R. L. Stine: Seniors #9

Remember how when I started reviewing this series I complained because the main characters (the Shadyside High students pictured in the yearbook photos) weren’t being killed? Well, in this book someone major gets killed. Unlike last time, when the victim was Ty Sullivan, this was someone I actually liked! Sort of. As much as you can like any of the lightly-sketched characters in a Fear Street Seniors book, anyway.

Title: Spring Break

The Plot (briefly): Josh Maxwell, Mickey Myers, Deirdre Palmer and Gary Fresno head off to Tricia Conrad’s ranch in Arizona. There’s an archeological dig going on, a sort-of-ghost story relating to a native tribe that vanished, and Josh (having taken the wrong bag from the airport) has a Bad Dude after him. Meanwhile, his stepsister Josie and her friend Jennifer Fear (the one who isn’t a real Fear) meet some college guys who are jerks.

spring break

The Plot (Extended Remix): The seniors are on a plane. Gary is acting like a jerk and is borderline rude to a stewardess. If this was written today, he’d end up in jail or being beaten by United thugs or something.

If you’re paying enough attention to realize that Deirdre Palmer isn’t usually part of this group, congratulations: you have a way better memory than I do. It’s her cheerleading sister Dana who should be on this trip, since Dana is dating Mickey. But Dana is sick, so instead of hanging out with Josie and Jennifer, Deirdre is going to Arizona.

I just noticed that Josie and Josh sound like names parents would give actual twins, instead of step-siblings who are conveniently the same age so they can both be in the Doomed Senior Class. If this was a V. C. Andrews novel instead of an R. L. Stine, they actually would be twins, and they’d be pretending to be steps so everyone would be less shocked that they were dating. NOT THAT THEY’RE DATING IN THIS SERIES. But they would be, if this was the VCAndrewsverse.

Josh bumps into some tough guy. REPEATEDLY. The guy is obviously meant to be a criminal lowlife, but seriously, by about the third time you bumped into me (and caused someone to crush my hat) I’d be pretty peeved too, Josh.

Not peeved enough to try to run a group of teenagers off the road, though, which is what this guy does.

At the ranch Trisha is highhanded and bitchy towards the ranch foreman’s daughter, Rose. I applaud Stine for resisting the urge to name her Rosa; it’s a bold departure from about eleven billion Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/etc. books set in Arizona.

Also, Josh goes to unpack and discovers he has the Bad Dude’s suitcase, and there’s a gun in it. For some reason this makes him afraid to go to the police and give them the bag, because the guy might get angry. The guy is ALREADY angry, Josh, let the police deal with him.

But no: he drags Rose along to try and return the suitcase, and there’s a cliffhanger earthquake.

Meanwhile, Josie is bored, so she and Jennifer go to The Roadhouse, only they (and Matty Winger and his dumb cousin Mo) get thrown out for being underage. Matty and Mo disappear, but Jennifer and Josie meet two college guys IN THE PARKING LOT. Even if you didn’t live in Shadyside and weren’t part of the Senior Curse, this would be a spectacularly dumb idea. Also Evan and Tim can’t give the girls their number because they conveniently just moved into a new apartment. Then Josie sees someone has painted a message in red paint on Jennifer’s windshield: WANNA PLAY?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a college guy named Roberto is flirting with Trisha, who is flirting right back. Gary is not pleased. Roberto tells them about the Hohokam Indian Tribe who disappeared from the region 500 years ago. Like, really disappeared. Vanished. He claims Hohokam means “the vanished ones” when obviously it means “pure hokum.” Roberto is part of an archeological excavation on the Conrad’s ranch, and Josh is interested in archeology. Was Josh interested in archeology in previous books? I honestly don’t remember.

Rose freaks out and tells them the excavation is dangerous and they can’t go there because there’ve been a series of accidents at the dig, caused, according to Rose, by La Amadora. She was an elder of the Hohokum tribe, and now she guards the site. Also, “series of accidents” covers a range of things from food poisoning through a fire and all the way up to one of the guys on the dig being found dead with his neck broken.

