Finally: the last book in the series. graduation day

It’s also the best book in the series. I mean, I’ve been enjoying these, but this one is just LOADED. It has visions and corpses and vampires and everything else Stine could throw in there, plus the most homoerotic scene I’ve ever seen in a Fear Street novel.

Okay, it’s actually the ONLY homoerotic scene I remember reading in a Fear Street novel.

It’s also terrifically well-organized in a way that makes me think I might get more done if I learned to outline more thoroughly.

But anyway: ON WITH THE CORPSES.

Prologue

Josie and Jennifer are shopping, and Josie hallucinates (I guess?) that a row of red graduation gowns start spilling blood and then yellowed skulls pop up in the robes, grinning at her.

Part One

Chapter One: Say “Cheese”

Josie stays after school, along with Matty and Stacy, to wait for the delivery of the yearbooks. When they open the box, the black-bordered section of each yearbook that they dedicated to the seniors who died has been changed:

No faces of her friends. No happy, smiling faces.

Hideous, ghoulish skulls stared up from the pages at her.

Corpses. Decaying corpses.

How did this happen. How?

Josie frantically flipped through the pages. All of the photos. All of them…

Faces from the grave.

Pock-marked skulls with rotting chunks of skin and sunken, staring…accusing eyes. (pp. 12-13)

We’re off to a great start. Also, I love that the chapter title underscores the essential cheesiness of this scene. LOVE.

Chapter Two: Party Time

Stacy wisely points out that they can’t possibly hand out the yearbooks. Somehow they decide the photos got switched, and they tell other people there was a printer’s error. Josie runs into Dana, who wants to skip the party Josie and Josh are throwing because of her twin sister Deirdre’s recent death.

And then we get a Stine-ian cliffhanger:

And then she stopped as a dark shadow swept over her.

“It’s you!” Josie murmured. (p.20)

Chapter Three: Trisha Bleeds

The dark shadow is Matty Winger, and now I’m wondering why Josie was “murmuring” at him in italics like that. Does someone have a crush on Matty?

Matty’s noticed something odd: ever picture he took of Clark came out as just a grey rectangle. He suggests Count Clarkula might be a real vampire, and Josie doesn’t believe him. Then they hear Trisha screaming, and when they run to her she’s “covered in blood.”

Chapter Four: “We’re Not Going to Graduate!”

Trisha’s bleeding because she cut her arm on a broken piece of glass in the trophy display case. Clark’s there, swaying around with his eyes shut:

“Sorry,” he replied unsteadily. He grabbed the wall to steady himself. “It’s the blood. I never could stand the sight of blood. Ooh—I’m a little dizzy.”

Josie stared hard at him. Count Clarkula? Can’t stand the sight of blood? (p. 27)

Also, Clark tells Trisha he’ll see her later, leaving Josie wondering what’s going on. (I sound like I’m recapping a soap opera right now, and honestly, that’s what it feels like.)

Trisha hasn’t had a vision yet in this book so she has one now, and sees their graduation, only instead of students sitting in chairs there’s row after row of coffins.

Part Two

Chapter Five: “I’m not a Vampire!”

Matty confronts Clark in the mall, accusing him of being a vampire. Clark convinces Matty to come home with him and see his proof that he’s not a vampire, and this brings us to a scene of intense guy-on-guy heavy breathing and sucking.

I’ve actually made multiple other people read this section, because I thought maybe I had fandom damage and was just seeing slashfic potential in a completely innocent scene.

“I’m not a vampire,” Clark said slowly, softly, his eyes locked on Matty’s. “I can prove it.” (p. 37)

Chapter Six: “Stop Kidding Around, Clark”

“Nice room,” Matty muttered, gazing around.

Clark closed the door and clicked the lock. (p. 41)

“But it’s not dumb, Matty,” he said, bringing his face close to the other boy’s. “Don’t you see? I’m confessing to you.” (p. 43)

Clark moved quickly, stepping in front of him, grabbing Matty’s broad shoulders.

“Stop it!” Matty shrieked. “Let go! What—what are you going to do?”

Clark realized that he was breathing hard, too. His lips tingled, tingled with excitement. (p. 44)

So Clark puts Matty into a trance and drinks from his arm (“Unh unh unh.” Hungry grunts escaped his throat), and then the phone rings.

“Oh, hi, Tricia,” Clark replied. “I was just thinking about you!” (p. 46)

Part Three

Chapter Seven: A Bad Hair Day

Josie falls asleep at her desk, and when she wakes up the evil spirit is there. It has a dry cough. Perhaps it need Buckley’s.

She screams (and no one in the house reacts at all), and then feels itching on her scalp and discovers her hair is full of hundreds of maggots.

Chapter Eight: Josie Totally Freaks

After shampooing her hair seven times, Josie goes to talk to Josh (her stepbrother), who slept through all the screaming because he has music blaring in his room. (Oh: first she gets a phone call from Phoebe Yamura, head cheerleader, looking for help with calculus. Josie screams that she can’t and throws the phone across the room, because she’s still not over the maggots, and frankly I wouldn’t be up for a conversation about calculus after that either.)

