After enjoying The New Girl, I wanted to read another Fear Street book. I looked at several, but eventually grabbed this book for $2.99 on Amazon and finished it in two days. While the price is what drew me to The Secret Bedroom over other available Fear Street novels, its plot kept me hooked; it was hard to put this book down! I might have finished it in a day if this wasn’t Finals week.
I can safely say that I am addicted to Fear Street now. While I have a soft spot for Goosebumps, these books are much higher quality than Goosebumps, and although I know I’ve read some of these in the past, I don’t have vivid memories of which ones, exactly. Maybe I’ll recognize them when I get to them; after enjoying these two books so much, I plan to read the entire series.
Like my last post, this is a review. If you are wary of spoilers, please skip this entry!
This cover is horribly and magnificently early 90s. I love it. I am so glad that they opted not to update it when they released it as an eBook. What stands out to me is the horrible wallpaper. Knowing what this book is about now, I find the wallpaper appropriate. I can’t look at wallpaper the same way after reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper” this semester, and my thoughts went straight to that story when I saw this cover.
The room pictured in the cover is a room within an attic which begs the question, is it normal to wallpaper an attic?
The skeletal hand reaching out to our heroine looks incredibly fake and not scary at all. I think the cover would have been stronger without the skeletal hand. The facial expression on Lea, the protagonist is so strong that readers would already be curious about what’s behind the door. The mystery is scarier than the skeletal hand. Less is more.
Lea has a very Molly Ringwald look going on. I’m digging it.
Tagline: Don’t open that door!
Don’t you know that telling someone not to do something only makes them want to do it more?
Lea Carson is new to Shadyside. Her family just moved to town and bought an old house on Fear Street. Three weeks in her new school and desperate to fit in, she begins the book tripping and spilling chili on the most popular girl in school, Marci Hendryx. After Marci storms out to clean herself up, Marci’s boyfriend, Don, helps Lea clean up her mess and asks Lea out on a date. Don is apparently a player. Marci comes in and Don runs to her side like a puppy. This is his primary character trait.
Lea goes to sit with her only friend in school, Deena, who disappears in the novel after getting a boyfriend.
The details are fuzzy because it went back and forth for a while, but Don keeps asking Lea out throughout the book, and each time Lea goes out with him, Marci is there and laughs at her. This is a fun joke to play on new kids, I guess. Marci gossips about Lea and makes her life a general hell throughout the book.
That’s about all you need to know about what’s going on at school for Lea. The majority of the story happens in her house.
The book flashes back to Lea’s first day in the house. Her parents and she are with a realtor touring the house. Lea naturally hates the old, creepy house on Fear Street, but her parents, who enjoy fixing up old houses are in love. They discover an attic on their tour and decide to check it out. The attic has a separate room attached, closed off by a locked door with wooden planks haphazardly nailed over it. The realtor explains that she’s not sure what is behind the door, but that a murder supposedly happened there a hundred years ago. The parents basically go, “Oh well.” What?
This is where I have issues. You mean to tell me no one who has lived there since nor the company who is showing the house has thought to open this door and see what’s behind it? And new people buying the house aren’t at all creeped out? This is an example of where readers need to just go for the ride with Stine and not ask questions.
The horror of this horror novel begins with Lea’s mother saying she wants to carpet the stairs in their new place. *shiver*
The horror continues with Lea hearing sounds from the attic while in her bedroom. She hears footsteps, and decides to go up to the attic to investigate. The sounds naturally are coming from the locked room. Upon investigating, Lea sees blood running down the door, and on a separate visit to the attic, spikes protruding out the door at her. Despite these anomalies, Lea visits the attic again, and on the third time, she hears a young girl behind the door asking to be let out. Lea decides to open the door. The boards come off easily, and the key to the door is conveniently already hanging in the keyhole. She gets the door open and finds a young girl named Catherine. Catherine is a ghost.
Catherine is friendly to Lea at first, and tells her that she was murdered in that room and is incredibly lonely. She begins to get creepy not because she’s dead, but because she wants to touch Lea’s hair. What’s with that? Do girls like to play with other girls’ hair? I don’t get it. She eventually gets Lea’s hair in her hands and pulls, despite Lea crying out in pain. Lea gets away, lockes the room back up, and goes back to her bedroom.
