I just wanted to say that it’s a trip that AM and I are still writing this blog, since we starting snarking on Fear Street nearly 10 years ago! (cue spit-take). I’m sure you Shadyside Snark fans can appreciate that we’re at different places in our lives, both physically and figuratively, but it’s awesome that I still get to sit down every once awhile and rip apart some fantastically cheesy teen horror books. As long as RL is prepared to pump out the rebooted Fear Street series, the Shadyside sisters will (eventually … after a very long time) blog about them. I should point out it takes less time for RL to write the books than for AM and I to blog about them. I’m not sure who comes out looking worse in this scenario.
To the book. I didn’t hate it. Actually, it is definitely my favourite book of the Relaunch series so far. Obviously it has to do with cheerleaders, my favourite horror trope. To those new to our blog, AM insisted on taking all books that had to do with zombies, and I insisted on the Cheerleaders saga. Clearly we all have our triggers as to what we find the creepiest. For AM it’s zombies, for me it’s cheerleaders. Haha, guess who was less popular in high school?
Part One: We start with Gretchen Page, our heroine du jour. Btw, Gretchen? Such a great name. It’s becoming so much more popular now and is totally NOT what you would expect from a cheerleader (from the 80s-90s that is, because they were, like, all named Jennifer and Ashley). One of the characters even comments on this, all, I didn’t expect someone named Gretchen to look like you.
As for how she looks, Gretchen is cute and blonde and pretty stereotypically cheerleader, and she considers her overt cuteness to be tragic. She is on the phone with one of her friends from back home, Polly, and my Spidey-senses were immediately up because her friends wasn’t responding back in the dialogue, it was just Gretchen talking into the phone. Gretchen talking to someone who is dead/doesn’t exist? This is a very common Fear Street plotline. Except, then Polly did respond. So I was a bit spun. Also, Polly is described as looking about 12 with a deep sexy purr of a voice, which also spun me. Who describes their friends like that? Well, at 16 anyway. So, we’re going with Polly IS alive. But then Gretchen hides the fact that she’s talking to Polly from her mom, so maybe Polly is dead? I don’t know but I will expend all my energy while reading this book to try to guess before the end. So actual suspense was created, well done RL.
Things to know about Gretchen: she’s new to Shadyside, desperate to make it on the cheerleading squad and a complete bitch to her recently-divorced mom. She goes to an appointment with the cheerleading coach at the school. While there, she meets Sid, the cheerleading equipment manager, who hits on her. Then right after she meets his girlfriend, Stacy, the cheerleading captain. Then she goes into the meeting with Coach Walker, only to discover she had just given the last spot of the cheerleading squad to another girl, Devra Dalby!
Redheaded Devra Dalby is clearly going to be the mean girl in this book. Fear Street aficianados will recognize the Dalby name – from Dalby department stores, and Reva Dalby, OG mean rich girl from the Silent Night Super Chillers. I was SOOOO hoping that Reva would make an appearance as Devra’s mom or something. But no such luck. All Devra talked about was how “Daddy” owned the biggest department store in town and that made her the shit. So, Devra IS Reva, with a very minor name change. (AM: Did Reva end up dying? Is Devra her rich father’s later-in-life replacement?)
Devra has the last spot on the squad, but the coach watches Gretchen’s highlight reel from her old school and sees that she’s great, so decides to pit the girls against each other. I know literally nothing about cheerleading besides you will probably be murdered, but couldn’t they just … add another spot on the squad? Anyway, Gretchen is pumped she gets to try out because she’s sure she’ll win. Then she gets into a minor car accident – her tire blows out which OF COURSE sounds like a gunshot – and her reaction is major, and she talks herself down from the horrible nightmares that threatened to come. Some intriguing back story? Involving mysterious sexy-voiced Polly?
Then we go to Devra’s point of view where she is pouting to her Daddy that she would have to try out for the cheerleading spot. The whole point of the scene is that Daddy Dalby will make a call to the school to ensure her spot on the team, but I spent the entire time trying to find evidence of Reva.
Gretchen meets the girl next door, Madison, who is a fantastic violin player and they click, becoming fast friends. Gretchen runs into Sid, the cheerleader equipment manager/obvious adultering boyfriend at the mall. He looks at her intensely then they start making, which is a little quick but hey, teen hormones I guess. And Gretchen catches a glimpse of Devra glaring at them. Ooh, the drama!
Devra surprises Gretchen by joining her at a booth at the local diner and showing her the terrible acid burns she has on her hands. I immediately thought they were bonding over acid, but in fact Devra was just there to request that Gretchen back off for the year. Since Devra was a senior, Gretchen could be the alternate and would have an automatic spot next year. Gretchen declines the offer and makes a lifelong enemy.
The day of the tryouts, Gretchen is pumped and intense. Devra tries out first and Gretchen mentally tears her apart, saying she’s not terrible but certainly not up to her calibre. Then Devra goes in and nails her much more complicated routine. She then gets violently disgustingly ill, and the squad realizes her water bottle had been poisoned. Sid comes over to comfort her, and shortly after that she receives some threatening text messages – SOMETIMES CHEERLEADERS DIE and GIVE ME A K-I-L-L. The messages are from Devra, which is pretty ballsy, I have to say. Everyone else thinks so too when Gretchen shows the to the cheerleading coach. Devra immediately claims her phone was stolen and accuses Gretchen of sending them herself. Also super ballsy.
