This is a trilogy, but I’m going to tackle them all at once before any more of my dwindling brain cells leap into the plot holes and die.
It was fun to read, in that peculiar way that Fear Street books are fun–you know, where sometimes you’re shouting at the redundant words and sometimes you’re rage-crying at how stupid and indecisive every single character is, but you can’t stop reading? Yeah. That kind of fun.
There are spoilers beyond this point.
Okay. So: The First Scream (and I unabashedly LOVE these titles) introduces us to Robin Fear. It’s 1935, and he’s a shy boy with a crush. Unfortunately the crush has a jock boyfriend who bullies Robin; Robin despises himself for being unable to fight back.
Robin is more or less a sympathetic character. I mean, he’s SO passive that it wears on your patience, but overall you’re on his side, especially since his father seems to be practicing black magic and constantly deleting Robin’s memories.
Uh, I should back up a bit. Sorry. I’m down, like, a pint of grey matter, mostly from reading these back-to-back but also possibly I have heatstroke. My apologies if I’m making less sense than usual. Heatwave plus Stine is a pretty devastating combo.
In the opening scene Meghan Fairwood is our POV character, and she’s watching some cheerleaders hang a banner that reads GO TIGERS! 1935 STATE BASEBALL CHAMPS! So our author has both remembered the name of the Shadyside sportsball teams and is attempting to be true to the era. I’m excited, you guys.
The banner reminding Meghan of Richard Bradley, her boyfriend.p. 4
He’s flat but nicely hung? Numerous cheerleaders have their hands on him?
Anyway. Within a couple of pages Robin (our alternating POV character) thinks of Meghan’s boyfriend as “that big palooka,” and I’m here for this. I’m picturing OG Riverdale.
At home, Robin’s father (Nicholas Fear) is practicing black magic in the study, as one does.
Robin slapped a hand over his mouth and backed out of the doorway. Thick snakes of purple smoke curled through the room. And in the middle of the strange, swirling smoke, Robin saw his father–floating in the air.
Floating on his back. Hands crossed over his chest.
Floating in the purple smoke.
His eyes closed. The tails of his suit jacket drooping beneath him. His legs stretched straight out, black shoes pointing up.
Floating, floating. Floating so comfortably, so peacefully, as if on a cushion of air.p. 12
book trilogy has that “I must pad the wordcount” vibe familiar to anyone who’s done NaNoWriMo.
A bunch of businessmen, led by the rude Jack Bradley (Richard’s father, who makes a point of asking if Robin knows Richard and then informing Robin that Richard has never mentioned him), show up at the Fear mansion to ask if they can have 100 acres of the Fear woods to build an amusement park. Mr. Bradley has been inspired by a recent visit to Coney Island. It’s the depression, townspeople are out of work, and his plan is to revitalize the local economy–but not by purchasing the land to build an amusement park; they’re just outright asking Mr. Fear to give it to them.
Nicholas Fear refuses to sell, and in a dick move, Bradley and his business partners petition the town council to reclaim part of the land. He’s already out surveying the land when he informs Nicholas of this. Nicholas strides off, and Robin blunders into Meghan, only to be caught and beaten up by Richard. I feel like this exact scene of Robin trying to talk to Meghan only to be humiliated by Richard happens, like, a dozen times.
At home Robin finds his father dead on the floor. Cliffhanger! He’s just in a trance. There’s purple smoke, and then Robin’s mother appears, only she’s been dead for over twelve years, and looks…about as well as you’d expect.
Robin faints and wakes up in hospital, not remembering any of the dead-mother scene, and you might as well forget it too because it’s never mentioned again. His father tells him he’s had a nightmare, and Robin knows that isn’t true, and also knows this isn’t the first time something terrifying has happened only to be erased from his memory…but that’s never mentioned again either.
Back in the woods, Mr. Bradley is briefly and uncomfortably our POV character. He and two assistants are measuring the plot of land the town has, apparently, granted them. For the first time we learn that Bradley has offered to share the profits with Nicholas. That certainly didn’t happen in any scene in this book, but fine, I’ll take your word for it. One assistant hammers a spike into his own foot, and the other takes him to hospital, leaving Mr. Bradley alone to finish surveying a hundred acres and marking out the boundary with a rope. He starts to feel overwhelmingly itchy, claws at his skin, and bam! new chapter.
