Fear Street: Halloween Party

Halloween PartyI know it’s not October, but I haven’t read a Fear Street book in a while, and this is one I have been wanting to read for some time. It never occurred to me to save this book for Halloween season, but hindsight is 20-20. There are plenty of Halloween books I can read in October. For now, let’s have Halloween in June!

Sadly, this book is not a party. It is by far my least favorite Fear Street book yet. Still, it was engaging enough to keep reading, and I guess I kept hoping it would get better, so I read a little of it each night before bed the last couple of nights and sprinted to the end this morning when I realized I was 65% through and just wanted to finish it so I could move on to something else.

Plot Synopsis (Spoiler-Free)

Nine random teens have been invited to a Halloween party being thrown by Shadyside’s new girl, Justine. The guest list seems random; the teenagers can’t figure out why they are invited because they don’t hang out in the same groups. They are excited about the all night party, however, and they have been told that the party is just for them. They can’t invite guests. The party proves to be fun and full of surprises, and the teens have a good time until one of them is found dead with a knife in his chest. It seems someone at the party has an agenda — for murder! Dun dun DUN.

Review

My biggest problems with this book are its plot — it’s slow and predictable. The character Niki is its saving grace. Let’s start there.

Strengths

1. Niki – Niki is the protagonist, Terry’s, girlfriend. She is interesting, she is smart, and she is proactive.

One of the more interesting things about Niki is she is deaf. The narrator states that no one would know Niki is deaf if she didn’t tell you. She reads lips and communicates orally rather than with sign language. She has adapted to her life and doesn’t let what happens to her in life hold her back. This characterization is consistent with her actions in the book.

Niki is dating Terry, an ex-friend of her ex-boyfriend, Alex, who is also invited to the party. Much to Terry’s chagrin, Niki has decided she will remain friends with Alex. Terry and Alex’s jealousy toward one another is not a factor in her relationship to either. She tells both they have to get over it.

When the party invites go out and those invited realize that jocks and nerds are among those invited, they decide to make the party a dumb competition between “jocks and wimps.” I found this incredibly stupid, and I rolled my eyes each time one of the jocks or wimps declared a point for their side. There doesn’t seem to be any rules, and there is no clear-cut way to determine which side will win, so the whole thing just seemed stupid to me. Niki puts herself above this and says she is not part of either side. This made me like and respect Niki more.

Niki hints that something is off during the party and decides to investigate and find out more. She is who finds out about Justine’s alter-persona, she discovers why the teens were all invited to the party, and she is who ends up saving the day at the end of the book. It makes me wonder why she wasn’t written as the protagonist of the book. My guess would be that Stine may have felt a deaf protagonist would be hard to write, but I think that challenge would have made the book scarier and more interesting. Terry was kind of a flop as a protagonist, but I’ll discuss that in Weaknesses.

Niki’s deafness ends up being used in a unique way at the end of the book, and I found it innovative. Justine plays sounds of car crashes and victims screaming as the mansion is burning, and only Niki can think and remain calm, because apart from vibrations, the sounds that are driving everyone else mad don’t affect her. She discovers the dumbwaiter system and rides it down to the basement to escape and free the others.

Niki started the book as the most interesting character and ended the book as the most interesting character.

I wish I had more good to write about this book, but for me, sadly, Niki is it.

Weaknesses

1. Other Characters – I am going to write about Terry and Justine here, the protagonist and antagonist respectively, but before I do, I want to comment on the characters as a whole. There are so many of them, and we don’t learn much about them, so I had a hard time keeping them straight.

The single victim, Les, barely speaks, so when he was discovered dead, I had a moment of going, “Who?” rather than feeling any sort of shock or sadness. I think if Stine had put more time into his character, the reader could actually feel something when he is discovered murdered. It’s a missed opportunity.

