Bad Dreams is a tale of two sisters – this plot line seems to be used a lot, sibling rivalry = death. Oops! I gave it away. Maggie is the older Travers sister, and Andrea is the unfortunate younger. Maggie is beautiful, smart and athletic, while Andrea is … not. While both girls are redheads (but of course they are), Andrea is short and dumpy, with stringy short hair (and short hair = ugly).
They are moving with their mom to Fear Street from a richer neighbourhood, shortly after the death of their father. They have with them their old golden retriever, Gus. I immediately thought if something happens to Gus, I’m never reading another Fear Street book again. A page later, Gus is hit by a car … oh, wait, false alarm. That was the most suspenseful part of the book. Apparently cats and small dogs are okay to be killed and occasionally chopped up and put in bags, but not even R. L. can manage to kill off a retriever. I approve (not of animal killings, ever, obviously, but of saving goldens, but then, I’m biased.)
The family moved into the decrepit Fear Street house, and everyone is super unhappy about it. The only nice surprise is a beautiful pink canopy bed left in Maggie’s room (perfect for princesses). Andrea immediately has a tantrum because she wants the princess bed. Maggie, ever the princess, keeps it for herself. Big mistake! She has horrible nightmares about a girl being stabbed to death in the bed, and starts to unravel, particularly after she finds out the previous owner’s daughter had been actually stabbed to death in the bed. I’m pretty sure if I found out someone had recently been murdered in my mysteriously abandoned bed, I would start to sleep on the couch, but Maggie powers through.
The girls are both on the swim team and are competing for the top two positions, to compete at the all state swim meet. Andrea was made to seem short, dumpy and bad at athletics, but she’s one of the top swimmers in the high school. I guess she’s just ugly, then. Both of them are very competitive, but in the end Maggie gets first place, and Andrea comes in fourth. Only things keep on ‘happening’ to the other competitors. One girl is pushed down a flight of stairs, breaking her arm, and another ends up with a knife in the back (although she survives). Both girls blame Maggie, because she’s so competitive, but that doesn’t make any sense. Maggie already beat them, she won. Andrea, however, is all of a sudden in the top two positions. Hmmm…
Maggie is losing it more and more, not sleeping well because of her nightmares. One night, after waking up screaming, she is then attacked by the ghost of the girl in the dreams. Only the ‘ghost’ is wielding a knife and jumps out a window when Andrea comes into the room. Pretty low rent ghost. Nobody believes Maggie, and she has to see a shrink. It is suggested that the canopy bed is moved to the attic to help Maggie get over her unnatural obsession with it.
At this point, Maggie is in too deep, so she sneaks up to the bed to figure out who the killer is. On the bed she finds … the killer. That was easy. Her ‘ghost’ is a girl who used to live in the house. She candidly admits to killing her sister in the bed, in a jealous rage, then escaping from the mental institute she was locked up in. She had been living in the attic ever since. She identified with poor dumpy Andrea, and started maiming the swim team to help her out. Ghost killer girl is about to slit Maggie’s throat for Andrea, who enters the attic. Andrea’s heart grows three sizes too big, and she saves big sis. Whew!
Things immediately return to normal with the girls bitterly fighting with each other, basically over their near-killer. All is well in Shadyside again. I give this book 2 princess pink canopy beds out of 4, because it was only so-so, but at least no golden retrievers were hurt in the making of this book.