside’s poor kids. Her mom has been working two jobs ever since she and Johanna’s dad got divorced–with all of the single parent households in Shadyside, I have to assume the divorce happened while he was awaiting trial on federal charges. She’s envious of Dennis Arthur and his crowd–the wealthiest kids in Shadyside. With enough money, they can make any problem disappear. That’s…probably more true than I’d like to think.

Of course, money can’t make everything go away. Though Johanna’s a junior, she’s taking some senior classes, and shares a history class with Dennis. Mr. Northwood is unimpressed with money and with athletes, and he won’t allow Dennis to make up a test he’ll miss due to his family’s annual trip to the Bahamas. Johanna gets an in with Dennis when he learned Mr. Northwood is her next door neighbor (and of course they live on Fear Street. That’s another student and a teacher now).

This is a relatively slow book, as far as Fear Street stories go, so to up the gore, Johanna has ridiculous and violent fantasies. We get to see the whole fantasy play out, then she backs of and admits that nope, she didn’t do any of that.

The rich kids focus their malicious pranks on Mr. Northwood, pouring sand into his gas tank and vandalizing his car. They amuse themselves by daring each other to do all kinds of ridiculous crap. Zack comes up with a vial of skunk juice, and they pass it back and forth until they send Johanna over to break it on Mr. Northwood’s porch. They spend weeks joking about killing Mr. Northwood clear up until they find out there’s a gun in Johanna’s house. Because these are not kids who should be trusted alone with rubber band guns, it takes almost no time before Dennis tries to demonstrate a quick draw and shoots Zack in the shoulder. His genius way to deal with this isn’t to call an ambulance, but to set everyone cleaning up the mess while he hauls his friend over to Mr. Northwood’s house to try to frame their teacher.

Naturally, it doesn’t work. The Shadyside police really do seem on top of things when people call them in. The parents all try to get their kids transferred out of his class, but the school doesn’t cooperate. By the time kids are framing the guy for shooting a student, you’d really think the school would be on board with getting them in a different class, but no. Shadyside PD seems competent, but I can’t say as much for Shadyside High administration.

Rather than just trying to get through their senior year, the kids dare Johanna to kill Mr. Northwood. She’s so pleased with her new, wealthy friends and especially with Dennis, who has begun cheating on his girlfriend with her, that she takes it seriously. She picks a date and everything, and learns that students are taking bets on whether or not she’ll go through with it.

That sounds like a genius plan. You’d think she’d call the whole thing off on grounds of “I’ll obviously go to jail if I go through with this,” but despite taking senior-level classes, Johanna isn’t nearly that smart.

So, the carnage? Mostly imaginary.

Shadyside death count: Holding steady at 33. Not for lack of trying, though.

Additional carnage: One teenage boy gets shot in the shoulder, and the teacher does get shot. Additionally, we’re treated to such scenes as Johanna shoving a seashell into a girl’s face, gashing her cheek open and breaking her teeth, and opening a car door and hauling the same girl out and throwing her on the ground to steal her car and boyfriend, and shooting her teacher.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: There’s probably some room to argue that if Mr. Northwood had just let Dennis take a makeup test, it all would have been fine, but I sincerely doubt that. Maybe the rich kids had some sense of proportion? Johanna backed out of shooting the teacher, but Dennis had already used the gun to shoot him to make sure Johanna would take the fall. They got caught because they spelled out their whole plan like comic book villains even though they knew the teacher recorded everything. A confession on tape is always kind of handy, and that’s just sloppy. There’s inexperience, then there’s sloppy cartoon villainy. Did movies teach them nothing?

Oh, well. Stupid, sloppy, entitled murderers are the best kind, especially when they fail to actually murder anyone before being caught.

The New Boy

otk8wwIn the first chapter of this book, we learn Deena Martinson broke up with Gary Brandt. So they’re both still in high school. I’m telling you: Shadyside time warp. No one escapes.

Janie, Faith, and Eve are all best friends. They were the head of the committee for the school dance, and they have to meet up after school to count the take and turn it over to the principal. Before they can get started, however, the mysterious new boy at school appears while clutching a bleeding wound and begging for help. Faith and Eve, who both have boyfriends, immediately rush to the rescue, leaving single Janie alone with the money.

