R. L. Stine: Seniors #5-6

last chanceSeniors #5: Last Chance is, at least for the first few chapters, genuinely one of the most disturbing Fear Street novels. Unfortunately the creepiness comes not from what is actually happening (which I’ll get to soon), but from what adult-me reading this in the present day can imagine happening.

The Plot: Mary O’Connor, having already been arrested for shoplifting, can’t risk anything else going wrong. So when well-liked teacher Mr. Morley (who lives on Fear Street) leaves her alone in his office with the answers to an upcoming test in clear view, she sensibly leaves the room. LOL no, I’m kidding. She actually looks at the test and gets caught, because Mary is an idiot and “entrapment” isn’t in her vocabulary.

But kindly Mr. Morley offers her one last chance, if she’ll help him out of an embarrassing predicament by “stealing back” the jacket he loaned to another teacher. She does, and NATURALLY gets caught by Mr. Wise, who insists it really is his jacket. Gradually the things Mr. Morley asks her to do  in exchange for his “help” (which actually always makes the situation worse) escalate.

Okay, can you see now why present-day me found this really seriously creepy? But don’t worry: the is a Fear Street novel, so sex isn’t one of the things on the table as Mary desperately tries to dig her way out of trouble. Instead things culminate with Mr. Morley asking her to kill another teacher.

“Fortunately” Mary finds out in time that this whole thing has been a set up. Morley is running some kind of unethical and highly illegal “psychology experiment,” and literally everyone (including the requisite cute guy and the other teachers) is in on it.

She gets a little of her own back by making Morley and the Cute Guy think she’s really poisoned them. Haha, really she’s only knocked them unconscious with medication she stole from her mother! So I guess Mary is as sociopathic as everyone else in this book by the end. I can’t say they didn’t have it coming, though.

Seniors #6: The Gift was a more straightforward outing, in which Jennifer Fear gets an antique necklace for Christmas and then a Fear ancestress starts possessing someone. You know. Just another day on Fear Street, really. the gift

The Plot: Jennifer Fear has a gorgeous antique necklace that her Fear-obsessed father found secondhand. It used to belong to someone called Dominique Fear.

Jennifer is friends with rich girl Trisha Conrad, the one who had the vision of the entire senior class dying.

And since school opened in September, four people had died. Mr. Torkelson, Danielle Cortez, Ms. Sanders, Debra Lake…(p. 8)

Hold up there, author. Mr. Torkelson died in the first book, so that was either June or July. School hadn’t re-opened yet.

Anyway, Jennifer has a boyfriend called Ty Sullivan. Trisha warns her that Ty dates multiple girls at a time. Ty swiftly breaks up with Jennifer, telling her she’s too serious for him, which I think is code for “doesn’t want him dating other girls.” He’s an asshole, and I look forward to his demise in a later book.

Sadly, he doesn’t die in this book, although for a while there I had my hopes up. Someone nearly strangles him, Jennifer almost accidentally hits him with her car, and someone sets his house on fire. Because she’s been sleepwalking (and found her own glove at the arson scene) Jennifer starts to think Dominique Fear is possessing her.

Dominique, she finds out, was wrongfully hung for the murder of some guy she loved who married someone else. Dominique vowed vengeance, claiming she could use someone with Fear blood to take her revenge by…killing some random jackass centuries later? Not that I object to anyone killing Ty, but that does seem a weird form of revenge.

The Twist, or, DUN DUN DUN: Jennifer finds out from her father that they changed their name to Fear a couple of generations ago! She can’t be the one doing the stuff, because Dominique can only possess real Fears. (Jennifer’s father collects documents and geneological stuff for a family that isn’t even his? Okay.That seems incredibly odd.)

The further twist, or DUN DUN AGAIN WITH THE DUN: Trisha is descended from the Fears, and she’s the one with the bad case of murderous possession. Jennifer shows up at the graveyard just in time to stop her from killing Ty, and throws some ashes in her face to (theoretically, anyway) depossess her.

Oh yeah, also: Trisha was secretly dating Ty.

