One Evil Summer

One Evil SummerHalfway through! And this is the one that almost broke me. Seriously, I’ve gotten behind on writing reviews, but I stayed on top of reading the books clear up until this one. As of this writing, I haven’t finished reading the next one. I’m also 3 more behind after that.

I shall persevere. And I really, really hope this isn’t the start of a severe drop-off in quality.

I actually remember reading this one when it was first out. I could recall far more of the plot than I’d like to admit, but you know what I didn’t remember? That it was a Fear Street book. I thought it was one of the other books RL Stine wrote outside of the series. It’s yet another of those books where the main character lives on Fear Street, but everyone happens well outside of Shadyside.

The whole thing starts with Amanda Conklin waking up in juvenile detention, where she’s been detained for murder.

As soon as that’s established, we jump back in time to when Amanda and her family were on their way out to summer vacation in Seahaven, where they’ve rented a house on the cliffs above the ocean. Amanda has both a brother and a sister, making theirs the biggest family in Shadyside so far. Both parents are also present. Amanda’s father is a lawyer and her mother is a journalist, and they’re planning on a working vacation. Of course, since Amanda failed algebra, she’s got to take summer school and so isn’t available to babysit her brother and sister.

There’s also a cat and two parakeets. If you’re sensitive to animal deaths, that’s pretty much the sign that it’s time to put this book down and find another.

Amanda’s parents cheerfully hire the first person who shows up at the door to answer their ad for a nanny for the summer, and they don’t seem very concerned that no one’s answering at her references. Chrissy gets along fine with the kids, but not so well with Amanda.

The cat is immediately run over by a car directly in front of the entire family. The parakeets are later both killed, because of course they are. I won’t even get into all the gory details. This book doesn’t deserve a complete recap because in the end, it turns out Chrissy’s father committed arson. Amanda’s father (whose name is John–so far a few fathers in Shadyside have gotten names, but no mothers) defended a homeless man who was arrested for the crime, and was ultimately responsible for Chrissy’s father’s arrest. Rather than facing up to what he’d done, Chrissy’s father committed a murder/suicide, killing himself, his wife, and one of his daughters with carbon monoxide by leaving a car running in the garage.

Chrissy, for no particular reason, is able to use all of her mind instead of the 10% everyone else uses, so she goes all Carrie on Amanda. The beach house even gets burned down. And with that stupid bit of pseudoscience, RL Stine lost me. Had that been debunked by the mid-90s? Should I forgive him? I’m not sure and I feel like enough of my time is lost on reading that book and writing the review.

So, the carnage? Actually, really bad. There are reasons so much of this book stuck with me all these years.

Shadyside death count: Unchanged from 37. There was a lot of death here, but as near as I can tell, none of it happened in or to people from Shadyside.

Additional carnage: Well, there’s the cat that was run over by a car. There’s the pair of parakeets that were cut open and left dead in their cage. There’s Chrissy’s parents and sister, along with the two other families Chrissy killed. One of Amanda’s friends back in Shadyside gets a long-distance attack from Chrissy and ends up in the hospital, but it’s not mentioned if she recovered or not. Finally, there’s Amanda’s boyfriend, who dies gruesomely right beside Amanda, and eventually Chrissy herself.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: This probably goes back to Chrissy’s father and his decision to commit arson. Or to try to get away from all of it by way of murder/suicide. Otherwise, maybe checking Chrissy’s references and not hiring her when they don’t check out?


The Thrill Club

The Thrill ClubIt took 24 books, but Shadyside finally has its first black character.

Naturally, she dies in the first chapter.

Except, psych! It was just a story written by a member of the Thrill Club! Talia Blanton is super pleased with herself, especially since her boyfriend wrote it and she’s now passing it off as her own. Her boyfriend, Seth, is also part of the Thrill Club, as is Shandel, who is far less entertained by a story where she gets her throat cut than anyone else. Talia takes Shandel’s unhappiness so personally that she stabs her right in the middle of their meeting.

Except, psych! It’s a fake knife! And for some reason, Shandel still isn’t on board with the humor here. It’s hard to blame a girl.

In addition to writing Talia’s stories for her, Seth is also responsible for her math homework. Despite that, Talia is really unhappy with him because he’s just stopped being fun since his father just died.

There’s some extra drama because Seth is Maura’s ex, and now that Seth is such a boring, sad boyfriend, Talia starts making some moves on Rudy, Maura’s current boyfriend. Talia’s working really hard to beat out Bobby-the-Man for worst human being in Shadyside.

In order to properly set up the ridiculous plot for this book, Talia heads up to Seth’s room, where she discovers Maura lives next door to him. That means two more Shadyside High students who live on Fear Street. The real purpose of the visit, however, is so that Seth can play a tape from his father’s research. His father was studying a tribe in New Guinea, and the chanting recorded on the tape puts him in a trance and drives Talia crazy–because primitives and their magic, amiright?