Paul and Ian, Faith and Eve’s boyfriends, pop in while the girls are counting the money and make the kind of ‘jokes’ that involve grabbing handfuls of cash and gleefully throwing it around and stuffing it in pockets. Mr. Hernandez, the principal, steps out during the cash fight to inform everyone they’re being expelled because everyone thinks their a comedian.

The principal during The Prom Queen was Mr. Sewall. I’m just going to assume he was fired in disgrace over the multiple fires in the bathrooms and all the adults who have enrolled for the purpose of murdering students. Or maybe he went out of town and the time warp caught up with him and he aged a hundred years in a couple of weeks. Good luck to the new guy, I guess.

After the money–$1,241.65–is counted and locked in a drawer, Faith, Eve, Paul, and Ian all have an opportunity to be alone with the money. Of course it all disappears. Of course they all suspect each other.

Meanwhile, the three girls decide to bet on who can get a date with the new boy. $10 each, despite the fact that two of them already have boyfriends. Janie gets to partner with him in lab, but doesn’t work up the courage to ask for a date. Eve immediately wins the bet by walking up to him and asking for a date by way of introduction.

The next day, Eve and Ross both go missing. Ian and Janie just so happen to find Eve’s body shortly after, and when Ross reappears, it doesn’t take long for the rumors to get started about the new boy. Add in something strange that happened in his old town, and his home on Fear Street right near where Eve’s body was found, and it’s hard not to be suspicious. Janie starts dating him anyway, though she starts to worry when she stops by his house and the old lady who lives there has never heard of a Ross Gabriel. Then the poor guy tries to return the blue scarf Janie left in his car, and she confuses it for one of Eve’s and in the cafeteria with a full audience of students, she accuses him of murder.

Probably because they aren’t interested in dating her, the new girl at school didn’t make such a splash with the girls. Faith, however, spent some time talking to her about Ross Gabriel, and she has news she has to tell Janie, but she can’t possibly explain it over the phone, so Janie has to go over to her house. That’s convenient because if she’d just told Janie over the phone, she’d know what she wanted to tell her about Ross, but then Janie wouldn’t have been left in the dark and she wouldn’t have found Faith’s body after someone bludgeoned her to death with a fireplace poker.

Ross fails to appear in class and rumor says he was picked up by the police again. Jordan, who went to his school, catches Janie and tells her that Ross Gabriel wasn’t his name. He changed it when he family moved out of town after he killed his girlfriend. Of course the police questioned him and let him go, but the whole school knew the truth. And everyone knows teenagers and their rumor mills are way more reliable than the police.

Fear Street did see one honest to God, classic serial killer, but this time there’s something so much stupider going on.

So, the carnage? Pretty serious this time around.

Shadyside death count: 33. Both murdered girls are described in detail, too, and both are found by their best friend.

Additional carnage: No dead animals, but Ross is cracked across the head with a baseball bat.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Holy crap, there is zero reason any of this had to happen. It was all over the damned dance money. Eve stole it for Ian because his parents weren’t going to pay for his college. It was barely over $1,000. I know college was a lot cheaper in the mid-90s, but $1k still wouldn’t go that far. Eve lost her nerve and she betrayed Ian by going on a date with Ross over a bet, so he beat her to death, dumped her body, and framed Ross. Then he killed Faith because he assumed Faith knew about the money, and he tried to kill Janie because he was sure she knew, too. Out of everyone in these books so far, I feel worst for Ross and the titular stepsister from, um, The Stepsister.

Sunburn

9780613376532Once more, we’ve got a Fear Street book that doesn’t even take place in Shadyside. The tenuous connection is a character who lives on Fear Street. I’m tempted to go back and count how many Shadyside High students live on Fear Street so far. Too many to make the street’s reputation plausible, I think.

We open this time not with a murderer, but with a victim. Claudia Walker wakes up on the beach with her face severely burned, her eyes swollen shut, and her body buried under so much sand she can’t move. The tide is coming in and it looks like she’s doomed.

