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...


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