We’re in Meghan’s head again. She and Richard are meeting up in their usual spot in the Fear woods, but then they find a corpse: bare bones below the neck, but the head is intact, and it’s Mr. Bradley. Well, that was unexpected. But any horror is quickly dispersed by over-wordiness:
“Dad!” Richard shrieked, dropping to his knees. Reaching out one hand, reaching, reaching out to the head on top of the bones.
“Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!”p. 68
And now we’re at PART TWO 1935. As distinct from PART ONE 1935 which, we’re informed, happened an entire week ago.
…why did this need to be divided into two parts?
It takes two chapters for Robin to wonder if his father killed Mr. Bradley and ask him about it, and then a third chapter to get told “no” and wonder if his father is lying. Sometimes these books feel VERY long.
At this point I thought that the twist would be that Robin has been the one casting spells all along, and his father is making him forget that he’s responsible (you know, while he’s making him forget the details of his failed necromancy).
Robin talks to Meghan. Richard beats Robin up. Meghan is. briefly, angry at Richard, but then forgets all about it because he has good news: the local teenagers are going to be hired to clear stumps out of the Fear woods because the town has decided to go ahead with the amusement park in honor of Mr. Bradley.
Robin confesses his feelings to Meghan, who feels strangely drawn to him and kisses him. Uh oh.
And then it’s stump-clearing day! Yay! Meghan feels weird in “men’s clothes,” but all the other girls are dressed in work shirts and overalls too, so she relaxes. Robin shows up, and then Richard sees him talking to Meghan and attacks him with an axe.
Robin ducks and (after the world’s worst fake-out cliffhanger) Richard hits some other kid who was trying to break up the fight, and then all hell breaks loose and the teens are hacking each other to bits. This feels like it belongs to the Netflix Fear Street trilogy, actually.
Robin and Meghan escapes. He sends her running home, and he goes to his own house, where he tells his father “it worked perfectly.”
PART THREE THIS YEAR begins with Deirdre Bradley. I’d completely forgotten that the back cover is all about someone named Deirdre, and doesn’t, in fact, mention Robin or Richard or Meghan AT ALL. So here we are, two thirds through book one, and the heroine has showed up.
She and someone named Paul Malone are shoving cotton candy in each other’s faces, and I loathe people who do that (especially the “smoosh wedding cake into the bride’s face” version), so I will not be at all sorry when one or both of these people die.
Dierdre’s father is on the brink of fulfilling the family dream of opening the amusement park. He has a really special attraction planned : The Hatchet Show, in which a bunch of his teenage employees will re-enact the massacre of 1935 every night. Because nothing says “family fun” like reminding your guests that they’re standing on the site of a mass murder.
Deirdre reflects on all the difficulties her father has faced. Like, just last week a scaffold collapsed and three painters died. Wait, they DIED? And then she thinks about how there’ve been a lot of “disasters” over the years. How is this park being allowed to open?
Dierdre also pauses along the way to kiss some guy named Rob, because even though she’s dating Paul, she can’t help being attracted to Rob. Rob stares strangely at her and Paul after the Hatchet Show, and there’s some purple smoke hanging around, but nothing much happens.
But the next night, Deirdre heads to the Ferris Wheel to meet Paul (that’s his summer job: operating the Ferris Wheel) and, oops, he’s been beheaded.
Two weeks later the police still haven’t figured out what happened, and Mr. Bradley is having trouble finding workers. Ha. But Rob shows up in the office and offers to take Paul’s place running the Ferris Wheel, and introduces himself as Robin Fear– “a distant cousin” of the Fear family, he claims.
We’ve made it to the second book, The Loudest Scream. Rob is our POV character for the first chapter, and he’s comforting Dierdre after Paul Malone’s funeral by…telling her Fear Park might be cursed and maybe the amusement park should never open?
He’s also thinking, somewhat gleefully, about how stupid she is to trust him and how Paul looked when he was crushed under the Ferris Wheel.
Dierdre thinks she sees Paul! No, it’s his younger brother, Jared.
