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Recap #4: Camp Fear by Carol Ellis

Camp Fear by Carol Ellis

Camp Fear by Carol Ellis

Title: Camp Fear by Carol Ellis

Summary:

Almost everyone at Camp Silverlake is afraid of something: creepy crawlies, snakes, swimming in the lake. But there is a much deeper, darker fear shared by some of the counselors… the fear that one terrible secret they share will be discovered.

For seven years they’ve kept it hidden – ever since the summer when they were campers themselves.

The summer one camper didn’t make it home alive…

Camp Fear by Carol Ellis - Scan by Mimi

Camp Fear by Carol Ellis – Scan by Mimi

Now someone is using their secret – and their fears – to play a terrifying game of vengeance.

A game that could turn deadly.

Tagline: The past can’t hurt you…it can kill you.

Note: I will use “Bad Guy” throughout my reviews to refer to the anonymous killer/prankster/whatever. Doesn’t mean it’s a guy. Also doesn’t mean it’s ever successful at killing/pranking/whatevering.

Note2: Awesomely, this is so late because I enjoyed the book so much I couldn’t stop typing when recapping. The recap that went on forever, you could say.

Memories: This is one of my favorite Point Horror books, if not my favorite, and Carol Ellis one of my favorite Point Horror authors. I’m looking forward to reading again now, for the first time in a few years, to see how it holds up. (I reread books pretty often, and I remember enjoying this one even as an adult.) However, after Dove’s last review of Trick or Treat, I am hyper aware of the use of punctuation in the summary and tagline, and now I’m worried. That use (and abuse) could be a bad, bad sign.

***

Oh, goodie, it starts with a prologue, set years before the main action. Seven years, to be exact, the year one camper didn’t make it home alive. It’s a pretty shot chapter, and though I’m not usually a fan of prologues, particularly prologues that lead to a big time jump after, this one isn’t too bad. A bunch of campers are on the last day of a three day wilderness hike, and early one morning, six campers and one counselor wake up before the others to fetch dry firewood. They have to go pretty far into the trees, they have fun sliding on the slick, wet pine needles, and I may be fond of this book because I have such good memories of my first camp experience, complete with a three day canoe trip into Canada, and lots of fun adventures.

At the edge of deep gully, they find a body slammed into a fallen tree trunk. The body is wearing jeans, one shoe, and a royal blue t-shirt with silver letters spelling out CAMP SILVERLAKE on the back.

Everyone was still. So still, the squirrel must have decided they were harmless. It scrabbled along the trunk another foot. Then it hopped onto the back of the body and looked up at the campers again.

Someone screamed. It was thin and high- pitched at first, but then it got stronger and louder. The squirrel ran off and the birds grew silent. When the piercing scream died down, the only sound was the sighing of the wind high above in the tops of the pine trees.

On the one hand, this is kind of gorgeously dramatic. On the other hand, six ten and eleven year old campers find a body and only one screams? I don’t believe that at all.

(Camp Silverlake has to be a Crystal Lake shout-out, right?)

Chapter One moves us seven years later, and opens with italicized first person pov of the bad guy. Oh god, I’d forgotten about this part of the book. I hate little interjections from the bad guy; I know it’s supposed to give information and raise the tension, but it does the opposite for me, it just slows the story way, way down. Especially when, as here, all we get is that the bad guy remembers what happened and is pissed because the others don’t seem to remember. That will all change. Mwahahahahaha. Except there’s no real evil laugh. That might make things better.

The rest of Chapter One throws a bunch of names at us, so this is a good time to do a roll call. There are ten counselors who have arrived a week ahead of the campers to get Camp Silverlake into shape, including painting and cleaning, and getting things ready for the three-day wilderness hike. Ah, the good old hike where campers die, of course they’re still doing that thing.

Rachel Owens: Our protagonist and narrator for most of the book (except for those little bad guy asides). She’s a counselor, and has been a camper before. She spends a lot of time this chapter wondering how she’ll like the others and how they’ll like her. She’s pretty self aware though; she knows she tends to make snap judgments about people and is trying to be more open.

Jordan Hurley: A counselor, he’s a little bit of a sugar freak. Wishy-washy, he never makes up his own mind, just follows the others.

Steve Michaels: A counselor, he’s always laughing at someone. Rachel labels him a goof-off, just like all the others goof-offs she’s met, and thinks the kids will love him.

Mark James: A counselor. Rachel thinks he’s kind of cold and a little arrogant, but we don’t get any reasons why.

Paul Sidney: A counselor. Rachel thinks he’s very serious and always watching, in a way that makes her uncomfortable. Except he ends up being her romantic lead, so go romance making you uncomfortable, I guess? (This is not a good thing.)

