Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Silent Night" or Bitch totally gets what she deserves!

I think Silent Night is one of R.L.’s first SUPER Chillers. It’s supposed to mean that it has EXTRA chills but really means that instead of being 150 pages, its 200 pages. I didn’t really find the thrills that super. However since my sister, L.K. Stine, vividly remembers a scene in this book, and is still creeped out by it, I guess that’s something! I’m going to divide this recap into two parts since the book is a little long and also because the book is conveniently also cut into two parts. For no reason at all. Part one ends and part two begins with no change in time, place, view point. Well done R.L.!

The cover: First of all this scene is misleading. At no point does our terrible heroine, Reva, appear pressed against a … window? Or is she trapped inside a mirror? Well either or, it doesn’t happen. Also, they describe her wardrobe in great deal and she never wears a red sweater. Believe me, I checked the book, she only wears variations of white and cream! Lies! “Happy holidays – you’re dead!” Awesome. Once again, an unbeatable tagline!

So the main character is sociopath Reva. R. L. doesn’t think much of teenage girls since half of them are the pathological liars and cheaters. I wonder if he has daughters, and whether or not they hate him. Anyhoo, the book opens with Reva being a huge bitch while working at the store “Daddy” owns. She goes to reapply her lipstick and all of a sudden her mouth is spurting blood! Someone put a NEEDLE in her lipstick and she’s all slashed up! Blech. This is the scene that haunts L.K. Stine on a daily basis. And soon me.

We cut to two weeks previous. We find out Reva has been a cold, hard shell of a girl ever since her mother passed away a few years ago. In a plane crash. (P.S. That almost never happens, I know, I’ve done some research) She has a loving father who owns Dalby’s Department store and a cute 6 year-old brother named Michael who has “dark blue eyes and creamy white skin”. Whoa Reva, slow down there! At least wait until he’s 14 so you can properly fuck him up for good.

So Reva dumps her boyfriend Hank cruelly and makes him walk home (through the Fear Street Woods!) She goes to pick up her father and runs into the night security man, Mr. Wakely. He was just fired by her world-weary dad because he’s a drunk. And Mr. Dalby needs someone he can trust around Christmas! Um, I think being a drunk is a good reason to fire anyone, at anytime… Anyhoo, her dad gives her a job as a salesperson and a bunch of jobs to give out to friends.

She hires hot guy Mitch, his GF Lissa (so she can break them up) and her fat friend Robb. She decides to play cruel jokes on her “friends” by telling them to dress up nice on the first day of work and then when they get there, they have to work in the warehouse! OH NOES! K I get that Reva did a bitchy thing, but they all make it sound TERRIBLE. Like it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them. Even Reva, she’s SO pleased with her ‘jokes’. She does lie to her cousin Pam and tells her there are no jobs for her, because Pam is POOR and probably DIRTY because that’s just how poor people roll. That’s pretty low Reva.

Pam is rightfully pissed and tells her friends Psycho Clay and Mickey Wakely (guess whose son!) about awful Reva. They agree she’s a biatch and then they get into a high speed chase with the cops. I don’t know…

Back to terribly awesome Reva! She finds out that dumpee Hank got a job in the security section even though she chased him away with attack dogs when he asked her for a job. Seriously. There were attack dogs.

Pam hangs out with Psycho Clay and Mickey. Why? Who knows, I guess we’re supposed to assume she makes poor friend choices because she’s financially POOR. Psycho Clay outlines an idea to rob the Dalby’s store! He has it all worked out: the other night security man will leave the door open and they can take whatever they want, then tied him up so it looks like a “real” robbery. I can think of at least 10 things wrong with that plan, but let’s not going into that right now. So Mickey readily agrees, to get revenge for Mr. Dalby for firing his dad, who is now even more of a raging alcoholic. Pam reluctantly agrees because she hates her bitchy cousin Reva. And because she’s poor. Did I mention that yet? Yeah, she has no cash. Anyways, they stop talking about it when Pam’s BF, Foxy comes over. Foxy? Best character name yet!

We finally get back to Reva’s point of view (whew!) and its two weeks later. She’s inviting Pam over for Christmas. She’s doesn’t want to because Pam’s family is POOR, but thankfully, she uses this opportunity to rub the jobs at Dalby’s in Pam’s face. Reva tells Pam she’s so lucky she doesn’t have to spend the holidays working, and Pam just takes it. Pam is such a doormat. I hate everyone in this book. Except super sexy six-year-old Michael. Also, is Dalby’s the only place in Shadyside to work? Call Blockbusters Pam!

Reva’s awesome little brother Michael brother pesters her to take her to see Santa Claus. Reva apparently has some feelings left because she promises she will and actually means it. Way to go Reva! However, she also plots how to steal Mitch, the storeroom worker, away from his “drippy” GF Lissa. The next day she puts her plan into action! Which consists of forcing herself onto him in the back room and saying things like “I’ve been thinking about you” in a whispery voice. This is totally a huge turn on for Mitch because they make out! And then Lissa walks in!! Huge surprise!!