“Those are his buddies. Joey is the short one. Steve has the ponytail, and Kevin is the one with the muscles. They’re even wilder than he is.”p. 9
These four nondescript guys, plus Robin, account for all of the “plot” of this book. I can’t tell them apart because they don’t have personalities, and I actually thought there were three of them when I sat down to recap this, because none of them are interesting in any way. Jared-and-friends will spend the entire book being manipulated by Robin Fear into performing various deadly “pranks,” supposedly because Jared wants revenge for Paul’s death.
That’s it. That’s the entire book.
It’s weird how even though the pranks are deadly and gore-ridden, this book is tedious to read. I’m taking refuge in point form.
- Jared gets mad because Mr. Bradley won’t hire him to work at the park, so he throws a rock and hits a squirrel monkey.
- Robin persuades Jared-and-friends to “scare” Gunther, the Preserve Manager (this amusement park has a wildlife preserve), by sneaking up on him while he’s feeding the lions. Robin uses purple smoke magic to make Gunther jump off the ledge into the pen, where he gets eaten.
- Robin tries to bash Dierdre’s head in with a hammer, but she ducks to pet a dog caught in a fence and then three park employees show up and he loses his chance.
- Robin tries to get Dierdre to ride the Ferris Wheel with him so he can push her off but she doesn’t want to.
- Jared-and-friends sneak into the park and plant firecrackers in the house of mirrors. Robin uses purple smoke magic to cause an explosion that kills twelve people and wounds twenty others.
- Robin gives a description of Jared-and-friends to the police (I hope it was more detailed than the description Stine gave us), but meanwhile pretends he’s trying to help Jared-and-friends. His idea of “help” is to convince them to hold Dierdre hostage, and then he uses purple smoke magic to kill them, but Dierdre survives because…I have no idea why. The smoke swirls around her, but she doesn’t explode because Robin is indecisive.
This is all so stupid I can barely stay awake to list it. Luckily there’s a subplot, which is marginally more interesting.
Robin Fear has not only made himself immortal: he’s done the same to Meghan Fairwood. Every week he has to renew the spell and rub some kind of potion on his face (only his face?), and I guess the same goes for her.
All of which means we get one especially ridiculous scene wherein he’s forgotten his skincare routine and started to rot, and Dierdre doesn’t notice.
Robin quickly turned partway to Dierdre.
She stared straight ahead, frowning.
Probably still thinking about Paul, Robin decided. Or worried about Jared. It didn’t matter.
All that mattered was that she hadn’t seen his face.
But he had to get away from her now. Before she did see the decaying half of his head.
Dropping his arm from Dierdre’s shoulders, Robin came to a sudden stop. He turned away, covering the rotting half of his face with a hand.
“Rob, what is it?” Dierdre asked. “What’s wrong?”
He let out a low moan. “My head,” he mumbled. “I get these migraines sometimes. They can be pretty bad.”p. 13
Rotting head hijinks aside, the immortality subplot mostly consists of Meghan angsting about being an eternal teenager with no friends, family, or life. Robin has convinced her that they have to remain young long enough for him to break the curse his father cast, and she seems to believe this, until…
…she sees him kissing Dierdre in the park. That’s right, she doesn’t see through his extremely stupid lies or notice he’s evil, but she gets jealous when she sees him with another girl.
Robin tries to convince her that he had to fake being interested in Dierdre so that he could persuade her to persuade her father to shut down the park before anyone else gets hurt. He thinks Meghan believes him, and also thinks she doesn’t realize that he’s thoroughly bored with her and is, in fact, plotting to get rid of her.
Onward to (marginally) better things: the third book, The Last Scream. Dierdre is watching the Hatchet Show, only she knows she’s dreaming, and then she’s sitting at her desk so she thinks it couldn’t have been a dream. In the Fear Street universe no one falls asleep at their desk, I guess. She decides it’s a vision of the future, and then helpfully spends a few pages thinking about the events that have happened so far in the books.
When she heads downstairs her father coughs up a bunch of footlong worms. Okay, gross? But not actually scary.
