Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Fire Game, or “That House Isn’t the Only Thing That Gets Burned”

I thought The Fire Game was so very high school, largely because it’s about a close group of friends who only hang out with each other, and all hook up with each other. Which is WAY more realistic than boys asking girls out on actual DATES where you dress up and everything – dates in high school have gone the way of the sock hop. High school romance is all about vodka coolers and groping in your parent’s basement.

So our lead Jill is desired by every guy in this book, although she doesn’t seem to possess a single distinguishing characteristic. Maybe that’s what they like about her. I just read this book, and I don’t remember what she looks like. Let’s pretend she’s the brunette on the cover. Her bestest girlfriends are Andrea (the redhead) and Diane (mousy-looking girl – but the sweetest thing ever, apparently to make up for being mousy). All the girls are on the gymnastics team. I have to say, for a small town school, Shadyside High offers a broad and varied sports program. The guys they hang out with are Nick and Max, who are both in love with Jill. Nick is described as tall and skinny; Max is described as short and fat, so apparently these guys are caricatures. Life is boring. Homework, sigh.

Nick decides to liven up a study session by setting a folder on fire. Oh no, not the folder! Diane has an exaggerated reaction to the folder-fire, so we know she’s fire-phobic. Andrea blows it out and throws the folder away, which has the unintentional side effect of setting the library wastebasket on fire, causing the kids to miss their geology test. And so the fire game is born.

Well, not quite. First, the hunky guy of the story has to enter. Gabriel, otherwise known as Gabe (which is a much better nickname than Gabri, btw), is newly transferred to Shadyside from Metro City, and thinks small town life is the dullest thing ever. He is an old family friend of Diane’s, so hangs out with them and makes fun of their lame-ness. He dares them to go further in their arsonistic tendencies, and so Max blows up the cafeteria bathroom. Rather ... extreme. That’s when the fire game is born.

The guys are competing for the best fire set, while the girls are competing for Gabe. He asks Jill out, but the next thing you know he’s making out with Andrea in front of her. Gabe, you big man-whore! Jill still feels like going out with him, though. My favourite scene in this book is where the kids are trying to convince Gabe that Fear Street is really scary, so they take him there and describe stuff that happened in other books. To specify how cool A.M. and I are, we pretty much knew immediately which book they were talking about. Total experts. Almost. The house where two years ago the police found 6 human skeletons in the backyard (99 Fear Street), the ruins of Simon Fear’s mansion (burned down in The Burning), a house that burnt down during a Halloween party last year (Halloween Party, obvs), and Jill’s friends were attacked by a nut with a chainsaw (The Wrong Number)! Also, a girl whose parents disappeared from the street. I’m not sure what that’s from. The parents disappeared in Missing, but only for like 2 days, and they were undercover FBI agents. Anyone have a better idea on this one.

Anyways, Gabe doesn’t think Fear Street is very scary at all, so sets fire to a caretaker’s shed in the cemetery. After that fire, plus the others at the school, the intrepid Shadyside Police Department (SPD) is on the lookout for a serial arsonist. Go Gabe!

The girls get together for a sleepover. Diane talks about how scary fire is, Jill talks about Gabe, and Andrea talks about her computer: “It’s got lots of power. It can do calculations and play games, and it’s got a word processor.” A word processor! Oh, 1991. Andrea writes a poem about Gabe and prints it off on one of those super state-of-the-art ribbon printers, while the girls wait in breathless anticipation to ooh and ahh over her BLUE ink ribbon! Jill tells Andrea she’s going out with Gabe, and Andrea’s all, bring it on, bitch!

For his date with Jill, Gabe takes her to a park and sings to her, WITH HIS EYES CLOSED. I would die. I love the movie/book About a Boy, especially the stuff about how people are embarrassing and awkward when they sing with their eyes closed. What a terrible date. Jill, however, is in heaven and probably planning their honeymoon, until Gabe’s car is set on fire and destroyed. Total mood killer. Jill is certain Nick is behind the fire, because he’s so crazy-jealous of Gabe getting all the chicks (re: her).

Instead of confronting Nick about his random act of violence, though, Jill accepts his offer to help her with algebra. However, as she gets to his place, she sees Nick getting into a car with Max. Curious, she follows them to Fear Street, where she sees them running out of a house that immediately goes up in flames. The plot thickens. Jill calls the fire department, then skeedaddles home, where she watches the fire on the news. A homeless man was sleeping on the porch, and was killed in the fire. So her friends aren’t just serial arsonists anymore, they’re murderers!

Jill does what any sensible girl in Shadyside would do in her situation: confronts the alleged killer. Only Nick is all, nuh-uh, wasn’t me. I just got a note telling me to go to the address at that time. A typed note in BLUE INK! Dun dun dun ... Jill gets Diane into the action and they do what any sensible girls in Shadyside would do: confront the next alleged killer, Andrea of the snazzy computer. Andrea calls them crazy bitches, but later calls Jill asking her to come to gymnastic practice early in the morning because she has information on the fires.