Trisha gazed after her. Jen’s such a good friend, she thought. I still can’t believe I went out with Ty behind her back. Not just once or twice, either. Dozens of times. (p. 150)

See, that’s the sort of behaviour likely to get you killed in a later book. Don’t blame me if you don’t make it to the end of the series, Trisha.

 

 

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R. L. Stine: The Lost Girl

The latest entry in the Fear Street reboot, this felt like two stories kind of roughly stitched together. In the first, Beth Palmieri (some sort of proto-witch who has “powers”) is being courted by the nephew of her father’s business rival, only by “courted” I mean “nearly raped.” In the second, Liz Walker shows up to stalk and kill a whole group of teenagers because one of them has a tenuous connection to the man who killed her father. lost girl

Let me unpack that a bit. In the prologue (which goes on until page 46), Beth Palmieri is remembering the day when her father, who started out as a stableboy working for the Dooley family, opened his own (rival) stable.

On her way home from her job at a bakery she’s almost raped by Dooley’s nephew, Aaron Dooley, who throws her to the ground and gets on top of her, kissing her. She fights back by making him choke on his own tongue (non-fatally, just for long enough to escape).

Two nights after the grand opening, two men show up and kidnap her father. They take him to Dooley’s stables, where he’s staked out and covered with honey and oats, so they can release some horses they’ve been starving for days and have him eaten. Okay. Beth follows them, but for some reason her powers (now suddenly contingent on a “spell,” like in most of the Fear Street Saga books) don’t work. Her father is killed, and she sees Aaron watching.

Then Aaron sees her and gives chase, and Beth escapes into a cave, where she falls into the darkness and wonders if she’s dying.

The rest of the book mostly follows a present-day boy named Michael Frost (I say mostly because we do, in flashbacks, find out that Beth is never found, and at the joint funeral for her and her father, Beth’s mother puts out Martin Dooley’s eye with a candle. Cool).

Michael find himself infatuated with a new girl, Lizzy Walker. Now, Lizzy is obviously Beth (though for a while I wondered if she was a ghost or zombie or what), but if you’re wondering who the hell Michael is, you’re not alone. Until the end there’s not so much as a hint given as to why she has (obviously) set him up by causing him to run over some guy with his snowmobile.

Michael and his friends leave the scene, then suffer pangs of conscience/common sense and return, only to find the “dead” guy missing. Lizzy has them convinced he’s some bad dude named Angel who beat two kids nearly to death at her old school.

Most of the rest of the book consists of Michael and his friends being attacked and/or killed by “Angel,” who keeps sending Michael threatening texts and phone calls. Naturally when the police finally get involved, these can’t be traced.

Things start to unravel when Michael and his (ex-) girlfriend Pepper find Lizzy’s yearbook photo…in a 1950 yearbook. But by then Lizzy has convinced Michael to show up in the Fear Street woods so she can give him a gun to kill Angel. Michael is powerless to resist her, or too stupid to see why that’s a bad idea.

Once there, he learns the truth: Lizzy is a time-traveller, and Angel is actually Aaron Dooley. Only they’re friends now! Yes, that’s right, she’s forgiven Aaron because he explained that he was watching in horror as his uncle had her father killed. No explanation is given as to why that was enough to make them team up after he’d, you know, attacked her.

Anyway, they want vengeance for Lizzy/Beth’s father’s death, and they’ve picked Michael because he’s Martin Dooley’s grandson, and his friends because…they’re his friends? I’m not sure. They try to throw him into the cave, but Pepper (who’d been spell-frozen) wakes up and screams, and that startles them so much that Michael is able to seize the moment and toss them both into the time-travel cave, where they age rapidly, decay, and fall to bits.

Michael and Pepper are back together, and he’s now uncertain about the accuracy of his impressions of his kindly, one-eyed old grandfather.

Summary: A fake motor vehicle accident and time-travel murderers. So, Hit and Run meets Beach House.

Quotes:

The ruins of the mansion were finally cleared away. Before I was born, I think. But nothing new has been built on the huge grounds. (p. 229)

Wait, what? What happened to Nights?

I’m really into writing. Pepper and I write a Shadyside High blog every day. (p. 51)

If the Seniors series is anything to go by, that must be one incredibly eventful blog. Or maybe Shadyside High has settled down since then.