Linda Dolan: A counselor, she has long red hair and amber-colored eyes. Probably this means she’ll have a temper and be all firey and vivacious, since red hair tends to be shorthand for that. Rachel thinks she’s outgoing and friendly and into organizing things, though Rachel is worried she’ll get too bossy.

Teresa “Terry” Montrose: Small, with dark hair and a shy smile. Probably she’s the bad guy, right? She’s sympathetic about the potential for homesick campers. Rachel thinks Terry is shy and withdrawn and not the type of person Rachel expects to be a camp counselor.

Stacey Brunswick: A counselor, blonde, and kind of a mean girl, she doesn’t want “crybaby” and “boring” campers. Rachel tells us Stacey complains a lot (about the uncomfortable cot, the smelly latrines, the poison ivy), but is also generous, sharing all sorts of food with the other counselors.

Tim and Michelle: Don’t get last names, but they’re in their twenties and are the head counselors in charge of the teenage counselors. Rachel doesn’t really give us any further input on these two.

Mr. Drummond: The caretaker, most of the teen counselors find him creepy because he’s big and tall and bald and never smiles and keeps to himself. I cannot fathom finding this creepy, because that’s pretty much my type of guy. (See: Vin Diesel.)

It’s interesting how much more detail we get from Rachel about the girls than the boys. (Well, comparatively, there’s still a lot of tell-not-show and not much development in this info dump.) Since it seems like there’s pretty much always a heterosexual romance that runs through the Point Horrors, and one that takes precedence over friendships, I am a little intrigued by this. (Of course, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t actually go anywhere.)

Rachel is spending five weeks of the summer before college at Camp Silverlake, and she already loves it. The pay’s crappy, but the scenery is gorgeous, the mountain lake, the tall trees, the trails, the scent of pine on the air – I have to admit, she’s doing a good job of selling me on Camp Silverlake. I love the Pacific Northwest for all those reasons, mountains, lakes, trees, trails, pine scent. Let’s hang out, Rachel. I think we’ll have fun.

This is Rachel’s first time at Camp Silverlake, but Stacey, Mark, Steve, Jordan, and Paul had all gone when they were kids. They all know each other, but don’t act like friends. At first Rachel assumes this is a typical camp friendship, camp is their only connection and when they go home to their separate towns, they don’t keep up (which is pretty standard for camp friends, in my experience, and I am shocked by the awesome reality of this story so far), but by the cookout that first night, has noticed a weird tension between the others, even when they’re joking around.

They get to reminiscing about what camp used to be like, as you do, and talk about how all the campers were scared of Mr. Drummond. The girls would hear a sound outside their cabins and hide from him and the boys would send someone out into the dark to see if it was him. (Because clearly girls hide and boys are brave and have adventures. *insert epic eyeroll here*) Steve says he had to do it once, but after that they always – then he stops smiling and cuts off, looking around nervously. Mark finally finishes his sentence, saying they always made sure there were fresh batteries in the flashlight, which is a pretty poor coverup there, Marky-Mark.

Rachel ends up alone when they all head to the cabins for the night (Tim and Michelle sleep at the lodge, but the teen counselors stay in the same cabins the campers would stay at when they arrive, guys in one, girls in the other, and I am now confused, because where will the teen counselors and the other older counselors sleep when the campers arrive? One or two with each cabin of campers, I’d guess, but now they’ve made it sound like there are only two cabins. Point Horror needs more accurate maps!)

After a brief exchange with Jordan about doing dumb things as kids and the creepy things around the cabins, Rachel ends up alone because she watches Jordan walk away. She likes how he looks, but not his moodiness, how he swings from cheerful to serious and back to cheerful so fast she had trouble keeping up. I have drastic mood swings like that (rapid cycling bipolar = joy and fun for everyone), and I know it can be hard for other people to deal with them. It’s also pretty damn hard for me, too.

Rachel takes time to enjoy being alone in the dark, even though she’s chilled and the stars look like cold, glittering chips of ice, and yeah, so far Ellis is doing a fantastic job of capturing the details I love most about the wilderness. Her descriptions tend to be sparse, but that’s fairly standard for Point Horror, and sparse is just as valid a writing style as ornately, thickly descriptive.

But then Rachel hears footsteps on one of that paths that led from the cabins to the lodge, heavy shuffling footsteps that snapped twigs and scattered pebbles. Too heavy and loud to be tiny Michelle or skinny Tim coming to check on the teen counselors.

Rachel hurries to her cabin, making lots of noise. Then she’s suddenly in Horror Movie 101; she trips, falls, and as she gets up, looks behind her. Don’t trip! And certainly don’t look back! The path she was on was still dark (why she feels the need to tell us this, I’m not sure, because there’s probably no magic light appearing in this story), but she can see a figure moving along it.