Well Mitch has real people feelings at least because he feels terrible and runs after her. Which makes Reva think he’s a wimp but still thinks “At least he’ll be my wimp soon!” HAHA no one is redeemable in this book. So Reva goes back to the perfume counter where she “works” and finds a present! Woot woot! It’s a nice bottle of cologne. For the girl that works at the perfume counter? Kinda lame. However, it turns out not to be cologne but BLOOD! She drops it on the ground in horror and gets splashed in a wave of BLOOD! End Chapter.

Chapter 12. It really was blood! No fake out here! I guess this is why this is a Super Chiller! Reva goes upstairs to… show her dad? She thinks it’s dumpee Hank and when she passes him (still covered in blood) she threatens his job for giving her some quality white cells. I think that would be enough to scare me into quitting on my own! Anyways, she can’t get in to see her dad and when she goes to leave his office and (FINALLY) change, she hears machine gun shots and drops to the ground!! End Chapter.

Chapter 13. Fake out! It was the Christmas tree lights shorting out. However, Reva’s dad comes out, sees her covered in blood and promptly faints. I think this is the first time I’ve seen a FS character react normally to the horrifying incidents they regularly go through. Well done R.L.!

Part One ends with Reva being super freaked out, kinda rightfully. She already had her lip all tore up and got sent blood. Blech. “What’s next?” she wondered. What’s next indeed. Tune in next time!

A.M. Stine

Friday, June 27, 2008

Double date or "Super Killer Threesome!"

I love the taglines on the cover of Fear Street books. Flat out LOVE them! For example, on the cover of this Fear Street book, Double Date, the tagline reads: “Two’s company. But three can be murder.” Awesome. Really sets the tone for suspense and possibly for a three-way gone terribly wrong? On the back, the tagline is even better:

“2 cool
2 live
4 long”

Beat that. I DARE YOU. There is a reason why R.L. has sold so many books. The man is a literary genius! I also feel that the illustrator really captured the styles of 1994. One of the twins (creepy background twin) appears to be wearing her pants around her armpits, which I’m told girls did back then. Her two timing sister (Miss Melancholy up front) is wearing an off the shoulder shirt, choker, AND a butterfly tattoo on said exposed shoulder. I can only assume this tattoo is a press-on, which really makes it that much better. Moving on! And I’ll try to keep it shorter this time, O wise commenter :)

R.L. introduces us to our main character, total douchebag Bobby Newkirk. First off, I hate the name Bobby, so this doesn’t bode well for me liking the book. I haven’t finished reading it at this time, but already… I kinda hope he kicks it. Just saying…

Bobby basically thinks he’s the shit, and the first few chapters are about how he dates girls, dumps them and they all still love him. Now I know what you’re thinking. Is he the captain of the football team?! No, R.L. threw us a surprise and decided to make him the leader singer of a band! “They had just changed the name of their band from The Cool Guys to Bad to the Bone.” …UM… Really? This is the most popular guy in school, able to use and abuse girls at will? BAD TO THE BONE? R.L. really wasn’t even trying there, was he? So we meet the other band members: Best friend Arnie, and Paul, who doesn’t really take Bobby’s crap. We also meet Arnie’s GF, the lovely Melanie, who is described as “a little chunky”. Nice. Surprisingly, Bobby dated her last year and regrets breaking up with her so this probably means she will be important later on in the book. The twins of the book are also introduced, Bree and Samantha, the quiet one and the extroverted one respectively.

Basic premise is that Bobby makes a bet he can go on dates with the two twins both in one weekend. So he stalks down his first pray, Bree and pressures her into going on a date with him on Friday. A date to come see his band. Ugh, that’s not a date. When I go out on dates, I don’t spend a few hours silently staring at my boyfriend while he entertains a roomful of people. That’s called an invite to openly stalk Bobby. He phones the girl’s house later and gets Samantha and convinces her to go out with him on Saturday, even though Bree is really excited about her Friday date. Samantha? Kind of a bitch.

So Friday comes, Bree watches him play in his band, Bad to the Bone, and afterwards they go for a drive where Bree basically pounces on him. I think R.L. wants us to think these twins are easy! “’Bobby the Man scores again!’ he cried out loud. Wow, he’s that excited he got to kiss a girl? I wonder what these books would be like if they actually included basic sex acts a la Christopher Pike. I bet there would be a whole lot less murder in every book.

Saturday at the mall date. Samantha is pretty much cooler and more easy-going than her sister… and also a compulsive shoplifter! Cool! She and Bobby get chased through the mall after she steals some earrings and Bobby thinks about how reckless but COOL she is. He lets her drive his rad ride and she drives too fast for him… okay Grandpa! Anyways, she takes him to River Ridge, the “make out” spot for the teenage crew. Did anyone actually have these “make out spots”? Wouldn’t it be kind of … awkward? Like your parked there, having a good time, and all of a sudden you catch a load of Jock McNasty’s asscrack in the next car over? Haven’t these kids hear of “watching a movie in your parents basement but secretly kind of doing it”?

Samantha creepily warns Bobby to be careful with Bree, calling her fragile and “a little strange”. Well at least she’s not purposefully dating her sister’s date, SAM. Suspiciously, Bobby gets a threatening phone call the next day. And by threatening, I mean, a person whispers “Two’s company, three’s a crowd. You’ll pay. You’ll pay double!” HA! So the murderer is the man who thinks up the taglines for Fear Street novels?

