There’s no killer to introduce us to this story, but we do get to learn about how much Emily hates her hair. And pretty much everything else about herself. She’s especially wound up at the moment because her new stepfather is bringing home her stepbrother and sister, who are going to be living with them. Emily’s older sister Nancy is keeping her own room to herself, their new step brother Rich is getting put into a closet, and Emily is going to share her room with Jessie in their house on Fear Street. There are enough students who live on Fear Street that you’d think people would be slightly less freaked out by it.
Rich is immediately characterized as a total weirdo for reading Stephen King books, and Jessie introduces herself by taking Emily’s bed, hating her dog, and ripping the head off her teddy bear. So…that’s a relationship off to a good start. Since Emily is dating the boy who just dumped her older sister, there’s not a lot of room for excellent sibling relationships in the family, anyway.
Things go downhill when Jessie deletes a paper Emily’s been working on for weeks, then someone puts peroxide in Emily’s shampoo, ruining the hair she already hates. She’s naturally positive Jessie’s behind it. When Emily comes home from a dance to discover someone has stabbed her dog to death in the kitchen, she naturally thinks it was Jessie.
I’m going to gloss over how absolutely horrible it would be to discover someone had murdered your dog because it’s making me tear up. I’m glad my dog is currently curled up right against me for easy cuddles. Emily’s mother and stepfather can’t seem to think of anything to tell her except that they’ll call animal control to pick up the body tomorrow, which…even if you don’t want to consider that someone under your roof was willing to take a knife to the dog, that’s not really something you should just shrug off. It’s violent and horrible and really not a good sign, especially when you add in the peroxide in the shampoo thing.
Hugh, the new stepfather, did actually manage to summon a little compassion when the dog was killed, but he’s terrible throughout. He picks on his son for reading and not being athletic and he’s a sexist asshole. The mother, who may or may not have ever gotten a first name, avoids any and all confrontation to the point of letting her new husband bully his son and refusing to discuss the possibility of a problem in their home.
By the time someone sets a trashcan on fire in a school bathroom with Emily locked inside, you’d think someone would take the whole thing seriously. That would require adults who give a damn. By the time Emily catches her boyfriend cheating on her (which, big surprise, considering he dumped one sister to go out with another), it’s clear the adults won’t be helping.
Hugh does hatch one genius idea. His new wife and stepdaughters used to go out camping all the time. The last time the family went camping together, they went to Fear Island, where Emily and her father went out on the lake. Their boat capsized and Emily’s father saved her before drowning himself. Obviously, the best thing to do for the family is to haul them halfway across the country to go camping. Hugh is seriously the worst. He even referred to his wife and daughters as his harem, which is awful on a special new level, so it’s not surprising that Emily doesn’t figure out exactly what’s going on until she’s been dumped in an open grave with a dislocated shoulder.
There’s a sequel, and I’m guessing everyone in this family continues to be the worst.
The carnage this time around was pretty awful.
Shadyside death count: 21. That one happens before the story and is told through flashback, but treading cold water waiting for your father to surface…that’s awful.
Additional carnage: One horribly murdered dog. Having pets in Shadyside is probably not a good idea. I can’t and won’t joke about that one because I really just want to hug my dog.
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m blaming adults again. No matter who was behind it, bad things were happening in the house. Two girls had lost their father, and one had been right there with him when it happened. Maybe don’t just avoid talking about that? I feel especially bad for Jessie since she was innocently dragged into the whole thing and framed by one of her new sisters. Poor kid.
(To keep up with a year of reading and reviewing Fear Street books, visit The Shadyside Review.)