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?