Just kidding! We turn the page and realize the voice was Arnie. They discuss how “a little chunky” Melanie is real pissed that Bobby is dating both twins. If I was Arnie, I’d be a little pissed my girlfriend cared so much about what her ex-boyfriend was doing!

We get a little exposition about Bree and Sam. Bree suspects Sam is hiding a boyfriend (which she is) and comes over to talk about it with Bobby while Sam demands that Bobby dump Bree. He doesn’t want to dump either… Dude, dump them BOTH. These girls are cra-zay! Samantha again forces him to shoplift at the mall for their date, but runs off with Bree when they spot her. Bobby the man goes to leave but sees his two front tires have been slashed! (dun dun dunnnnn)

Next week at school we get a clue on how to tell the girls apart! Sam shows Bobby her super sweet shoulder tattoo of a butterfly… so I guess that makes the girl on the cover sitting with Bobby, Sam! Gosh, I’m like a detective! Ugh Samantha also shows Bobby her science project, which consists of giant cannibal ants. I bet we know where that is leading! O R.L., king of foreshadow.

O I forgot to mention that the band changed their name from BAD TO THE BONE to the DESPERADOS, which really isn’t much better. Let’s be honest. So they have a show in front of the school, and Bobby gets electrocuted. I don’t know much about electrocution, but do your “arms flail helplessly about [your] head”? Sounds like he’s just trying to play off some bad dancing!

The next few chapters are mostly him going on dates with the two of them and being confused. The girl that says she’s Samantha doesn’t have a tattoo! Then she does! Bobby isn’t a rocket scientist but he knows enough to realize something fishy is going on. However, he’s not THAT smart because when Samantha suggests that to get rid of Bree they just KILL her… he agrees. Only to shut her up mind you, but he continues to date her. After she confessed her murderous plot!

When Bobby tells Bree about Sam’s murder plan, she spills the beans that they aren’t twins. They’re identical TRIPLETS! (which happens like, never, no matter what Mallory Pike tells you). Anyways, Bree says this “Jennilynn” (worst name ever?) is crazy and tried to kill them, so she must be back! When Bobby talks to Samantha about this, she tells Bobby that Jennilynn is made up by Bree when she’s about to go off the deep end. Like trying to plot to murder her twin, SAM?

The next day Samantha picks him up and brings him to the cabin (you know, where she’s plotting to murder her sister). Why did he get in this car again? Anyhoo, she hits him with a bottle and it turns out she’s JENNILYNN!! OH NOES! She ties him to a chair in his underwear (riskay!) and pours honey on him when he wakes up. I bet you see where this is going… she unleashes the cannibal ants! Who proceed to consume him, putting him and myself out of our misery.

JUST KIDDING, but that ending would have been awesome. He gets free and Melanie miraculously appears to save him and take him to the twin’s home to hopefully save them in time too. Bobby bursts into the living room in his underwear, covered in honey, desperate to save his sociopathic sweethearts… and it turns out it was all a joke. There’s no Jennilynn (I knew that name couldn’t be real!), the ants aren’t cannibal, they don’t even own a cabin! All the girls he dated and dumped teamed up to turn him from “Bobby the Man” to “Bobby the Pig”! So the twins and Melanie knew about this the whole time. So they slashed his tires, ELECTROCUTED him, KNOCKED HIM OUT, tied him up and poured honey and ants on him… as a joke. That ended with him being in his underwear in front of girls. FOR REALS?? For reals. I give this book a 10 out of 10 for wasting my time! My precious time...
A.M. Stine

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ski Weekend

We begin with four teenagers returning home after a ski weekend, driving too fast on an icy mountain road. The driver, Doug, is laughing, while our protag, Arial, is annoyed by his cockiness. (sidenote: are any Fear Street books written from the perspective of a male? Are Fear Street books just for girls? I don’t know). Arial’s best friend and Doug’s girlfriend, Shannon, is pouting in the passenger seat and keeps grabbing Doug’s arm with no thought to self preservation. The final member of the carload, Red, is a mysterious stranger, and keeps on offering practical advice that no one wants. So we know already that Doug is an asshole, Shannon’s a whiner, and Red is cute … so he will probably be a murderer or end up dead, one or the other. Arial has a boyfriend, Randy, but he left early from the ski trip, so she pouts about that the entire book and cuddles up to Red. Skank. Or independent heroine?

Everyone is scared because Doug is a careless driver, and the storm is building. To diffuse the tension, Arial spouts off a useless random trivia fact: “Did you know that snow has ten times the volume of rain? That means that every inch of rain is equal to ten inches of snow.” Why the random factoid? Because Ariel is a scientist. That’s right, she’s in high school but she’s going to be a great doctor, obviously.

Our intrepid group head off the main highway down a country road in a blizzard. Seemed like a good idea at the time, I guess. The car predictably dies, and there is a convenient house in the woods and decide to see if they can shelter there. A big bear like guy, Lou, answers the door and welcomes them, lets them stay the night. He immediately hits on Shannon, the pretty redhead, proving he is a total perv. His wife, Eva, is meek and subservient, and Lou is clearly abusive to her.