Not a bear figure. A person. Dun duh duuuuuuuuuuh. Cue dramatic music, end scene, end chapter.

Rachel throws herself into the cabin, startling the other girls. She tells them she got scared when she heard someone on one of the paths. The other girls think it was one of the guys playing a trick, but Rachel thinks it was Mr. Drummond. Now, Tim and Michelle just explicitly told her she had nothing to fear from him, so why in the world was she so freaked out? Judgmental!

Stacey shuts off the light and goes to the window because she wants to stare at him. Suddenly, all my good feelings for Rachel and the others are drying up. Sure enough, Mr. Drummond shows up to check on them. He has a deep, strong voice, and again, hello hot stuff. (This isn’t just an adult Wing thing either. Eighteen year old Wing liked big bald boys with deep voices too. And short, feisty girls. My tastes set young, is what I’m saying.)

Mr. Drummond is super nice, saying he was just checking on them, and apologizing for disturbing them. Stacey says he’s creepy and that they should bar the door. Damnit, Stacey, I don’t like you anymore. Linda is the voice of reason, reminding everyone that Tim vouched for Mr. Drummond, and that they wouldn’t have let him work there for fifteen years if he wasn’t.

(I’m sure that the intent here is not to make Mr. Drummond sexy like Vin Diesel, more creepy and intimidating because of the role he is playing in this story, but the description doesn’t just fit that.)

Rachel says he scared her, but admits that maybe if she’d stuck around and said hello, he might have turned out to be real nice. Stacey seals my dislike of her with this:

“Yeah, sure. A real nice, bald-headed giant.” Stacey shrugged her shoulders and flopped onto her bed. “Well, okay. But if anything happens, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

You are dead to me, Stacey. DEAD TO ME.

[Dove: Wing, are you the bad guy in this story?]

[Wing: The bad guy here has a good reason for wanting vengeance, and succeeds in the goal of scaring the others. I would be a successful villain, yes.]

This does set up some nice tension, though, because Linda asks if anything ever happened when they were there before, the implication being that maybe Stacey has a reason to be afraid of Mr. Drummond, but Stacey freaks out a little, demanding to know what she meant by it. Stacey then turns the conversation back to Rachel, because she saw Rachel and Jordan walking together and thought maybe they’d snuck off together. Not much sneaking when there’s basically no supervision of the teen counselors, but whatever.

And here is the romance plot. Ugh. Rachel might be interested in Jordan, but she’s not sure. Linda kinda likes Steve, but already has a boyfriend. Teresa has a boyfriend too. Stacey and Rachel get to have their pick of the boys, Stacey says. Are all Stacey characters written as boy crazy? (I’m reminded of Stacey McGill from the Baby-Sitters Club, of course.) Stacey says Steve and Mark are fun and Mark’s super smart, while Jordan is wishy-washy, but cute, and Paul’s good-looking, but too serious.

[Dove: Those are the only types boys come in, when you’re looking for a guy to fancy on PH. Or they’re your brother.]

[Wing: I was pleased with the lack of incest, right up until I realized that the Bad Guy pretending the letters from her brother are actually from her boyfriend might brush the line a little. However, compared to what we normally get, I’m going to say that’s not incesty at all.]

Then we get this weird and yet oddly on point exchange between Stacey and Linda:

“Oh, that’s right,” Linda said. “You know him from before. You were all happy campers together.

Stacey stared at Linda for a moment, as if she thought Linda was being sarcastic. Then she shrugged. “I didn’t know him very well,” she said. “I mean, I didn’t get to know any of them very well. They might as well be strangers.”

“And maybe they’ve changed. I know I’m not the same person I was when I was eleven,” Linda said. She stood up, yawning and stretching. “Is anybody else sleepy?”

It’s a little weird that Linda keeps bringing up the past. Red herring and she’s just awkwardly trying to get to know the others, or clue that she’s the bad guy? Knowing Point Horror, it’s the latter. (I honestly don’t remember, which is awesome.)

However, there’s a little more to this than just that sort of foreshadowing/red herring. Even without knowing that a kid died back then, it’s an interesting thought. If you haven’t been to camp after so many years (and, for that matter, why are they all back now?), how would that feel to reunite with people you knew when you were eleven? People do change, and change a lot, between those ages, but would people still look at you as the people you were when you were eleven. And, to bring it back to Point Horror, should you be punished for something you did at eleven, or even for just going along with the crowd?

Deep, man.