We all know what happens to people with information about serial arsonists and murderers. That’s right, the next morning Jill finds Andrea’s broken body at the gym. Andrea isn’t dead, but she’s left in a coma at the hospital. Everyone is freaking out, assuming that the attack had to be one of them, so Diane and Jill decide to go to Diane’s parents’ cabin on Fear Lake to relax for the weekend. Oh girls, don’t ever go to anywhere Fear-related when there’s a mad arsonist/attacker/murderer on the loose. But, they do, and succeed in relaxing a bit, until Jill answers a call to the cabin. From Andrea, who has just woken up from her coma. Andrea starts screaming at Jill that she knows she’s the arsonist, until Jill finally gets through to her that she has no idea what she’s talking about. Andrea’s like – wait, this isn’t Diane? Apparently Diane is crazy in love with Gabe, and willing to do anything to keep her two slutty friends away from him. Uh-oh Jill, alone in a cabin with a crazy person, this doesn’t look good.

Jill sneaks out of the cabin fairly easily, but unfortunately she dropped her keys on the porch. Really? Like, you’ve realized your alone in a cabin with a murderer who probably wants to kill you, your only hope is to get away in the car, and you drop the keys? Jill, you’re useless. Jill then proves exactly how useless she is by wandering off in the woods, then running towards a person with a flashlight. She’s shocked that it’s Diane. Who the hell else would it be? You’re alone at the cabin with her. Seriously.

They go back to the cabin where Jill very casually asks whether Diane’s the arsonist, and Diane kinda casually answers yes. It’s actually pretty surreal. Then Diane whips off her shirt, to show why she’s so crazy. Her body is covered in horrific burn scars from when a nearby kerosene heater exploded, hence the love/hate with fire. Wait. Isn’t Diane on the gymnastics team? Don’t they wear, like, tiny leotards or something? Has no one seen her in the shower/locker room (in a non-pervy way)? How can it be a surprise that one of your best friend’s body is 90% covered in 3rd degree burns!? Whatever, I’m over it. Anyways, Diane can’t be with the love of her life, Gabe, because her body’s all scarred. Obviously. And so no one will be with him! Predictably, Diane goes after Jill with fire, and takes a blowtorch to the couch.

Gabe comes in at the last minute and pulls the girls outside. He then cuddles Diane and tells her it’s all over. The end. Wait, what? The hunk gets with the psycho at the end? It’s never really explained and I’m confused … Weak ending. But on an awesomer note, there’s the tagline. You so knew he was going to go there: “When you’re playing with fire, someone is bound to get burned …” Awesome! All is forgiven. I give this vaguely confusing and poorly explained book. 7 blue printer ribbons out of 8.


Chad Walters said...

I pretty much got all the references to past Fear Street books when I read this as well. That was probably the best part of the book.

The ones I didn't get were the disappearing parents one and 99 Fear Street.

Anonymous said...

I think this would be one of my favourites if I'd read it. Particularly thanks to the confusing ending! So what, they all get away with arson and obstructing justice?

Also, that cover looks really familiar. Has there been another Fear Street cover similar to it? Presumably featuring burning things, I guess (but not Cataluna: The Deadly Fire, which as far as I could tell featured no fire).

Anonymous said...

Call me a nerd, but I liked this book a lot, it was one of my favorites. And I think that is supposed to be Jill on the cover, as Jill is described as having black hair, and Andrea has red hair and Diane has light brown hair.

I actually thought Jill was cool. She seemed a little more realistic than the average Stine main character.

But yeah, the ending was hella lame. I am guessing that since Diane was obviously batshit crazy they decided not to hand her over to the cops. I mean, to be fair, she didn't start trying to set people on fire until after Gabe came to town.

And really Gabe- talk about insensitive. Your long time close friend was almost burned alive and has horrible scars (both emotionally and physically) and you decide to get her and her friends to set things on fire FOR FUN??

LAK said...

Good point about the gymnastics team and leotards!

I wish my boyfriend would sing to me with his eyes closed. No, wait a minute, No I don't he can't sing and his eyes closed won't change that.

And, where is Metro City? Is that near Urban Center?

zanne said...

This book sounds pretty good except for the ending. I love the references to other Fear Street books! Also, good point about the gymnastics outfits. You'd think they would have noticed her scars.

Deathycat said...

Well, the ending's kinda different because the psycho gets the guy. I sort of like it. ^_^

"Also, that cover looks really familiar. Has there been another Fear Street cover similar to it? Presumably featuring burning things, I guess (but not Cataluna: The Deadly Fire, which as far as I could tell featured no fire)."

It always reminded me of The Dare. Again, no fire, but they're alike to me.

Deathycat said...

It cut off my link to the cover. :(

L. K. Stine said...

I blogged on The Dare back in Sept - you can check out the cover there. I see what you mean, Deathycat, everyone seems to have the same expression on their face.

A. M. Stine said...

Even without the leotard, don't you think you would know about traumatic burning incidents in your friend's life? I feel I would know that about my friends... Who knows, maybe they're all hideously scarred and i just haven't noticed!

LAK said...

Maybe we all have great make up to cover our burns/scars/hideous imperfections!

Fear Street said...

The cover cracks me up for some reason.

Ken... said...

Sightline Payments Kirk SanfordPlay Bingo Tis'awesome - kinda suits the champ as well happened to many times to me

peoria medical marijuana said...

Sounds very interesting! I will check this out!

A said...

Did this remind anyone else of Slumber Party by C.Pike?

RecallerReminder said...

Why always shows up Frazier as the recurrent cop in Shadyside but end up being totally useless? Gee.