Lou and Doug start talking about macho things like hunting, and their guns, and basically whip out their dicks for measurement, because this macho contest goes a bit overboard. Lou is telling stories about friends of his who have been shot and killed, then laughs hysterically, so we know that Lou is insane.

Ariel goes to the kitchen with Eva and asks for a cup of tea. She gets suspicious when Eva doesn’t know where the tea is (dun dun dun!). Ariel’s scientist mind goes into overdrive. Then there’s this god awful part where Ariel jokes about being named after a Shakespearean sprite, and it goes on and on forever. I may be a snob on this, but I like my Fear Street Shakespeare reference-free, thank you very much. Everyone goes to bed tired and tense.

Ariel wakes up in the middle of the night to hear someone slowly creaking up the steps. Turns out it’s just Red, who had clearly been outside. He creeps into her room. (scandalous!) Red tells her he heard Lou hit Eva, and it sounded like he killed her. Then they start making out. I think R. L. may believe violence is a huge turn on for women, because a standard formula used is violence/weapons = making out. Ariel you hussy, you have a boyfriend. She remembers this after awhile, and tells him no all dramatically. He kind of shrugs and leaves – maybe he wasn’t that into her.

They get up the next morning and everyone seems refreshed, except for Eva, who is ‘sleeping in’. Doug, Ariel and Red go out to start the car, only to discover – it’s gone! Well, it had been pushed over the edge of a ravine and was buried in the snow at the bottom. Who could have done this? Then all the phone lines go out. Lou has a girly hissy fit about it. Ariel realizes at that moment she has no reason to be suspicious of him (wife-killing aside).

The whole gang decides to take Lou’s Jeep into town, but first: SNOWBALL FIGHT! Ariel sucks at throwing, but it’s okay, because she reminds us she’s a scientist. Unfortunately, the engine of the Jeep is dead and they are totally trapped. All snowball enthusiasm is sucked right out of them. Red says he is good with cars, and stays out in the barn to try to fix it, while the rest of them go back in to drink beer (especially Lou).

Since Eva still hasn’t gotten up, Ariel decides to check on her. She walks into the room to find her awkwardly sprawled across the bed with her eyes wide and staring. Much screaming ensues, but it turns out Eva just sleeps that way. She has been smacked around, though, and she frantically whispers that they should get out of there.

Ignoring this advice, Ariel and the rest of them sit around all afternoon, until Ariel sees a creepy guy in a ski mask staring at them through the window – that’s never good! They all freak out, and the guy disappears. Lou and Red appear asking what’s wrong.

Then, bizarrely, Lou starts checking Doug out and feeling his biceps. Manly? Or homoerotic? He challenges him to a wrestling match. They “seemed to be having fun, rolling around on the white rug, putting different holds on each other, groaning and grunting …” (… um …) Doug eventually wins, and Lou loses it. He attacks Doug and hurts his knee.

But everything is okay! Conveniently, scientist Ariel studied a little bit about knees for a science project last term, and is able to determine it’s not a break, just a sprain. That’s right, doctors and physios out there. All it takes to know about knees is a high school science project. Doug is cured!

The kids decide to make a break for it, since Lou is dangerous and has a thing for both Shannon and Doug, and Red overheard him say he would rob them and abandon them there. They wait for Lou to get drunk and pass out, then sneak out, taking one of his guns while they were passing by. They get out to the barn where they see a guy with a gun, and all hell breaks loose. Everyone yells Lou! and Gun! and Doug shoots the guy.

So, turns out is wasn’t Lou, it was some other guy (ski mask guy?) and he is dead. Doug mans up and wants to turn himself over to the cops. Lou enters and tells him HE will turn them over to the cops, but they all have to wait until the morning.

Meanwhile, the wheels are turning in scientist Ariel’s head, and she wants to inspect the body. So she sneaks into the cellar where they put the corpse, and finds out that he was dead, like, way before. The gunshot wound didn’t bleed at all, and the body was stiff and frozen. She figures the body had been propped up against a pole in the barn with a gun in its hand, and all this means is Doug is in the clear. Science wins again!

She tells everyone that Lou had murdered someone, and was trying to set them up to take the fall for him. They try to run away, again, but are foiled when Red shockingly pulls out a gun and turns it on them. Turns out, Red was in on it the whole time. He was the guy in the ski mask, trying to either scare them, or to make them think there was someone else at the house, it’s never really explained. He is brother to Eva, and the dead guy. Dead guy stole their inheritance, so they decided to create their own justice.

So, just to go over their foolproof plan, Lou and Red decide to kill a man in his own home. Then Red goes to a nearby ski chalet, in the hopes that he would find some naïve people who will drive him home in a blizzard and have their car die JUST outside of the house. The plan also includes the assumption that the group of naïve but kindhearted people would randomly fire shots at a person. I mean, they were dead on in the end, but isn’t that leading an awful lot to chance?