It’s only nine-thirty, but they are all tired, and so they go to sleep (though Stacey does complain about it being too early, of course). Rachel wakes later, and it is quiet and dark. She thinks it’s maybe two or three in the morning. She can’t hear any birds, it’s too late or too early for that, but she can hear the others breathing, and the wind in the trees (and there’s a delightful little description of how strange it feels to look up and watch the wind moving the tops of the trees, but it’s so high you can’t feel it, something I love), and then, suddenly, she hears something else. Twigs snapping, gravel rustling, steady, quiet, deliberate sounds. Walking sounds.

She thinks this noise shouldn’t belong in a secluded mountain camp in the middle of the night, but a) there is a caretaker walking around checking on things, b) maybe the older counselors are checking on things, c) there doesn’t seem to be much supervision overall, so maybe some of the others (*cough* Stacey *cough*) are out hooking up, and d) maybe someone couldn’t sleep and went for a walk. Ten seconds, four plausible explanations for why someone would walk around a secluded mountain camp in the middle of the night, and I didn’t even touch on all the reasons I’d be out walking (evil).

[Dove: Evil? Well, I suppose walking is right up there with not brushing your teeth and talking to yourself. You get down with your bad self. I am the evil twin.]

[Wing: I would tell you what I meant, but then you would be prepared the next time you go walking in the woods.]

I will give Rachel some credit, almost immediately after she gets scared, she reminds herself Mr. Drummond might be making his rounds again, and expects to see him flash his light over the cabin like he did before, but it never happens. Finally the noise is gone, and she snuggles back into her sleeping bag, falling back asleep.

Then she has a realization: Mr. Drummond walked solid, heavy, not caring how much noise he made. The footsteps she’d just heard were softer, quieter, sneaking around. Someone else had been outside the cabin.

More credit to Rachel, because that’s a good point about the differences in the footsteps.

Chapter 4 opens with, oh god, another Bad Guy POV. Haaaaaaaate, so much hate. It does not raise the tension, all it does is tell us what Rachel told us literally in the last sentence of the last chapter: someone else was walking around outside. At least it’s short. Walking, blah blah, did anyone hear, blah blah, I can hear their screams in my mind, blah, blah, I’ll hear them scream for real soon, promises promises, I need more bad guy action and less Bad Guy POV.

Rachel’s exhausted the next morning, because she tried to stay awake to hear if the footsteps came back, but eventually she fell asleep and woke to find the others gone off to the lodge for breakfast. (They did leave her a note, which is both kind of awesome and kind of ridiculous, because where else do you go at camp in the morning except breakfast at the lodge?)

Finally Rachel decides it must have been one of the guys (or all of them) planning a trick, because boys at camp like to scare the girls and hear them shriek. Because of course girls don’t get anything out of playing tricks at camp.

(We didn’t play tricks at camp, but as far as I know, neither did the boys. Instead we made up songs and had sing-offs and chant offs and with our brother cabin did awesome things. Oh, man, I need to write a book about camp, it was so much fun.)

Rachel showers in the shower cabin instead of the lodge, because the others are all at the lodge and wide awake. The water pressure is bad, the water lukewarm, and there’s a spiderweb across one corner (WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERS?), but it’s not too bad all in all, Rachel thinks. (Spiders don’t bother Rachel much. Spiders bother me a lot, though less than they did before I went to camp. However, if you try to use spiders against me I WILL DESTROY YOUR VERY SOUL.)

(I am the evil twin.)

[Dove: And yet, mention a spider and you scream like a girl in a Point Horror. Utterly evil.]

[Wing: I do not scream, I destroy and/or have it destroyed, like the evil badass I am.]

Steve teases Rachel when she shows up at the lodge, but he only just got there, too, and the others give him grief about it.

The lodge sounds delightful: it has a big main room with a fieldstone fireplace and thick beams timbering the ceiling and a wide-planked floor. The main room is used as a dining hall when camp is in session, but only two tables are set up until the campers arrive.

Rachel takes the teasing well, but does point out that she woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep. She doesn’t come right out and ask Steve if the boys are planning something, but does tease him a little about it. He doesn’t give anything away, and seems honestly confused.

Terry quietly asks Rachel about being awake, and Rachel says she’ll talk to her about it later. It’s Terry’s turn to be the potential moment of foreshadowing/red herring, because she certainly seems interesting in knowing about what Rachel was doing at night, and we already know (thanks to that horrible Bad Guy POV) that the bad guy wants to know if anyone heard the bad guy walking around.

There’s a nice moment between Rachel and Paul (ooooh, Rachel, having moments with people left, right, and center) where they talk about Mr. Drummond’s visit to the girls’ cabin (good grief, they talk about him a lot) and how Paul’s not scared of him. He starts to say that Stacey likes to – then cuts himself off. Rachel assumes he means Stacey likes to exaggerate. Paul smiles at her, and “it lit up his face, and his hazel eyes sparkled.” Rachel’s pretty taken with him after that.

