This week Fear Street has an important lesson to teach us: when two girls you don’t know show up offering you “power,” and saying all you have to do is accompany them to the Fear Street woods and sign a contract in blood, the LEAST you should do is find out what happened to the third girl before you sign anything.
Summary: Marla Newman is tightly wound because her mother is psychotically perfectionist and pushing her way too hard. Fed up with the pressure, and also with being pranked by Josie Maxwell and Jennifer Fear, she agrees to join two girls she (and we) have never heard of before: Elana and Roxanne. They offer her power in exchange for signing a contract, but there’s a catch. There’s always a catch.
Less-summary Summary: There’s an actually-creepy prologue. Some girl named Melanie Anderson is brushing her hair, and she sees two other faces in the mirror even though no one’s in the room with her. She yells at them to leave her alone, but as she runs from the room a “long, thin, silvery cord” comes out of the mirror and SLICES HER HEAD OFF.
In chapter one Marla Newman is eating lunch with Kenny Klein, who she’s up against in a history debate. She’s obsessing about the debate, and her grade point average (she’s one-tenth of a point ahead of him), and she’s all dressed up for the debate. I already feel sorry for her.
Then someone named Clarissa drops a bottle of iced tea on her, and Marla is so awful to her in return that I feel less sorry for her. Still a little, though; I hate when people stress about grades. GRADES HAVE NEXT TO NOTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER YOU’LL BE HAPPY OR SUCCESSFUL IN LIFE. Ahem. Sorry. But it’s true: unless your heart is set on some very specific path like “med school,” there are a whole bunch of different ways you can be happy, or rich, or inventive, or whatever.
But Marla, alas, cannot hear me shrieking advice at the computer screen like a madwoman. Instead she hate-glares at Clarissa, and Clarissa falls flat on her face. For some reason she blames Marla, even though Marla is still sitting down and nowhere near her. She goes and sits with Josie, Jennifer, and Trisha Conrad, and they all laugh at Marla.
Two other girls approach Marla. They saw Clarissa fall too, and now they tell Marla she has “the power” and they want to be friends. She turns them down because they’re juniors, which I find hilarious. Oh no! They’re a whole year younger than you!
They show up in the back of the room during the debate, and suddenly Marla can’t breathe or talk. She can, and unfortunately does, bump loudly into the microphone. She runs away, humiliated. Josie and Clarissa are total cows about it. They play an audiotape of her burp over the loudspeaker. No matter how much you hate some girl in your graduating class, you should be less horrible than Josie and Clarissa.
Also, Marla ONLY gets an 85 on her French test. Let’s all have a moment of silence.
At home she de-stresses by…making a long list of people she hates. Yikes.
Then her mother piles on some more stress, and honestly, she should be on the top of the hate list. She’s a horrible woman. She’s pleased to see Marla has a 98 on her French test, though. Marla is bewildered, and assumes she must have read her mark wrong somehow because she was so upset.
At school the next day someone’s gotten the hate list out of her bag and pinned it up on the bulletin board. Everyone’s laughing at her, which strikes me as the wrong reaction to have, but what do I know.
As revenge, she steals Josie’s clothes while Josie is in gym and throws them into the dumpster, only something pushes her in too. Mickey and Matty rescue her.
Elana and Roxanne approach her again, in the locker room right after her shower. They convince her they’re behind what happened at the debate, which should be enough to make her NEVER want to be anywhere near them. But no: they also changed her grade, and so she agrees to meet them in the Fear Street woods.
They summon the Dark Ones, and then there’s an earthquake and she falls in, and then they pull her out of a pit, and THEN there’s a parchment contract for her to sign in blood. Marla, honey, no. Someone with your grades must surely have heard of foreshadowing.
She slices her palm and signs the contract. Sigh.
The next day she uses her new power to make two of her French teacher’s teeth fall out because she’s annoyed that he and Kenny Klein are speaking French to each other. I no longer feel sorry for Marla, because yuck.
Trisha’s father pulled strings to get her into Brown University, so Marla rips Trisha’s skirt in half so it falls off. Not using her hands (although that would have also been an interesting choice), but using the power.
Elena and Roxanne try to persuade her to use it to push Josie through a glass window. Marla isn’t quite that far gone yet, and refuses, but then when she’s in the bathroom her hands tingle and she hears screams and an ambulance siren, and somehow Josie’s fallen through the glass front door of the school.
Roxanne and Elena did it. NOW they tell her that they can use her power without her. Also the pact is forever (but really, she should have guessed that. How many temp “Dark Ones servant” positions have you ever heard of?).
Kenny Klein offers to help Marla with French. Awww, she only thinks of him as the competition but he LIKES her. She agrees she needs help with French. Marla, honey, that is the LEAST of the help you need.
Roxanne and Elena inform her she has to kill someone or else the Dark Forces will kill her. They suggest Kenny, but Marla refuses. They also claim that’s what happened to Melanie (the girl from the prologue).
“We never did find Melanie’s head.” (p. 93)
That may be the best sentence in this entire series.
Marla endures a gym class that’s more or less the way I remember high school gym: she’s in pain the entire time and can’t climb the rope because she thinks it’s a snake. Then the school nurse briefly turns evil and tries to kill her. Turns out this is all just more “persuasion” from Elena and Roxanne.
So she goes to Kenny’s house, and nearly chokes him. But then she stops and tells him about the pact instead, and he offers to help translate the parchment, which is way more than I’d do for someone who literally JUST tried to choke me with her bare hands. His dad used to study witchcraft and has some books on the subject, so…wait, what? Is witchcraft a common hobby among middle-aged parents?
He tells her none of his dad’s books say ANYTHING about owing the Dark Forces anything. So now Marla thinks the girls were lying about her having to kill someone, and she goes stomping off to the Fear Street woods at midnight. Predictably, they decide to kill her.
They freeze her and leave her for dead, but Kenny turns up and starts a fire. He also kisses her, and THAT’S what unfreezes her. Is Frozen set on Fear Street??
Kenny tells Elena and Roxanne that HE has the power, while Marla hides behind a locker or something and makes Roxanne’s bag fly through the air, and this is enough to convince them to invite him to the woods at midnight.
But they’re only pretending to be that dumb! When he gets there they pull a knife on him.
There’s a witch fight, and Elena gets swallowed up by the earth. Roxanne gets set on fire. There’s some more witch fighting.
I’ve changed my mind. THIS is the best line in the entire series:
Then an eerie wail rose from the pit. “Roxxxxaaannnnne!” (p. 139)
Sadly, Marla and Kenny and Roxanne fail to join in with the ritual answer, “You don’t have to put on the red light.”
Anyway it’s just Marla using her powers to make it seem like Elena’s holding a Sting concert down in the pit. Then she shoves Roxanne in.
Okay, at this point Marla has killed TWO people: Elena (indirectly) and Roxanne (actual shove to the back). But are the Dark Ones or Dark Forces or whatever we’re calling them this chapter satisfied? No they are not.
The next day, after pleasant exchanges with various people she used to hate, Marla hears the bad news from Kenny. Because she used her power to kill “another of her kind,” she’s doomed to die exactly twelve hours later. And at exactly that moment, and on the very last page of the book, the concrete steps of the school split open and black roots drag her down, presumably to her doom.
But I call shenanigans, Dark Whatevers. She didn’t kill another of her kind. Elana and Roxxxxaaaaaane were only JUNIORS, and Marla was a SENIOR.