Sunday, November 5, 2017

Focusing On Fear Street: The Thrill Club

So before I go into the book review like normal, I believe we should get the tiny white elephant out of the closest and out of the way. For those who do not know the book I will be talking about The Thrill Club was not written by R.L. Stine. In the early 90s even though Fear Street was big Goosebumps came along and kind of overthrew it in popularity and then of course R.L. also had the books he wrote for the Point Horror series, the Goosebumps TV series and other projects. It's kind of hard to have a new Fear Street book every month so this was the first instance where a ghostwriter was employed.

Now don't feel cheated because ghostwriters are nothing new...anyone like V.C. Andrews? Well the original author she passed away in 1986 with only the first two books of her Casteel series written so because of Flowers In The Attic being so big her estate hired author Andrew Neiderman to complete the series. So every book "written by V.C. Andrews" since 1988 was written by a ghostwriter who still continued to write novels under his own name.

When a franchise is so huge and the author you love sadly passes it is nice to honor them and continue the hard work but when you are still alive and swamped by ideas I see it as being nice to give aspiring writers a chance to help you out. The Thrill Club was written by author Tom Perotta and if you don't know who he is his biggest claim to fame is writing the book Election which was made into a film starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. If you have never heard of either the book or the film, I recommend the film as it's one of my faves!

Until I learned this news, I thought it was a good story and the first one I can actually remember having more supernatural kind of elements instead of just being a murder mystery which was awesome. Also for future reference, most of the books in the Fear Street Sagas and all of the Ghost of Fear Street books are in fact ghostwritten but don't despair for R.L. is of course writing new Goosebumps and Fear Street books at this time. So if you still wish to see what this book has to offer let's get on with the show...


Book #24 in the Fear Street Series
Published May of 1994
Written by Tom Perotta
Cover Art by Bill Schmidt

Well there is a ghost bride mentioned, the cemetery in the Fear Street Woods and we do have blonde Talia Blanton and African-American Shandel Carter as characters in the book. Very 1990s clothing with the hat and the green vest over a white tee on Shandel and I believe I had a vest very much like Talia's sporting. For the longest time I didn't know what she was wearing under the vest but know I realize it's a maroon shirtdress. Everytime I see this cover I can only think one thing: Melissa Joan Hart and one of the Mowry sisters being haunted by the ghost bride of Stacey I the only one who thinks that? Any way, there are a few German covers from omnibus collections and reprints that do actually fit the story:

All of them are bleak and all of them have corresponding items and events described in the book which is something I always like and the focus is not on any people but an object where I can think of nothing scarier than that one detail. Be it a lone sneaker in a cemetery, a dummy and a noose in a dank basement or a tribal mask and a glinting's uber creepy! As I always I enjoy the covers from Brazil:

The cemetery is bleak but the candles and photo of the members of the titular club bring some color. I like how all of the important characters are present and pretty much fit their descriptions from the book. Blonde Talia, her boyfriend Seth, Shandel, Nessa, Rudy with his glasses looking like Harry Potter and his girlfriend Maura. Now I found two interesting Russian covers but one sort of looks like it has nothing to do with the story while the other I swear looks like it could be the cover from some sort of supernatural romance. You be the judge I guess:

Personally I like the romance one better. I mean we do have a blonde girl as our lead character, creepy things happening at night and well yes a noose does play a part in the story. The first one I don't know it's suspenseful but not plot related a gun is not present anywhere in the narrative.

Taglines: On the front we have "They're dying to join." and on the back we have "Thrills and Chills..." I don't find the back one interesting at all but at least the front one has effort put into it as cheesy as it may be. If you read the blurb on the back, it will be enough to grab your attention and make you want to pick up the book.

Now there is no prologue but I guess you could call the first chapter kind of a fake out so I am going to do this just slightly different as there are no spoilers doing this.

The First Line of Chapter 1: "Shandel Carter shivered and glanced back quickly over her shoulder."

So Shandel is having to cut through Fear Street near the cemetery because she and bestie Nessa Troy got into a stupid argument...over ghosts. Nessa says she saw a ghost bride once and Shandel is like yeah right so Nessa tells her to leave if she can't believe her. What do you know? Shandel gets her throat slit by an unseen figure with a feminine voice...guess she should have listened to Nessa.