(Me too, Rachel, me too. Finally, someone not auto-judging Mr. Drummond.)

They all get to work after breakfast (and of course Michelle and Tim conveniently head to town for supplies – torrid romance, anyone?), some cleaning cabins (aha, so there are more than just the two cabins), fixing boats and the dock, making sure everything’s good to go in the rainy-day building campers use during bad weather (which has a Nok-Hockey board, among other things. What the hell is a Nok-Hockey board? Dove, is this a Brit thing?). Rachel would rather be outside, even if it meant cleaning latrines, but she’s assigned to create a bulletin board in the lodge to celebrate Camp Silverlake’s twentieth anniversary.

[Dove: I know Nok-Hockey can’t be a Brit thing because I’ve seen the boards in movies/TV. It’s the tabletop hockey game, although you only have one paddle each, and you use them to fling the puck at the other guy hard enough to cause injury. Or, if you’re not evil, to score a goal.]

[Wing: Ah, maybe just different terminology then. Air hockey. And causing injury is far more fun than simply scoring a goal.]

(So this is a pretty good potential reason why the bad guy wants things to happen this year, but it still doesn’t explain why all the others came back.)

Setting up the bulletin board is surprisingly interesting, for Rachel and for the reader (at least the reader who is me). Rachel finds it boring at first, one summer looking like another, all the kids doing the same activities, suntanned and happy, but eventually she starts to notice pictures that stand out, dramatic shots of kids climbing rocks and hiking, etc. Sounds pretty awesome.

Of course, soon Rachel finds a photo of some of the others. The first one is of Mark, with a cool stare and icy blond hair even at eleven, standing a little apart from Steve, Jordan, and Stacey. Steve is laughing, Stacey is playing with her hair, and Jordan has a mysterious smile. They’re all looking at Mark. More potential foreshadowing/red herring there. Rachel adds it to the pile of photos for the bulletin board even though it’s not a great picture, because it’s fitting that all four are back as counselors (but whyyyyyyyyy), and she wants to surprise them with it. That’s actually pretty sweet (except that she’s in a Point Horror book, so it’s going to be taken very wrong). She goes looking for a picture of Paul, but instead finds a photo of another boy:

He had shaggy brown hair and a big Band-Aid on his leg. His arms were hanging down at his sides, his skinny shoulders slumped a little. He was standing alone on the dock, staring out at the lake, and Rachel could see pine trees and clouds reflected in the water. Nobody else was around. It made her smile, but it made her a little sad at the same time. She didn’t know why – the boy didn’t look sad. He was just staring at the water. Ten seconds after the picture was taken, he had probably dived in, or turned around and made a silly face. Anyway, it was a beautiful picture. Rachel decided to make it the centerpiece of the bulletin board.

Oh, Rachel, sweet again (and it does sound like a lovely picture) but as before, this is going to go over so very badly.

Rachel’s setting up the bulletin board with the pictures she’s chosen when Mr. Drummond arrives, a big man, tall and wide, with small eyes, a thick neck, and a gleaming bald head. I’m pretty sure this is supposed to make us think he’s intimidating and older and scowly and (potentially) dangerous, but all I’m getting is a Vin Diesel vibe and UNF.

[Dove: Wing, they’re aiming for this, not Vin Diesel. But that’s Kane, so UNF from Dove.]

[Wing: Authorial intent means nothing. I stand by my statement, whatever Ellis was aiming for, what she got was this, which, look, options! Vin Diesel or your beloved Rock Dwayne Johnson. Either way, UNF.]

He makes Rachel nervous (and not in the good, I want to fuck you against the wall kind of way I’d be getting, VIN DIESEL VIBE HELLO) and they exchange awkward talk about the weather. Of course, it gets worse when he notices the picture of the boy, and his hand tightens on his hammer. Oh, yes, he’s so dangerous, we get it, Ellis. NOTHING TO SEE HERE, JUST A BIG MAN LOOMING DANGEROUSLY BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT BIG MEN DO. *insert dramatic eyeroll*

Mr. Drummond relaxes when he asks, and Rachel confirms, that she’s never been to Camp Silverlake before. He tells her she couldn’t have picked a better picture, and again I’m pretty sure this is supposed to be another red herring moment, but all I’m getting is that he felt bad for the kid and what happened to him and that Mr. Drummond is awesome.

Rachel jumps to the conclusion that the kid must have made Mr. Drummond feel bad, screaming and giggling whenever he walked by, because kids could be mean that way. True, true, and also, I like that Rachel’s flaw (of jumping to conclusions) continues through the story instead of us being told she has a flaw and then it never having an impact or showing up again.