They couldn’t plan everything, though. Eva comes out of the house to tell them she’s had a change of heart and has called the police. Ariel then saves the day at this point by throwing iced over snowballs at Lou, who is now holding the gun. While she sucks at throwing, she does manage to knock Lou out. They run for the Jeep, and then realize that Red still has the keys for it. All seems lost, until Ariel spots a snowmobile, hops on it, and drives away. Apparently, the plan is to distract the men with guns while the others escape, but it seems just as likely that she would just call to them: “Later!”

But, the men with guns do fall for it, and run after the snowmobile. Ariel the scientist drives that thing right onto a partially frozen lake. She bails from the snowmobile, and keeps on running and slipping away from Red and Lou. They catch up with her just as the police arrive, and attempt to use her as a hostage, until the ice starts cracking and Red is sucked into the lake. He dies a horrible death.

Ariel just needs to make it to the shore. I’m surprised she doesn’t have a life-long fear of ice-drowning, that arose from watching her best friend twin drown in front of her when she was eight. Or something. That seems very Fear Street. Anyways, she runs over the dissolving ice and makes it in the end. Everything works out and they all make bad jokes.

This was really badly done, even for a Fear Street book. Even the supposed suspenseful moments weren’t really that suspenseful. And the thing I cannot get over is the cover art. Red is the guy in the ski mask, and yet there he is, inside, with Ariel and his wavy handsome hair, being scared by the guy in the ski mask. I hate that. Nice sweaters, all of you. I give it a 3 on the suspense scale, and that’s only because I do think a winter chalet is the perfect setting for murder.

L. K. Stine

One Evil Summer

I love the title of this book because whenever I read the word evil, it is all stretched out and ominous in my head … one eeeeeevil summer. And the e word is thrown around a lot – the catch phrase is “Chrissy is perfect – perfectly eeeeeevil. That pretty much sums up the plot.

It starts off, in very typical R.L. fashion, with a scene from the end of the book, where our intrepid protagonist, Amanda Conklin, is all crazy in a mental institution. So you know from the very start, things aren’t going to go so well for her. She reveals through her crazy inner monologue that she has been there for 3 days (which actually isn’t that much of a hardship, I feel less sorry for her already), and she blames everything on … Chrissy!

The next chapter starts up with us going back in time, where Amanda’s family is leaving Fear Street (which is where they live, of course, there MUST be some kind of tie in to that eeeeeevil street). They are heading out to the town of Seahaven. Very imaginative name, R.L., for a fictional coastal town. There is the requisite description of Fear Street: “Fear Street looked so normal in the day time. But at night … shudder!” This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, let’s just ignore that street for the rest of the book.

Apparently this is a working vacation for her parents. Her father is a public defender lawyer (and therefore one of the good guys), and he has asked to have no trials over the summer to catch up on his paperwork. Okay, WTF. You are a trial lawyer, with no trials you have no paperwork … you know what, never mind. Good research, R.L. Her mother is working on a magazine article about the stresses of young people. This is an article that apparently will take all summer. So, her mother actually doesn’t understand a thing about stress, since she clearly doesn’t have to deal with things like deadlines. Amanda’s parents are lazy, that’s all.

It is revealed that Amanda FAILED Algebra II (oh, I hope there’s a cute tutor involved here!), and has to take summer school, and therefore is unable to babysit her two younger siblings like she promised. Because her parents can’t watch them when they’re reading they’re “paperwork” or writing a “magazine article”. Guaranteed papa is down at the casino everyday, and mom is into the Long Island Iced Teas the entire time. Anyways, they put a huge amount of guilt and stress on Amanda over this, then her mother turns around to question her about what stresses her out. Seriously, mom, have another iced tea.

They settle into their cute cottage overlooking the sea on a cliff, when a very pretty girl (Chrissy) comes to the door, in answer to the babysitting job. While Amanda tries to track down her parents, her very friendly cat starts hissing at Chrissy. Of course he does! Of course he had never done anything like this before, ever. Amanda finds Chrissy hissing back at the cat, in a cat-like way. Creepy. Amanda thinks this is normal.

Chrissy is hired even though none of her references answer because she is PERFECT! She moves in right away, because conveniently she has her suitcase in her truck, just in case she got the job. Creepy things start happening. Amanda’s birds stop singing, and seem to be stoned all the time. She finds all these newspaper clippings that reveal that Chrissy has a twin sister who is in a coma with brain damage after inhaling carbon monoxide. In a random plot twist, Chrissy reveals her twin is evil. (for no reason, ever).

We follow Amanda to summer school, where she meets the cute guy in her Algebra class named Dave – they ‘partner’ up. I love cute boys in Fear Street books. Nothing like a few spine-tingling thrills to amp up the sexual tension. Of course, we know for sure he will either end up dead, is in fact already dead, or a murderer, at this point, so you always have to be careful about that. Anyways, Dave is so cute she reveals all her issues about Chrissy to him right away, and has an immediate confidante.

She comes home to find her little sister Merry facedown in the pool. (gasp!) She dives in to save her, only to find out Chrissy is underwater helping her float. Now everyone thinks Amanda is crazy. Only – why? She sorta jumped to conclusions, but was trying to save her sister, but she is treated like a leper by everyone. Amanda’s family is lazy, and not very likable.