Shandel scares Talia on her way home that night, as payback for killing her in the story and then fake stabbing her. When Talia’s teacher calls her out on not doing her own work, she lies to his face about not being a cheater even though Seth had done it for her while she watched TV. So it’s apparently not even like she’s buried under school work or something. She assumes Shandel tipped the teacher off in revenge, and not that he maybe noticed it wasn’t Talia’s handwriting.

Barely 50 pages in, Shadyside loses its only black teenager when Shandel dies exactly like she did in Talia’s story.

You know what? I try really hard to not get too deep on my analysis of these books, but seriously? It took more than 20 books to introduce a single black character and she’s immediately killed three times in the first third of the book? Even in the mid-90s, that was so played out as to be insulting, even without delving into the much deeper and more troubling issues.

Following the funeral, the Thrill Club decides to meet again. Talia still can’t do her own damned work, so she gets another story from Seth, featuring another member of the Thrill Club dying. The Thrill Club appears to be Shadyside’s version of the Midnight Society, only instead of taking turns telling stories, it’s all about paying attention to Talia. I guess it was still more successful than my attempts to start up a branch of the Midnight Society, at least until members started dying.

Naturally, everyone in the Thrill Club except Talia finds Rudy hanged in his basement, and moments after they discover the body, an incoherent Talia comes stumbling out from under the stairs. Talia is immediately placed in psychiatric care, where Shadyside’s second black teenager sneaks into her room and Talia immediately mistakes her for Shandel because…Gods, I just can’t even with this. I know these aren’t good books and probably aren’t worth getting so upset over, but now Shadyside has two black girls total, and one’s been murdered and the other is in a psych ward?

Talia is released from the hospital…because reasons? And…Seth has a new story waiting for her, featuring Talia herself killing other members of the Thrill Club. That’s obviously going to go over well.

So, the carnage? There’s not a high body count, but it was pretty bad.

Shadyside death count: 37. One teenager had her throat cut and another was hanged in his basement. Another’s father died of mysterious causes directly related to the plot. It wasn’t counted as murder, but it was mysterious Fear Street stuff.

Additional carnage: Through Seth’s stories, we get to see each death more than once, and some extra ones from the end. This one was way too busy with racist tropes to get around to killing off any animals or severely injuring or mutilating other teens.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I really want to put all of this on Talia because she’s a terrible human being, but she’s also ultimately a victim here. Seth was behind this because his father died and that’s the sort of thing, in Shadyside, that makes people snap and start killing people. So…better grief counseling?

Double Date

Double DateThe cover of this book promised me a free temporary tattoo, but there wasn’t one inside.

Probably because I bought the book used. And it’s 20 years old.

Seriously, these books are 20 years old. I’m also pretty sure I once belonged to some Fear Street books of the month club, and I got this one along with the temporary tattoo. Odds are high I wore it at some point. I was really into temporary tattoos clear up until I got a real one.

I’m rambling to avoid talking about this book, because instead of opening up with murder or something, it launches right into sexual harassment in the halls of Shadyside High. Bobby Newkirk is a member of a band that can’t decide on a name, and he’s very pleased with his prowess with the ladies. His best friend is only his best friend because the guy happens to be Bobby’s biggest fan. He’s apparently got a whole string of girls he’s been with once or twice, but he wants to be sure to spread himself around since everyone deserves a piece of Bobby-the-Man. Since we’re 23 books into the series and this is the first time we’ve heard of Bobby, I’m pretty sure his legend is entirely in his own mind.

I don’t want to spend too long on this book because Bobby is a miserable, conceited son of a bitch, and we spend the whole time in his head while he’s trying to simultaneously date twins without getting caught. He has to pause to admire himself every single time he catches his reflection anywhere.

I guess RL Stine gets kudos for pulling together such an entirely loathable character. He’s even got a pair of monkey’s he’s experimenting on in the biology lab. He’s feeding one a regular diet and the other nothing but bananas. I mean, I know we’re talking about a 20 year old book, but I’m pretty sure you weren’t allowed to do that kind of crap to monkeys in high school in the mid-90s. One of the sisters has an experiment involving highly dangerous cannibal ants. I get that Bobby’s an idiot, but if they’re cannibals, wouldn’t they eat other ants instead of people?

Naturally, the twins live on Fear Street. Their family even has a cabin in the Fear Street Woods, because why wouldn’t they? Bobby decides he can tell them apart pretty quickly, but things start getting crazy (?) very quickly, what with Samantha driving all crazy and shoplifting earrings and stuff. Then Samantha tells him he can tell them apart because she has a tattoo of a butterfly on her shoulder. Soon enough, it seems the girls are switching places on him and playing mind games. When he finds out they’re really triplets and it seems their psychotic sister has arrived, Bobby is…totally thrilled he’s been dating three sisters at once. Because Bobby is the worst.

So, the carnage? None. Unless you count the monkey being malnourished in the lab. The Shadyside teachers really are the worst.

Shadyside death count: Holding steady at 34.

