Monday, October 31, 2016

Retrospective: Fear Street by R.L.Stine

While everyone looks back fondly on the Goosebumps books as being Stine's defining work, this series seems to have been forgotten in recent years. For me, however, these books are what got me interested in the horror genre and, even now, I find myself picking them up and rereading them every now and again.

The books all take place in a town called Shadyside (state unknown). It focuses primarily on high schoolers (naturally) and how they all have strange and terrifying encounters all tied into a simple stretch of land called Fear Street, named after one of the town's founders, Simon Fear.  If you haven't guessed, this really is just Goosebumps for high schoolers. The advantage of this is, unlike Goosebumps, these books can kill off characters. Yeah, people actually die in these stories. In Goosebumps it's only implied that people died with the twist endings but in Fear Street people can be straight up murdered. Pets too. Heaven forbid anyone have a pet in these books. They're always the first to go.

One of the fun things about the Fear Street books is that you never know what form the threat is going to take. The threats can be either realistic or supernatural in nature and sometimes it seems like it's going to be one way, then switches to another. Are you dealing with a psychotic killer? Is it some kind of ghost? Is your main character just crazy? All of these are completely possible and you have to try and figure out which it is by the end of the story. There is also a twist with each book, naturally, but unlike Goosebumps where it comes in the final chapter to throw off the happy ending, here it comes near the climax of the book, like most horror stories. As a result, these usually have a happy ending. There is a handful of books where things end on a scary note but, for the most part, things tend to wrap up nicely...except for...y'know...the people who got murdered along the way. Stine also does a really good job of making Shadyside into a community and making these books all feel like they all happen in the same place. Characters in one book are mentioned or appear in another, the events of previous books do not go ignored (most of the time), everything comes together and the sense of community in Shadyside is strong.

Now, I'm not going to lie and say everyone of these is particularly scary. There are some stinkers in there. For instance, I never got what was so scary about the Super Chiller stories. Is it just because they're longer than the other stories? I dunno. Also, some of the earlier stories, like The New Girl and Surprise Party, haven't exactly aged well. You can tell they are kind of stuck in that late 80's, early 90's space in time and feel a little dated. This gets better with time, though, with the stories making less references as they go on and making them feel a bit more immortal.

If you want to get into the real meat of these stories, the best of the best, the scariest and most brutal of the books, I highly recommend the Fear Street Saga books. These books delve into the origins of Fear Street and follow members of the Fear Family and you discover how twisted they are and how such evil can infect the town of Shadyside.  These are indeed the darkest stories in the series and having them set in the past, mostly in the late 1800's, it makes you feel like there are less options and less chances for our main characters to come out of their situations alive. And, sometimes, they don't.

If you get into these books, there's no type of scary story that you'll miss out on. If you like ghost stories, they're here. If you like murder mysteries, they're here. If you stories that delve into the minds of a psychopath, they're here. They're pretty much a breeze to get through. Give yourself one of these books and a day without distractions and you'll be done with in a few hours, easy. They have the same feel as any scary movie you can find on TV during this time of year. Teenagers, suspense, scares, brutal deaths, and even gore, these have it all. If you feel like a quick scare this Halloween but don't feel like watching a movie, pick up one of these. Just remember, if you decide to take a walk down Fear Street this Halloween, brace yourself. For the curse may follow you home, and spell out your doom.

Have you read the Fear Street books? Which was your favorite? If you haven't, do you want to now? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next time: Speaking of teenagers, I wonder what that kid from Glee has been up to?

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