Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Dare, or "Peer Pressure Rears Its Ugly Head"

This cover is pretty sweet, and VERY eighties. Love the hair, Jo! The tagline is kinda provocative too - Some girls will do ANYTHING for a guy ... even kill. Sadly, this recaps the book excellently. What WON'T a girl do for the hunky high school jock?
I love it when a 150 page book has a prologue. This begins with our heroine, Johanna, wondering how on earth she got to the point where she was about to kill her teacher – then we go back to figure it out. Excellent hook, R. L.

It all began when Johanna went to 7-Eleven with her friend Margaret. Johanna is small and mousy, and Margaret is described as chunky and not very pretty. By her best friend. I already don’t love Johanna. You get the sense that Jo and Margie are not the most popular girls in school, because they’re plain and poor, but they find themselves in 7-Eleven at the EXACT same time as the most popular seniors in Shadyside High do a slurpee run. Jo is crushing on the hunkiest guy in school, Dennis. Although then he lets out a hyena laugh, um, not so sexy. The cool kids have a slurpee fight, because that’s what we cool kids did in the 90s. The store clerk threatens to call the cops and Dennis pulls a gun on him. Things have escalated awfully quick here. Dennis shoots … and it’s a water gun! Oh, those crazy kids, what will they think of next. There is much hyena laughing, and they throw some money at the clerk and take off. I’m pretty sure that chapter was solely there to demonstrate the rich kids of Shadyside are assholes.

The next day, Jo overhears a fight between Dennis and the history professor, Mr. Northwood. Northwood isn’t going to allow him to take a makeup exam if he goes to the Bahamas for a week, and if he fails the test he’ll lose his spot on the all-state track team, destroying his Olympic chances. That actually is pretty harsh. Dennis loses his ‘cool’ and runs out of the room, punches a locker, then starts to flirt with Jo. I think Dennis is a big dumb jock. Actually, and this might just be because I’ve been watching Arrested Development obsessively lately, but I think Dennis would look exactly like Steve Holt. I keep expecting him to pump his fists in the air and yell ‘Steve Holt!’, except, obviously, he’d yell ‘Dennis!’ I digress. They talk about ways they’d like to kill Northwood, which is foreplay in Shadyside, then he takes off with his rich girlfriend. Jo has a ridiculous violent fantasy about killing his girlfriend, confessing to us (the reader) she always has disturbingly violent fantasies. Um … kay?

The deal with the teacher, Mr. Northwood, is that he has been picking on all the rich kids, some might say for their entitled attitude. He tapes everything on little tape recorders, which he keeps in his breast pocket. He is also Jo’s next door neighbour on … you guessed it, Fear Street. So that night, when the brat pack shows up to break his windows, Jo hears and comes outside. They pour sand into his gas tank and carve D-E-N-N-I into the side of his car. These kids are not the criminal geniuses they think they are. When Northwood comes out, they scatter, letting Jo take the heat. Not that it really worked, though, since Northwood saw the whole thing and had the entire group suspended from school.

Jo’s life takes an interesting turn when Dennis calls her up and asks her to a party, despite the cute rich girlfriend. Jo admits she’ll do anything to be accepted by the group. Anything. Oh, Jo, honey, never tell anyone that!

The next day Dennis gives her a conch shell from the Bahamas. Jo gets all twitter-painted, until she sees Dennis pressing cute rich girlfriend up against the wall of the cafeteria, kissing her. That’s like sex in Shadyside, so scandalous! Jo gets all clingy and follows Dennis around, going to the party with him. It’s full of rich kids, like Reva Dalby (of Silent Night fame). Dennis ignores her all night, then makes out with her for awhile in the car. He’s using you, Johanna! They are interrupted by Northwood creeping on them. Jo is so furious she gets a gun and aims it at Northwood – but the gun wasn’t loaded. I’ll admit he’s kind of pervy, but should creeping = death? I call that an overreaction.