Of course, she then second guesses that, because Mr. Drummond said it was a good picture, and it wouldn’t make sense if the kid had been mean to him. Nor does it make sense that he was interested in whether she’d been to camp before.

She tries to shrug it off, and goes back to looking for a picture of Paul. I am a little frustrated. Come on, Rachel, clearly something happened years ago, why aren’t you more curious about this? Just as she finds a shot of Paul cannon-balling into the lake, she hears a piercing shriek, and the scream comes over and over and over.

Rachel wonders first if she imagined it (do you often imagine screams in the silence, Rachel? And now I want a story where she has precognition and hears screams before bad things happen), and then if it was a species of mountain bird she’s never heard of before, or a mountain lion. (Bears, mountain lions, this sounds like the most awesome camp location EVER.)

Linda, Mark, Terry, and Rachel all go running to the lake, where the screaming is located, and find Stacey in the middle of the lake, screaming every time her head bobs up. Steve and Jordan are in a rowboat near her, one oar gone, trying to get to her.

[Dove: For some reason, I read that sentence as “screaming her boobs off”, which struck me as brilliant for Stacey, so I’m going to keep reading it that way.]

Terry wants to know why they don’t jump out and swim to her, and Mark is irritated, because Stacey knows how to swim. Linda says she’s panicked, and heads toward the water (coppery hair streaming out behind her, what a thing to notice at a time like this, Rachel, I’m sensing a bit of a crush). But before she can get into the water, they see Paul in another boat, on his way to save Stacey. He reaches her before anyone else, and calms her down by talking to her until she calms and he can help her into the boat.

Stacey is furious at this point, hotly stating that she’ll kill him, she’ll just kill him, and Paul explains that Steve and Jordan asked if she wanted to out in the boat, and everything was fine until Steve grabbed her in his arms like a little kid and tossed her overboard.

Terry wants to know why she went in the boat if she was scared of water, talking about Stacey as if she wasn’t even there, and I don’t blame Stacey at all for lashing out. She went in the water because she’s not scared of boats, she yells, and then turns away, clenching her hands into fists.

Steve sort of half-ass apologizes (sorry, got carried away, blah blah I smell bullshit).

Stacey accuses Steve and Jordan of being the same as they were seven years ago, and that they haven’t grown up, they’re still doing the same type of things they did back then. Come on, Rachel, aren’t you curious about what might have happened yet?

Rachel does wonder how Stacey can be a counselor when she’s so scared of the water, but not all the counselors have to qualify in lifesaving, just a certain number, and Stacey says that she doesn’t mind swimming pools, just places where she can’t see the bottom, because she feels like she’s going to be sucked down and she forgets what she needs to do. That does sound scary.

However, Stacey is worried about getting fired, and begs the others not to tell Tim and Michelle. She claims there won’t be any problems with the campers because she’s the arts and crafts counselor and so won’t be required to go into the water with them, but I’m sorry, this just sounds like it is asking for trouble. Terrified of water + troublemaking campers = DANGER DANGER WILL ROBINSON.

Stacey, trying to get back at Steve, tells everyone he’s scared of snakes. He freaks out, just completely freaks out, and when they were kids, they were climbing rocks one day, and there was a rattlesnake up there, too, just minding its own business, and Steve freaked out so much he had to be taken back to camp by one of the counselors. Now, I like snakes, a lot, want one as a pet, even, and yet I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be okay with my campers climbing rocks where we know a rattlesnake is hanging out. Fairly poisonous, you know.

Rachel almost has the bulletin board finished by lunchtime. Tim and Michelle see it first, and approve, telling her the directors will love it. The next person to see it is Mark, and he comes in, narrowed eyes, frowning at Rachel, demanding to know if she had fun with it. Steve and the others follow behind him, and Stacey and Steve keep looking at Mark, as if waiting for a cue. Rachel doesn’t understand why they’re so upset, and says so, because all she did was put up some old pictures and they’re acting like she committed a crime. Terry’s picture isn’t even up there (BAD GUUUUUUUY?), so why is she upset? Finally Rachel offers to take the pictures down, even though she thinks they’re cute.

Once Mark relaxes, the others do too. Before anyone says anything, Linda comes bouncing in, talking about how much she loves the bulletin board, how Mark looks exactly the same and teasing Stacey about her glasses. Stacey talks about how much she hated them, and they all start teasing each other about the way they looked back then, forgetting how tense things had been a moment before.

Rachel, thankfully, doesn’t ignore this. She knows something’s wrong, not just with Jordan, but with everyone who’d been at Camp Silverlake seven years ago. Yay, Rachel, get down with your inner Nancy Drew!