This is a completely serious question: presuming you’re able-bodied, if you’re sleeping on the beach and get buried while you’re lying down, can you really get enough sand on you that you can’t just sit up without getting smothered?

Since RL Stine is into one of my least favorite writing devices (open your story with a scene from action late in the book, the time travel to go through all the setup. It’s like a cheap version of ‘open in the middle’ without actually doing that), we’re taken back in time to learn Claudia, Sophie, and Joy are going to spend a week with their wealthy friend Marla at her family’s beach house as a reunion for bunk 12 at Camp Full Moon.

The friends are all from different towns and glad for the chance to get together again, but there’s an uncomfortable past hanging over all of them.

The week is filled with accidents–one girl is nearly electrocuted by a fence. Claudia gets buried and “forgotten.” (On a side note, I’ve gotten a really, really bad sunburn before. I got one on a shoulder once that turned brown and cracked. It was so bad I was allowed to break the ‘no sleeveless shirts’ rule in the dress code on account of holy crap, that looked painful. I suspect RL Stine has never had a really bad sunburn.) She’s luckily rescued by a cute boy who helps her up to the house and somehow knows the gate code, though Marla denies there’s anyone else who could know. Someone tampers with the rope and two of them almost drown in a water skiing accident. By then, the three guests agree someone is definitely trying to kill them, and they try to arrange an escape.

This book wasn’t by any means boring, but it wasn’t a Fear Street book. Also, it managed to pile the ridiculous so high that it nearly did me in. The coincidences were high enough when Claudia was attacked by an Irish wolfhound…that she managed to outrun, beating it into the water. It bit her ankle…and she managed to outswim it until a shark attracted by the blood attacked and killed the dog. Then she was swept out to sea and safely deposited on the beach right by the house.

Also, the dark secret from Camp Full Moon? They dared Marla’s annoying little sister into doing something dangerous after lights out, and they were almost caught so they ran away, leaving her to fall into the river and drown. Her body was never recovered. As near as I can tell, this death happened at Camp Nightwing’s rival camp either the year their first camper died or during the events of Lights Out. Three dead kids between two camps in two years? That’s an absurdly high body count.

So, the carnage?

Shadyside dead count: Still 31. There were two deaths in this book, and they were pretty gruesome. Details down in the spoilers section.

Additional carnage: An Irish wolfhound was eaten by a shark. It was ridiculous. Also contradictory to every Irish wolfhound I’ve ever met, though I’m sure one could be trained into viciousness.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m going to put the problem down at two different points: The first was the truth or dare game that lead to Marla’s sister’s “death.” The second is with what ridiculous world allowed Alison to wash up down river and fake amnesia for a year without anyone figuring out her identity. This happened in the 1990s, not the 1890s. Also, I don’t care how bad his vision has gotten: if a guy has been the servant to a family for the entire life of two sisters, if one disappeared for a year, then turned up and murdered her sister and took her place, that servant would probably notice.

The Cheater

0671738674Some of these books feel like very special messages: don’t make prank calls, don’t lie and spend the night on an island without any adults and try to cover up a murder, don’t cheat. The messages always seem to miss something, though, since kids making prank calls discovered and helped catch a murderer. I guess the idiots on the island helped catch a couple more murderers. The ‘don’t cheat’ message seems to work, though. At least don’t cheat with someone else’s boyfriend, because you might get murdered. Or your sister might try to kill you.

Carter Phillips goes for another type of cheating: her judge father, who’s in the middle of a really big trial, is set on seeing his only child go to Princeton. Carter signed up for advanced math, and that’s proven to have been a bad move. Her father has made it clear she needs to retake a big test and get a score Carter absolutely cannot achieve even on her best day. So while wealthy Carter is spending time with her perfect, also wealthy boyfriend Dan Mason, she realizes the test is being administered in the next town over. No one involved will know her–or know that ‘Carter’ is a girl’s name. Her boyfriend sensibly asks if she’s joking and she brushes it off.

Adam Messner also heard. You know he won’t be any good because he’s poor, and since our focus character is rich, anyone poor who comes along is either going to be the bad guy or is going to die. Adam is willing to get Carter the grade she needs for the low-low price of one date. Carter isn’t quite as smart as we’re meant to believe, because she goes for it.