All of a sudden, an out of control car jumps the curb and tries to run over Merry and Kyle (the little brother). They are saved by Chrissy, and the driver claims the car developed a life of its own. Everyone seems to think this is reasonable and send him on his way. Amanda then finds out her cat has been run over (sad!) and she sees Amanda smirking to herself. Don’t you go hissing at Chrissy! Everyone in her family immediately gets over the death of Amanda’s cat, because they’re awesome people.

Amanda wakes up later in the night hearing Chrissy’s eeeeeevil laughter. She sees her in her room, floating half a foot off the ground. Creepy! Amanda faints, and everyone thinks she’s crazy and traumatized by the tragic death of her cat. So, to prove them completely right, she gets up later in the night to rummage through Chrissy’s things, and is caught by Chrissy, but not before stealing one of the mysterious newspaper clippings. The article details how Chrissy’s family lived close to Shadyside (of course they did) and there was a mysterious accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Her parents died, and only their daughter (Lilith) survived in a coma – there was no mention of Chrissy. Chills! The clipping then bursts into flame in her hand. Double chills!

The next day, Amanda gets down to investigative work. She has her friend in Shadyside do some research about Chrissy’s family at the library. Her friend agrees reluctantly, then tells Amanda that a very pretty blonde girl came looking for her family right after they left on vacation. Amanda starts to react, but then the phone melts in her hand, and she can hear Chrissy’s voice through it. It then bursts into flames. I’d stop touching things, Amanda.

Amanda confesses every creepy thing that’s happened to new bf Dave. He takes her to a ‘secret hideout’ and shows her blood all over the floor, then brandishes a knife. You sure know how to romance a girl, Dave. Apparently it works for her, because they start making out. Kinky, Amanda. They come up with a plan to plant a knife in Chrissy’s things so that everyone can see she is dangerous. Unfortunately for this plan, just as she’s about to plant it, it starts spraying blood everywhere, getting all over Chrissy’s things. The family come in to discover a very bloody room, a very bloody Amanda, and the birds have all had their throats slit. Her parents decide it’s best she see a psychiatrist, and Amanda decides she will play nice with Chrissy, and try to get through the summer.

Amanda gets the news a few days later that her friend who had been doing research in Shadyside suddenly slumped over oozing blood everywhere. Gross. It sounds like the ebola virus, which wouldn’t shock me for a second. Anything can happen in Shadyside! Nobody seems to think this is a big deal, and we never find out whether she dies or not. Figuring she has to do something, she comes up with another plan with Dave. He asks Chrissy out on a date, giving Amanda time to search through the clippings and figure out the mystery that is Chrissy. Only they come back early! So Amanda grabs the clippings and they make a break for it. She learns that her hard-working public defender father was the reason behind Chrissy’s family being charged with arson, or something, which led to Chrissy’s father attempting to kill them all in their beds with carbon monoxide. He almost succeeded, but evil twin Lilith/Chrissy survived.

Chrissy has caught up to Dave and Amanda, and Dave seizes up and starts oozing blood everywhere. Still gross. Dave is now dead, and Chrissy reveals to Amanda she can move things WITH HER MIND! She was the evil twin Lilith, and being in a coma gave her super-powers. Apparently, telekinesis includes causing ebola-like symptoms, which is really disturbing to think about. Amanda is mind-locked in the car, and it starts mind-rolling towards the edge of the cliff (of course they parked on the edge of a cliff – it’s the only place you are allowed to park in R. L.’s books). Amanda is thrown over the edge of a cliff in a car, but survives. She realizes Chrissy wants to kill her whole family, because she blames Amanda’s father for the death of her family. Amanda bravely heads back to her house to rescue little Merry and Kyle.

Chrissy has sent her parents back to Shadyside to look for Amanda, on the story that she ran off with her boyfriend and is crazy. The first thing Amanda does when she get to the house to rescue her siblings in their life threatening situation is to … head to the Cheerios. Smart move Amanda. She leaves the Cheerios out in full view, which tips Chrissy off that she is still alive. Chrissy then tries to kill Amanda with her brain (awesome).

Amanda once again runs away without her brother and sister and heads out to sea again. I guess she only really wanted the Cheerios anyways? She steals a boat and heads out to Dave’s island hideaway of love. She does this because it’s full of weapons! Um, Amanda? Chrissy can kill you WITH HER BRAIN! I don’t think that knife is going to help you. At that point, Amanda realizes she has left her siblings alone with a raging telekinetic psychopath, and feels a bit guilty, so heads back to her home, only to find Chrissy bringing the kids out to sea.

Okay, this is the most longest drawn out fight to the death ever, so … eventually Chrissy sets the house on fire, trips over a vengeful cat, and turns into a human torch. Everyone is safe and happy, except for Kyle, who goes catatonic.

We then flash to the mental institution where we begin this whole crazy journey, because nobody believed Amanda’s Chrissy’s brain story. But then, Kyle wakes up and starts talking and everyone knows that Chrissy was the for real psychopath and everyone is happy. Except for Dave and Amanda’s friend, who both got brain ebola.

