Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: The New Boy

Book #20 of the Fear Street Series
Released January of 1994
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt
Okay it's not the best quality picture of the cover but I do like this cover. It has a good amount of suspense with Ross (the titular new boy) and Janie (our main heroine) playing almost a game of cat and mouse...they both know the other is there. The jean jacket and white sweater Janie is wearing are very detailed and realistic even if you can't see it here. As I have constantly said I love the German covers of the Fear Street books with their always bleak and dark covers...and this one is no exception to the rule.

A young man standing at the grave of some departed love one holding a blue scarf against a cloudy sky with the sun trying to beam through. Now the guy standing at the grave may or may not be the new boy because yes if you can believe it there are two separate blue scarves mentioned in the book and well it's a major spoiler. It's somber and melancholy, bittersweet and just priceless again so much in such simple imagery. Another country that I have discovered so far that has some great cover art is Brazil with bright yet thrilling atmosphere:
The only brightness is of course the yellow and skin tone of the main characters with little bits of brightness in the background. I like how all the main characters of the story are depicted because they do all play parts be it victims, killer and some red herrings. Going clockwise its Ross, Janie, Faith, Eve, Ian and Paul because you get some pretty good descriptions of what they look like and then throw in the artist's own interpretations. Another country that published Fear Street was Russia and even though most used the American cover art (some not even from the same book) a few had their own covers with interesting takes like the one for The New Boy:
It's nice, simple and creepy with showing the two different sides of the new boy that we do get to see in the book: brooding and good looking but with a dark side and a dark past. Of course not all covers can be good and even have some sort of subtlety and symbolism found within the story. I'm not really sure if these are alternate U.S. covers or maybe U.K. editions but the covers of these...I'm glad they stopped popping up.

A skull in a green science beaker...um...scary? Why do people think just putting skulls on something equals horror? I know that in the horror paperback age of the 80s and early 90s skulls were every where but *sighs* I don't know. We do find out in only one part of the book that Ross is good with chemistry but yeah that's it so um moving on...

Taglines: On the front we have "He was a hunk of trouble..." and on the back we have "He stole their hearts...Does he want their lives, too?" If you aren't familiar with early 90s speak a hunk was what you called a good looking guy and yes even though I have used that phrasing (hey I was eleven when this particular book came out) it really does date the series. I like the one on the back better it's more creative. The blurb will have me wanting to read the book for sure but it may be slightly full of spoilers.

The First Line: "Two weeks before the murder, Janie Simpson saw the new boy at Shadyside High for the first time."

So it's lust at first sight for Janie when she sees Ross Gabriel. He has dark hair and dark eyes, brooding features and the body of an athlete and poor Janie has no boyfriend so she is smitten. She's described as having long, red hair, blue eyes and if the illustration on the cover is any indication Janie is not that bad looking and her wardrobe is on point! Of course she has a little bit of low self esteem because both of her best friends Faith and Eve have boyfriends and are a lot more "pretty" as Janie explains in her thoughts she doesn't wear make-up and if she did she would only look like a "washed-out" version of her blond, cheerleader friend Faith. Also Eve has dramatic looks, blue-black hair and olive green eyes and did I mention they both have boyfriends?