Additional carnage: There’s a fake-out with the monkeys, because any animals that appear in these books either die or almost die or there’s a prank involving them or something. Bobby gets kidnapped, dowsed in honey, and fed to cannibal ants, which sounds miserable, but possibly also light punishment, considering.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Bobby could have been a decent human being? This entire thing was an extended prank to teach Bobby a lesson, but unless he shows up in a future book as a changed man, I’m going to assume this was really just fun for the girls involved who were getting their revenge, but not actually useful.

Bad Dreams

Bad DreamsWe get to switch things up this time, opening from the viewpoint of a girl being murdered by her sister while sleeping in a canopy bed. She was having a nightmare because the book is called Bad Dreams.

We immediately move on to Maggie Travers, in the car with her mother and sister as they try to find their new house on Fear Street. None of them know how to get to it, despite the fact that the girls have lived in Shadyside all their lives. No knowing how long Mrs. Travers has lived there. I get that they’re moving from North Hills, the rich part of town, but am I really supposed to believe anyone in Shadyside doesn’t know how to get to Fear Street? Or that someone would buy a house in the very small town where they live and not know how to get there by moving day? Or, hell, that neither girl has a friend who lives on Fear Street? At least half of Shadyside High must live there. It’s even mixed with wealthy and poor families, in case the Travers aren’t the sorts to mix with the poors.

Her relationship with her younger sister Andrea is immediately set up as adversarial. I think we’re supposed to see Andrea as sullen, but we immediately start out with Maggie recounting all the ways poor Andrea is just a sad, lesser version of herself. I’d be kind of curious to hear this story over again from Andrea’s point of view. Well, a brief summary. I don’t know if I’m up to reading the whole thing a second time. Both of them have red hair and green eyes. Shadyside has an unusual number of redheads, along with people with green eyes. I suspect RL Stine is partial.

The family has an old golden retriever, and usually no good comes to pets in these books. There’s an immediate cheat ‘did the dog get hit by a car’ scare, but Gus actually makes it safely through the entire book.

Maggie is also dating Justin Stiles. You’d think she’d remember the part where he cheated on his girlfriend so much she went flying off the rails and murdered several other girls. The murder part is not at all his fault. The ‘cheating constantly’ part is something that you’d think would take him off the ‘potential boyfriends’ list. One of her best friends is even Dawn Rodgers, who warned her the guy has ‘a wandering eye.’ You’d think she’d also remind Maggie about the part where Dawn was assaulted and eventually stabbed over the guy. And that the victims were undoubtedly mutual friends–or at least acquaintances–of theirs.

Does Shadyside’s time warp include a certain amount of memory loss from year to year? I guess it would have to. Otherwise, everyone would notice that they’re all juniors and seniors until they end up dead due to something or other loosely connected to Fear Street.

The girls immediately head to the bedrooms they chose–so they have all been in the house before. Maggie discovers a beautiful antique canopy bed in her room, and Andrea immediately angles to get the bed because…because of course she would? I dunno, I’m mostly on Andrea’s side, or at least get her, through most of this, but not on this. Moving giant wooden antique canopy beds is an enormous pain in the ass.

Maggie immediately starts having bad dreams while sleeping in the canopy bed because it’s right there in the title, duh. She gets to witness the murder from the prologue, so we get to read about it over and over. Lucky us. (Lucky me?)

Both Maggie and Andrea are on the swim team, along with Dawn because Dawn is super athletic and good at everything. At least, she is up until she gets pushed down the stairs at school and breaks her arm. Dawn seriously¬† needs to get out of Shadyside, and not just because of the time warp. Dawn blames Maggie to start, and not long after, Maggie discovers another member of the swim team just after she’s been stabbed. Because no one ever does anything right around here, Maggie grabs the knife instead of, you know, applying pressure to the wound or going for help or something.

By then, Maggie has learned that a girl was stabbed to death in the very bed where Maggie has been sleeping. She’s convinced that Andrea is going to reenact the murder, but naturally what’s really going on is just so much stupider.

So, the carnage? Arguably light. Unless you’re Dawn Rodgers.

Shadyside death count: 34. That murder happened before the book opened, but it still counts.

Additional carnage: Considering Maggie was supposed to be our primary victim here, this really hit the members of the swim team the hardest. Dawn’s activities on the swim team and playing tennis and probably in drama and whatever else she does are going to suffer due to that broken arm. I guess since it’s Shadyside, she can always get back to it next year. It’s not like anyone’s going to graduate or anything. Additionally, another swim team member was stabbed.

Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I don’t even know how to approach this. Not immediately throwing out a beautiful antique bed isn’t really something I’d hold against anyone. It’s not like those are usually murder sites. I have to assume the mattress was replaced. You’d think the stains would be suspicious. As for having a crazy person living in the attic without everyone knowing? On the one hand, I want to call that super stupid, but on the other, it’s happened a few times to other people. I assume RL Stine saw one of those news stories and then this mess happened.