Questions:

  1. Seriously though: why is Lizzie now okay with Aaron having roughed her up and kissed her? Does the trauma of time travel make you bond with whatever person of your own era comes through the portal with you, even if they’re a pseudo-rapist you’ve always hated?
  2. What the hell happened to the shopping centre where the bar from Fear Street Nights was located?
  3. If she could forgive Martin Dooley’s nephew, why is she seeking revenge against his grandson? At the very least shouldn’t she give Michael the chance to say that he, too, would have been horrified if he’d seen her father’s death?

R. L. Stine: Seniors #3-4

#3: The Thirst seniors 2

I have a complaint. No seniors died in the first two books. One does die in this one, but if you check the people in the “yearbook pages” back at the beginning of book one, she’s not there. So they added people in to the yearbook pages in later books, just to cross them off. That’s cheating! I wanted deaths from among the characters I’d heard of, damn it.

Anyway. The central plot: In this book, people (one senior student, one teacher) are found dead with all their blood drained. Clearly the work of giant mosquitoes. Twins Dana (the cheerleader who dates Mickey Myers) and Deidre Palmer (who likes mysterious new guy Jon Milano) each get bitten, but not fatally, on a camping trip. If I lived in Shadyside I would literally never go camping or to lake parties.

Deidre also nearly falls into the bonfire (see what I mean about camping trips in Shadyside?), because a new redhead in town bumps into her. Deirdre’s okay, though, other than singed hair and clothes, because Jon puts out the flames on her arm. That’s not a euphemism for anything.

Deidre also tries out for basketball, where she once again crosses paths with newcomer Anita Black, a tall redhead who causes several “accidents” on the court. She says people are always telling her she should play basketball because of her height, so she “thought she’d give it a try,” then says she plays forward. Is that….actually something you’d know before you try out for the very first time, Anita? Suspicious. Then Anita is found dead, and drained of blood!

Stine-ian Twist: When Deidre and Dana go searching for Jon at the abandoned cabin in the woods where he likes to hang out, they find a coffin, and Anita springs out of it and attacks them. It’s really easy to fake your own death-by-exsanguination when you’re a vampire. Jon shows up in time to kill her, and she crumbles neatly into dust,, as one does.

Other Stine-ian Twist: Then Deirdre kills Jon as well, having worked out that he’s also a vampire.

Things to be learned from this book: If there are people being killed (and drained of their blood) in your school, and coincidentally two new students have enrolled, don’t trust them. DO NOT ACCEPT RIDES AT NIGHT FROM THEM. I don’t care how cool his car is. Also, don’t repeatedly walk home alone at night, and don’t go check out the rundown shack deep in the woods (ever, but especially not at night).

Deidre nodded okay. Jennifer hated discussing stuff like fate and strange, mysterious deaths. She guessed it was because her last name was Fear. (p. 23).

Or because she’s a normal person who gets creeped out by your morbid conversations? Just putting that out there.

random dead girl 1

no answer#4: No Answer

Okay, someone we’ve heard of right from book one gets killed! That’s more like it.

…that came out a little more bloodthirsty than I intended. But, you know, the premise going in was that the entire senior year crowd are doomed, so the stakes are only high if the characters with actual page time are at risk.

It’s a slight fake-out, though, because it’s a character we’re given some reason to dislike: Debra Lake, who’s been cheating on her boyfriend Josh Maxwell since book one. Look, usually I wouldn’t care about highschoolers “cheating;” you’re kids, guys, you don’t have to know who you’ll commit to forever at this point. But it’s kind of cruel to not let the person you’re dumping know you’ve moved on, and then yell at him when he “spies on you” in the course of trying to find out where you are and why you’ve stood him up. It’s not like she broke up with him and then he followed her around.

So, yeah, Josh was the main character in the first book, which buys him some affection, and Debra’s kind of a jerk. She’s even more of a jerk in No Answer, actually:

Debra was always saying that you couldn’t trust someone who’s been behind the bleachers with practically every guy in the school. (p. 8)

I’m side-eyeing Stine on this one, actually, because it turns out that there is good reason not to trust Mira: she’s a murderer. But Debra doesn’t know that. Having Mira turn out to be the psycho killer (and having it be because of a guy, ugh) felt uncomfortably as though the narrative was confirming Debra’s bitchery as correct.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Plot: Clarissa Turner’s older sister, Justine, died last year when she was a senior, and Clarissa’s been at “the clinic” recovering from having been the one to find her body. Now she’s home, and is a senior herself (Shadyside’s graduation rate must be grim, not even counting this “doomed” year).