Adam delivers, and Carter’s father is so overjoyed he went flying out of the house to buy her a pair of diamond earrings to celebrate. Of course Adam doesn’t settle for one date. Carter is also confronted by his girlfriend, who knows he has been stepping out and who isn’t going to put up with that. It’d be nice if she’d confront him, since he’s also cheating. It’s possible she did and we didn’t get to see it, of course.

Because Carter has little sense, she enjoys some of her time with Adam, despite the fact that he’s literally blackmailing her into every single moment. She doesn’t start really pushing back until he demands she arrange a date with her best friend for his best friend. She points out that their bargain was for a single date and he answers that he can just let everyone know she cheated on her test.

So neither of them get caught by their respective boyfriends, Adam sets up the date at a club neither of them have heard about before because it’s totally full of poor people. There’s a pattern in these books now of rich girls around poor boys and super creepy, rapey scenes. Did this stuff seem less imminent-rape-like in the 90s, or did it just go right over my head back then? The girls have to literally fight there way out of a crowd of guys who clearly don’t mean them well.

Adam escalates to demanding money, forcing Carter to sell her new diamond earrings. Her father naturally immediately notices. Adam asks for more money, and Carter finally spills the whole story to her perfect boyfriend. She arranges to make a last drop-off for Adam, goes to his house on Fear Street, and leaves confident she won’t have to worry about him anymore. Since Adam was the bad guy and poor, he also turns up dead. Turns out Carter’s life could get even more awkward and difficult.

So, the carnage?

Shadyside death count: 31. Adam gets shot in his own home. We’re spared the majority of the details this time.

Additional carnage: Carter finds a bloody heart (probably pig, maybe cow, something you get from the butcher’s shop) in her tennis bag as part of a subplot where a hired man for the guy whose trial is taking up all of her dad’s time. Other suspicious things happen that she chalks up to Adam intimidating her, so the guy gets a chance to try to kill her. There’s also the numerous rapey situations scattered through the book.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m putting this on Carter’s dad first. She’s completely convinced the only way he’ll love her is if she achieves enough and goes to the one school he has in mind for her. That’s a lot to put on a kid. She likewise should have retaken the test herself and gone with whatever grade came her way. Really, though, what bothered me the most about this story wasn’t how it could have been avoided: it’s the absolute lack of consequences. Carter doesn’t face any real consequences for cheating. She even gets an apology from her father for putting so much pressure on her. Dan, her boyfriend, murdered Adam, and the judge arranges it so he’ll get away with it, too. Adam did get killed, and while he was a total shitheel who needed some real punishment for his actions, death was a little extreme. Sometimes these books seem like they’re trying to send a message, and sometimes those messages really, really suck.

The Best Friend

842655I’ve read nothing but Fear Street books all year. I think they’re rotting out my brain or I’m developing some sort of book-based Stockholm syndrome.

No murderer to ease us into our story this time around. Instead, we get to meet Becka and her irritating boyfriend. Well, before the first chapter is over, he’s her ex-boyfriend. We also learn that Becka has no control over her emotions, which I think makes her a teenager. Hopefully less common: she has a guy on the side she’s dumping her boyfriend over. Also, while she’s distracted over her breakup, she manages to run a stop sign and hit another car.

That’s a lot for seven pages.

RL Stine is adverse to showing the aftermath of any of these accidents. Since it’s just a fender bender, it’s probably just as well we got to skip that part and hear about it while Becka is hanging out in her room with her two best friends, Trish and Lilah. During this conversation, Becka managed to stab herself in the finger with a knitting needle hard enough to draw blood. I’m not an expert knitter or anything, but I’ve done my fair share with a whole lot of sizes of needles. I think she might be knitting wrong. (I did have a friend in college who sat on a knitting needle and stabbed herself in the ass so deeply she had to get a tetanus shot. She was not, however, actively knitting at the time.)