Alex stood out, and David gets an important role later in the book, but the rest of the invitation list just kind of ran together. I found Trisha interesting at the beginning of the book, and I wish more were done with her. As for Marty and Angela… I still don’t know who they are.

There are two characters from the high school who are not invited to the party, but end up crashing it. These bullies are annoying as crap, and they just delay the furthering of an already slow plot. They are kicked out of the party, and I had hoped we had seen the last of them, but they end up conveniently delaying David from getting help when Les’s body is discovered.

Terry is a really sorry protagonist. Aside from a brief moment where he looks for a missing Niki, he spends the whole book reacting to what happens to him rather than making decisions or acting for himself. His confrontation of Justine during the big reveal could have worked toward making him a more respectable protagonist, but he was only doing what Niki told him to do.

He really is pretty awful. When Niki shows Terry the newspaper clipping that reveals the details of Justine’s parents’ deaths, Terry doesn’t even recognize his own father’s name and has to have it all spelled out for him.

There is a little bit of character building that is somewhat interesting in Terry’s fractured relationship with his old friend, Alex, but it’s superficial. Terry reasons that because he felt worried and freaked out when he thought Alex was dead (a prank), he must really care for Alex. The problem is anyone would feel worried or freaked out by finding any dead body.

Finally, Justine, the antagonist, is just okay. We find out her real name is Enid, but nearly everything we learn about her is found out in one newspaper clipping. I want to know why she decided to make the children of those responsible for her parents’ deaths pay. Why did she wait so long? How long had she planned this night? There is so much more that could have been done with Justine, but wasn’t.

2. Plot – There are two big issues I have with this book’s plot: it’s slow and it’s predictable. The book’s premise told me that there would be a dead body, and I thought this would be somewhat of a murder mystery, but it is crystal clear that Justine is the killer from the beginning. She organized the guest list. She planned this party. She is the new girl none of the other characters know much about.

My Kindle said I was more than 60% through the book when Les is found dead, and the book drug to that point. In that first more than half, we get guests receiving invitations, an annoying “jocks vs. wimps” subplot, and detailed descriptions of the party and its “surprises.” I was kind of bored, to tell you the truth.

Even though I was already well aware that Justine was the killer, Niki discovers a newspaper clipping that gives Justine a motive. Niki reasons that Justine is set on revenge for her parents’ deaths. She even puts together that the nine invitees are children of those who were responsible. Alright, I dig this.

The problem is Terry and Niki try to confront Justine in front of the others, which would have led to repetition of these points, and does lead to repetition of the points when Justine locks everyone in the dining room and tells a story: the same one Niki told Terry and the reader from the newspaper clipping. This repetition is not only boring, but a waste of potential. The plot plays out exactly like the reader expects it to. At this point, we are too far in for Justine not to be the killer, but I think it would have been interesting is Justine’s uncle, Phillip, ended up being the killer and she was somehow being used as a pawn. I don’t know. Anything would have been more interesting than what we got.

Yawn.

Analysis

Covers and Taglines

There have been three covers made for this book, the one at the top of the post, and these two:

Halloween Party Halloween Party

I prefer one of the newer two to the original (with the girl on the cover), but they are both generic and don’t give any insight into the book. The original could be Niki when she is walking through the graveyard to the Halloween party, but it’s kind of campy. It also looks really dated.

The newer taglines are great.

Tagline: It’s an invitation to terror.

Tagline: RSVP. . . . if you dare.

Both of these draw me in as a reader, and both work for the book. They let the reader know this Halloween party is sinister. I like that they also place emphasis on the guest list, which is an important element of the plot.

The original tagline is just confusing.

Tagline: There is going to be an uninvited guest at this Halloween party on Fear Street. . . .

It’s confusing because it’s untrue. I mean, I guess the bullies showing up and crashing the party make it true, but they are not integral to the plot, so it’s kind of weird to reference them. Justine, the antagonist, is the host of the party. She very deliberately picked its attendees.

