Sunday, November 2, 2014

Party Games or "Get to the Escape Canoe!"

Welcome back Fear Street fans!

As you can see below, L.K. Stine has already posted her recap of Party Games. We figured since the new books will be so few and far between, no one would mind if we both reviewed. I also didn’t want L.K.’s post to influence me, so I haven’t read her recap yet.

First off: The cover is good, in the sense that it looks pretty creepy.  Dilapidated stairs full of old balloons? Perfect. Although I do miss the 90's covers, with the illustrations of teenagers and their amazing 90's fashion. Don’t worry though, there is a lot of discussion about 2014 fashion in Party Games. R.L. really liked to dropping fashion knowledge like “skinny jeans” and “tangerine jackets”. Tagline: “Are you dying to party?” Yes! It makes sense. I love it. So many fond memories of Fear Street are flooding back.

And there’s a lot of familiar Fear Street trends in this book too. Such as our main character: Rachel. Rachel is poor, hard-working, and pretty (but not too pretty). She goes to school, then works for hours every day after school at a local restaurant, Lefty’s, then goes home to study until she passes out.  Her best friend is a sort-of pudgy red-haired girl named Amy. Aren't they all? Seriously, there are so many red-heads in Shadyside.

Part One

The book opens with Rachel working at Lefty’s and serving some kids from her school, including her crush, Brendan FEAR. He’s sitting with Kerry, Patti and Eric (warning! There are so many characters in this book. Feel free to ignore their names).  Turns out they're planning Brendan’s upcoming birthday party.  And even though Rachel and Brendan have barely ever talked, he invites her to his party. An all-night party at his cabin on Fear Island. She’s super jazzed.  (Note about Brendan. He is always wearing black jeans, and video game t-shirts. …is that cool now?)

“DON’T GO.” This is Amy, town buzzkill, telling her best friend not to go to a party with her crush. Yeah right, Amy.

Amy and Rachel walk home after work, and when Rachel gets home, she sees that her front door is wide open. After a search of the house turns up nothing, they decide it must be that pesky wind. That is, until Rachel finds a dead rat in her bed! She immediately blames it on her ex-boyfriend, Mac. Well, she calls him her ex-boyfriend, then mentions that she just stopped responding to his calls or texts and stopped seeing him. So. Not saying he’s a nice guy, especially since Rachel thinks he’s the type of person to stuff a dead rat in a bed, but… did she even dump him? Cold, Rachel, cold.

Rachel hilariously monologues to herself: “Mac, you can frighten me. But you can’t ruin my life. I’m going to Brendan Fear’s birthday party. It’s going to be the greatest all-night party ever.” Remember when parties were the biggest deal in your life? Like even bigger than discovering someone broke into your house and left a dead rat in your bed? Teens. Don’t ever change!

Rachel goes to meet Amy at a basketball game and runs into Eric from the night before. Eric is the class clown – always making jokes and hitting on girls, but no one takes him too seriously and loves him for it. Amy calls and says her parents grounded her so Rachel leaves to go visit her. 

I’d like to stop here and discuss something weird that I noticed. Rachel talks and thinks SO much about people and situations that didn't have to do with the plot of the book. Case in point: she spends so long explaining Amy’s weird home life and relationships with her parents, and then Amy isn't in the book!  Other ones I noticed: Rachel talks about her sister Beth constantly, so much so, that I thought maybe Beth was dead, and Rachel was crazy (I think that was a Fear Street book at one point); Rachel also talk about Eric all the time. I get it. He’s a lovable doof.  My only thought is that maybe this series is connected, similar to Fear Street Seniors. If R.L. is laying the groundwork for the next few books, I’ll be really impressed. If not, well, I won’t be too surprised.

Anyway, Rachel leaves the game and is accosted by Mac. Mac Attack! is what I called it in my head.  Mac is described as a young Brad Pitt with blonde hair, blue eyes and skinny jeans. He also tells her not to go, saying he “knows what's being planned”. Rachel finally wrenches herself away, with Mac falling over in the process. When she looks back, he’s sitting up and shaking his fist at her. Classic!

Part one ends with Rachel having a scary dream. I hate dream sequences. As a friend once told me, “why would I care about a dream? It’s a weird story that didn’t happen. No thanks.” (This was directly after I told him about a dream I had).  It was about a rat or whatever. I skimmed.

Part Two

There is a huge catamaran to take the kids over to the island on the day of the party. They even have a boat captain, Randy. There are a lot of introductions, since there are so many GD characters in this story! Here are the names: Kerry, Patti and Eric are there again. New characters are April, Delia, Geena, Spider (Robby) and Brendan’s two cousins that don’t know anyone. I barely kept track of them.