Her parents are going through with their planned adoption of a troubled five-year-old boy who witnessed the murders of both his parents. That should…cheer everybody up? I don’t know, in a town like Shadyside I guess there are a lot of orphans with horrible backstories.

Clarissa is glad to be back at school with her friends, Debra and Mira, who hate each other. The other bright spot in her life is her first-ever boyfriend, Will, who emails back and forth with Mira constantly. Will and Clarissa met shortly after her sister’s funeral; unbeknownst to Clarissa he actually saw her for the first time at the funeral. Romantic.

Clarissa moves into Justine’s old room, which I can understand. Then she sees her sister’s ghost looking for something, and the something turns out to be the phone number of a psychic. When Clarissa calls the number Justine answers, using her nickname for Clarissa (“Moon Girl”) because Justine was into nicknames in a big way. “Justine” (really it’s the psychic channeling her, of course) says she was murdered. Someone pushed her down the stairs, only she didn’t see who, and the killer isn’t done yet: Clarissa and her friends are still in danger.

Clarissa eventually finds her sister’s diary and a knife, hidden under the floorboards, and learns her sister has a secret nightlife involving nightclubs and a creepy, clingy guy she called Slash. Charming. The rest of the book is basically Clarissa trying to find out who Slash is, because she thinks that if he was obsessed with Justine he might have killed her after being dumped. She has two methods of communication with Justine: the phone in Justine’s room, and Aaron, her new adopted brother, who for some reason can channel Justine as well.

Will tells Debra something, and she’s on the phone with Clarissa to pass this information on, but someone shows up in her room and kills her first. That same someone steals the phone and takes Aaron out on the lake, planning to drown him.

Stine-ian Twist: Slash is Will. He saw Clarissa at Justine’s funeral, was struck by how much she looked liked her sister, and resolved to start dating her. Ick. But then he loved her for herself, even more than he’d loved Justine. Wow. Okay, dude. If this one dies are you going to hit on their mom, or move on to the adopted brother?

Stine-ian Other Twist: Slash-Will isn’t the killer! It’s actually Mira, who killed Justine because she’s loved Will and wanted him for herself all along. Then she killed Debra for finding out that Will was Slash, which makes no particular sense to me, but okay. Then she goes after Aaron so Justine won’t be able to contact Clarissa and tell her what happened.

Callbacks: Josie is still working at Pete’s Pizza, although she keeps dropping food on customers, so I’m not expecting that to last. Debra is still dating Clarkula.

Things to be learned from this book: If you’re on the phone and someone whom you suspect is a murderer walks into your room, say their full name immediately, clearly, so the person you’re on the phone with knows who killed you. Don’t do what Debra does:

“You!” she heard Debra whisper harshly. “I had a feeling…” (p. 87)

R. L. Stine: Seniors #1-2

I’m reading Stine’s Seniors, which are painfully 90s but entirely new to me. It’s a good combination. I get to be reminded of Barney and Baywatch, both of which were more painful than these books.

In all seriousness: I love every cheesy moment of these books.

#1: Let’s Party!

Even that title summons up the spectre of the 90s, doesn’t it? It’s like being confronted with a corpse in an acid-washed jean jacket, collar carefully popped. seniors1

Anyway. This book sort of has two plots, intertwined around Trisha’s party/Trisha’s vision of DOOM.

The central plot (I guess): Josie Maxwell is furious that she failed trig, and also hates Marla Newman for various reasons. So while visiting Jennifer Fear she casts a Doom Spell, like you would. The trigonometry teacher is killed but Marla survives, alas, because Josie uses a second spell to turn time back by one hour, thereby preventing the mass slaughter at the party.

