Friday, October 31, 2014

Party Games, or “Murder Isn’t a Game, Right?”

Hello all Fear Street lurvers, and Happy Halloween! And what a treat we have this Halloween, what with R. L.'s NEW Fear Street book. Y'all can probably imagine the joy this book has brought to us at Shadyside headquarters. R. L., you are amazing. Please don't ever stop again, we love every last cheesy, terrifying word.

Let’s get right into it. That’s what you’re here for, right? A recap on the first new Fear Street book since … I should know this.  Luckily Wikipedia does all the work for me and he hasn’t published a Fear Street since 2005. The good news? Guys, this book is good. It will not disappoint. I felt like it had everything I can hope for in a Fear Street book, and then some.
The bad news? There isn’t any. Everything is wonderful.

I’m going to put a little spoiler alert up here, which I normally don’t do because we assume everyone already read the Fear Streets when they were twelve. But this, Party Games, this is new. Maybe some of you are like A. M. and I and pre-ordered your copy, but maybe you didn’t and haven’t actually read this yet. But there are spoilers here – this is a recap, not a review. Also, sorry for the length. I got excited.

Part One

Party Games takes place in the present. There’s all kinds of awesome things you find in 2014, like Facebook, and texting, and Netflix. Obviously every teen has a cell phone, so I can’t wait to find all the creative ways to get around this problem – most things that happen in horror books or movies could have been easily prevented by some solid communications, so we’ll see how this plays out. I’d actually love to see R. L. use technology as part of the horror sometime – idk, like ghost cyber bullying? That would be cool.

I really felt like this book was setting up Shadyside as it is today. There was a lot of time spent introducing people, some who played zero part in the plot whatsoever. I’m hoping that this is the “cast” of characters who’s going to be in each of the novels – I loved it when a character you already knew from an older book turned up in a new one, even if it’s just a cameo. It doesn’t have to be Seniors styles, but I like to keep up with who’s going out with who.

There is a Fear at Shadyside High – I think that might be the biggest deal of all here. Other than in the Seniors books, I don’t think a Fear had ever gone to Shadyside, and I like it. It means that the creepy Fear family is going to have a much more active role in the hauntings of the town.

Our fearless main character of this inaugural book is Rachel. She is poor, but newly poor, and pretty. In the world of Shadyside, being poor and ugly is usually a death sentence, but I think things balance out and she’ll be okay. Her father used to be a director of an investment company, but now is a shift manager at Walmart. I’m assuming due to the recession? I like the realistic tone here. Rachel’s mom is recovering from a bad bout of Lyme disease, which seems like a really random disease to have.

So Rachel is picking up the slack by working at the popular burger joint all the kids hang out at, Lefty’s. She works hard and is often sweaty and covered in grease, things that can be a real drag when you’re trying to make it in high school.

She is in love with Brendan Fear, who is smart, handsome and popular. I also like that the Fear kid isn’t some scary goth – that fits in way too much with what we’d expect. Brendan is super into video games and there are rumours he’s already working to program his own games.

His father is Oliver Fear, an investment banker and billionaire, and it looks like he runs the town with money and power. He built an enormous stone mansion on Fear Street for all the towns people to be in awe of.

Rachel is working a busy shift when Brendan enters the burger joint, along with some of the who’s who in Shadyside High: Kerry, a jock, and his girlfriend Patti, a beautiful girl who looks like a doll, who Rachel knows from childhood. Rounding out their little group is Eric, a joker, who’s always flirting with Rachel.

As he leaves, Brendan invites Rachel to his 18th birthday party, an all-night thing at his family’s estate on Fear Island.

In walks Amy, Rachel’s best friend, who warns Rachel not to go to the party, because she’s heard wild things happen there. Rachel’s pretty much like, are you kidding, the man of my dreams wants to do wild things, I’m there. Amy is introduced: chubby and redheaded, all bad signs when it comes to survival. But she doesn’t really play a significant part in the book at all, so I’m hoping she’s being introduced for later.

It comes out that Rachel has a boyfriend – sort of. Mac’s the good looking bad boy who transferred to Shadyside High last year for fighting issues. She’s been trying to ditch Mac for awhile, which means she changed her FB profile from “In a relationship” to “It’s complicated.” A sure sign things are over! But she’s not being a bitch, actually she’s scared of him because he has a bad temper and can be controlling and possessive, she’s not sure he won’t get violent with her. Oh yes, the Fear Street abusive relationship. It did not take long for that to get in there. However, I feel that R. L. is much more sensitive about the subject matter now. As opposed to making Rachel horny, Mac’s possessiveness makes her wonder if he’s a psycho. Literally, one of the chapters is charmingly called “Is Mac A Psycho?” It made me laugh. But she does find a dead rat in her bed and suspects that Mac put in there, so clearly she needs to be away from this boy.