Mickey is hitting on Deirdre, because her twin Dana (the one he’s dating) isn’t there. Gross. Also, Deirdre has had a crush on him for a while (THIS I do remember from earlier books), so she’s into it. They go with Josh to look at the dig in the middle of the night, and Josh falls into a pit. He BREAKS A PIECE OF POTTERY and Roberto is mad at him the next day, and rightly so.

Trisha has a vision of a coyote with red stripes, and of the five of them flying over the canyon and vanishing. Maybe if the senior class just got rid of Trisha somehow the curse would fizzle out. Or at least they could stop being reminded of it every few seconds, which would also be great. Rose claims La Amadora caused the vision. Rose is very invested in making everyone afraid of the archeological site.

Trisha gets non-fatally bitten by a snake.

Meanwhile, back at Shadyside, Josie hears a raspy voice saying WANNA PLAY? while she’s in the bathroom at a restaurant. That is less “ghost creepy” than “pervert creepy,” and since Evan’s gone to the men’s room at the same time, it’s pretty obviously him. They go to River Ridge and Tim almost pushes her off while they’re standing on the edge, then claims he didn’t, he just tried to save her. Then she finds another red-paint message on her front walk: WANNA PLAY ROUGH?

Josh goes walking in the desert with Rose, who runs off. While he’s lost a coyote attacks him. Luckily Rose’s father Simon, the ranch foreman if you’ve lost track, rescues him. It’s painfully clear by now that Rose is one of the Bad Guys, but only to the reader, not to Josh.

Josh finds his bedroom has been trashed, but the Bad Dude’s bag and the gun are both still there, so he’s perplexed as to what they were searching for. Then he thinks he sees La Amadora in his room.

Josie has a dream that the evil spirit she released in book one is leaving the messages. She races over to Jennifer’s house and confesses she used a Fear spell book and doomed the whole senior class, oops. Jennifer tells her she isn’t really a Fear, which isn’t relevant at all to this conversation but I guess she wanted to join in on the confessing. Josie thinks the evil spirit was warning her that Tim and Evan are evil (why? why would it do that??), so they call the boys. Wait, what? I thought they didn’t have a phone. Was that resolved somehow and I missed it?

Josie calls Tim. There’s a fake-out confession that yes, the guys DID leave the messages. Then chapter twenty-eight begins with the guy on the phone laughing and admitting he’s just Tim’s roommate, Colin, and he was joking. Then Tim comes on the line and says of course they didn’t leave the messages. Then he tells her he has to take another call, only instead of disconnecting her, he accidentally leaves her listening in while he takes a call from Evan and the two of them joke about how scaring the girls will have them “all over us.” Gross, and also convoluted.

Josie and Jennifer hatch a plan to get revenge by bringing the guys to the Fear Street Cemetery to make out, and having their friends dressed as zombies, ready to pop out from behind headstones to revenge-scare them. I would have loved this idea when I was nine or ten.

Rose takes Josh and the gang for a horse ride up to a scary ledge. Nothing happens, because Stine hadn’t reached his word count yet, but Trisha DOES recognize the cliff as the one they flew off or fell off or whatever it was in her vision.

The next time they repetitively go back to the same ridge, the Bad Dude shows up, with a rifle. Dierdre falls off the ledge when he lines them up along it. DIERDRE’S DEAD. This is the second girl killed for “cheating” in this series (and Ty ALSO died, so I guess Mickey is doomed?).

Josh gets the rifle away, but then GIVES IT TO ROSE, and she turns out to have been in cahoots with the guy all along. They have a “steal artifacts and sell them” business arrangement. They’ve been searching Josh’s room for a tiny 500-year-old clay coyote with red stripes, just like the one in Trisha’s vision. Only it turns out Josh didn’t have it: it fell out of the Bad Dude’s suitcase on the very first day, and Mickey picked it up, planning to bring it home to Dana.

Rose and Clay (the Bad Dude) argue, because he wants to kill the high school kids now but she says she didn’t sign up for murder. He knocks the statue out of her hands and it goes over the edge, and when Cliff tries to grab it HE goes over too, only Josh saves him. By now Roberto and Simon have showed up, and Simon radios the sheriff, then takes Cliff and Rosa back to the ranch to be arrested. Awkward.

