Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Cheater, or “Sorry, Poor Kids, You’re Never Going To Win”

Have a Fear Street titled “The Cheater” confused me a bit, because, as A.M. aptly said not too long ago, pretty much any Fear Street could be called The Cheater. What else do these kids do? How is R.L. going to distinguish this one? Well, he does it by amusing me with some very obvious and biased stereotypes. Here’s what I learned about life in this book:
Rich = Good
Poor = Bad
Blond = Dumb
I swear you’re going to love this book!

The cover depicts Carter Phillips, our all-American, country-club-loving, straight-A-getting perfect heroine. In the background is a creeper guy, potentially her straight-edged yuppy blond boyfriend. Not sure, because this scene in no way happens in the book.

Carter begins our book fretting about her math achievement test. She got a 570, but her overbearing judge of a father wants her to go to Princeton, and demands she retakes them and get higher than a 700. Neighbour Americans, help me out on this one – is this an SAT thing? What is a good score on your SATs, I’ve always wondered. Point is, Carter’s father’s a bit of a dick, and she’s stressed out by the fact she’s only mediocre at math. Carter bitches about this to her boyfriend Dan, and bff Jill, who all belong to the same country club (but of course they do). Dan takes her for a milkshake to cheer her up. That’s a solid guy – milkshakes are great cheering-up food.

Carter half-jokingly asks brainiac Dan to take her math rewrite for her – since she has a boy’s name, there’s no way they would catch them. Dan frowns disapprovingly. Once he leaves, however, the cutie badass behind the counter, Adam, leans in and tells her he’ll do it for her, for the price of one date. Firstly: I love how Adam is this major badass, but works the milkshake counter, and Secondly: why is the plot device always people being blackmailed into dates? How desperate are these people? I like my blackmail to be for straight-up cash. Anyways, Carter agrees, figuring Adam would be easy to “handle”.

The plan goes off without a hitch – Adam writes the exam and nobody’s the wiser. As Carter agonizes over her marks, we learn her father is the judge in a high profile, media heavy case against the crime lord of Shadyside: Henry Austin. I love that Shadyside has a crime lord. I wonder if he lives on Fear Street?

Adam picks Carter up to collect on his date, and takes her to “his world” – a club called the Underground. Adam makes fun of Carter being a North Hills princess, then makes out with her on the dance floor. Carter is all over that shit. Adam drops her off at the end of the night, and shouts out he’ll meet her at the country club the next day, which stops her cold. Also uncool – Adam’s skinny poor girlfriend is waiting for Carter at her house, and threatens to beat her up. Hmm, hanging out with poor people isn’t very much fun at all, is it, Carter you slut.

True to form, Adam shows up at the North Hills country club the next day, looking incongruous in the Tudor mansion with his cut-off shorts and long hair and old tennis racket. Could we throw in any more stereotypes here, please? Adam ends up rocking at tennis, though, so that’s cool. Carter tries afterwards to tell him the deal is over, but he smarmily tells her she should be real nice to him, or he’ll tell Daddy all the bad things she did. Creep.

That night Judge Phillips pulls some strings and gets Carter’s mark early – a 730. Looks like she’s Princeton bound. As a reward for good behaviour, Carter gets some bling – impressive diamond earrings, and a shit-load of guilt. Meanwhile, Adam is making her break dates with Dan all over the place, making her go out with him on Friday night. They go to a movie, then back to his place. How very PG13 of them. His place is on Fear Street, because he’s poor. They start making out again, until Adam gets a little rough with our North Hills princess. It’s classic Fear Street date rape, I’m surprised Carter doesn’t secretly fall in love with him. While Adam has her pinned, he demands that she gets her friend Jill to double with them and his friend Ray, who has FIVE tattoos and THREE earrings. Adam is so angry and dangerous, Carter calls Jill to convince her to do it. He then pulls a gun on Carter, for shits and giggles (but probably just to overcompensate for, you know, stuff). Carter runs away from him, but is tailed on the way home by a car, and has no idea who could be after her.

And the fun doesn’t stop there. Next day at tennis, someone puts a cow’s heart in her bag. With the message – be careful or you’ll break your Daddy’s heart. I’m not sold it’s Adam – he’s a small town date-rapist blackmailer. Livestock is way more something that, I don’t know, the MOB would do. Hey, isn’t her father doing that crime lord trial? No, Carter does not figure this one out.