As soon as they disembark at the island dock, Randy the boat captain has an accident. He slips and hits his head and then falls into the water. And doesn't resurface. AND NO ONE DOES ANYTHING. There are two Fear employees there, Miguel and Antonio, (servants I guess?) and one of them makes a half-hearted attempt to rescue Randy, while the other one leads the way to the cabin. What?It just seemed too weird that all the teenagers were like, “yeah… I’m sure this employee can mount a rescue attempt by themselves”. So bothersome.

They have to hike a bit to get to the cabin, which is actually a giant, creepy mansion. As they are putting their stuff away, April suddenly mentions that she found a dead squirrel in her bed. Wha? Geena found a dead raccoon! The girls are way too nonchalant about these dead animals. They decide it was someone who wanted to scare them away from the party. Why aren't they more worried that they know someone that would do that!? Also, Rachel is wearing a tangerine jacket. That will be relevant.

They go downstairs to the ballroom, which looks like the ballroom from Beauty and the Beast. Brendan is there, and tells them that Randy the boat captain is fine, and it’s time to get trashed! They have a giant feast, as well as a full service bar, since it’s his 18th birthday.  In my notes, I wrote down a quote from Brendan: “Are you into torture?” Rachel WAS into it. And I remember zero other context, so I’m going to leave it at that.  Rachel just thinks it’s the best day ever!

Until she goes to the bathroom and hears someone that sounds suspiciously like Randy screaming for help. She goes to find him, but Antonio and Miguel, el creepo workers, block her path and tell her everything is fine. Rachel is really freaked out. Remember when she thought it was the best day of her life a few minutes ago? She also keeps thinking about Eric and how he’s both funny and annoying. This strain of thought literally goes nowhere.

She joins back up with the group and they open up the envelopes they were given when they arrived. It contains a scavenger hunt list! See, Brendan wants to spend time playing retro games, so he had his employees (servants?) hide a bunch of weirdo crap around the house and now they’ll find it! April pipes up and asks if dead squirrel is on the list. She accuses Brendan of doing it. Brendan claims innocent, then launches into a story about his great aunt Victoria, who lived out on the island by herself and was really into taxidermy. Apparently she ended up stuffing herself! Right.

Geena still thinks Brendan did it to put them “in the scary mood”. No one else pipes up, so we don’t know if they: 1) believe the taxidermy ghost did it, 2) Brendan did it (crazy-pants), or 3) someone did it to warn them. And yet, they move on, like all those possibilities are totally normal. WTF.

Much to Rachel’s excitement, her and Brendan are partnered for the scavenger hunt. He takes her to the top floor of the mansion in an elevator! (side note, I knew a guy who had an elevator in his cabin. Rich people are weird.) The elevator gets stuck, causing Rachel and every single claustrophobe reading this book to panic. But, JUST KIDDING, Brendan did it as a joke so he could kiss Rachel. She swoons, although I'm not sure if it’s due to romance or relief.

As they’re exploring the upstairs, Rachel and Brendan get separated and Rachel finds a bat nest. Gross. She runs around trying to find Brendan and finds him…hung from the ceiling. Dun dun dunnnnn!

Nope! It’s just another R.L. trick. It was a mannequin, but it’s dressed like Brendan, and has a little note attached: “ANYONE FOR A GAME OF HANGMAN?” They are all “hmm that’s odd” when they hear screams coming from another part of the house.  All the other kids are gathering in another room, and Patti is at the centre. Dead. For real this time! We see no cause of death other than her limbs are all twisted and she’s covered in blood. Her note reads “Twister, anyone?”  Brendan pronounces her dead.

Part Three

The next events happen pretty quickly, and since this post is getting crazy long, I’ll skim a bit.  They realize that there is a psycho murderer, but Brendan points out that they have no cell reception, or phones to call for help. And he says they can’t leave the island since their boat captain is incapacitated with a concussion from his fall. I guess… although I would rather try to figure out how to sail (drive? ride?) a catamaran on a lake then be stuck on an island with a murderer. Just me, maybe.

Then the lights go out. They try to find the chest of flashlights, but they are all gone. The teens start panicking, and Brendan is mysteriously quiet when they demand to know if Randy is really alive. The lights come back on so they check the security camera footage. They see two masked men with shotguns arrive at the house a few hours previously. Uh, shit.  They decide that enough is enough and go down to the docks to take their chances with the boat. Except! All the Fear mansion workers are on the boat and sailing away! Wait, were they going to leave the workers there while they escaped? Justice.