At best, it’s referencing a minor plot point. At worst, the tagline performs a bait and switch. I just don’t get it.

Plot Summary

This is a first for this blog, but I want to talk about the back cover plot summary.

The invitation arrived in a black-bordered envelope and was delivered by the beautiful and mysterious transfer student. The inside showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved for You”—perfect for an all-night Halloween party in an old house on Fear Street.

The party is well under way when the lights go out. That’s to be expected at the Halloween party. But when the lights come back on, a boy is on the floor with a knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

Now the guests’ trick-or-treating has turned to terror. And it looks like someone’s idea of a party game is murder!

The summary absolutely draws me in as a reader, but it’s inconsistent with what happens in the book, so I feel cheated.

The lights don’t go out and come back on with a sudden dead body on the floor. The dead body is discovered in a closet by the protagonist while he is searching for his girlfriend. The knife is in his chest and not his back, as well. What’s up with that?

Final Thoughts

There is only one death in the book and it takes forever to get to it. The victim is an insignificant character the reader can’t grow to care for, and the killer is obvious from the start. The motive, while interesting, is revealed at once with one convenient piece of evidence and then unnecessarily repeated instead of being built up. The first more than half of the book is boring because nothing happens, and the rest is boring because you know what will happen and have to just watch it play out.

This one’s a snoozefest.

Niki saved this book from being a flop for me. Her relationship with Terry, the innovative way her deafness is used at the end, and more make her one of the more interesting characters in the series.

This book, a fan favorite, was just okay for me.

10 thoughts on “Fear Street: Halloween Party

  1. ngl I skimmed parts of this at first cuz I wanted to scroll down to write this comment and defend it, as it is my 2nd favorite so far. I did read the rest as I wrote more, don’t worry. Anyway, Really wish it could be my favorite but it has some small little problems and Runaway was better in other ways.

    I think Terry is the best protagonist I’ve seen in these so far out of what I’ve read. He’s at the center of one of the better romances I’ve seen, he feels mature and they have decent chemistry. He actually cares for her and backs down at the right points for her sake. When a lot of the romance is either eh or toxic, this was nice to see. I also liked that the thing with Alex gets a solid payoff and creates decent stuff by the end.

    He is slow on the uptake as you said, which was annoying but it didn’t take away from how he’s good otherwise. Nikki is awesome but perhaps too much so, his dumb moments happen because Nikki had to be a step ahead, Stine was perhaps trying a bit too hard to create this solid deaf female lead in that way.

    I think the pacing is solid, it’s a shorter one thank god and doesn’t take too long to get to the party, and it keeps a steady pace with good scares and all that. The use of in medias res at the start is pointless but not awful, and i do think the build up in regards to the pranks could have been better to create better flow but it wasn’t a deal breaker.
    i
    Justine being obvious I feel was the point, so it can be more about fleshing out the other stuff. Plus we see her being good at hiding herself in universe, like hurting herself on purpose. Her motivation works and the thing with her uncle not teaching the right lesson and regretting it added depth we don’;t usually get in these. Not like super deep but it’;s there, so it makes up for silly methods and all that.

    Plus things like that add to the cheesy charm of these kinda things. As for the other characters, I regret not talking about this in my review because I think the handling of the extras is a positive. Some of these have too many characters and most it seems like they try to be important so it makes it worse.

    Here, the others just slide into the background, get a few cute moments (like Trisha dancing with Ricky Schoor) and don’t really interfere with anything. They appear and don’t crowd things up, so I don’t see having a bit too many is a negative when it doesn’t become a problem like in others. I agree that the one victim should have had more impact. I mean, Wes’s family was directly involved IIRC yet Justine gives him the weakest death and plans something cooler for the rest.

