This is the first Nightmare Club book I’ve ever read. I’d never even heard of them until I started seeing them on Instagram. Naturally I was unable to resist yet another Point Horror/Fear Street clone.
The premise tying this series together is that a non-alcohol-serving teen club called “The Night Owl Club has opened in Cooper Hollow. Well, outside Cooper Hollow, in what used to be an orphanage. There are also three schools provided for future hijinks: Cooper High School, Hudson Military Academy, and Cooper Riding Academy for Girls.
Joy Ride pretty much lays everything out on the back cover:
Mike doesn’t see anything wrong with drinking and driving. He thinks he’s totally in control. But his girlfriend Karen knows he has a problem.
Then Mike meets a pretty new girl in a slinky red dress at The Night Owl Club. Unlike Karen, Joy doesn’t mind if Mike drinks. In fact, she encourages him to drink—and then to get behind the wheel.
Mike doesn’t know it yet, but Joy isn’t a real, live teen. She’s a dead one. Killed by a drunk driver decades ago, Joy has come back for one reason—to get her revenge. And unless someone can stop her, Joy is going to help Mike drive himself right over the edge…
The only thing you can’t predict from that description is how large a role Karen plays in this: she’s actually the one who figures out that Joy died in the 1920s (because she’s wearing a flapper dress), has her computer-geek tall friend Joan (Joan is a proto-Barb) locate Joy’s grave and her family home, and destroys the talisman (a gin flask) that ultimately gets rid of Joy.
Mike, meanwhile, is an idiot. Actually I guess that’s a slightly unfair criticism, since he’s drunk most of the time we see him. So it could be the booze making him ignore the way Joy appears and disappears, the part where no one else sees or interacts with her, the ever-full gin flask, and the outdated slang (“bathtub gin” and “roadhouse” and “tommy guns,” for instance).
Mr. Lamb, the guidance counselor, presumably isn’t drunk, so there’s no damned excuse for him. When Karen has a full-blown ghost encounter in school (ending with her bolting from a music room and then knocking herself unconscious on the floor), he makes one feeble attempt to confirm her story by calling Mike’s chronically-depressed mother, who naturally assures him Mike is fine. (She sleeps all day, every day, and hasn’t noticed Mike’s newfound alcoholism). After that one phone call Mr. Lamb checks out:
Karen said, “I’m not imagining things! Joy is real! Other kids have seen Mike talking to what looked like an empty chair. Just ask them!”
Mr. Lamb sighed. “We already gave you one chance to prove your story. Considering the circumstances, one was enough….” (p. 71)
I understand not believing her about the ghost, but considering she’s just told him that Mike (also a student at Cooper High) is drunk and absent from school, couldn’t he look into that part a little more? Or just, I don’t know, call one of the other students in and ask them what’s up?
Anyway, in spite of the adults in this town, Karen defeats the ghost and Mike sobers up just in time to survive a drag race and then rescue Karen from the massive fire she caused by trying to burn a silver flask in the attic of an old house.
…okay, everyone in this thing is an idiot. Except Joan.