Rachel goes to a high school basketball game, where she flirts with Eric, then is accosted by Mac outside, who warns her not to go to Brendan’s party. She breaks up with him unequivocably, which is pretty awesome. Props to her for using her words.

Part Two

All the invitees to the party hop aboard a catamaran, which will take them to Fear Island. She sits with Patti, Kerry and Eric. There are some other kids aboard, some from her high school, but she’s surprised at what a small crowd it is and wonders why Brendan invited her. Mac hides in the bushes and watches them leave, like a great big stalker.

They sail by the Fear House that’s been built on the island, basically a three-storey mansion of evil. I love it when people refer to their “little cottage by the lake” when they know it’s eighteen times the size of your house. They have to hike through the woods to get to the house from the lake, and are led by guides Antonio and Miguel.

The pilot of the boat, Randy (aside: isn’t it the captain of the boat? Or is that just me, I know nothing about boats), slips off the dock and falls into the lake, hitting his head on the way in. Randy doesn’t come up, only a big pool of blood. The two guides say they’ll take care of it and the kids are hustled along the path towards the house. Already there’s an ominous atmosphere of tension and dread. Good. Oh, and conveeeeniently, there’s no cell reception on Fear Island. Of course there isn’t.

The staff does a poor job of pretending all is well, looking shifty and harassed, while they show the kids to their rooms where they can freshen up. Rachel shares with two other girls, April and Geena. As they talk, the discover that each of them found roadkill in their beds – wonder if it’s a warning.

They meet with everyone in the ballroom, lit entirely by candles. If they knew the Fear’s history, they probably wouldn’t have been so keen to light everything by fire!

Brendan is at the centre of the room, welcoming them. He tells them Randy is fine and they need to start partying. There’s beer – he mentions 18 is legal in their state, is that true? I thought all of the states was a 21 age minimum (ridiculous, by the way). He has two cousins there, Kenny and Morton. Also, there is way more food there than people, which makes Rachel wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, Brendan says he wants to party like his ancestors. This should be a flashing red light. They didn’t party in a safe way at all. But apparently he just means old-fashioned games.
Rachel gets a beer (ooh, naughty) and Brendan comes over to talk with her. Rachel’s a bit of a flirt, and she pours it on for Brendan, who eats it up. Awww, young love. She’s flying pretty high, but excuses herself to the bathroom. There, she hears someone screaming for help, a young man that sounds an awful lot like Randy. When she tries to find him, her way is politely but firmly blocked my two servants, who shoo her away.

When she returns, the games have begun. They’ll play a scavenger hunt, looking for a list of creepy items hidden throughout the mansion. Brendan warns the attic is haunted. Delia, one of the girls, wants to go to the attic with Eric – Delia might be related to Suki, who undoubtedly would have a near-adult child by now. I hope Delia is the new Suki of Fear Street!

They are assigned partners, and Rachel is matched up with Brendan – he had the servants hide everything, so he could still play.

Before they leave, some of the girls accuse Brendan of the roadkill in bed, to scare them. Brendan goes white and shares one of his family’s secret ghost stories: his great-aunt Victoria had one love in life, taxidermy. She would stuff everything. She used to hide dead animals in unwanted guests’ beds, which is just so charming. She eventually stuffed herself, right there in the house.

Another Fear family story is passed around: about a hundred years ago, the Fear family hunted down all of their servants on this very island, for sport, and left their bodies in a hidden mass grave.

No need to worry about that, though. Brendan and Rachel set out, and he takes her to a hidden elevator. Their advantage falls short when it breaks down and everything goes dark. Brendan uses this time to make out with Rachel – he had actually turned off the elevator himself. Rachel is loving this party.

The couple get separated on the third floor, where Rachel is attacked by bats. She finally finds Brendan … hanging from the rafters. Underneath his body is a note:

Brendan comes running at Rachel’s scream. The hanged body is a mannequin, dressed in Brendan’s clothes. They think it’s a sick joke, until they hear another scream.

They find everyone freaking out in a bedroom, standing over Patti’s broken body, her limbs all contorted. Her note says:

Only it’s not a joke, Patti is really dead.

Part Three

Everyone wants to get the hell off the island and call the police. As they are all freaking out, the lights go out, leading to more freaking out. Brendan leads them to a cabinet where the flashlights are kept, but they’ve disappeared. The lights come back on and they begin to suspect they’re being toyed with.
Brendan remembers there’s a security camera. They go check it out and see two masked men enter with hunting rifles a few hours earlier.