Josie tells Josh everything that’s been going on, right from when she summoned the evil spirit back in book one. He tells her he believes her, but then she overhears him telling her mother that he thinks Josie needs help. It starts out almost sensitive (by teenage boy standards) and deteriorates rapidly:

“Josie really needs a doctor.”

….

“All the deaths at school this year—I think they messed up Josie’s head. I think she’s totally freaked.”

….

“….She’s…she’s gone crazy!” (p. 61)

I’m not bothered by things like Sweet Valley’s Margo being described as “crazy,” or someone pointing out that Dynasty was “crazy.”

(For an excellent discussion of this, try the TeenCreeps podcast on “The Evil Twin,” and for another excellent point of view that’s a lot stricter than I am about condemning usage of “crazy” as a trope check out any review at The Devil’s Elbow that’s tagged  Mental Illness: With Tact and Sensitivity.)

Colloquial use of the word in situations that are absolutely not the real world, and don’t even resemble the real world, doesn’t bug me. So this shouldn’t bother me, either, because Fear Street is pretty distant from reality.

But it does, and I think it’s because the way Josh starts off (by suggesting Josie needs to see a doctor because she’s having trouble processing the deaths of her classmates) makes this feel more realistic than most scenes in Fear Street. It feels like an acknowledgement that mental health issues exist, and sometimes you need help with them. So then when he lapses into “she’s crazy!” talk, I want to smack him.

Chapter Nine: Back to the Fear Library

Josie meets up with Trisha and Jennifer Fear at Jennifer’s house, reasoning that since she started the deaths by summoning the evil spirit using a Fear spell book, maybe she can undo it the same way.

Chapter Ten: Screams in the Auditorium

Stine takes the “parents are useless” trope typical of vintage YA horror and turns it up to eleven:

“The books!” Josie gasped. “The old spell books, the books on witchcraft and sorcery—”

“They’re gone,” Jennifer’s mother replied calmly. “I sold them all.” (p. 69)

That’s right: she realized her husband’s weird Fear-family-memorabilia collection bothered Jennifer, so she sold it off.

Anyway. Next is the Senior Awards Ceremony, and when they unroll the big American flag Phoebe Yamura’s body is hanging there (by the feet). Damn it. I thought she was going to survive.

Part Four

Chapter Eleven: After the Funeral

Mickey admits he came on to one of the grief counselors at the school but she turned him down because she was too old for him.I’m not even sure why I laughed at this, but I did, a lot. Possibly it was just shock at seeing an adult in a Fear Street novel act like a professional.

Josh, Matty, and Mickey catch a bat in the woods and decide to put it in Clark’s room as a prank.

Chapter Twelve: A Surprise for the Vampire

They sneak into Clark’s room with the bat, only he’s suddenly there. He takes the bat and bites into its stomach, killing it, and now I don’t like him anymore.

Chapter Thirteen: Matty Helps the Vampire

Come on. The slash writes itself.

Clark clouds their minds so they don’t remember that he killed the bat, and tells them it flew out the now-open window. Josh knows something is wrong but can’t focus.

As they’re leaving Clark asks Matty to stay behind because he “needs help with something.” Sure, okay.

Josh and Mickey hear a “sharp cry” from upstairs when they’re at the door.

Part Five

Chapter Fourteen: “Did You Hear About Trisha?”

Josie’s mother wants her to see a psychiatrist. She agrees to one visit.

She drags Josh to the mall to put in their order for pizzas for the party, and the chapter ends with this:

“Josie—did you hear about Trisha?” Jennifer called. “She died!” (p. 104)

Chapter Fifteen: The Cursed School

The first page of the next chapter gives us this:

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “I said—Trisha dyed her hair. Red. Bright red.” She laughed again. “Are you okay? Did you really think I said that Trisha died?” (p. 105)

Jennifer, you heartless twit, people have been dying for eleven straight books now and Josie nearly just collapsed. It’s not particularly funny.

Meanwhile Josh thinks he sees Debra (one of the dead classmates) in the mall and grabs her by the shoulders, only it’s not her, it’s some other woman who screams for the police.

Chapter Sixteen: A surprise at the Doctor’s Office

Josie goes to see the psychiatrist only it’s not really the doctor, it’s the evil spirit in her office. It…swallows her?

Chapter Seventeen: Josie Dies

She’s inside the evil, and everything’s dark and she’s falling? And she thinks she’s dead. I have no idea what’s even going on, so I assume she’s dreaming or having a Trisha-style vision.

Part Six

Chapter Eighteen: Evil Behind the Wheel

She runs out and the evil is sitting in her mother’s car. Her hand is stuck to the door handle, and the car catches fire and explodes, only then when she looks again the car is fine.

Basically this has been three chapters of somewhat pointless “scares” that don’t go anywhere, but I don’t even care, because now we’ve reached:

Chapter Nineteen: Dead Seniors

Graduation rehearsal has arrived, and everyone’s seated when several figures in caps and gowns march in:

Josie uttered a scream of horror as their grinning, ghoulish, rotting faces came into view.