The First Line of Chapter 2: "Talia Blanton finished reading the story and gazed around the room with her blue eyes."

Turns out it was all just another story written by Shadyside's greatest writer...or is it? Talia usually has no problem writing but lately she has had severe writer's block and her boyfriend Seth has been writing her last couple of stories including tonight's presentation to The Thrill Club. Talia never usually puts her friends as the characters in her stories but since it's been Seth he says it makes the stories creepier...too bad Shandel is not amused at having her throat slit even in a tale of fiction. She and Talia get into a little bit of a heated argument and well I guess also trying to stab Shandel with a trick knife isn't going to help is it? There is also a lot of drama going on in this club because well you see Seth and Maura use to go out until Seth asked Talia for a date and she said yes so there is some tension there because even though Maura is with Rudy now she still flirts with Seth.

Not only has Seth been writing Talia's stories he has also been helping her with her math homework and apparently Maura thinks Talia treats Seth like a slave but apparently he likes to be treated like a loyal puppy dog. Talia's blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful so who wouldn't want that over a chubby ginger with freckles I mean this is Teen World right? Maybe Seth likes to feel needed seeing as how weeks ago his father just dropped dead at his work desk and it's messed with Seth pretty bad. His dad was an anthropologist into tribes from New Guinea and other countries so Seth has been going through his notes and tapes and finds one labeled TRANSFER TAPE with some real weird and creepy chanting on it that he makes Talia listen to.

It gets to the point where Talia thinks her ears are going to bleed as she feels weak and dizzy and nauseous from it and Seth shuts it off. Well it seems like Seth may be taking Dad's death even worse than Talia believed and she does feel guilty for almost maybe being tired of Seth and his needy tendencies. It also doesn't help that Seth doesn't defend her when Maura and the others begin to suspect the stories aren't hers and when a teacher asks her outright if she is cheating on her Math homework. These teen troubles are nothing compared to the terror about to come when Shandel is found dead with her throat slashed just like in the story and Talia finds a bloody knife in her drawer and bloodstains on her sweatshirt!

Talia has no idea what is going on especially when the police tell her that she called Shandel's mom and confessed to killing her daughter and Nessa says Talia also called to tell her that she can start dating Seth! Is Talia going crazy she says she didn't do either of those things? Everyone begins to look at her with much more suspicion that Talia can't help but kiss Rudy, the only one not treating her different or pulling away, but someone catches them! Who was it and is this person responsible for all of Talia's terror? It seems like horror is spilling over into reality when another member, the victim of another story, of the Thrill Club is found dead and this time Talia can't erase the evidence against her. Who is the villain rewriting Talia's story into one of horror and can she change the ending into a happy one?

As stated above, I really enjoy this story. Yes it has murder like most other Fear Street books but the supernatural element presented around the story's climax is refreshing and quite plausible: there is a lot about other cultures and the paranormal we don't understand. It's almost easy to pick out the antagonist of the story from the beginning but a few hints of another character being the villain are alluded to and maybe even a person not in the foreground. Soon that possibility is scrubbed and the more paranormal/fantasy element is introduced and you are like yeah I can see that.

The characters are good but I don't really get invested into them much. It's not that I don't care whether they live or die but only one death really doesn't seem deserved and I'm not sure if you can call the main character Talia completely innocent for some of the things she did. I'm also not really sure if the antagonist was justified in their motive as well but it doesn't mean the book isn't great either. I would recommend this Fear Street book it's engaging and all kinds of messed up (but in a good way!)

Body Count: Of course Shandel and as for the other character to die, I'll leave that one a secret. You'll probably realize who it is fairly early but it is so grotesque and sad :( It's one of the saddest deaths I have read in a Fear Street book...


I wouldn't say the music around this time was bad but nothing really pops out at me to talk about and the tone of the story doesn't really deserve anything to cheerful. Movies around this time are kind of another matter and one of them is of course the greatest films of cinema:

NEXT TIME, NEXT BLOG: A story that began One Evil Summer...

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