That night is the night of the double date with the tatted-up earring-punctured Ray. They go to a skeezy bar where a skeezy band is playing. Ray makes Jill dance with him, and starts to molest her on the dance floor. Jill starts crying, but all the men in the bar think it’s funny. When Carter goes to save Jill, apparently every man there joins in the action. Yes poor=gang rapes. Obviously. The band sees what’s going on, and stop playing to join in. Like, for reals, what are they thinking? You’re playing guitar on stage, then see a gang rape and think: score! The girls manage to run away, and Carter feels terrible about putting Jill in danger, but still can’t come clean about her cheating ways.

Carter confronts Aaron and tells him their arrangement is over. He agrees that it is – he wants money now. Finally! I think Carter is a little huffy that Adam doesn’t want her anymore, but also freaks about the $1000 he’s demanding. Where will she get the cash? Well, one pawn shop and some guilt-laden earrings later, Carter is safe – for now. But we all know that blackmailers never stop, and Adam wants more money. Carter also has a huge scare when a car starts following her, trying to run her off the road into the ravine. She realizes the only solution is the final solution.

Meanwhile, her not-so-dumb blond boyfriend is on to her – he put the pieces together and guessed that Carter let Adam take her test for him, and is now using it to torture her. She confesses, but feels she’s trapped. She shows Dan her father’s gun, and he freaks, thinking she might be serious.

Carter still needs more money. She pawns more jewelry to get $200 together, and goes to Adam’s place to settle their debt. She comes home to find Dan waiting there for her. Before they can even say anything, the police show up to question Carter about Adam’s death.

That’s right. Adam had been shot. Carter lies to the police, saying she’d been studying with Dan all day, and hadn’t been down to Fear Street at all. Dan suspiciously agrees to the story, then takes off. For the next week, no one at school will talk to Carter, thinking she murdered Adam. However, it being Shadyside, they get over this quick, probs to talk about the latest gruesome paranormal death. The awesome thing is, we don’t know if Carter did it. Dan and Jill are still giving her the cold shoulder, and Carter’s pretty devastated by this. She plans on spending Friday night alone at home with a frozen pizza – the food of the depressed or potential murderers.

Suddenly, all the lights go out in her home. Carter starts freaking out as she hears something bumping slowly up the basement stairs. A man wearing a ski mask comes out of the basement, saying “Careful – or you’ll break your Daddy’s heart.” Then he starts choking her. Yikes, scary. This would be an excellent horror movie. Just in the nick of time, the police show up, and rescue her. They reveal the man as – some old dude Carter’s never seen before. Turns out he works for Henry Austin, Shadyside Crime Lord, trying to intimidate the judge to find favourably in his trial. He tripped the Phillips’ security system by entering through the basement – oops! He’d been the one threatening Carter all along, she just never caught on. Next time, the mob should pick a smarter girl to threaten.

So Carter starts to relax – the bad guys are in jail, Adam is dead. All good, right? Well, Sheila comes calling soon after, saying she has proof that Carter killed Adam, and demands $500 to buy her silence. Carter behaves like any reasonable innocent person would do, and tells her to take her proof and shove it. Just kidding! Carter sells her massively expensive stereo system to raise the funds, and meets Sheila all sketchily. Sheila gives her proof of her guilt – a necklace found by Adam’s body (overlooked by the police?) inscribed with “For Carter”. Carter recognizes the necklace as one she had pointed out to Dan, and reels in shock as she figures out the mystery of Adam’s murder.

She calls Dan up, and tells him she’s going to confess everything to her father – and wants him there as moral support or something. He comes over, and she tells her father about the cheating, the blackmailing, and that she shot Adam. Dan gets nervous, being like, hey judge, you can get your daughter off of this charge, right? When Judge Phillips is about to call the cops on his only precious daughter, Dan breaks down and confesses – he went to confront Adam after Carter paid him off the second time, telling him to back off his girlfriend. Adam, being a psychopath, pulls a gun on him, they struggle, it goes off and Adam is accidentally killed. Carter’s all: told you he’d confess Daddy! Predictably, her and her father had set up this little confession to test Dan, to see whether he loved Carter enough to not let her go to jail for him. The judge kindly tells him it will probably be judged as self-defence, and just in case gets him a good lawyer. He then apologizes to Carter for pushing her so hard to succeed that she turned to a life of crime. She’ll still go to Princeton though. The book ends with Carter and Dan sexily playing chess together (as an unusual change from the requisite make-out at the end.)