They realize another member of their party is missing – Kerry, who was Patti’s boyfriend. They start looking for him in the construction zone of some renovations.  Rachel spots him under a bunch of concrete slabs. His note says “I was never any good at Jenga”. Damn! Brendan also pronounces Kerry dead, which seems a bit unnecessary, since they are all staring at his body under a bunch of concrete slabs.

Rachel is kinda freaking out, but instead of staying with the group, she decides to go into the house by herself to get a drink of water. The house where two of her friends were just murdered by two intruders. She walks past a room where she sees a light on…she investigates closer…and basically falls into the room. Smooth, Rachel.

And she’s walked in on an old-timey ghost! Man, R.L. has just PACKED this book. The table in the room is covered with animals and animal parts. The ghost is a woman, all grey and spooky. But worst of all, the woman is sewing her skin together. Sick. This ghost is clearly Great Aunt Victoria of crazy taxidermy fame. Rachel screams and goes to find the group. She takes them back to the room of animal parts, but nothing is there. Ooooooh damn! Is Rachel cracking? (Also, are we supposed to think the ghost is killing people? Or the two intruders? Too much is going on here).

Outside the room, Rachel sees a blur run past at the end of the hall. But she recognizes the hair of the blur – It’s Mac! Are we in for another Mac Attack? She follows Mac, but doesn't catch up. It’s then that she realizes someone is rushing towards her in a ski mask!

Nope. It’s just Brendan and the shadows made his face seem ski-mask-y. They hear more screams and run to find their friends around Eric’s body. His feet are jammed at the top of a ladder and his face is all purple near the floor. They think for a second he might be alive because his hand twitches but no, Brendan examines him and declares him dead too. His note reads: “Chutes and Ladders isn't always a baby game”.

As Rachel is emo-ing about how she’ll never hear another one of Eric’s hilarious jokes again (seriously, she talked about him all the time), she’s grabbed from behind. By Mac! Mac Attack! But no, he’s not attacking her. He tells her he followed them here in a canoe and they can escape now. Rachel won’t go with him though. Probably since he won’t explain what he’s doing there, what’s going on, and also because he followed her in a canoe. Creep. He sees something behind Rachel that spooks him and runs off into the darkness of the mansion. SO WEIRD.

Brendan takes the surviving members of the party to the theatre to regroup.  Brendan says a weird little speech about this being the “final curtain” and pulls back the curtain to reveal their three friends bodies heaped on the stage. (What kind of house has a stage?) Gasp! So Brendan was the killer all along?

NOPE! They aren't dead. Patti, Kerry and Eric rise up all zombie like, then basically shout surprise. Yup, it was all a creepy joke. What. The. Fuck.

Everything that happened that night has been a joke. The dead animals in the girls beds, Randy falling, the servants leaving, the horrific deaths, the bats… everything. Randy shows up, along with a cousin of Brendan’s who’s dressed like the ghost of Great Aunt Victoria. Seriously, Brendan planned everything to scare the shit out of his friends. Rachel can’t decide if he’s a creative genius or dangerous sicko. UM, I CAN ANSWER THAT FOR YOU, RACHEL.

Just then, two masked men burst through the door. They start yelling at everyone and Brendan tells them to knock it off. But they just punch Brendan. Brendan clues in that these are not the two men he hired to scare everyone (or maybe they are, and are just taking advantage of this remote location?). The masked men hustle everyone besides Brendan and Rachel into the basement and declare this party a good old-fashioned kidnapping!

Part Four

How is this book still going? The intruders, who are referred  to as “Blue Eyes” and “the pudgy one” discuss how Brendan’s dad, Oliver Fear fired Blue Eyes and this kidnapping is his revenge and money-making scheme. Things are going swimmingly for the kidnappers until… MAC ATTACK! Mac bursts in and demands the kidnappers let Brendan and Rachel go. Not sure why they would listen to him… Anyway, in the ensuing struggle, one of the rifles go off, and Mac is shot. Brendan and Rachel heartlessly use this distraction to escape! Using the loud, old elevator to bring them to the top of the house! WTF. No part of that is a good plan.  Are there no stairs in this house? Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever reading about stairs, only this terribly loud elevator. 

Unsurprisingly, as soon as they reach the top, the elevator is called back down to the patiently waiting kidnappers.

