I think this book could be used to start discussions with girls and boys about unacceptable ways to be treated or to treat other people, because this is pretty much a novel-length exploration of how not to look out for your own safety.
We skip the prologue from a killer and go straight to Melissa Dryden waking up the house because there are tree limbs knocking on her window and she’s afraid of the Fear Street Prowler. Melissa is rich, lives on Fear Street, and is the same 16-17 as the other main characters through the series. It’s the end of summer, and considering the focus on that one street, you’d think she’d have been mentioned sooner. Especially since her best friend is Della, who didn’t actually kill anyone, but would probably be fine with it if she did. Della is still dating Pete, which might be one of the better dating decisions anyone in these books has made so far.
Despite the family being rich enough to have a live in housekeeper, there’s no air conditioning in Melissa’s room, or most of the house. I’m not sure where Shadyside is supposed to be located, but in the space of a week or so, it goes from ‘too hot to have the window closed while sleeping’ to ‘requiring a sweater to go out after dark.’ I think this book is meant to explore rich vs poor dynamics a bit, but it’s a really clumsy attempt.
Melissa is soon confronted by a ghost in her room. He introduces himself by trying to shove her out a window as revenge because she killed him, but as far as she knows Melissa’s never killed anyone. Considering the way she drives, that’s surprising. Also, it’s only a matter of time. To stop him from killing her, she promises to find out what really happened to him.
She and Della are unable to think of a single teenager who died in the last few years, which means everyone’s forgotten about Evan. He was a jerk anyway, but he got shot not too far from Melissa’s house, so you’d think someone would bring it up. A kid from the poor school on the other side of town remembers a guy who died in a diving accident, but it’s definitely not Melissa’s ghost.
Finally, she runs into her ghost outside of Shadyside’s dance club, Red Heat. Only he doesn’t remember her, he’s definitely alive, and he’s been drinking. He and his buddies unquestionably would have raped her in one of the most upsetting sequences in all of these books so far. This doesn’t stop Melissa from hunting him down and nearly being assaulted by him a few more times because girl has absolutely no stranger danger. She also starts nursing a crush on him–both the living guy and the ghost, because a guy who has tried to kill you or who has tried to rape you and has real problems taking no for an answer is real boyfriend material. Especially when he’s a time traveling ghost and you’ve got a boyfriend.
Considering how much time she spent during this book worrying about killing someone, she never did start paying attention while she was driving. She’s also up there with Della on making terrible decisions, which might explain why they’re such good friends.
So, the carnage? Simultaneously pretty light and also fairly traumatic.
Shadyside death count: 17. I’m including the kid who died in a diving accident.
Additional carnage: No dead animals this time around.
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m not sure how that works with time traveling ghosts without causing some sort of paradox. Avoiding paradox may be asking too much of Fear Street books, however, especially since this probably would have been entirely avoided had the ghost never made an appearance. I guess that’s more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than a paradox, though. In any case, calling the police about the time the guys nearly assaulted her wouldn’t have been a bad move. Not continuing to hunt the guys down after that close call also wouldn’t be a terrible idea, especially after the guy you’re afraid of killing informs you that he knows where you live. Finally, not lying to your parents and spending the night alone with a prowler and a violent jerk out there ready to hunt you down would probably also be good.
(To keep up with a year of reading and reviewing Fear Street books, visit The Shadyside Review.)