So, the rich get away with anything, and the poor end up being shot. And since they’re all a bunch of rapists anyways, no one really cares. So, I used to read these books when I was younger? What a great message to give to kids. Hmm. But, c’mon, you gotta admit this was pretty entertaining. I give this 7 guilt-laden earrings out of 11.


dindc said...

I think when this book came out, a perfect score on the SATs would be 800 math/800 verbal, so a 1600. A 570 probably wouldn't be enough for Princeton.

Chad Walters said...

Yeah, at the time this book was written, the SATs were on a 1600 point scale; now they're on a 2400 scale. The ACT, a similar test, is on a 36 point scale. So I have no idea what test she took, and R.L. Stine probably doesn't, either.

Sadako said...

Wait, she STILL gets to go to Princeton? Even though she cheated and her math scores on her own suck?

Ugh. I hate you, Carter!

Deathycat said...

This book sounds pretty interesting. I don't remember liking it much for some reason though...

And I'm thinking Carter and Daddy never mentioned the cheating to anyone but each other...

Reepicheep-chan said...

Mmm, my SAT were out of 1600. I think I got a 1450, without studying or taking the test more than once. This means the lowest I could have gotten in math (my weakest subject) would be 650. Haha, you suck Carter!

I am making the assumption Stine is talking about only the math half of the SAT here, which would make over 700 a pretty impressive, but not impossible, score. I guess we have to assume her verbal score was good enough the first time or else her dad (and Princeton) only care about math.

What would be funny is is poor blackmail dude took the SAT and got the good math score as promise but bombed the verbal, since last time I checked they were taken at the same time and could not be taken separately. Then again, I only took them once so my experience is not exactly the ultimate authority.

A. M. Stine said...

Was R.L. also trying to tell us that the Poor are not to be trusted because they are super smart? And therefore sneaky? Like why was this blackmailer such a brainiac?

Sadako said...

Carter and Daddy both suck.

I think you can combine scores. I only took mine once but I did hear about people taking their best math and best verbal scores and combining them. Or am I just making that up?

Anonymous said...

This is a terrible book with terrible messages, and I can only think it was ghostwritten by some rich snob... or possibly a poor person trying to outrage people. Also, don't have SATs where I live. Well, we do, but they're something completely different and not even at the same age level. I did alright.

M.H Stine said...

this is the first fear street book i ever read so yea i just read "The Snowman" awesome!!!!! its good kinda obvisous but good check it out!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the math achievement test she takes is not supposed to be an SAT ripoff...it's just something Stine made up, and I'm assuming it only involved math. It would have been interesting to know what kind of scale the test was on though, because I remember reading a part in the book where Carter thinks a 570 is pretty damn good.

Anonymous said...

Carter Phillips pops up again in later books: The Dare and One Evil Summer. I love continuity!

Whitney G said...

This test sounds like the old-school SATs. I scored 660 on my math portion (740 on the verbal), when the middle 50% of incoming Princeton freshmen scored 700-780 on math (and 680-780 on verbal). So yeah, Carter's 570 in math wouldn't have been good enough for Princeton.

I can't remember if you could combine your best scores on the SAT or not. I know you could on the ACT.

RecallerReminder said...

This was a gret book for me! The thing I dont get is all the plot holes like...Those messeges sended to Carter by the crime lord s hitman, dont have a sense, like if they were dedicated to her but there is no way she will get it, making it easier think were from Adam. And so why Sheile acted to territorial over Adam to think he was cheating here (before Carter s) and take his death so lightly and used the information to get money¿ And she was like a cheap only one time, she hanged over too easly the proof, she would really drop out the chance to keep blackmailing Carter? is not like she could do anything to get the necklace from her since Sheila is tough).
Such a weird book.