You know, for a Fear Street book, this wasn’t actually bad, there were some suspenseful moments: is Amanda crazy? Was Chrissy really floating? How does she give people ebola? But there was no predictable twist at the end, which I always enjoy. On a scale of suspenseful moments, I give it an 8 out of 10.

L. K. Stine

Monday, June 23, 2008

"He was a Hunk of Trouble..." or The New Boy!

I figured I would launch this blog off with a classic example of Fear Street awesomeness. The New Boy is filled with quite possibly the best 1994 references, lots of tense moments that absolutely do not pay off and, of course, finishes with a twist that makes no effing sense whatsoever. The fact that R.L. Stein actually published one of these books, let alone 163(!!) proves his ultimate literary genius (and the fact that he must be a WIZARD). I love her jean jacket. And cable knit sweater.

The New Boy centers around our unlikely protagonist Janie who is, for all intents and purposes, absolutely brainless. She’s dumb. There’s no way around it. This book also stars her mildly morally deprived best friends Eve and Faith. The gist of the book is there is a New Boy (you probably already got that part) named Ross whom the three of them are competing to get a date with . Even though two of them have boyfriends. Even after he’s accused of murdering one of them. SERIOUSLY. The back of the book actually says “But then the murders begin, and it starts to look like dating Ross means flirting with a gruesome and untimely death.” HA!

The first part of the book is pretty boring so here’s the short version: Janie, Eve and Faith are being do-gooders helping count money they made from the dance last Saturday night. The book tells us out our trio: Janie is boring, short, and kinda ugly. R.L. might as well just called her Plain Janie. At least she’s smart! Whoops, Spoiler, we find out later … not so much! Her friends however are GE-orgeous, Eve being the “dark, dramatic” one while Faith being the “blond, All-American” one. Basically there are shenanigans with the money being lost, then it was a joke, then it’s lost for real. These chapters were pretty pointless.

Next they all hang out, feel guilty about loosing the dance money when they start discussing Ross, the New Boy, who is soooo handsome with “troubled eyes” that they met earlier that day when he needed help at school. This is a perfect example to demonstrate R.L. Stein’s awesome literary techniques. Basically most of his 7 page chapters end with a super tense statement or situation. In this case, they come around the corner and bump into the New Boy, who is wandering around with blood dripping down his arm and whispering “Please help me…” END SCENE. Scary right? You turn the page and it turns out he cut his arm on a bike (?!) and can’t find the nurse’s office. Ever heard of the mens room Ross? It seems like that’s a better solution that wandering around aimlessly, dripping blood all over the floor… maybe that’s just me. Anyhoo, R.L. Stein’s books are full of these “nail-biters” and they pay off about once or twice a book. Sometimes that HUGE BLOODY KNIFE YOUR BOYFRIEND IS HOLDING is just a prop, and sometimes you really did walk into the pottery studio and see your friend’s face get ripped off by the pottery wheel (this happens actually in another book)

So the three girls decided to make a bet on who can get a date with Ross first. Even though the homely girl is the only one without a boyfriend. Even though Plain Janie is already in luuuurve with him and the other girls just want to win a bet. Who are these sociopath friends? I mean I get they’re in high school but I’d be PISSED if one of my friends tried to pull this crap on me! Plain Janie takes the same approach I would have: “I’ll lose” Janie said softly. “But okay Faith, I’m in.” PFFF! Elizabeth “Doormat” Wakefield, is that you?

So Eve wins the bet, and gets Ross to take her to the movies that night. She figures her boyfriend Ian just won’t find out. Again, are these girls in high school or not? There is no WAY he won’t find out! They make out at the edge of Fear Street Woods (dum dum duuuuummmm!) and decide to go for a walk to “cool off”. Ick. But they into the Fear Steet Woods…

So we know she’s going to die. Hope I didn’t ruin that surprise for you guys! Ian calls Plain Janie the next morning looking for Eve but we know she’s dead. She went for a WALK in the FEAR STREET WOODS! You know that girl is dead! I’d just like to take a moment to discuss how unrealistic the dialogue is in theses books. No teenage guy, even in 1994, would say “Eve never returned home last night!” “Her parents are frantic!”. Ugh, I already hate this Ian guy. O we also find out that Ross is missing too from Eve’s mom but Plain Janie is too chickenshit to admit the bet to Ian so she just doesn’t tell him all the info. Hope she keeps it from the police too!

Anyways, Ian and Plain Janie go for a drive to calm down and of course… happen upon Eve’s body! This happens a lot in Shadyside. I really don’t think I’d ever leave me house if I lived there. There is some descriptive goodness that I don’t think I’ll go into detail about. Basically… homegirls head is smashed in. And it’s gross. And Plain Janie finally tells Ian about the bet and he freaks out and terrifies her. Plain Janie emotes about Ross and wonders if he’s lying dead somewhere too. I guess she didn’t really like Eve that much!

At the police station, Plain Janie runs into Ross (wasted suspense R.L.? Really?) and he tells her that he just got back into town a few minutes ago after going to New Brighton early in the morning with his parents. He claims innocence! Ian doesn’t believe him and Plain Janie dithers about believing him or not. So to be clear: She thinks he MIGHT have smashed in the skull of her best friend. This will be important soon.