Time to get out of there. They make a run for the boat, only to see the catamaran leaving the dock, full of all the servants. They are left behind, alone with the hunters who seem keen on killing them off one by one. A crash is heard from behind the house.

A storm has blown in and no one can concentrate in the wind and rain. Rachel suggests they go back to the house. They can be hunted anywhere, but at least they’ll have shelter there. I’m not sure if I’m down with the logic, but okay. They go back, and discover Kerry is missing. They search around the back of the house, where there’s a construction area where work is being done on the house. Underneath a slab of concrete that’s been pushed over, is Kerry’s crushed lifeless body.

Everyone agrees the whole thing is sick (good consensus). Brendan tries to comfort Rachel, but she runs out to get some air. She stumbles into the library and discovers she’s not alone. A woman is there, all grey, surrounded by mist and animal parts. She’s sewing up her own side – it’s Victoria Fear!
Rachel freaks, gets everyone to come back to the library, which they find empty. Rachel looks completely insane. She runs away again, embarrassed and scared. Brendan finds her, kisses her and tells her no one will hurt her.

More screaming. Eric has been found strangled, dangling off a ladder.

Rachel backs away, is grabbed from behind. It’s Mac, telling her she has to go with him, but Brendan interrupts and Mac flees.

Brendan gathers everyone in a theatre room to calm down. He pulls the curtains up to show the pile of their friends’ bodies. And the bodies start to move. Everyone screams, then gets angry/relieved as they realized it was all an elaborate plank. Brendan is killing himself laughing. He planned everything; calls the game Total Panic. A girl in heavy grey makeup comes in – the ghost of Victoria Fear was actually his cousin Karen. Rachel wonders if Brendan pretended liking her as well.

The two men in masks and rifles come in. Brendan tells them they’re late, but when they don’t respond he realizes something is wrong – they’re not the hired actors.

Part Four

One of the men looks familiar to Rachel. They start to rough up the kids, rounding them up and locking them in the basement, except for Brendan and Rachel. One of the guys has been laid off by Oliver Fear and wants to hold his kid for ransom.

They go to tie up Rachel and Brendan, but Mac busts in and tells them to give it up. Mac is shot. In the chaos, Rachel and Brendan make a run for it, heading to the elevator, then shimmying out a window down a tree to freedom. They run for Mac’s canoe at the docks but lose each other in the woods. Rachel hears a gunshot and hears the men saying they got the boy.

She runs blindly and falls into a pit of human bones. Instead of freaking out, she decides she’s going to survive. She piles up the bones and uses them to climb out of the pit. I like how strong and resourceful Rachel is, I’m a fan of this character. She makes a break for the lake, but doesn’t find the canoe. Hearing the men coming up behind her, she hides in the lake under the dock. The men don’t find her, but she hears a familiar voice calling her – Mac! He faked being shot to give them a chance to escape. He says he’ll take her to the canoe.

Only to lead her back to the men, who have Brendan alive but tied up. One of the men is Mac’s father! At first Mac wanted to protect Rachel, but now apparently he wants to protect his father. There’s a lot of confusion and the other man wants to kill Rachel, they get into a fight and in the mix, Rachel’s ponytail is cut off, which, as it turns out, is the only fatality in the book.

Just then, two cops show up, guns pointed. The armed men give up pretty quickly and are handcuffed. Brendan is pretty bossy with the cops, ordering them around. Once they’ve all hussled away and they are safe, Brendan turns to Rachel, smiling. He confesses those weren’t real cops, but more actors he hired, as scared as anyone there, but it worked to convince the inept kidnappers.

He’s laughing and Rachel kisses him, telling him, accurately, that he’s crazy.

A week later, Rachel is still upset by the events but is trying to get back into her life. She’s starting to see Brendan, and is really happy when her older sister Beth comes home from college to spend time with her.

At the end of the book, Brendan takes Rachel back to the Fear House to get her jacket she left behind. She walks into the library to see the real Victoria Fear wearing her jacket, skull face grinning at her as she sews up  animals.

Brendan laughs at her for believing in the ghost stories …

This book was such a great set up for the series. Lots of interesting characters (I did not go into all of them here, I hope I’ll get a chance to in later books). This used so many themes from the original Fear Streets: maybe paranormal stuff going around, a lot of poverty-induced anger, not to mention bringing the Fear family right into the mix here. I give Party Games 10 out of 10 hacked off ponytails. I am really excited to see what R. L. has for us next. Great to have you back!