Besides the obvious melodrama of teen romance, Janie, Eve and Faith just got done organizing a huge and very successful dance at school and have about twelve hundred dollars to show for it! Wow Shadyside seems to have the best parties and dances even if murder and paranormal activities are about in spades! So of course you know the money is going to play a back seat to this tale because well that is a lot of dough and it is established that both Eve and her boyfriend Ian are not the most financially set of their friends. Faith is described as filthy rich and it seems that her boyfriend Paul just might only be going out with because of her money even though he is a basketball player and could just get a scholarship anywhere he wants. If you couldn't see it coming a mile away, the dance money ends up stolen!
Oh no that's bad but the girls do not get in trouble as the principal was close at hand and doesn't suspect any of them as taking it even though Eve and Faith left at opportune times to take it. This is of little importance when you have a hot new guy at school as you see both Faith and Eve also had a chance to get to know Ross while taking him to the nurse's office earlier that day while shy Janie couldn't even muster up the courage to say two words to him. The other girls notice that Janie totally is into Ross and decided to make a game out of exploiting that crush by betting to see which one of the three can ask him out first. What great friends huh? They already have boyfriends and decide to use the obvious affections Janie has for Ross to get to first base with him...I knew all these girl code rules were made up to the advantage of the pretty girls and the disadvantage of their less than confident peers!
Janie has the chance to ask Ross out first because she shares chemistry class with him and her regular partner just happens to be sick...you go, Janie! Of course, she can't get up the courage fast enough and Eve ends up winning the bet which also doesn't sit well with Faith because even though she says she's joking when they talk later, she tells Janie she just might let her boyfriend Ian know his girlfriend is going out with another guy while he is working two jobs to try and save up for college. You know what I seem to think that Paul, Eve and Faith are the worst people in this book no matter how much farther we have to go.
Eve wins the bet, gets to go on the date and asks Janie if she can borrow her blue blazer to wear and is going behind her boyfriend's back? I don't care how poor you are that just is so not cool in my book! So what's my beef with Paul you might ask? Right now he just seems to be a cocky jock jerk who doesn't like Ross just because at his old school Ross was a football player who put on a the same kind of attitude Paul has now...pot calling the kettle black much, Paul? We don't know much about Ross and even though he was kind of big headed in chemistry class earlier everyone else but Janie were making jokes about taking the dance money which is missing and well it's just my honest opinion.
So the next morning after Eve's date with Ross, Ian calls Janie frantically saying that Eve never came home and that Ross is missing! Trying to go out and search for her they make a gruesome discovery of the girl's dead body and suspicion falls on Ross from pretty much everybody at school except for Janie. She just can't believe that the man of her dreams could be a killer but if not Ross then who? A complete stranger roaming about town? Could it have something to do with the stolen dance money? Is it someone from Ross' past trying to set him up or could it even be one of the people closest to Janie? Will it  take more murder to figure out the answer?
The New Boy is a pretty good read with more thrills than chills and not a lot of gore. It's a murder mystery and you might figure it out pretty quickly. In the end, the only character I like is Janie because she doesn't really do anything jerky to anyone and when she starts to think that maybe Ross did kill Eve, it's not out of spite but real fear that he could hurt her. Despite her friends having very weird morals, Janie is relatable to girls like me and out of everyone is never nasty or psychotic.
Body Count: It's the first line in the book and in the blurb on the back that there are murders in this book. Eve's murder is what sets the story in motion for suspense as the robbery of the dance money sets you up for what is to come. What other characters bite the dust? Let's just say I give this book four out of six stars with one more down to a dire fate.
The beginning of 1994 was not really a good year for movies but I believe it was an awesome year of music regardless. So it's established that there was a dance and that they actually had a live band and not just a DJ. Now they had 1,200 dollars spent on tickets and concessions but probably not some big named headliner in a small town like Shadyside. So if you'll indulge me, I have a playlist that I would have been more than happy to dance to thanks to my taste but in my case, I probably would have been crying in the corner with Janie that I didn't have a boyfriend either.
NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: It is the Halloween season so I thought perhaps you would have me wish you some Bad Dreams ? I most certainly will...


Monday, September 18, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: Sunburn

