Remember how when I started reviewing this series I complained because the main characters (the Shadyside High students pictured in the yearbook photos) weren’t being killed? Well, in this book someone major gets killed. Unlike last time, when the victim was Ty Sullivan, this was someone I actually liked! Sort of. As much as you can like any of the lightly-sketched characters in a Fear Street Seniors book, anyway.

Title: Spring Break

The Plot (briefly): Josh Maxwell, Mickey Myers, Deirdre Palmer and Gary Fresno head off to Tricia Conrad’s ranch in Arizona. There’s an archeological dig going on, a sort-of-ghost story relating to a native tribe that vanished, and Josh (having taken the wrong bag from the airport) has a Bad Dude after him. Meanwhile, his stepsister Josie and her friend Jennifer Fear (the one who isn’t a real Fear) meet some college guys who are jerks.

spring break

The Plot (Extended Remix): The seniors are on a plane. Gary is acting like a jerk and is borderline rude to a stewardess. If this was written today, he’d end up in jail or being beaten by United thugs or something.

If you’re paying enough attention to realize that Deirdre Palmer isn’t usually part of this group, congratulations: you have a way better memory than I do. It’s her cheerleading sister Dana who should be on this trip, since Dana is dating Mickey. But Dana is sick, so instead of hanging out with Josie and Jennifer, Deirdre is going to Arizona.

I just noticed that Josie and Josh sound like names parents would give actual twins, instead of step-siblings who are conveniently the same age so they can both be in the Doomed Senior Class. If this was a V. C. Andrews novel instead of an R. L. Stine, they actually would be twins, and they’d be pretending to be steps so everyone would be less shocked that they were dating. NOT THAT THEY’RE DATING IN THIS SERIES. But they would be, if this was the VCAndrewsverse.

Josh bumps into some tough guy. REPEATEDLY. The guy is obviously meant to be a criminal lowlife, but seriously, by about the third time you bumped into me (and caused someone to crush my hat) I’d be pretty peeved too, Josh.

Not peeved enough to try to run a group of teenagers off the road, though, which is what this guy does.

At the ranch Trisha is highhanded and bitchy towards the ranch foreman’s daughter, Rose. I applaud Stine for resisting the urge to name her Rosa; it’s a bold departure from about eleven billion Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys/etc. books set in Arizona.

Also, Josh goes to unpack and discovers he has the Bad Dude’s suitcase, and there’s a gun in it. For some reason this makes him afraid to go to the police and give them the bag, because the guy might get angry. The guy is ALREADY angry, Josh, let the police deal with him.

But no: he drags Rose along to try and return the suitcase, and there’s a cliffhanger earthquake.

Meanwhile, Josie is bored, so she and Jennifer go to The Roadhouse, only they (and Matty Winger and his dumb cousin Mo) get thrown out for being underage. Matty and Mo disappear, but Jennifer and Josie meet two college guys IN THE PARKING LOT. Even if you didn’t live in Shadyside and weren’t part of the Senior Curse, this would be a spectacularly dumb idea. Also Evan and Tim can’t give the girls their number because they conveniently just moved into a new apartment. Then Josie sees someone has painted a message in red paint on Jennifer’s windshield: WANNA PLAY?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a college guy named Roberto is flirting with Trisha, who is flirting right back. Gary is not pleased. Roberto tells them about the Hohokam Indian Tribe who disappeared from the region 500 years ago. Like, really disappeared. Vanished. He claims Hohokam means “the vanished ones” when obviously it means “pure hokum.” Roberto is part of an archeological excavation on the Conrad’s ranch, and Josh is interested in archeology. Was Josh interested in archeology in previous books? I honestly don’t remember.

Rose freaks out and tells them the excavation is dangerous and they can’t go there because there’ve been a series of accidents at the dig, caused, according to Rose, by La Amadora. She was an elder of the Hohokum tribe, and now she guards the site. Also, “series of accidents” covers a range of things from food poisoning through a fire and all the way up to one of the guys on the dig being found dead with his neck broken.

Mickey is hitting on Deirdre, because her twin Dana (the one he’s dating) isn’t there. Gross. Also, Deirdre has had a crush on him for a while (THIS I do remember from earlier books), so she’s into it. They go with Josh to look at the dig in the middle of the night, and Josh falls into a pit. He BREAKS A PIECE OF POTTERY and Roberto is mad at him the next day, and rightly so.