Josie and Jennifer carry out their scare-the-guys plan. Tim and Evan aren’t buying it at first, but Dana Palmer (who looks “ghostly pale”) floats in the air and reaches her hand right through a gravestone. Tim and Evan flee in terror, and Josie and Jennifer thank their friends, only Dana isn’t there to thank. They call her at home, only Dana tells them she hasn’t been to the graveyard. She’s been at home, because the family have gotten word that Dierdre is dead.

Josie swallowed hard. She crossed the room, trembling, and wrapped her friend in a hug.

“Jennifer,” she whispered, “I – I think Deirdre came to say good-bye to us tonight.” (p. 204).

Okay, that was pretty cool as far as Fear Street endings go.



R. L. Stine: Seniors #8

This is the best one so far. I like everything about this except for the title. The title is dumb.

This is the book where Ty finally dies! Unexpectedly, I ended up feeling a little bad for him, since he displays an endearing childlike credulity in this one.

The back cover blurb is awesome in its ridiculousness: Ty Sullivan thinks he’s so hot. Especially since he’s seeing three girls–all at the same time. And when Ty gets a valentine from the mysterious Amy, he decides to go out with her, too. But Amy isn’t like the other girls…she’s dead.

Title: Sweetheart, Evil Heart sweetheart evil heart

The Plot (Brief Version): Trisha Conrad, having failed to kill Ty when she was possessed, manages to get him killed for real this time around.

The Plot (Extended Version): Ty is officially dating Phoebe, since her parents gave her permission to date at the end of the last book. He’s also sneaking around with Trisha Conrad, who is actually dating the extremely jealous, wrong-side-of-the-tracks bad boy Gary Fresno. And finally he’s seeing Marla Newman. He’s told Marla and Trisha he’s about to break up with Phoebe, and assumes neither of them know about each other, and Phoebe doesn’t know about either of them.

Honestly it would be more amazing if this DIDN’T get him killed.

He’s up in his attic with Marla (because dating in Shadyside involves attics, I guess), and she bumps into an old desk and an antique Valentine falls to the floor. It’s addressed to Tyler Sullivan. If you can’t see where this is going you may be as sweetly gullible as poor Ty.

Ty reads the ALL-CAPSentine:



LOVE, AMY (p. 8)

Ty assumes “some other girl” is interested in him, and flat-out lies to Marla that it must have belonged to his grandfather, whose desk she just backed into. Ty is an idiot.

He also thinks Amy sounds “pretty hot,” which is an incredibly strange conclusion to come to based on a handwritten note.

Marla, Phoebe, and Trisha all expect him to ask them to the Valentine’s Day dance. His friends Mickey Myers and Kenny Klein are placing bets on which one he’ll go with, when they’re not tossing paper balls around in the corridor and slamming into Justin Thompson, who Ty thinks of as “one of Shadyside High’s main dweebs.” Ty and his friends are all jerks.

Meanwhile Gary spots Trisha out driving with Ty, and tells Ty he wants him dead.

Ty gets another note from Amy telling him she has a TERRIBLE JEALOUS TEMPER. Even if she’s not a ghost, Ty, you shouldn’t be writing back to her: those all-caps notes are creepy.

But he is writing back to her, because Ty is an idiot. That would also be the reason he’s still stringing along three girls.

He gets a static-y phone call (on a landline; how quaint) from Amy while Phoebe is at his house.

Gary gives Trisha a ride home, driving like a maniac and convincing her he’s dangerous. It’s not a good idea to accept rides home from people who’re angry at you, Trisha.

Ty is increasingly (weirdly) infatuated with a girl he thinks is dead. She sends him a faded photograph of a girl in a long cape and bonnet, so he still doesn’t really know what she looks like.

Trisha also gets a Valentine from Amy, warning her away from Ty. We see that scene from Trisha’s perspective, and it’s kind of cheating that she only thinks “I’ll have to show this to Ty” without further explanation. But she has one of her visions, which interrupts her chain of thought to show her a dead boy she can’t identify, so I guess I’ll let it slide.

Phoebe and Marla also get threatening notes; Ty has his tires slashed and a dead rabbit pinned inside his car with a knife; Marla interrupts his at-home study date with Phoebe (oops) because a girl jumped her and beat her up; Gary continues to be threatening, but can’t have done the rabbit thing because he was working on his beat-up car. Got all that? Basically, Ty’s dead girlfriend is turning stalkerish.