The next night Dennis asks to come over to study with Jo, but brings his entire pack of friends with him, including his girlfriend. So this was either much kinkier than anyone imagine, or this isn’t going to be the date she thought it was. They bash Northwood for awhile, then one of the guys claims he’s going to do something about him. His revenge … putting skunk juice on his front step. I don’t know, there is just something so juvenile, so HIGH SCHOOL about that, it made me laugh. Jo volunteers to do the pouring, in an attempt to get in with the in crowd. She is totally about to orgasm, thinking they’re all best buds. I actually really feel sorry for Jo, and sympathy is not a common feeling to have for any Fear Street characters.

They all hang out for a few weeks, they even drink BEER while studying one night. Johanna really has joined the bad crowd! Well, obviously this isn’t going to go well, when Dennis finds the gun Jo’s dead beat dad left for protection years ago. He plays around with it, and like the asshole that he is, shoots his friend in the shoulder. At first I think this is another one of Jo’s effed up ‘fantasies’ but nope, he really shot him. So while everyone freaks out and calls the ambulance, Dennis puts the gun on Northwoods doorstep. The teacher comes out when the cops show up and picks up the gun in confusion (word of caution: you should never touch random weapons just because they’re there), and Dennis tells the cops Northwood shot his friend.

So, this little ruse didn’t exactly work, but now Jo was a full fledged member of the group, and I guess that means she also gets to pleasure Dennis on the side, because they see each other secretly, mainly going to park on top of the cliff. Also, the friend is okay, because miraculously the bullet didn’t hit anything vital in the shoulder. Is there anything vital in the shoulder? Do we have some organ I don’t know about, floating around about the shoulder area? Cause I’m thinking no, but whatever, I’ve never been shot.

Anyways, for the pleasure of spending time in Dennis’ pants, Jo tells him she’ll kill Northwood. This is quickly spread around school, and Jo is pleased that she’s becoming famous. Because no one will mention that to the police, right? They’re even collecting bets from students, which will in no way lead anyone back to her, right? Figure this out, Jo, you’re being set up!

She’s freaking out, and is hating the pressure she’s getting from the entire school. Dennis comes over before she goes to kill Northwood, for ‘moral support’. Jo goes out to do it, then comes to her senses and realizes she can’t shoot anyone to death. Unfortunately, Northwood has already been shot to death. Hmmmm, who saw that one coming? Dennis had killed him with her gun, but nobody was going to believe that. Dennis and the cute rich girlfriend call the cops and put on a good show for them. Jo’s about to be hauled off for first degree murder, when the cops find a pulse. And what’s that in his chest pocket, but a tape recorder which recorded not only the shooting, but the confession that came after, about Dennis shooting then setting Jo up. Oops. Dennis is led away for assault with intent to kill.

Okay, I actually enjoyed this. Jo was a realistically pathetic high school girl who just wants to fit in. She wasn’t likeable, but she was a sympathetic figure. The cool kids were realistically cruel and abusive. And everyone gets theirs in the end. Call me crazy, or maybe I’ve just read TOO many of these, but Fear Street is starting to read off on me. I’ll give it 4 abusive rich kids out of 5. And, I need to read a grown up book for a change.


LAK said...

I wish that I would have been a cool kid in the 90's...Washing slurpee out of my hair would have made junior/high school THAT MUCH BETTER!

And, at least Northwood was smart enough to have a tape recorder running at all times in his pocket in Shadyside! Never would have seen that coming in handy!

(Read a real book? What is that? These are CLASSICS.)

Anonymous said...

Seriously, this blog (of which I've read all the entries in the time span of a few days) almost makes me want to go back and read the Fear Street books again. If only I had the time!

Anonymous said...

Grown-up books can't match up to those written for a pre-20s age group. And looks like Northwood is one of the few characters to have taken sensible precautions while living on Fear Street. Maybe that's why he's survived long enough to be a hated high school teacher.

J.L. O'Faolain said...

I read this book, and had about the same reaction. I didn't like the protagonist much, but she was pitiable. Naive to the point of stupidity, but pitiable.

Of course, she didn't have many other traits left to evoke anything other than forehead-slapping irritation.

RecallerReminder said...

Haw haw haw! I love how Dennis and his gf got busted thanks to that convenient recorder tendence of Northwood (since has no sense he was been recording...what? doing chores at home? thats weird).
No one really died but was one of the best to me ^^