While they’re chatting, Honey Perkins comes barreling into Becka’s life like a puppy, all enthusiasm and too much physical contact. She’s got eyes and ears only for Becka, her very bestest friend ever, and it’s just so totally AWESOME how she’s moved into the house right next door on Fear Street. Becka has no memory at all of this person and knows they were never friends, but Becka is absolutely bursting with all kinds of stories and reminders about what great friends they were and how close they were and isn’t it just SO GREAT that they’ll be neighbors.

After Honey finally makes her exit, the girls figure out that they did know her–in fourth grade, she was the weird, lonely girl no one liked. Now she’s moved back with the unshakable belief that she and Becka were best friends, and of course they’ll be best friends again. It doesn’t take long for Becka to realize that on her way out, Honey managed to steal some of her jewelry. Becka plucks up her courage and heads to the house next door to confront Honey and ask for her pin back…only to find the house empty.

What follows is the kind of escalating creepy behavior that tends to get a pass under the banner of ‘socially awkward.’ Honey starts showing up in Becka’s room while no one was in the house. She has an excuse and a story for everything, and physically attacks Becka on more than one occasion while laughing it off as a game. She insists Becka gave her the jewelry she stole, lying blatantly and with ease.

Of course Becka would rather spend time with her actual friends, and she’s also sneaking around seeing her boyfriend–the boy she had on the side, who of course does not have her mother’s approval. Things take a sharp turn for the worse when Lilah’s brakes on her bike malfunction and she flips over her handlebars and directly into the way of a brown delivery truck.

We miss the immediate aftermath, but we do pick up with police and an ambulance. There’s a bicycle in a pool of blood, Lilah carried away on a stretcher, and Becka’s realization that Lilah’s rear brake cable was completely missing. Since she saw Honey doing something among the bikes just before they went for their ride, she doesn’t waste time putting two and two together. Honey is, of course, there to barge into her room, smother her with hugs, and poke at her until she breaks down into tears.

When Becka gets sick and misses a day of school, Honey also helpfully lets everyone know Becka suffered a breakdown. That’s pretty low, but considering the usual life-ruining rumors, that also seems pretty mild. (It wasn’t high school, but there were rumors in 8th grade that I was a witch. I didn’t much help at first, but it got weirdly out of control over the course of a year. Also, you’d think if people are trying to convince themselves someone has actual dark magic, they’d leave her alone. Not true.) Honey also cuts her hair to match Becka’s (creepy) and tells Becka’s mom that she’s been sneaking out to see a boy she’s banned from seeing (totally bitchy). By the time Honey turned up at a big Christmas party with an identical version of Becka’s super special outfit (a silver skirt over a black cat suit, which…sounds like it might not be a great idea for anyone), Becka has had more than enough of Honey’s shit.

The party, incidentally, is a who’s who of characters from previous books. Half of them turn up in that party. I’m sticking with my ‘time warp’ theory.

Immediately after, Trish falls down the stairs in the middle of her party, breaking her neck. Both of Becka’s closest friends end up across the hall from each other in Shadyside Hospital, looking at months in the hospital and years of physical therapy afterward. And it only manages to get worse from there.

So, the carnage? Um…I don’t even know how to classify this. This is one of the most genuinely upsetting Fear Street books so far. There’s not a whole lot of death, but there’s a lot of injury and just creepy stuff.

Shadyside death count: 30. That one death comes at the very end and is genuinely one of the worst in the series so far.

Additional carnage: I’m a little surprised Becka didn’t come home to dead animals. Still, one girl was hit by a UPS truck, another fell down the stairs and broke her neck.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Someone could have listened to Becka or taken her seriously when she brought up that Honey was a problem. If nothing else, someone should have taken the frequent breaking and entering seriously. Becka did her best to handle Honey, and there isn’t anything she could have done to avoid being her fixation. Since I’m in the spoilers section, I’ll add that what made this truly upsetting was that Honey managed to successfully isolate Becka by severely injuring her closest friends, then not only murdering Becka’s boyfriend, but convincing Becka that she did it in order to make sure Honey could remain embedded in her life. Then the story ended. The rest of these books have all featured the bad guy (or girl) being caught and either heading off to prison or ‘to get the help she really needs.’ No such thing this time around. I seemed to recall there being a sequel, so I checked. There is. There’s a blurb on the front that says it’s the book readers requested of RL Stine. Nothing about that is surprising.