So he breaks up with her, via note left in tree. It’s not as bad as being dumped via text message, but it’s close. Naturally her next note is an angry all-caps threat to kill his three girlfriends.

In one of my favourite scenes, Ty tries to get a date for the Valentine’s Day dance, but Trisha is going with Gary, Phoebe claims to have sprained her ankle, and Marla is visiting her grandmother.

Ty being Ty, he assumes they’re just turning him down out of fear of Amy.

So he goes to the party alone, feeling humiliated, and he sees Amy.

One minute she’s on the ground floor, and impossibly fast she’s up on the balcony, and its incredibly obvious what’s happening but I still love it.

When he pulls the bonnet off an “Amy,” it’s Phoebe, and then Trisha and Marla show up ALSO dressed as Amy, and he finally realizes they’ve been revenge-pranking him all along.

Only after he leaves them behind, he sees Amy yet again, and follows her outside.

Trisha gets a creepy feeling about this, and all three girls are feeling improbably guilty, so they go outside and find Ty’s corpse. He’s been run over and killed.

The girls are questioned by police but released. Trisha has a vision of a red car running Ty down.

At school Gary fights with her over Ty, then offers her a ride home in a shiny red car with a bump on the front fender. She panics and runs, and ends up in the Shadyside Memorial Cemetery. Someone grabs her!

The Twist: It’s just nerdy Justin Thompson.

He insists on walking Trisha home, and along the way confesses he LIKES her, and that’s why he had to kill Ty. Wait, so the final “Amy” was Justin in a dress?

Trisha gets away from him but in the struggle he falls and hits his head on a gravestone and dies.

(You’d think the police would be REALLY interested in Trisha by now, but no. I guess having wrongly accused her of killing Ty they don’t even want to ask how a second guy died while in her company.)

Gary leaves a sweet, apologetic Valentine for her. He’s riding a bike now, and explains he no longer felt comfortable driving the car he borrowed FROM JUSTIN now that he knows Ty was killed with it.

Even Twistier: Phoebe and Trisha cut through the cemetery and see the police tape surrounding the grave where Justin died. This time Trisha reads the headstone:

AMY FEAR 1872-1890

reading: Class Trip

class trip

In honour of Earth Day, here’s a book featuring a canoe trip, and the unique micro-environment of Shadow Island! Yes, I’m reaching, I know.

Title: Class Trip

Author: Bebe Faas Rice

According to the cover, this was an Edgar Award Nominee. Fancy.

The book opens with a monologue. There are only two people left alive out of the seven who went on the trip, and one is a murderer. Also the narrator of this chapter desperately wanted to be part of the “high school royalty” the other six belonged to, and sit at their special table in the cafeteria and stuff.

Chapter one gives us the cast of characters, in this order: Continue reading “reading: Class Trip”

R. L. Stine: Seniors #7

fight team fight It’s been so long since I recapped any of these; I’ll link the earlier ones at the bottom if anyone needs to refresh their memory. Because you need Fear Street Seniors occupying some of your brain cells, obviously.

Title: Fight, Team, Fight!

The Plot: Phoebe Yamura is head cheerleader, and she’s secretly “dating” Ty Sullivan, if sneaking under the bleachers to kiss counts as dating.

They have to sneak around, because her parents are strict because they weren’t born in America. Although frankly any parent in Shadyside SHOULD be over-protective; it’s hardly a cultural thing in this case.

You may remember Ty:

Greta Bradley had been a cheerleader, too. And Ty’s girlfriend. Then she died at Jennifer Fear’s New Year’s Eve party. Sometimes Phoebe felt a little weird about going out with Ty. She even tried to talk about it, but he always changed the subject. (p. 6)

I hate to side with Ty, but Phoebe, no one wants to talk about their recently-dead girlfriend with their new girlfriend who used to be her teammate. That is beyond awkward.

Also on the squad are Jade and Dana, two ginormous bitches who deliberately drop new cheerleader Samantha and injure her. Dana is the feels-regrets less bitchy one, and Jade is the one you hope gets murdered.

Phoebe is afraid of bugs. I’m sure that won’t be at all important to the plot.

Someone shreds her uniform and leaves it in her locker with a note that says GIVE ME AN H-E-L-P. That’s almost funny.