Shrieks and screams rose over the music, echoed off the walls of the auditorium.

All down the row, skeletal faces stared straight ahead as the gowned figures marched. Chunks of skin had rotten away, revealing gray bone underneath. Eyes had sunken deep into sockets. Green and blue mold sprouted from noses and ears.

The sour stench of death floated over the auditorium. (p. 135)

Chapter Twenty: “What Can We Do?”

The live seniors stampede out of the auditorium.

Josie notices that the corpse of Marla Newman goes up onto the stage, jaws moving as she stands at the microphone, and realizes she’s giving her valedictorian. That is gruesome and ridiculous and, unexpectedly, sad.

Josie grabs Trisha and tells her she’s going to go poke around the burned-out remains of the old Fear mansion, to look for clues as to what to do next. Trisha says, “Let’s go.”

Chapter Twenty-One: The Door to Doom?

Yay, Simon Fear’s mansion!

Josie and Trisha go there, and Trisha has a vision, during which she speaks with a man’s voice and says, “Help me. Help me out of here.” Trisha finds the door from her vision and pulls it open.

Chapter Twenty-Two: “I Summon Thee”

Josie and Trisha are sucked through the door (which vanishes) into a dark space where skeletal hands grab at them.

But I guess it’s not a total loss, because a handsome blond guy appears, and introduces himself as Trisha’s great-grandfather Henry Conrad. He promises to help them if they take him out, which they do by the complicated method of…walking back out the door they came in by. Then he vanishes.

Part Seven

Chapter Twenty-Three: Clark and Trisha

…up in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…okay, no. Clark’s at her house, longing to drink her blood. He thinks about how he accidentally drained Matty nearly dry, leaving him pale and listless.

They go out to a movie and then to Alma’s Coffee Shop, but he can’t concentrate:

How could he think about food with that fresh, warm blood flowing across the table from him? (p. 161)

In the car he lowers his mouth to her throat and…

Chapter Twenty-Four: Clark Drinks

…a car’s headlights flash across the seat, and then a cop shows up at his window. Ha. Fang blocked.

He tries again back at Trisha’s doorstep, but the servants are around. He makes do with a kitten. Ugh.

Chapter Twenty-Five: Kill the Vampire!

Josh and Josie are decorating for the party when Trisha and Matty burst in and announce that Clark is a vampire. Matty’s remembered Clark drinking his blood, and Trisha saw his fangs before the cop showed up, and then found her dead kitten. Trisha’s decided that maybe Clark is somehow responsible for all the horrible things that have been happening.

So Trisha calls up and invites Clark to come over early, and Matty waits in the den with a wooden stake.

Chapter Twenty-Six: Party Time

Matty staggers out and claims he killed Clark.

Everyone shows up and the party gets underway, although Josie’s feeling a bit disturbed that they just killed Clark, like, minutes ago.

Then the evil spirit shows up.

Chapter Twenty-Seven: “I Summon Thee Again!”

Josie tries to shout the words “I summon thee!” three times as per Henry Conrad’s instructions. But she only gets the words out once before snakes slither into her mouth.

Chapter Twenty-Eight: The Rescue

She vomits out the snakes and says the words three times, and Henry shows up, but he doesn’t stay blond and handsome for long. When he reaches the spirit he turns skeletal and icky.

“You—you’re both the same!” Josie heard Trisha cry out.

It was true. Twin skeletons. (p. 186)

I know we’re all wondering the same thing about those twin skeletons: are they a perfect size six?

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Matty is a Liar

The evil spirit is being all cool and menacing in a red cloak, getting ready to choke Jennifer Fear, when Clark comes out of the den. Clark floats in the air and grins, revealing his fangs.

This chapter is literally less than two pages long.

Chapter Thirty: Two Vampires

Matty pops a fang boner of his own and ALSO floats in the air, explaining that he couldn’t kill Clark because Clark turned him into a vampire too.

“Our evil rules!” Clark cried. “The evil of the immortal—the ancient evil of the vampire—is older and more powerful than the evil of this paltry spirit!” (p. 190)

I’m having trouble accepting that this is a good thing.

But it is, I guess, because Matty and Clark tear the evil spirit apart and crush it to a yellow powder. It swirls around for a bit and tries to attack Kenny Klein, making him choke and cough, but then the powder falls to the floor, defeated.

Clark and Matty turn into bats and fly out the door. I’m assuming that’s a metaphor for something.

Chapter Thirty-One: Graduation

Holy crap, I’m exhausted.

Everyone graduates. Well, almost everyone: Clark and Matty aren’t there.

Kenny Klein gives the valedictorian speech and says goodbye to all their dead classmates. Everyone cries.

Then Kenny pulls Josie aside for a moment, and turns into a skeleton.

“Kenny had to say goodbye, too! But he loaned me this splendid new body yesterday. It’s time for me to finish my work. Happy Graduation, Josie!” (p. 197)

That’s right, it’s the evil spirit. It actually killed Kenny at the party, and now it’s possessed his body.