First Date

9780671738655We open once more in the head of a killer. Not just any killer this time, but a serial killer with his next victim. As soon as he’s dispatched her, it’s on to the next town: Shadyside.

Ah, opening narrative from a killer, how I missed you.

From there, we move on to Chelsea Richards. She plays saxophone, doesn’t have many friends, hates her life, and feels like an outsider in her family. Basically, she’s a teenager who plays saxophone. Her family recently moved into a house on Fear Street so they could start over in Shadyside. Her father always dreamed of having a restaurant, so now he has a coffee shop with the dumbest, least practical hours in history. I wouldn’t hope for a lot of success there.

So far, Chelsea has made only one friend at Shadyside High, probably because she’s actually seventeen while the rest of the kids have been seventeen for years and years now (I think all students at Shadyside are sixteen or seventeen. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors. No, wait. No one ever makes it to their senior year). I guess Chelsea’s about to be stuck in the same time warp. The good news? She’ll probably make lots of friends soon.

Nina is one of those crappy friends who’ll ditch you at a moment’s notice for a boy and who won’t pay any attention to anything you’ve got to say. While she’s out walking, Chelsea gets harassed by a carload of teenagers. I’m a little surprised to find so much rapey stuff in these books, but if you’re going to really show the life of the teenager, it would probably be dishonest to not have it ever come up. Is it unrealistic to wish for more recognition of how crappy that behavior is from early 90s teen thrillers?

Soon enough, Chelsea finds herself receiving the attention of not one, but two different boys. One shows up in her dad’s coffee shop, and he seems dangerous and edgy. The other is a new boy in school, safer, more wholesome. Just to shake things up, the same guys who harassed Chelsea rob the shop and assault her father, leaving him in the hospital (hopefully not in the new Franklin Fear Wing, since things named after the Fears tend to attract trouble. Although they do already live on Fear Street, so I guess it can’t get any worse).

Chelsea endeared herself to me a bit when she called the police after the shop was robbed. She got more points for taking it seriously when an FBI agent showed up and warned her that they were looking for a serial killer. Mostly, this bit made me love her:

Her lunch was spread out in front of her. A ham sandwich, a bag of potato chips, a container of chocolate pudding, and a Coke.

Nina must think I’m a total pig, she thought miserably. But if all I had for lunch was yogurt and an apple, I’d be starving all afternoon!

“Want some of this yogurt?” Nina asked. “I can never finish a whole container.”

“No, thanks,” Chelsea replied, taking a bite of her sandwich to keep herself from punching Nina.

Oh, Chelsea. I feel you, girl.

Mostly by dumb luck, Chelsea managed to survive her first date with a serial killer who always kills on the first date. Rather than moving on, he decides to settle on a second date so he can finish her off. By then, Chelsea’s aware there’s a serial killer around who’s totally into her type, and she goes and fingers the wrong guy, getting him badly injured in the process and leaving herself alone for another date with a killer.

So, the carnage? Shadyside got off pretty easy this time around.

Shadyside death count: Still 29. Our killer has enough murders behind him to have the FBI actively hunting him, but he failed to kill anyone in Shadyside.

Additional carnage: Chelsea is working when the coffee shop when the place is robbed and her father is bludgeoned. The killer tries to strangle her to death, and the reader is left to believe she’s dead. He then tries to kill Nina. There are also descriptions from him of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. (On a rant relating to that: I appreciate that a lot of the main characters in these books have been women. Some of those women have been pretty awesome, and Chelsea managed to pull out some smarts and some impressive tricks at the end of this one. A lot of our killers have been women, too, which would be nice in its own respect if it weren’t that they’ve typically ‘snapped’ and gone all murderous. One of them went serial killer over her damned boyfriend. We’ve got one serial killer whose a guy, and he’s got a far more typical ‘abandoned by my mother, beaten regularly by my father’ storyline.)