    I think that covers it, for a few faults, I quite like this one, I really see the effort there so I like to acklwedge that, it has a lot going for it so I feel like it’s one of the best ones for all these reasons. I reviewed if you want even more, even than I reviewed it here basically lol:

    Fear Street-Halloween Party

    (Geez, you were even hard on the og cover, I think it’s one of the best/nicest covers in the series)

    Like

    1. Something you focused on that didn’t stand out to me was Terry’s relationship with Niki. I think this might be because you have read more Fear Street books than I have and have seen those poor relationships. I do agree he is good with Niki. I did comment on liking the development with Alex.

      The original cover isn’t bad — just campy. All of the original covers are campy, so I prefer the newer ones. These scream 1980s and 90s, haha. It’s okay though. I picked them up when I was a kid with no problem.

      I’m sorry I was critical of one of your favorites. Maybe I’ll like Runaway?

      Like

      1. Eh, even without having read others I’d note the good romance cuz like, it’s always nice to see as Terry shows maturity that doesn’t always appear in things like this. Terry is also the only good male protagonist which is more notable when you’ve read more of the ones that prove this is the exception lol

        I think being campy is the whole point/peak. The 2000’s reprint covers kinda suck, either being weak photoshop jobs or trying too hard to make them “sexy” which is just…no. This is one of the better reprint covers but still kinda whatever.

        I guess when I praise something, especially something like this, for clear solid effort and someone doesn’t recognize that I see that punishing effort and get insulted on the creator’s behalf for some reason lol

        Like

      2. Haha, I can tell you are hot and bothered by my critique of this book ;). It’s okay. I still like Stine and I still like Fear Street. I also still like you and your opinions on books. We agree on a lot. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree about this book. It wasn’t horrible. Just slow and predictable for me.

        BUT, now you know how I feel about those 3’s you’ve been giving Animorphs books. 😉 I jest.

        Like

      3. And I gave three stars to this one on Goodreads. It’s the same thing. lol

        This one is a fan favorite for some reason, but there are many people who do not like it as well. I think it’s a mixed bag. This is not one I read as a kid, so I didn’t read it with rose-tinted glasses like I do Animorphs, and so my being critical likely came from comparing it to other favorites in this series I did read as a kid and loved, and the fact that I really enjoyed the last couple of Fear Street entries I’ve read. Out of curiosity, did you read it for the first time when you reviewed it, or was it a reread?

        Like

      4. I didn’t see the goodreads rating and just clinked the link lol, that rating is surprising given everything you said lol.

        My review was a 2nd read but the first was just a few months prior cuz A. I knew I was gonna review it and B. I found some especially glowing reviews and just had to get to it sooner. I recall reading Point Horror’s Halloween Night around that time and let’s say this washed the taste of that for me lol.

        Like

      5. Ah, yeah, I may have felt differently if I had read it after a bad book like you did. I’ll stay away from Halloween Night, haha.

        Niki was a solid good thing in this book, but even amongst my critique of weaknesses, I mentioned some positives. 3 stars for me is “okay.” 4 is “I like it.” 5 is “I love it.” On the other end, 2 is “I do not like it” and 1 is “I hate it.” It was engaging and had some good things to pull from it. Even though Niki is just one “strength” for me, she is a major part of this novel and there is a lot that goes into her here… her–as you pointed out– healthy relationship with Terry, the cool way her deafness is used at the end, etc.

        Like

      6. Eh, I had distance by the time I reviewed it, so that only just made certain things stand out more and it didn’t single handlely make me like it more than I should.

        Fair enough, just felt like the review got so heavy with the negatives and the positive was more like the bright spot in an otherwise eh thing, so I feel like those who see the rating first wil find it misleading. Then again that’s a big pet peeve in reviewing I always have, bunch of critiques than slapping a positive score lol, I try to avoid that when I rate something Decent as that goes into being down on something I can still claim to like.

        Like

      7. There. I added a little to “Final Thoughts.” It’s nothing I hadn’t mentioned in earlier parts of the review, but I can see how discussing the strength first and then filling the rest with critiques makes it seem like this book is less than “okay.”

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s