Over lunch, while everyone else talks about what to do after lunch (go swimming, check out the trails, etc.), Rachel asks Terry what happened with the bulletin board. Terry says she doesn’t know, they all came in and saw it at the same time, and the others acted like the pictures might bite them, then headed for the kitchen as one, like a pack.

(That is definitely what this story needs, awesome as it is, a pack of werewolves. FAVORITE TAG TIME.)

They all end up hiking some of the trails, and Rachel brings up the rear with Paul. She asks him why he decided to come back as a counselor, because of the happy memories. He tells her he came two summers in a row and the first time was great, but the second time wasn’t as good.

Rachel asks him about the bulletin board, and Paul says he can’t tell her, because he’s not sure. She pushes, and he takes her hand and leads her over to a log, the branches above it drooping low, so it’s almost like they’re in a cave. The others don’t notice they’ve stopped, and their voices get farther and farther away. Rachel really wants to ask questions, but Paul looks like he’s working something out, so she plays with a pinecone and gives him time.

Paul starts talking about how great the camp is, even if it isn’t as modern as other camps, how much fun it was the first time, but then says something went wrong the second summer, and it was bad. It was bad, he repeats after a long time, somebody died. A boy. And Rachel put his picture in the middle of the bulletin board.

Of course she did.

Rachel feels like all the breath’s been knocked out of her. She expected to hear about a death because what else could make Paul seem so haunted and sad but the memory of a death, but it really gets to her that she’d put up the kid’s picture so that everyone saw it and remembered. Of course everyone acted weird, she thinks, they must have thought she did it on purpose. The other counselors and Mr. Drummond too.

Before Rachel can ask for more information, Jordan finds them. He says Tim and Michelle worried, thought they’d gotten lost, and it’s clear he thinks Rachel and Paul stopped to make out, which makes Rachel mad because they’re talking about death, this isn’t some fun little excursion. But then she decides she won’t ask about it again, she’ll let Paul – or anyone else – decide to talk to her, and she’ll take down the boy’s picture as soon as they get back to camp.

This recap is getting to be as long as the book! Guess wordiness happens when I really love what I’m recapping. So let’s find a way to shorten it.

+ During the hike, we find out Mark is terrified of heights, dizzy, breathless, can’t look out at the distance down. I wonder if this will come into play on this anniversary of a camper falling to his death…?

+While discussing everyone else’s fears, Linda says she’s afraid of bees, Terry says bees and bugs, and Rachel gets stage fright when people stare at her.

+ Finally Rachel tells Stacey, Linda, and Terry about hearing someone walking around the cabin and how she thinks it was one of the guys plotting pranks. Rachel suggests they play their own trick first, before the boys get around to it, and the others are definitely in, calling that night Fright Night. Gee, I wonder if something else will happen.

Chapter 9 brings us more Bad Guy POV. Apparently, Bad Guy came to camp without a plan, but now the others have shown Bad Guy exactly what to do. Gee, I wonder if this means something with all their fears?

+ Fright Night involves weird noises to make the guys run out of their cabin, dark clothes so the girls won’t be seen, and wet leaves to shove into the guys’ sleeping bags. Rachel calls it a complicated plan, but it’s pretty simple, really. Rachel’s going to stay back at the girls’ cabin to make sure the guys can’t get in. Of course, after it being her plan to start with, now she has a feeling Fright Night wouldn’t be any fun at all.

+ After the hike, Linda goes back to the cabin by herself. Eventually Rachel can’t figure out anything else to do and joins her; she finds Linda reading a letter, and teases her a little about already getting mail from her boyfriend who must have sent it before she even left. It is right here that I remember Linda’s the Bad Guy. Not sure what about this set it off, but yeah, it triggered my memory. Of course, despite deciding not to talk about it, Rachel tells Linda about the kid that died.

+ After a good dinner and fun time singing songs (which I want to talk about in depth because it reminds me of how awesome camp is), Fright Night is finally into play. The others head out, leaving Rachel alone in the cabin in the dark, waiting for the secret knock of the girls returning. The others take a long time, nearly half an hour (which isn’t actually a long time for a prank, though I know it can feel like it when you’re sitting alone in the dark), and just as Rachel is getting ready to go check on them, she hears someone outside the cabin door, but the secret knock never comes. After waiting awhile, she finally opens the door, but no one is there. No one’s in the girls’ shower cabin, where they’re supposed to meet, and no one is back at the girls’ cabin that she can tell. She’s worked herself into a real frenzy by this point and runs toward the lodge, but there she slams into Paul, who rubs her back and asks if she’s okay and what’s wrong. Paul says all the guys headed down to the lodge for cookies about the time the girls were leaving the cabin to head over to the boys’ cabin, and that he hasn’t seen any of the girls. Rachel, of course, freaks out because the girls are missing, until she finally hears laughter and voices, and finds the girls being prodded down the path by Steve, Mark, and Jordan who caught them wandering around the woods. They have a bit of a wet leaf fight, then split up and head back to their cabins. Turns out, the girls heard the guys leave their cabin, so they split up and ran. Terry ended up in the woods and is covered with pine needles and tree sap, Stacey hid in the boys’ shower cabin, and Linda ran around looking for the others, but she was too scared to call out. Riiiiiight.