A new girl, Gina, gets to try out for the squad even though it’s late in the year, because “it’s been an unusual year,” by which their advisor means “our cheerleaders keep dying.” Fair enough.

Jade “passes” a chemistry test by erasing Phoebe’s name and signing her own, thereby stealing Phoebe’s grade. Lessons learned from Fear Street: write your name on tests in pen. Also, wouldn’t a teacher be able to compare it against other tests and see it wasn’t Jade’s handwriting?

Then Dana tries to guilt Phoebe into not reporting it, because they need Jade on the team. No, they don’t, they have a new girl. But Phoebe goes along with it because 1) if she tells the chem teacher she was sick he’ll let her rewrite it and 2) she has no backbone.

At lunch she’s upset because Jade and Dana are sitting with their boyfriends and Gina joins them. While explaining to her best friend Samantha that Jade and co. will only end up stabbing Gina in the back, Phoebe knocks over an iced tea. Someone named Griffin Smith helps her clean it up. Apparently he’ll be driving the cheerleaders to their state competition on Saturday, so I guess he’s the equipment manager like Sid in Give Me a K-I-L-L.

Jade drops a bug on Phoebe and she and Dana laugh because phobias are hilarious. I’d feel sorrier for Phoebe if she grew a spine and turned them in, though.

Gina shows up lugging a box of pom-poms and gets mad at Phoebe because she’s only the alternate, not an actual cheerleader, even though that wasn’t Phoebe’s decision to make. PHOEBE. Stop letting everyone else make you responsible for their problems. Gina also reveals that the picture in her locket isn’t her; it’s her twin sister who died.

Phoebe finds a scary doll in her locker. Ms. Bell (the team’s advisor) tells the principal. Griffin shows up and calls it a sick joke.

Someone puts red ants in the box of pom-poms and Phoebe gets bitten. Jade denies it was her, but says she does want to replace Phoebe as captain of the squad. Gina confronts her and ALSO denies it, but at least apologizes for getting mad at her.

Phoebe gets a phone call that consists of a recording of the cheerleaders doing their “We’re gonna get you!” cheer, which is admittedly pretty creepy.

After a lousy practice Phoebe images ripping Dana’s ponytail right off her scalp. Only this is a Stine cliffhanger, so the last page of chapter eleven makes it look like she actually did it. Sigh. Then chapter eleven ends with a “stranger” attacking Ty, only that immediately turns out to be his friend Kenny.

Her mother catches her with Ty, only Phoebe lies that he’s just a friend. She goes up to her bedroom and discovers someone’s been in her room and stolen her picture of the cheerleaders. Even Phoebe recognizes that this would be a weird thing for Jade or Dana to do.

There’s an accident with a fire baton and Phoebe’s hand gets burned. So, just like a scene in Give Me a K-I-L-L, only Phoebe wakes up in hospital with a mild burn, whereas the girl in the newer book almost lost the use of both hands. Still: shouldn’t Shadyside maybe have banned fire batons after someone sabotaged Phoebe’s?

Jade and Dana visit her in hospital and deny trying to hurt her, so now everyone suspects Gina.

Samantha gets sick and Gina gets to take her place at the state competition. This also makes Gina and Phoebe roommates for some reason.

That evening Jade shows up at their room door, upset, claiming Dana fell in the empty pool and is really hurt. Phoebe, Gina, and Jade go to the pool. Dana isn’t at the pool when they get there.

Someone hits Phoebe from behind and gags her, dragging her off. She gets thrown in a van; she sees Griffin locking up the school van but he can’t hear her. Two men show up with Gina and Jade, and the van drives off. Meanwhile they discover that Dana’s ALSO in the van.

Shrinking back into the van, Phoebe watched in terror as a thin, rubbery face appeared in the doorway. “Hello, girls,” his low voice growled. “Welcome to Camp Kidnap.” (p. 104)

Camp Kidnap should definitely be the title of a Stine book.

The cheerleaders escape from the two men and make it to the road, where Griffin picks them up. Yay, they’re saved!

The Twist: They’re not saved! Griffin is driving them further from the hotel. When he suggests they do his favourite cheer, “We’re gonna get you!,” Phoebe realizes he was the one behind all the pranks.

