Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Snowman, or "Happily Ever After: Cinderella Meets R. L. Stine"

Okay, Fear Street fans, I have to apologize. It’s summer out (finally). Summer comes to my part of the world for very short periods of time, and it must be enjoyed to the fullest. As such, most of my free time is spent small patches of sun, preferably with a margarita close at hand, and somehow this picture does not always include a poorly written YA horror book from the 90s. Worse yet, when I do read these books, I’m in such a summer-y blissed out haze that I often find myself enjoying these books, really getting into them and missing the whole point of this snarky exercise. How else can I explain my reaction to the unfortunately titled and unfortunately unseasonal “The Snowman”? I thought I would hate it, but I found myself liking it. What can I say, I’m full of summer love. Forgive?

Heather lives with her evil uncle and aunt, ever since her parents died in a car accident when she was three, leaving her to her guardians. She keeps a plastic Bic lighter of her father’s as a memory of him. A lighter? You stay classy, Heather. Her parents also left her a considerable trust fund, which she is unable to touch as her uncle has control over her. Poor Heather, she’s basically just like Cinderella. She’s forced to work in a greasy diner to help pay for expenses around the house, and her schooling and such. Except unlike Cinderella, Heather has an extremely bad attitude. No singing birds are going to be helping this girl sew her ballgown; she has increasingly violent fantasies involving her Uncle James, and his dying. Uncle James isn’t totally evil, he just seems like an enormous prick who enjoys embarrassing, intimidating, and all around keeping Heather under his thumb. Her Aunt Belle is kinda nice, but timid and meek after years of being married to an overbearing asshole.

Life isn’t all bad for Poor Heather, she does have a nice boyfriend, Ben. But lately she’s been getting kind of bored with him, so when a tall handsome stranger walks into the diner, she gets all perked up. He has weird long white hair, and is more poor than Heather, or at the very least “forgot his wallet.” Heather starts to slip him plates of fries on the sly, and they hit it off. Before long, “Snowman”, which is what he calls himself, has asked her out. I don’t care how weirdly handsome you are, you do not go out with someone who willingly named themselves Snowman. It sounds likes he’s a hitman in a grade B movie, which might actually be closer to the point. Heather, however, accepts, because she likes to live on the wild side every once and awhile.

Heather breaks a date with Ben, and goes out with Snowman, having a predictable wonderful time. The only snafu was he couldn’t pay for the club, which was SOO embarrassing for him, so Heather had to pay. But then they kissed passionately, so all was well. While there was no detailed description of the kiss, I’m going to guess that Snowman’s lips were cold and wet, like melting snow. That seems about right. Heather’s all happy until she runs into Ben at school, who’s all pissed off at her because she’s been two-timing him. He found out about this because Uncle James told him. Heather is furious at her uncle, but Ben is a bit, that’s not really the point. He breaks up with her. Heather then calls him to get him to take her back, which he agrees too, until, in a moment of startling honesty coming from a teenage girl, she tells him she wants to date Snowman too. Ben is not all about this, and hangs up on her, but I kinda liked her for having the balls to tell him how it really is.

Home life is getting no better, and for the first time Uncle James actually physically harms her, yanking her hard and causing her to hit a table hard. Heather’s absolute hatred of her uncle goes up a notch, as to the disturbing Death to Uncle fantasies she has. She makes another date with Snowman, who is behaving more and more mysterious. I mean, no phone number, he doesn’t seem to own a wallet, and while he said he just transferred to her school, no one has noticed a new student, let alone a gorgeous white haired student. Hmmm ... no matter, she’ll still meet him for a date in the park on a cold wintery night. They go to a clearing far in the woods, and make a snowman. Aww, how romantic. Then Snowman violently punches the head off the snowman, which is less romantic, more unstable.

Then Heather invites Snowman over to meet her uncle – reluctantly, because she doesn’t actually ever want anyone to meet her uncle. Uncle James is rude and offensive, and Snowman handles it pretty well, until he’s called a white-haired poor kid. That he doesn’t handle so well, and storms out of the house. Heather catches up to him, and he apologizes, but he’s dealing with other problems so he’s not as calm and collected as he usually is. He tells her his little brother needs an operation, and him mom can’t afford it. The operation costs two thousand dollars, and the little guy will die without it. Of course Heather offers to give him the money, but he is shocked and embarrassed and turns her down, but appreciates that she would think to do something like that. How sweet of him, he must be a really good guy. Heather trusts him completely.

But as a Cinderalla-esque trust fund baby, you gotta learn to not trust every sob story you hear. I mean, what is this mysterious operation for his brother that costs $2000? No idea. This should be sending her HUGE alarm warnings of possible scamming, but no. She trusts him. So when he shows up at her work the next day, and tells her his brother got worse, and needs the operation right away, she doesn’t blink before signing away her savings to him, with his name on the cheque. He says he’ll pay her back real soon as he puts the cheque in his pocket.

Heather is happy with the knowledge that she saved a young boy’s life with money, and is dating a nice new guy. Until approximately a few days later when Snowman shows up at her work again, delighted about something. He tells her with sparkling eyes that he dealt with her problem, and got rid of her uncle. Heather doesn’t believe him, doesn’t want to believe him. He tells her he used a soft scarf to strangle him so that no one will see the marks and think he had a heart attack. I suspect the medical factuality of that statement, but we’ll go with it. Snowman drives her to her house to see that, indeed, her uncle was dead, and the house was a mess of emergency personnel. As Heather stands by in shock, Snowman cares for her grieving aunt, all the while sending her mischievous looks. Psycho!

