I’m not sure if this was the first Fear Street book I read or not. I do know that it was the first book I ever got to pick out brand new. I remember sitting on the floor in the bookstore (Walden Books in the mall in my grandparent’s town), looking through all the Fear Street books and trying to pick the right one. I don’t know if I was already familiar with Fear Street or if that was the moment I discovered it. I do know that instead of picking a book for a good reason, I totally judged by the cover. I know I picked this one because it featured a poofy pink dress and a skull. You couldn’t get more up my alley than that.
On rereading this one, I was surprised to discover how much of the plot I remembered. This one doesn’t start with a prologue or a peek into a killer’s mind. It’s another one in first person. The kids at Shadyside High are all worked up because a murdered girl from a neighboring town was found in the Fear Street Woods. This would have been a perfect occasion for the kids to swap stories about Fear Street, including callbacks to the previous books. That’s not RL Stine’s style, though.
The kids all move from gossiping about the murder to an assembly where the candidates for prom queen are announced. I have absolutely no memory of how the whole prom king and queen thing worked at my school or if there was an assembly with nominees or what. I barely even went to my prom and tended to skip out on assemblies, though, so I guess I’ll just have to assume it’s basically accurate in the book. In any case, we meet our prom queen nominees: Elizabeth McVey, our narrator, Simone Perry, the literal and figurative drama queen, Elana Potter, the popular girl, Dawn Rodgers, the hyper-competitive one, and Rachael West, the shy, poor one.
We soon learn that Simone has a chronically unfaithful boyfriend. She caught him at school that day flirting with one girl and catches him out with another while the potential prom queens are all having a celebratory pizza together (on an unrelated note, I sincerely hope that the kinds of girls who get nominated for prom queen get to go out and have pizza together to celebrate without counting fat or carbs or whatever. Sometimes life calls for pizza, y’know?).
Simone then misses rehearsal and when Elizabeth stops by her house to check on her, she finds a puddle of blood in the floor and sees a boy in the school’s colors running toward the woods with a person-sized bundle in his arms. Shortly after, Dawn is attacked in a theater, then Rachael is murdered. Sandbags on the stage are sabotaged in another attempt on Dawn’s life, and by the time Elana is found dead on the stage after a fall from the catwalk, the remaining two prom queen candidates are sure someone is targeting them.
Because it’s a Fear Street book, the truth is actually so much dumber than that.
Also, Lisa Blume, now the student council president, makes an appearance in this book. How many summers have gone by since the first book? I stopped keeping track, but at this point she should at least be in college, and she might be able to legally drink. I think I’ve figured out what’s wrong in Shadyside–and it’s not Fear Street. The whole town is in a time warp. All of the students of Shadyside High are trapped there forever. They’ll never graduate. No wonder they’re all killing each other.
So, the carnage? Piling high and deep this time around.
Shadyside death count: 29. I’m not counting the girl whose body was found in the Fear Street Woods because she was from Waynesbridge. I haven’t counted other deaths from outside Shadyside, so same with this one. Still, Elizabeth found the puddle of blood in Simone’s room, was the last one to see Rachael alive, and found Elana’s body. That’s all rough for one girl.
Additional carnage: On a rainy night, Elizabeth thinks she hits a small child with her car. It turned out to be a raccoon, but RL Stine was sure to spare us no details. There’s also a graphic description of a girl’s broken leg after a sandbag lands an her, and another is stabbed in the chest, but survives. If this was my first Fear Street book, it was a hell of an introduction.
Spoiler-laden point at which this all could have been avoided: Someone should have taught Simone that if your boyfriend is constantly cheating on you, the problem is not with the girls he’s cheating with. I’ll agree with her that going out with your friend’s boyfriend is tacky as hell, but it’s not really worth faking your own death so you can murder your competition at leisure and blame it on the serial killer from the next town over. Additionally, two different girls go out with her boyfriend within the first three chapters, but she only went after the prom queens, so her plan seems extra-flawed.
(To keep up with a year of reading and reviewing Fear Street books, visit The Shadyside Review.)