Jade and Dana confess that they HIRED Mitch and Jenner to fake the first kidnapping.

Griffin exposits about how his sister, Laura, used to be a cheerleader. The other cheerleaders made fun of her, and then she fell and broke her neck. So as revenge, he’s now taking four cheerleaders to an abandoned meat factory.

He threatens them with electric saws and meat hooks and whatever, then gives them five minutes to come up with four perfect cheer routines or else he’ll kill them. Gina tries to appeal to his sympathies by telling him about her own dead cheerleader sister, but it doesn’t work.

Jade makes a mistake during one routine, but Phoebe uses the moment to grab Griffin’s flashlight and knock him over the head with it, and they all scatter. Gina gets stuck on a conveyor belt that feeds into a meat grinder (literally stuck, her shoe is wedged in somehow) but Phoebe rescues her. They hear Jade scream.

On their way to escape they see Dana sitting on a wall, and when they run to her Griffin pops out, having used her as bait. He makes them do one more cheer. Gina collapses (her ankle is twisted), and Phoebe runs. She finds Jade, cold and dead and hanging in the meat locker.

Phoebe tries to set off a fire alarm:

There was no noise, no sign that the matches triggered the alarm. It probably doesn’t even work, she thought. (p. 148)

Gina leaps on Griffin from behind and claws his face, but he throws her off and she hits the concrete floor and passes out.

The doors burst open and a bunch of firefighters show up to rescue them. Well, you know: all except Jade.

In the epilogue Phoebe is openly dating Ty, Dana is crying as she remembers Jade, and Gina is expected to be the sixth team member as soon as she gets better (right now she’s watching from the bleachers).


Seniors #1 and #2: Let’s Party! and In Too Deep

Seniors #3 and #4: The Thirst and No Answer

Seniors #5 and #6: Last Chance and The Gift


reading: The Guy Next Door

Title: The Guy Next Door

Author: Paul Phillips

guy next door

You guys: there is nothing cooler than following a self-published author’s work and witnessing them getting steadily better.

And honestly, I enjoyed Paul Phillips’ writing anyway, but this is his latest book and he is SO on top of his game now.

He always had the tropes of this sort of Fear Street/Point Horror flavoured story down perfectly, but now his pacing is improved and the tension ratchets up quickly and inexorably.

The plot of this is batshit INSANE, but I mean that in a good way (and to make things creepier, EVEN THE CREEPIEST PARTS are not all that far removed from actual things that have happened. Gah).

This is a fun, spooky read. If you have Kindle Unlimited you can read it for free, but even if you don’t it’s only $1.29 CAD (presumably less in the U.S.), and it’s more than worth it.

R. L. Stine: Give Me a K-I-L-L

Lessons from Fear Street: If there’s one thing more deadly than cheerleading, it’s working at a shopping mall.

Title: Give Me a K-I-L-L (Fear Street Relaunch #6)

Author: R. L. Stine

give me a k-i-l-l

I have been waiting for this book for AGES. The cover is gorgeous, the title is perfect, and seeing Fear Street and cheerleading together again fills me with a strange glee.

So then it arrived a couple of weeks ago and I was too busy to read it. I just kept it on the dining room table and caressed it in a creepy manner every time I passed it. Longing looks were exchanged. Okay, maybe not exchanged: I am reasonably sure the book was not returning my longing looks.

FINALLY yesterday and today I got time to sit down and inhale it, and I am in love.

I own all six of the relaunch books, because of course I do, but this was my hands-down favourite.

It felt exactly like a classic Fear Street novel, which meant it was a teensy bit predictable. I was 99% sure the best friend was dead, for instance, and I was right. (I briefly wondered if maybe the best friend AND the main character were dead, but alas, no.) I also pegged the murderer, and I think anyone who’s read a lot of these will too.

But none of that matters, because this was a completely frothy, creepy, perfectly atmospheric book, and I’m still coming down from the high of returning to Fear Street and marvelling over the casualty rate among Shadyside High cheerleaders.

The twist/explanation at the end also summoned up the joys of the Silent Night books. No, there was no Christmas connection, just some further Dalby Department Store shenanigans. AWESOME.

silent night
The people who work at Dalby’s should seriously unionize.