Fear tactics aside, Devra wins. The principal, Hernandez, calls the coach and the captain in to tell them that Devra’s dad called in a favour and insisted that Devra be on the team or else he would pull funding from the school. Money always wins and the cheerleading squad doesn’t have a choice. Gretchen was eavesdropping and heard the whole thing. She goes to drown her sorrows with Madison at the Cheesecake Factory, where Gretchen starts to murmur stuff about a knife. Weird.
She gets a text message from the cheerleading captain to meet at the gym for a night practice. Except it was an evil set up and someone just attacked her in the dark. Someone who smelled like Devra’s perfume. Also, her new uniform comes in covered in cockroaches, ordered from Dalby’s Department stores. Gretchen’s starting to get frustrated with the abuse since Devra already won.
And then we get to the fire batons. Do you think if you lived in Shadyside you would ever touch a fire baton? Or, like, set a fire ever? Fire means automatic horrific death or at least horrific maiming. If you gave me a pack of matches I would immediately hurl them from my body and cut you out of my life completely. And yet, Gretchen as the unlucky alternate will stand there and light kerosene-soaked fire batons for all the cheerleaders. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG! And yet, at the next game, when Stacy takes the baton meant for Devra, she is almost immediately doused in flames. Yup, saw that coming.
Part Two: Stacy survived but her arms are covered in burns and her nerves are badly damaged (horrific maiming). Gretchen is now being questioned as to whether she sabotaged the baton, and is up in arms that Devra is acting like a victim in all of this. Gretchen is now on the squad for reals and that gives her a motive to have committed the sabotage. But the squad continues on with their cheers and want to use Gretchen’s superior skills to show off, which involves a double somersault something where Devra has to catch her. Gretchen assumes Devra will try to kill her but it all goes well.
Meanwhile, Gretchen’s violin-playing friend Madison desperately wants to tell her something, but Gretchen never gets a chance to hear what it is. When Madison performs Mozart with a string quartet in front of the school, she starts screaming horribly and her neck explodes with blood. Turns out her violin had been dipped in hideous acid that ate away her neck and burned through her aorta. Madison does not survive. Holy crap, that is an explosive murder, RL! I am impressed and thoroughly terrified. I will also avoid all stringed instruments from here on out.
Sid (cheating boyfriend) and Gretchen get closer, and she learns his out of work dad is kind of abusive and also that he is poor (therefore will die and/or be the murderer). He helps her clean out her garage, and there he finds a jar of sulphuric acid, like the kind that killed Madison. But Gretchen knows that Devra has some kind of acid, so she makes a plan with Sid to break into her house and find it as some kind of proof that Devra is responsible for the murder. They manage to find the workshop where Devra had been working but she only got burned by Muriatic Acid, which was not the right kind. Hmm, still not sure who the murderer is.
And now there is the inevitable Cheerleading camping weekend in Fear Woods. DO PEOPLE NEVER LEARN! After Gretchen leaves for the trip, her Mom goes in to clean her room and discovers Gretchen left her phone behind. While not normally the snoopy type, her Mom goes through her phone and discovers something TERRIBLE! She immediately goes to Principal Hernandez to get him to stop the bus but it has already left. She tells him she discovered Gretchen has been making almost daily calls to Polly Brown … the girl Gretchen killed two years ago! I knew it! Polly was totally dead! And yet, sometimes she would answer Gretchen, which kept me guessing. Well played, RL.
Part Three: Gretchen’s Mom explains that Gretchen had been driving the car that was in an accident that killed her best friend Polly. Since then her grasp on reality has been tenuous. When she starts to call Polly, it means she’s slipping. And at her old school, she had picked out a girl on her squad and started to make it look as though that girl was harassing her, as if she was a victim. Also that she carried a hunting knife. Mom and principal quickly agree they have to get to the cheerleaders right away.
Meanwhile at the cheerleading camp, Sid and Devra are screaming at each other. Gretchen gets spinny and confused and goes to get her knife to put an end to things.
Mom and principal arrive at the camp in time to see Gretchen running into the mess hall with a knife.
Gretchen runs into the kitchen, brandishing the knife. She confronts Sid, who is holding Devra against him with a knife held to her throat. Gretchen warns Sid to let Devra go, while he screeches that it was Devra who was supposed to burn, not Stacy. Gretchen tries to keep him talking, so inevitably he exposits that he really loved Devra and thought they had a connection, but then she had his father fired at the shoe department of Dalby’s. Now Sid’s family is ruined and he snapped. Everything he had done to torture Gretchen was to make everyone hate Devra and ruin her too. And he killed Madison because she had a video on her phone of Sid clearly wiping kerosene on the offending fire baton.
Sid goes to slit Devra’s throat, but Gretchen tosses her knife away and dives across the floor, barreling into Sid. She elbows him in the stomach and uppercuts his chin. Kinda badass. Sid goes down and Devra is able to get away with only a cut only her neck, not deep. Gretchen and her Mom hug, then Gretchen goes to apologize to Devra for being a jerk to her. They make up because Gretchen did after all save her life.
After that, life gets better for Gretchen. Her therapist is on call to see how she is after the incident, to see if there’s any trauma, but Gretchen feels great. She’s feeling great. And then she gets a text from Polly …
Totally fun Fear Street book! It has some of the well-known story lines – like talking to dead people on the phone (or facetime or text), and poverty creating murderers. Also unbelievably creative murders. So, hope you liked this one too. Tell me why you thought it was cheesy. Six exploding aortas out of seven.