Trisha has a vision of a coyote with red stripes, and of the five of them flying over the canyon and vanishing. Maybe if the senior class just got rid of Trisha somehow the curse would fizzle out. Or at least they could stop being reminded of it every few seconds, which would also be great. Rose claims La Amadora caused the vision. Rose is very invested in making everyone afraid of the archeological site.

Trisha gets non-fatally bitten by a snake.

Meanwhile, back at Shadyside, Josie hears a raspy voice saying WANNA PLAY? while she’s in the bathroom at a restaurant. That is less “ghost creepy” than “pervert creepy,” and since Evan’s gone to the men’s room at the same time, it’s pretty obviously him. They go to River Ridge and Tim almost pushes her off while they’re standing on the edge, then claims he didn’t, he just tried to save her. Then she finds another red-paint message on her front walk: WANNA PLAY ROUGH?

Josh goes walking in the desert with Rose, who runs off. While he’s lost a coyote attacks him. Luckily Rose’s father Simon, the ranch foreman if you’ve lost track, rescues him. It’s painfully clear by now that Rose is one of the Bad Guys, but only to the reader, not to Josh.

Josh finds his bedroom has been trashed, but the Bad Dude’s bag and the gun are both still there, so he’s perplexed as to what they were searching for. Then he thinks he sees La Amadora in his room.

Josie has a dream that the evil spirit she released in book one is leaving the messages. She races over to Jennifer’s house and confesses she used a Fear spell book and doomed the whole senior class, oops. Jennifer tells her she isn’t really a Fear, which isn’t relevant at all to this conversation but I guess she wanted to join in on the confessing. Josie thinks the evil spirit was warning her that Tim and Evan are evil (why? why would it do that??), so they call the boys. Wait, what? I thought they didn’t have a phone. Was that resolved somehow and I missed it?

Josie calls Tim. There’s a fake-out confession that yes, the guys DID leave the messages. Then chapter twenty-eight begins with the guy on the phone laughing and admitting he’s just Tim’s roommate, Colin, and he was joking. Then Tim comes on the line and says of course they didn’t leave the messages. Then he tells her he has to take another call, only instead of disconnecting her, he accidentally leaves her listening in while he takes a call from Evan and the two of them joke about how scaring the girls will have them “all over us.” Gross, and also convoluted.

Josie and Jennifer hatch a plan to get revenge by bringing the guys to the Fear Street Cemetery to make out, and having their friends dressed as zombies, ready to pop out from behind headstones to revenge-scare them. I would have loved this idea when I was nine or ten.

Rose takes Josh and the gang for a horse ride up to a scary ledge. Nothing happens, because Stine hadn’t reached his word count yet, but Trisha DOES recognize the cliff as the one they flew off or fell off or whatever it was in her vision.

The next time they repetitively go back to the same ridge, the Bad Dude shows up, with a rifle. Dierdre falls off the ledge when he lines them up along it. DIERDRE’S DEAD. This is the second girl killed for “cheating” in this series (and Ty ALSO died, so I guess Mickey is doomed?).

Josh gets the rifle away, but then GIVES IT TO ROSE, and she turns out to have been in cahoots with the guy all along. They have a “steal artifacts and sell them” business arrangement. They’ve been searching Josh’s room for a tiny 500-year-old clay coyote with red stripes, just like the one in Trisha’s vision. Only it turns out Josh didn’t have it: it fell out of the Bad Dude’s suitcase on the very first day, and Mickey picked it up, planning to bring it home to Dana.

Rose and Clay (the Bad Dude) argue, because he wants to kill the high school kids now but she says she didn’t sign up for murder. He knocks the statue out of her hands and it goes over the edge, and when Cliff tries to grab it HE goes over too, only Josh saves him. By now Roberto and Simon have showed up, and Simon radios the sheriff, then takes Cliff and Rosa back to the ranch to be arrested. Awkward.

Josie and Jennifer carry out their scare-the-guys plan. Tim and Evan aren’t buying it at first, but Dana Palmer (who looks “ghostly pale”) floats in the air and reaches her hand right through a gravestone. Tim and Evan flee in terror, and Josie and Jennifer thank their friends, only Dana isn’t there to thank. They call her at home, only Dana tells them she hasn’t been to the graveyard. She’s been at home, because the family have gotten word that Dierdre is dead.

Josie swallowed hard. She crossed the room, trembling, and wrapped her friend in a hug.

“Jennifer,” she whispered, “I – I think Deirdre came to say good-bye to us tonight.” (p. 204).

Okay, that was pretty cool as far as Fear Street endings go.