She gets him alone and tells him she’s calling the police on him. However, he has a plan for this. He kept the cheque she gave him, the cheque made out to him personally for $2000. Needless to say, there was no sick little brother. He tells her if she tattles, he’ll say she paid him to do it, and everyone would believe it because she always talked about how she wanted to kill her uncle. Okay, I’m not sure that a cheque can count as “evidence”, but Heather is sufficiently scared.

At the funeral, Heather contemplates her new life. She really did want her uncle dead, which is an uncharitable thought to be thinking at someone’s funeral, and her aunt has turned over the purse strings to Heather herself, so her money woes are over. She has also started to reconcile with Ben, as he forgives her and offers her his support. However, she is more than wary of Snowman, and how he’s ingratiating himself into her family, and wants him away. For good. Also, strange men in dark suits keep on asking her questions about him, and she’s worried if she gives him up, she’ll be implicated in her uncle’s death.

To make things worse, Snowman keeps on showing up every few days, demanding money to silence him. If she doesn’t pay, he’ll go to the police. If she does, he’ll go away forever. But here’s the thing – what does he really have over her? Her uncle’s death was ruled a heart attack (whatever), so there was no suspicion there. And if he goes to the police to tell them he was paid to kill a man, he’d really be turning himself in, and there’s no way Snowman’s going to do that. Heather’s just being intimidated at this point, and should really tell him where to stick that cheque. Of course she doesn’t. The first time she gives him another $2000, made out to cash.

Snowman does not go away as promised. Heather should know better than to believe a murderous scammer, but that’s her deal. He keeps on popping over for dinner, because Aunt Belle quite likes the polite young man. This next time he asks for $5000 in cash, and he’ll for real be gone and out of her life. Except, but “out of her life” he meant “renting the room over her aunt’s garage.” Heather is pretty desperate at this point, and confesses everything that happened to Ben. Ben gets all manly and tells her he’ll steal the cheque back from Snowman, essentially releasing Heather from the danger I don’t think she was ever in.

They sneak into Snowman’s room, which doesn’t go well because Ben’s head meets the business end of a tire jack. He goes down, and Snowman goes after Heather. He ties her up, puts her in his car, and drives her out to the clearing they made a snowman in that one time, then knocks her out. She wakes up unable to move, or breathe, and is horrified to discover she’s INSIDE a snowman that Snowman built around her. I have to admit, that kinda creeped me out. You would slowly suffocate, and no one would find your body until the next melt. And then slowly body parts would start to peek out, and wouldn’t it be horrifying to be the person who discovers that. But no worries. Heather has the lighter of her father’s that she’s carried in her pocket for 13 years. She gets it lit, and burns a hole in the snowman, giving her enough leverage to break the whole thing apart.

Saved! Except Snowman is still there, watching the whole thing. He comes after her with the soft scarf, but is interrupted when Heather sets his overcoat on fire. He really loses his cool then. Get it? Cool? Whatever. He goes up in flames, just as the police arrive. Ben survived his blow to the head, and directed them to the clearing. He has some confessing of his own to do ... he had followed Heather and Snowman that one time they went to the clearing before. Never has a girl been happier that her boyfriend is a stalker. The damning cheque was all burnt up in the impromptu fire, and the strange men asking questions about him were FBI, investigating him role in the death of his parents. Hint: He did it. Snowman is taken away, and all is well in the world, and Poor Heather is no longer so poor.

Is The Snowman a classic fairy tale done right? First Prince Charming turns out to be a homicidal lunatic, so Cinderella sets him on fire and ends up with Prince Charming number 2? I like it. Points to a Point Horror that has actual death in it, and for gruesome creativity with the built-inside-a-snowman death. That one gave me chills (tee hee, see what I did there?). 16 not-actually-that-damning cheques out of 21.


Anonymous said...

This book seems quite strange, really, doesn't it? The wintry setting, the almost supernatural nature of Snowman... it almost seems like there's a bigger story there than we know. Like it should've had a sequel in which it turns out there really was some supernatural business there as well.

HelenB said...

I have a secret soft-spot for psycho boyfriend stories. This plotline is weirdly contrived, though - like, the blackmailing thing is pretty cliche'd but the way he blackmails her is pretty dumb. Although I guess when you've found out your boyfriend has just killed your legal guardian you're not going to think entirely rationally.

I demand to know more about this lighter though. How does it still have lighter fluid in it after all this time? Does it have a picture of the American flag on it, like the ones in movies?

M.H Stine said...

i read this awhile ago it was rly good do Superstitious by R.L. Stine it's not a Fear Street but its so good but warning very bad language and inapropetpe contact

Anonymous said...

Yeah, some of those Point Horrors were dirty.

Sadako said...

HelenB--yeah, I felt that way about the Robert Cormier book, Tenderness. And a lot of Lois Duncan books. Snowman seems skeevey, though.

L. K. Stine said...

For all that the lighter really is the hero of the story, they don't describe it much: plastic, belonged to father, Heather had never lit it before. So, really, it's like a magic lighter.

Erica Leigh said...

lol, i never read that one (but now i kinda want to)! i mean, i should really revisit all those r.l. stine books that i liked so much when i was younger. love the blog! <3

Millie said...

I read this when I was about 14 and, being the little smartarse that I was, promptly thought "wtf? You can tell a strangulation victim from the eyes and the colour, soft scarf or no soft scarf" and put the book down. So at least now I know how it ends. Should've finished it, probably, because the snowman bit sounds like it was creepy ...

RecallerReminder said...

So there is any twist in this book...Snowman is the killer and the scammer. Lame.

Anonymous said...

I going to goodwill today. I like this book. But other people need to enjoy it besides me.