So they climb a tree to get down to the ground floor. WHY didn't they just run out of the house in the first place! So frustrating. They run through the woods, get separated and lost, then Rachel falls into a pit of BONES (which by the way, is never explained). She has to make a pile of human bones so she can climb out of this pit of digustingness. Rachel finally makes her way to the dock, but can’t find Mac’s canoe. She hears someone coming through the woods, and instead of running back into the woods at a different spot, Rachel chooses to wade into the water and hide underneath the dock. OMG Rachel, you deserve to die basically. How far away could the trees have been, that this is a better plan?

The person ends up being Mac, who can clearly see her since he immediately knows she’s there. So dumb. Mac wasn't actually shot but pretended so Rachel could escape. Is creepy canoe Mac the real hero of this book? He tells her to follow him to where he hid his escape canoe, and Rachel is relieved her nightmare will be over soon (Fuck Brendan, I guess?).

NOPE! Mac returns her to the kidnappers, who caught Brendan. Turns out, Blue Eyes is Mac’s father and that’s why he looked kinda familiar to Rachel. Mac tells her he had to bring her back because she “recognized his father”. Too bad Mac didn't realize that Rachel is much too dumb to recognize anyone, and he brought her back for no reason.  Rachel and Brendan escape again, although I can’t remember how. Rachel runs and finds the canoe, but old Blue Eyes catches up with her again and shoots the canoe full of holes to sink it. He marches her back to the mansion at gunpoint. During this walk, Rachel has a disturbing fantasy that she kills him, but I won’t bore you with the details since it’s another dream sequences. No thanks!

Once back at the house, the pudgy kidnapper presses Blue Eyes to kill Brendan and Rachel now that they know their identities. Blue Eyes is resistant so Pudgy runs at Rachel with a knife – and cuts off her ponytail! Ack, there are way too many fake-outs in this book.

Suddenly! The police burst in! They seem kinda weirded out by the situation, but Brendan yells that the three men are kidnappers and need to be handcuffed. The police awkwardly put Blue Eyes, Pudgy and Mac in to handcuffs. Rachel (and I) are super confused. Brendan just kind of laughs and tells her those were two actors that he hired for the night to scare his friends.  He guesses they must have been super late. And then tells her their guns are fake! Seems like a dangerous gamble to make the actors take, Brendan.  Well, he’s clearly insane and doesn't give a fuck about anyone, so that seems par for the course.  Rachel and Brendan make out, obviously. Shouldn't they be letting their friends of the basement now?

We cut to Rachel back at work at Lefty’s and probably suffering from some pretty severe PTSD. R.L. actually kinda mentions that she’s messed up over it. Her sister, Beth, comes in to visit her and she’s so excited. They share one scene together, and that’s it. Rachel spent so much time talking about Beth throughout this book, and all they do is hug in Lefty’s. I sincerely hope Beth is in another Fear Street book, otherwise, half of Rachel’s inner thoughts were for no reason.

One last part. Yes, this book is STILL NOT OVER.  Rachel had been wearing a super cool tangerine jacket at the party, but had taken it off at some point during the night. She makes Brendan take her back to that house of NIGHTMARES for this stupid jacket. Girl, buy yourself something else and call it a day. She goes searching through the house by herself. And what does she find? A g-g-g-ghost!!

Yes, she walks in on Great Aunt Victoria Fear again; only this time, it’s apparently a real ghost. She is also sewing her skin together really creepily (probably the only way you can sew yourself together) and surrounded by dead animal parts.  And she’s wearing the tangerine jacket! Rachel runs to get Brendan but when they come back, the animals and the ghost are gone. But her tangerine jacket is left in ball on the floor. Rachel tries to tell Brendan what she say and he goes “You don’t believe those crazy stories – do you?” FIN.

I don’t know Brendan, seems like you may have totally fucked Rachel up, so maybe don’t be so judgemental. A few final unanswered questions. Is Rachel smart enough to BURN that jacket as soon as she gets home? Probably not. Why would she even take it? Also: Where did Brendan and his friends get the dead animals that they stuffed in Rachel’s bed? Did they…kill the animals themselves? Or go look for some? WTF. What happened with the police ACTORS and the kidnappers? Did the actors just take them back to Shadyside in their non-police boat? And drive them to a police station?

So many questions. Such a long book! I don’t think Fear Streets ever need to be 275 pages. I can’t decide if I loved this book, hated this book, or hated it so much I loved it. I mean the plot was crazy and way too long and unnecessarily complicated. But it did fill me with so much happiness to read a new Fear Street. And I can’t wait for the next one. Hopefully we get a release date soon for the next one!

Party Games gets 67 newly-haunted tangerine jackets out of 111.  Hope you enjoyed this crazy long post!