Ah, opening narrative from a killer, how I missed you.
From there, we move on to Chelsea Richards. She plays saxophone, doesn’t have many friends, hates her life, and feels like an outsider in her family. Basically, she’s a teenager who plays saxophone. Her family recently moved into a house on Fear Street so they could start over in Shadyside. Her father always dreamed of having a restaurant, so now he has a coffee shop with the dumbest, least practical hours in history. I wouldn’t hope for a lot of success there.
So far, Chelsea has made only one friend at Shadyside High, probably because she’s actually seventeen while the rest of the kids have been seventeen for years and years now (I think all students at Shadyside are sixteen or seventeen. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors. No, wait. No one ever makes it to their senior year). I guess Chelsea’s about to be stuck in the same time warp. The good news? She’ll probably make lots of friends soon.
Nina is one of those crappy friends who’ll ditch you at a moment’s notice for a boy and who won’t pay any attention to anything you’ve got to say. While she’s out walking, Chelsea gets harassed by a carload of teenagers. I’m a little surprised to find so much rapey stuff in these books, but if you’re going to really show the life of the teenager, it would probably be dishonest to not have it ever come up. Is it unrealistic to wish for more recognition of how crappy that behavior is from early 90s teen thrillers?
Soon enough, Chelsea finds herself receiving the attention of not one, but two different boys. One shows up in her dad’s coffee shop, and he seems dangerous and edgy. The other is a new boy in school, safer, more wholesome. Just to shake things up, the same guys who harassed Chelsea rob the shop and assault her father, leaving him in the hospital (hopefully not in the new Franklin Fear Wing, since things named after the Fears tend to attract trouble. Although they do already live on Fear Street, so I guess it can’t get any worse).
Chelsea endeared herself to me a bit when she called the police after the shop was robbed. She got more points for taking it seriously when an FBI agent showed up and warned her that they were looking for a serial killer. Mostly, this bit made me love her:
Her lunch was spread out in front of her. A ham sandwich, a bag of potato chips, a container of chocolate pudding, and a Coke.
Nina must think I’m a total pig, she thought miserably. But if all I had for lunch was yogurt and an apple, I’d be starving all afternoon!
“Want some of this yogurt?” Nina asked. “I can never finish a whole container.”
“No, thanks,” Chelsea replied, taking a bite of her sandwich to keep herself from punching Nina.
Oh, Chelsea. I feel you, girl.
Mostly by dumb luck, Chelsea managed to survive her first date with a serial killer who always kills on the first date. Rather than moving on, he decides to settle on a second date so he can finish her off. By then, Chelsea’s aware there’s a serial killer around who’s totally into her type, and she goes and fingers the wrong guy, getting him badly injured in the process and leaving herself alone for another date with a killer.
So, the carnage? Shadyside got off pretty easy this time around.
Shadyside death count: Still 29. Our killer has enough murders behind him to have the FBI actively hunting him, but he failed to kill anyone in Shadyside.
Additional carnage: Chelsea is working when the coffee shop when the place is robbed and her father is bludgeoned. The killer tries to strangle her to death, and the reader is left to believe she’s dead. He then tries to kill Nina. There are also descriptions from him of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father. (On a rant relating to that: I appreciate that a lot of the main characters in these books have been women. Some of those women have been pretty awesome, and Chelsea managed to pull out some smarts and some impressive tricks at the end of this one. A lot of our killers have been women, too, which would be nice in its own respect if it weren’t that they’ve typically ‘snapped’ and gone all murderous. One of them went serial killer over her damned boyfriend. We’ve got one serial killer whose a guy, and he’s got a far more typical ‘abandoned by my mother, beaten regularly by my father’ storyline.)
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: I’m laying the finger on the Shadyside High administration. The occasional story makes it into the news about an adult posing as a teenager and attending high school, but this makes three so far in the series. That is inexcusable. If we want to go back further, then when the killer’s mother took off with his sister, she could have taken him, too. Or better social services maybe could have intervened. Either way, our main character here doesn’t have any responsibility in the events, except in that she turned kind of badass at the end.
(To keep up with a year of reading and reviewing Fear Street books, visit The Shadyside Review.)