The next day, Lea overhears Marci telling lies about her at school and forms a plan to scare Marci into leaving her alone using Catherine. She goes back up to the attic, opens the door to Catherine’s room, and tells Catherine the plan. Catherine, feeling apologetic for getting out of control with Lea’s hair, decides to help her out. Their plan involves Lea taking Catherine to Marci’s house (uninvited, by the way), and Catherine staying invisible and moving items around to convince Marci that Lea has powers. Lea even comes up with a line: “There is a reason I live on Fear Street.” Bleh.
Catherine has to enter Lea’s body to leave the room. They share a body all the way to Marci’s house. Things go as planned at the beginning; After knocking on the door and forcing their way into Marci’s house after Marci told Lea she didn’t want to see her, Catherine opens and slams doors, moves a raincoat, and even picks Marci up into the air. Marci freaks out, yells, “Mom!” and runs upstairs. Something happens to make Marci trip. She loses her grounding and falls against a balcony which gives way, sending her plummeting to the ground. Marci paid for picking on Lea with her life. A teen seriously died in this teenage horror novel; what the hell? Cool!
Lea is interviewed by police and describes the accident to them. She is escorted home by a policeman who explains to Lea’s mother what happened. Lea tries thinking to Catherine accusing her of pushing Marci over the balcony. Catherine stays silent. Once Lea is free from her parents, she visits Catherine in Catherine’s room. Catherine eventually admits to killing Marci, and says it was for Lea. As she says that, Catherine’s form goes from a young girl to a scary older woman. Catherine tells Lea that she has helped her, and now it’s Lea’s turn to help Catherine. Catherine wants to live again. She needs a body: Lea’s. She tries entering Lea’s body, but Lea is able to prevent her from taking over by concentrating on keeping her out. Lea escapes from the room and goes to bed.
Lea decides to tell her parents about Catherine, but it doesn’t go over well. They think Lea is hallucinating and want to call a doctor. Lea convinces them to follow her to the attic so she can prove Catherine exists. When they get up there, the door is shut and the boards that Lea pulled off are back on the door as if they had never been taken off. I saw that coming.
A doctor visits Lea; she is sick with a fever and is prescribed bed rest. While weak from the fever, she sees Catherine down in her room. Catherine explains that she has been in this room all along, and that Catherine made Lea think she went upstairs to the attic’s closed off room. Catherine even made Lea see the blood running down the door and the spikes protruding from the door to scare Lea from opening it. Catherine is the one who nailed the planks over the door, and she doesn’t want it open.
Catherine enters Lea’s body while she’s weak and Lea can’t resist. When Lea (and now Catherine) get better, Lea/Catherine go for a walk to Don’s house where Catherine tries to kill Don. The plan is foiled by Don’s friends showing, one of which happens to be Cory Brooks from The New Girl! I thought his presence in this book was pretty cool, but he didn’t say or do anything that tied into the other book, which was disappointing. Catherine/Lea walk back home, and Catherine swears to Lea that she will kill Don, and will kill his friends, too.
For some reason that isn’t given, Catherine exits Lea’s body for several minutes to several hours each night. One night while she’s gone, Lea escapes the room and goes up to the attic. She decides to open the door Catherine doesn’t want opened. Catherine shows up and tries to fight her, but Lea persists and eventually gets the door open. The rotting corpses of Catherine’s parents are behind the door. Their skeletized remains come out and kill Catherine. The three of them melt together “in a glowing malodorous ball of flame,” and vanish. Lea passes out and wakes up in a hospital.
Her parents explain that she has had a fever of 106 for three days. Lea thinks Catherine and her entire experience was a dream. When she gets home, she discovers a black ribbon that Catherine had worn in her hair confirming that her experience with Catherine was in fact not a dream. She contemplates telling her parents about Catherine again, but decides against it.
The secret bedroom must remain a secret, alas.
Despite its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Bedroom. I like ghost stories, and this was an alright one. The scenes with Catherine, particularly the initial ones were scary; what more can one ask from a Fear Street book? I wish Catherine’s background story was more fleshed out. Why did she kill her parents? How did she die? Why was she haunting the house if she was the one who killed her parents and not vice versa? I had a lot of questions after reading this. I don’t think they will ever be answered. Regardless, this was a fun read.
Something interesting I want to do is rank the Fear Street books as I read them. Since this is only my second review, this list is short.
Although I think The New Girl did a better job at developing a realistic backstory and left fewer questions unanswered, The Secret Bedroom did a better job at keeping my attention. This book was legitimately creepy, and like I wrote at the beginning of this review, it was hard to put down.
- (#13) The Secret Bedroom
- (#1) The New Girl