Boring plot development happens: Faith and Plain Janie go to Pete’s Pizza that afternoon (huh?) and run into Ross, where he freaks out about being innocent, and confesses that he knew about the bet and that’s why he went out with Eve. No one believes him, except Plain Janie. Well she’s not sure. NOT SURE.

Ross shows up on Plain Janie’s doorstep on Monday night (two days after the murder) and forces her to help him with his French homework, and then forces her to go get something to eat with him. She thinks “He likes me!”. I think “Serial sexual assualtist/murderer!”. So they go on a date. TWO DAYS after her friend was murdered. WITH THE SUPPOSED MURDERER! Plain Janie… you need some self-respect. Getting ass isn’t worth this!

On their date Plain Janie sighs to herself “Will I ever stop thinking about Eve?” Ummm Plain Janie? Give yourself a little more time to grieve… like more than two days. And if you don’t want to think about her, STOP DATING HER KILLER. The car runs ouf of gas on the way home and Ross has to push them to the next gas station but Plain Janie freaks out. Then she actually thinks to herself “I really need to start trusting him.” UM NO. That is just untrue. You distrust your best friend’s supposed killer. There’s another tense moment when Plain Janie is alone in the car and the driver’s door handle rattles. END SCENE. Chapter 17: It’s Ross. WTF Plain Janie, how was this a surprise!? It’s his car!

Ick, then they make out. Plain Janie is such a weirdo! This is what low self esteem does to girls. It gets worse though: Ross left his French textbook at her house! So Plain Janie decides to drive over to his house in the pouring rain to deliver it to him! At eleven at night! Jeez, grow a backbone my friend. Anyhoo, it ends up being that old schtick where an old woman answers the door and goes “There’s no one named Ross Gabriel heeeeere!” I bet she’s a ghost.

The next day Plain Janie askes herself “Am I falling in love?” NO. Ross uses the old “It was my grandmother whose nuts” routine to get explain the old woman. Plain Janie believes him… kinda. Enough to make out with him, but not enough to COMPLETELY believe him. God Janie! But then, he gives her a scarf that Eve was wearing the night she died… Awkward! She freaks and runs, and doesn’t pick up the phone anymore.

Faith calls Plain Janie over to tell her some important news that she can’t tell her on the phone. (Sneaky plot device!) I have never forced someone to come see me so I could tell them something. That’s why they invented the phone. So Faith is dead. Of Course. Again there are some nice details about her head being smashed in… but she’s dead alright! OR IS SHE?? … Nope she’s dead! Plain Janie calls 911, hears footsteps and realizes the murderer is still in the house! She locks herself in the den but it turns out to just be Ian, who was also called over by Faith. That Faith should really have learned the value of the phone early!

At Faith’s funeral (I guess Eve didn’t have one? Ha, first one to die always gets the short end of the stick) we find out Ross is missing since the scarf incident. Well, YEAH, he’s probably super embarrassed! We see Ross again though, as he attacks Plain Janie out for a walk in the rain, and forces her in his car. She thinks to herself that he’s craaazay but agrees to meet him later at Pete’s Pizza. She doesn’t go which, surprise surprise, doesn’t go over well with Crazy Ross. He shows up on her doorstep, and menacingly gives back the scarf. Which turns out to be Plain Janie’s that she’d lost in his car on their sick date. She’s still totally freaked and runs out of her own house, where Ross TACKLES her to the ground on her lawn. WTF Ross?! She’s a lady! He runs away as her parents conveniently get home. She’s finally convinced that he’s the killer. BOUT TIME JANIE.

Plain Janie spends the next day freaking out at school, getting locked in a closet with a DEAD CORPSE! End Scene. Chapter 30: It was a mop. UGH. Anyways. Ian calls her, tells her he has proof that Ross killed the girls. He picks her up and takes her to Fear Street Woods. Uh oh! Ian keeps saying his sentences “mysteriously”. Never a good sign BTW. He shows her the “proof” which is a baseball bat. Which he will now use to bash in her skull! But not before confessing to the murders! Basically Eve and Ian stole the dance money for him to go to college, but Eve had second thoughts and wanted to give it back. THEN she went on a date with another guy! So Ian killed her. Okay… I’m with out. Doesn’t explain why he killed Faith. I think he assumed Faith knew about the dance money? Hmmm poorly explained R.L.

So Ross comes to save her and gets owned by Ian and his bat. For someone with so many anger issues, he’s kind of a huge wuss. Plain Janie basically has to take down Ian and Ross “lumbers over and sits on his chest”. HA! Ross smiles at her and asks her to call the police. Plain Janie decides that all is forgiven and she’s never going to run away from him again! UM NO. He still TACKLED you like yesterday. Even if he wasn’t a serial murderer, he’s still abusive! Ugh.

So that’s how the book ends. Ian killed her two best friends but she got her violent, sociopath New Boy, so everything is ooookay! Alright, I know this first post was super long, but it was an awesome book. On a scale of one to ten SUSPENSEFUL moments I’d give it a ... Seven. Because there were seven suspenseful moments.

A.M. Stine