Book #19 in the Fear Street Series
Published June of 1993
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt
Might not be the best image of the cover seeing how on mine the redheaded girl lying face down in the sand and surf has a purple swimsuit not a metallic blue like this one. The colors are mostly blue, red, black and flesh tones. Obviously the girls haven't gotten much sun yet and there are two more not pictured but the redhead is Claudia and the blonde is Marla. A scene like this sort of happens in the book but a little more blood and a little less seaweed but that almost feigned look of horror yeah it's there. The other US cover I found is well:
Um yeah a skeleton with sunglasses and a fiery background? Does the skull have a tan? I find this more funny than frightening because you know it's grinning at me and the blank pits of the eye sockets are covered by shades! Nice try, cover artist but those Bill Schmidt artworks far surpass this mess. You want something actually creepy? Check out this French cover:
That face of terror, those blue/green color tones of the skin almost give an undead look and that full moon are a perfect cover to give you chills. Kudos for also depicting a scene that happens in the book! My only hang up is that it's a log and not a rope bridge but still points for effort. I always love the German covers and I found two of them (one was a reprint I believe) but can't decide which I like better:
Both of them are bleak, dreary and menacing: a pair of hands holding on for dear life upon a dreaded peak to keep from falling on the rocks below and a girl running away from something or someone terrible with foreboding clouds and an eerily calm surf. I guess I like the second one best just because it goes more with the beach theme though the first one is good but not even close to anything depicted in the book.
On the front we have "The perfect tan...or the perfect murder?" and on the back we have "You could get burned..." I guess both of them are okay and a little creative to the title of the book and might grab my attention.
The First Lines: "Claudia Walker surfaced slowly from a deep sleep. She felt something cool and damp covering her chest and legs. She could smell the salt air of the sea."
Okay I extended it past one sentence for a paragraph just to get a good description for any beginning reader. Also, some Fear Street books actually have titled chapters and well when you see the title of this one...*chuckles* We'll come back to that in a minute since that's exactly what the story does and it's not even a prologue!
Claudia receives a letter from her camp buddy Marla Drexler inviting her and the rest of their bunkmates to a reunion at her beach house in Summerhaven. Marla is stinking rich with a guest house and tennis courts along with a private stretch of beach and it sounds like a nice getaway from a messy breakup and the dreariness of Fear Street for Claudia. Besides Marla and Claudia we have Joy, an exotic looking girl with black hair and Sophie, frizzy brown hair with glasses but not described as "not pretty" so basically a makeover montage away from hottie town.
So in going back to that first line? Apparently the girls visited the beach and buried Claudia in the sand! They kind of forgot about her I guess and left her to not only fry in the sun by falling asleep but to then wake up screaming her head of in terror. I don't really blame her for that but it is kind of her fault as she did volunteer to be buried in the sand and her antihistamine for her allergies knocked her out. Don't worry about Claudia she gets free from her wet, sand prison thanks to a mysterious, tall, dark and handsome boy on the beach! He introduces himself as Daniel and helps Claudia back to Marla's mansion where he mysteriously knows the security code to let her inside. The other girls race out to meet Claudia and before she can introduce him...he's vanished like a ghost! Seems it was just a little misunderstanding as Joy and Sophie were told by Marla that Claudia had already gone back to the house...oh well mistakes happen!
Over the next couple of days, a few events happen that seem to make the week of fun and sun a little strange and unsettling. The girls go for a picnic on the beach and run into a pair of really hot deep diving hunksters named Dean and Sam...I mean Carl. Both Joy and Sophie get flirty and Claudia would too if not for her face being burned by her little "accident" the other day and having her face slathered in pink sunscreen. Marla on the other hand seems more than pissed about their arrival and tries her bitch best to get them to leave which isn't like her. The girls go to the boardwalk later and run into Carl and Dean again but Claudia goes off on her own and runs into Daniel! The two of them go to ride the Ferris Wheel and being up so high when they stop to let other people on breaks the romance as Claudia remembers just maybe why Marla is being so...weird.
I want an episode of Supernatural with Sam and Dean at the beach damn it!
The previous year at Camp Full Moon (nice subtle name huh?) the four girls were pestered all summer by Marla's sister Alison. She was a tag-a-long that was so bratty she even got under Sophie and Claudia's skin being the nice ones. When Alison threatened to tattletale if the older girls didn't let her participate in their Truth or Dare game, Marla dared her to cross a gorge at night. Sneaking out that night, Marla got caught but Claudia, Joy and Sophie met Alison at the gorge where she made it out halfway on a large log but got hit with vertigo. Trying to come back, the other girls got scared off by the counselors' flashlights and the last thing Claudia heard was a scream. The next morning, only Alison's bloody shirt was found on a jagged rock jutting out from the water.
This begins to make Joy think that Marla only invited them to get back at them for letting her sister die even if it was an accident and not directly their fault (it was Marla who dared Alison remember?) when Sophie almost gets electrocuted by the security gate and Joy finds leeches in her bed! Things come to a head when both Sophie and Claudia almost drown while water skiing but are saved by Carl and Dean. The tow rope had been cut but by whom? Is Marla really out for revenge at Alison's death or could Daniel, the boy who mysteriously vanishes be behind all of these nasty tricks?
I always enjoyed this book but you can see the ending coming from a mile away once the backstory is revealed but maybe not in the way that you think. There are some scenes that made me just as paranoid as Joy, Sophie and Claudia. Anything horror driven involving the beach does that to me and well let's just say there is a shark involved as well as a dog and a lot of detail and leave it at that. As I said you'll probably figure out the twist and of course you get a nice ending but it's more bittersweet then happy depending which characters you like. There's not really a reason to dislike any of the characters but again it's all up to your own opinion.
Body Count: Well there is a dead body or two and unfortunately, a poor Irish wolfhound meets its end in a scene that still has me traumatized to this day.
I'm beginning to think R.L. Stine doesn't like dogs?
Cameo Time!: Again another story around a main cast of characters set in a town that isn't Shadyside so no cameos the second time around.
So we aren't in Shadyside this time but there are still gems to highlight the nostalgic summer of the early 1990s! It's always nice to imagine that the teenage characters in these Fear Street books are/were just like us with their music and movies.
Not a part of the 90s but it is mentioned in the book that the girls rent the movie Bye Bye Birdie to watch. A 1963 movie musical based on a stage play that stars Dick Van Dyke, Ann-Margaret and Janet Leigh its one of my favorite films thanks to my mom!
Marla also mentions that there is a movie theater on the Boardwalk that does play some pretty good movies. Hopefully, Summerhaven plays the latest movies and doesn't wait to release them about two or three months later. If that's the case, there are a couple movies I think the girls would enjoy (I mean I love them!) from that certain summer:
As for the music that the girls could have been listening to in Marla's Mercedes or in her bedroom is unknown but I know for me the music of that summer I was listening to isn't completely forgotten because I still like them today:
NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: What's a girl to do when the terror that is high school has you facing...The New Boy?