B or possibly A plot, who knows: Josh Maxwell, Josie’s stepbrother, is having problems with his girlfriend. She’s hanging around with Clark Dickson, called Count Clarkula by his classmates. Threatening phone calls inform Josh she’s now “mine,” and the speaker threatens to drain her blood. So Josh decides Clark might really be a vampire, as well as girlfriend-stealing pond scum.

Josh breaks into Clark’s bedroom at one point, making me reflect on the curious lack of Fear Street slash, and finds a cape, dirt in the bed, and a lot of books about vampires. THAT PROVES IT. You know how the undead love to read about themselves.

In a typical Stine twist Clarkula dresses up as a vampire at Trisha’s party BUT Josh finds the unopened pack of plastic teeth SO THEREFORE Clark must really be a vampire. DUN DUN DUN.

Tying this all together: Trisha has a vision that the entire senior class will die, but throws a party anyway so as not to disappoint them. Then plans an elaborate murder game/hoax and temporarily has everyone convinced two people are actually dead. Good one, Trisha.

Callbacks:
1. Jennifer Fear lives across the street from the burned out Fear mansion. A “new girl” moved into the house across from Fear Mansion way back in Party Summer, so maybe this is her? Or else the house changes hands a lot, but that seems unlikely given that it’s huge, creepy, Fear-related, and has a ballroom and a chapel. That sounds like a nightmare for a realtor to unload.
2 Someone at the party is from Waynesbridge, which is the Shelbyville to Shadyside’s Springfield. She’s in on the trick and is one of the people pretending to have been murdered.

90s! :
1. Rich girl Trisha has a cellphone but not, like, WITH her; it’s in the car her dad took. Remember a time when people didn’t have their phones in their hands constantly? (Actually, I always forget to carry my phone, which I guess is a function of my age, and will undoubtedly be the death of me if I ever wake up in one of these novels).
2. Mickey and Marla talk about Baywatch. Specifically he jokes that he thought she was trying out for a part, and she tells him he could play the part of a drowning victim.

seniors3#2 In Too Deep

Oh man. This is set at summer camp. I love all stupid teen horror novels set at summer camp.

Specifically this is set at Shadyside Summer Camp, which sounds like such a bad idea. Then again, these are the same genius characters who repeatedly hold parties at “Fear Lake,” so clearly inside the universe of these books creepy names are not any kind of warning sign, in spite of the incredible body count.

The plot: Kenny Klein has a job as a counselor at the ominously-named Shadyside Day Camp. It’s a day camp that holds sleepovers once a week, so the kids still get assigned to cabins and have bunks. Awesome. I already know at least one person who appears to be a living camper or counselor  will turn out to be a corpse from a previous summer, because I’ve read a lot of these and a lot of Goosebumps and I have a creeping sense of inevitability.

Kenny is told he has a disturbed kid among his nine-year-old boys, but he’s lost the notes that were sent to him on each camper so he doesn’t know who. Ahaha, brilliant. Instead of asking for another print out he just spends the whole book assuming it’s Vincent. It’s not an unreasonable assumption: aside from being named Vincent, the kid wears a mask to cover up scarring from some kind of accident, and stares at Kenny constantly.

The other plot: Although Kenny has a girlfriend, she’s away doing a summer SAT-prep course in California, so that leaves him free to flirt with the gorgeous blonde counselor he first meets walking along the shore of Fear Lake. Oh God, Kenny, you moron: clearly she’s a dead person. But no, he believes she’s a girl from Waynesbridge. He believes this LONG PAST the point when he should panic, which is when not only does she become creepily possessive but a woman at her listed address TELLS HIM her daughter Melly died when she was eight. COME ON, KENNY. You are dating a corpse.

Callbacks:

1. Josie from book one, who was mad at Marla for taking her summer job, has a new job at Pete’s Pizza.

2. Kenny reflects several times on how hard it must be for Josh to hang out with the group now that Debra’s dating Clark Dickson.

3. Mary O’Connor (who didn’t get invited to the party in book one) was caught shoplifting, apparently.

All three of these references to the first book occur in the space of pages 31-35. Ha. It’s a scene included specifically for the purpose of creating a faint illusion of continuity, methinks. But I was absurdly pleased anyway.

90s!:

“Yeah right! And she probably believes all the stuff she sees on The X Files, too.” (p.33)