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