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m laying the finger on the Shadyside High administration. The occasional story makes it into the news about an adult posing as a teenager and attending high school, but this makes three so far in the series. That is inexcusable. If we want to go back further, then when the killer’s mother took off with his sister, she could have taken him, too. Or better social services maybe could have intervened. Either way, our main character here doesn’t have any responsibility in the events, except in that she turned kind of badass at the end.

The Prom Queen

thepromqueenI’m not sure if this was the first Fear Street book I read or not. I do know that it was the first book I ever got to pick out brand new. I remember sitting on the floor in the bookstore (Walden Books in the mall in my grandparent’s town), looking through all the Fear Street books and trying to pick the right one. I don’t know if I was already familiar with Fear Street or if that was the moment I discovered it. I do know that instead of picking a book for a good reason, I totally judged by the cover. I know I picked this one because it featured a poofy pink dress and a skull. You couldn’t get more up my alley than that.

On rereading this one, I was surprised to discover how much of the plot I remembered. This one doesn’t start with a prologue or a peek into a killer’s mind. It’s another one in first person. The kids at Shadyside High are all worked up because a murdered girl from a neighboring town was found in the Fear Street Woods. This would have been a perfect occasion for the kids to swap stories about Fear Street, including callbacks to the previous books. That’s not RL Stine’s style, though.

The kids all move from gossiping about the murder to an assembly where the candidates for prom queen are announced. I have absolutely no memory of how the whole prom king and queen thing worked at my school or if there was an assembly with nominees or what. I barely even went to my prom and tended to skip out on assemblies, though, so I guess I’ll just have to assume it’s basically accurate in the book. In any case, we meet our prom queen nominees: Elizabeth McVey, our narrator, Simone Perry, the literal and figurative drama queen, Elana Potter, the popular girl, Dawn Rodgers, the hyper-competitive one, and Rachael West, the shy, poor one.

We soon learn that Simone has a chronically unfaithful boyfriend. She caught him at school that day flirting with one girl and catches him out with another while the potential prom queens are all having a celebratory pizza together (on an unrelated note, I sincerely hope that the kinds of girls who get nominated for prom queen get to go out and have pizza together to celebrate without counting fat or carbs or whatever. Sometimes life calls for pizza, y’know?).

Simone then misses rehearsal and when Elizabeth stops by her house to check on her, she finds a puddle of blood in the floor and sees a boy in the school’s colors running toward the woods with a person-sized bundle in his arms.  Shortly after, Dawn is attacked in a theater, then Rachael is murdered. Sandbags on the stage are sabotaged in another attempt on Dawn’s life, and by the time Elana is found dead on the stage after a fall from the catwalk, the remaining two prom queen candidates are sure someone is targeting them.

Because it’s a Fear Street book, the truth is actually so much dumber than that.

Also, Lisa Blume, now the student council president, makes an appearance in this book. How many summers have gone by since the first book? I stopped keeping track, but at this point she should at least be in college, and she might be able to legally drink. I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong in Shadyside–and it’s not Fear Street. The whole town is in a time warp. All of the students of Shadyside High are trapped there forever. They’ll never graduate. No wonder they’re all killing each other.

So, the carnage? Piling high and deep this time around.

Shadyside death count: 29. I’m not counting the girl whose body was found in the Fear Street Woods because she was from Waynesbridge. I haven’t counted other deaths from outside Shadyside, so same with this one. Still, Elizabeth found the puddle of blood in Simone’s room, was the last one to see Rachael alive, and found Elana’s body. That’s all rough for one girl.

Additional carnage: On a rainy night, Elizabeth thinks she hits a small child with her car. It turned out to be a raccoon, but RL Stine was sure to spare us no details. There’s also a graphic description of a girl’s broken leg after a sandbag lands an her, and another is stabbed in the chest, but survives. If this was my first Fear Street book, it was a hell of an introduction.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Someone should have taught Simone that if your boyfriend is constantly cheating on you, the problem is not with the girls he’s cheating with. I’ll agree with her that going out with your friend’s boyfriend is tacky as hell, but it’s not really worth faking your own death so you can murder your competition at leisure and blame it on the serial killer from the next town over. Additionally, two different girls go out with her boyfriend within the first three chapters, but she only went after the prom queens, so her plan seems extra-flawed.