Back at the Fear mansion, Robin is conjuring up the worms while thinking recap-y thoughts about his and Meghan’s storyline. Meghan walks in so he lies that he’s casting a protection spell, and spends a few pages reminding us that he’s sick of her. He promises her that “when the park is safe” he’ll find a way for them to grow old together, but actually he’s planning to kill her. This guy spends a LOT of time thinking about how he’s going to kill Meghan and Dierdre and yet? They ain’t dead.
Deirdre’s father confesses that he’s invested all their money, including her college fund, in the park. So they have to make it succeed, no matter how many people have died there.
Someone phones Dierdre to warn her about Robin, and later slips an old newspaper clipping under her door. The clipping is from 1935, and Robin is clearly visible in it.
Robin makes the Ferris Wheel go really fast, and then when Mr. Bradley shows up he shoves him under the Ferris Wheel. Somehow everyone believes his story about being unable to slow the wheel down (no one so much as tries to shove him away from the controls), and no one hears him threaten Mr. Bradley or sees the shoving. Everyone in this book is literally too dumb to live.
Except Mr. Bradley DOES live, so Robin kneels down and starts choking him, and no one sees this either except Meghan…who appears to believe him when he says “I’m trying to revive him.” Ha. She scolds him for trying to save everyone, and tells him his problem is he’s just too good.
Meghan gets another raspy-voiced warning phone call, this time telling her the caller is coming over to tell her about Robin in person. She leaves to go visit her father in the hospital, and sees a lanky, red-haired boy who we’re obviously supposed to think is the caller.
Robin wonders who could be behind the phone calls and the newspaper clipping, because like an idiot she told him about them. He sees her with the red-haired boy and decides the boy is someone from 1935 who somehow also survived. I have no idea how or why he reaches this conclusion. He knows someone is warning Dierdre about him, sees her talking to a guy, and instantly decides this is an unknown survivor from back in the day.
So he follows them around for a few chapters and learns the boy’s name is Gary. He tries to kill him, accidentally electrocutes a different guy riding the swings, and decides Gary must be immortal.
Meghan’s father is still in a coma, and she’s visiting him (luckily) when Robin shows up to finish killing him. Robin quickly leaves, tries to kill Gary in the parking lot, and fails at that too. Robin really really sucks at murdering specific individuals. A crowd of axe-wielding teens or a bunch of people at a fair, no problem, but give him an individual to focus on and they’re pretty safe.
He goes home and he and Meghan tear each other’s faces off, literally, but then they make up Robin repairs the hunks of flesh they tore out. Yuck, but still: not scary.
When he asks Meghan if she remembers a Gary, she claims they went to school with tall, thin, redheaded guy named Gary Barth.
Mr. Bradley: still unconscious. Meghan: now afraid to be alone with Robin, and faking that she still likes him. Robin: uses purple smoke magic to try to suffocate her with the cotton candy she’s eating, but Gary shows up and throws water on it and it dissolves.
Dierdre tells Robin that Gary is her old boyfriend, and they’ve gotten back together. Robin doesn’t believe a word of it, and thinks she’s lying so he won’t find out Gary is an immortal from 1935.
Robin finds a conveniently-top-of-stack spellbook and decides to bring back the ghosts of the dead teenagers from 1935 so he can instruct them to kill Gary. That is the least logical murder plot ever. No wonder you suck at this.
He invites Meghan to attend that night’s Hatchet Show, planning to have the ghosts kill her as well. Sure, why not, I’ve given up trying to make this make sense. He also convinces Dierdre to show up and bring Gary.
The show starts. There’s, you guessed it, a lot of purple smoke. The usual teen actors have been replaced by shambling, green, rotting zombies, who surge–slowly–into the crown and grab Robin. They take turns slowly chopping him up with their axes.
It turns out Meghan was the one warning Dierdre about Robin, and the two girls had already raised the dead teens before leaving the spellbook out to convince Robin to try to raise them….what? What the hell? Why not just raise them and have them attack him? Why is “Robin thinks he raised them from the dead” a necessary step here?
Having disposed of Robin, the dead kids get to visit the amusement park for an entire paragraph before fading into nothingness. I really feel they got shortchanged here. Also, given that they’re described as zombies rather than ghosts, it would have been hilarious to have some description of them on the rides.
Oh well. At least it’s over.