+ Just as they get back to the cabin, they hear someone screaming. They take flashlights and head to the boys’ cabin; Rachel says it’s actually scarier with the flashlight, the little beam makes the dark seem darker and the shadows bigger. This is so true, and a gorgeous, creepy point. Steve is the one screaming, and unsurprisingly, there is a coiled rattlesnake in the cabin. It had been hidden inside Steve’s sleeping bag. Steve whines with his fear, steady, rhythmic whine, low-pitched at first, then higher and higher. (See? Werewolves!) It makes Rachel want to scream, too, and I can imagine it does, picture the way it would make her skin crawl. Mr. Drummond to the rescue, though! He tells the others to stay still, raises a shovel in both hands like a spear, and cuts the snake in half. Go Mr. Drummond go! As he takes the snake out of the cabin, Rachel thinks she seems him smile a small, private smile; of course a couple minutes later, she thinks the same thing about Terry. Once the snake is gone, Steve accuses Stacey of doing it to get back at him, but Tim and Michelle talk him down.

+ Bad Guy POV: Beautiful, better than I hoped, imagined that scream for long lonely years, they think it’s over but it’s just getting started OMG STOOOOP.

+ Rachel finally goes to take down the picture of the boy from the bulletin board, but it’s gone. Rachel decides someone must have taken it down so it wouldn’t continue to upset the others, but then she sees three concentric circles drawn around Steve’s face, making him the bull’s-eye of a target.

+Paul and Rachel get more time alone on another hike, and Paul tells her about the kid who died, Johnny Danard. He was teased all the time, pinecones in his sleeping bag, ants in his clothes, laughing at him for everything. Paul thinks he must have been miserable. Mark, Steve, Jordan, and Stacey were some of the worst, especially Mark and Steve. Johnny left his tent during the night on the wilderness hike, and Paul says no one knows why. Paul was among the campers who found him in the morning; he must have been running and fell into a deep gully, breaking his neck.

+ Stacey takes a nap in one of the rowboats they’ve tied to shore, but when Rachel sees it, it’s loose and floating out into the lake. It’s taking on water, too, and Stacey wakes up to that, right on the edge of panic. She stands up when she sees Rachel, but that just makes things worse, but her foot goes through a weak spot in the wood and then she’s stuck in the sinking boat. Rachel dives under water to break the wood free enough that Stacey can pull her foot back through, and Mark and Jordan come to rescue them in another boat. By the time all that is done, Rachel is exhausted, but Stacey is saved.

+ Stacey wants to call the police. She thinks someone untied the boat and left the snake in Steve’s sleeping bag. Specifically, she thinks it was Mr. Drummond, of course. Rachel and Paul defend him, though. Stacey continues to demand that someone is out to get them, Mr. Drummond, an escaped prisoner, a killer, a maniac. Here we go again, that old Crazy People Must Be Dangerous trope. Fuck you, trope. Terry points out it’s weird that whoever is doing it knows what scares them most, and Rachel realizes, without saying anything, that the only people who know that are at Camp Silverlake. She sneaks off to check on the bulletin board, and sure enough, circles are drawn around Stacey’s face, too.

+ Bad Guy POV: Stooooooop. Enough. Haven’t I been punished enough? Plus the Bad Guy isn’t all that great anyway; Bad Guy only untied the boat, didn’t know about the damage. Stacey’s not afraid of being in boats, so she probably wouldn’t have been too scared (or at least not nearly as scared) had she just been floating around. Fail, Bad Guy. Fail. So much for your precious vengeance.

+When Rachel goes to change clothes after cleaning the shower cabin, she finds the dead rattlesnake, the two pieces of its body coiled on top of her sleeping bag, the ends where it had been cut crusty with congealed blood, and in the middle of it was a butcher knife. After she buries the snake, she spends a lot of time trying to figure out who did it, but comes to no conclusions.

[Dove: I remember this scene, Mr Drummond lumbers up in as creepy a way as possible and tells her to “bury it deep”. I always wondered why? Is it a zombie snake? Is it like worms, where cutting it in half makes two snakes? Seriously, why is that so significant?]

[Wing: DRAMATIC INTENT, I suppose. And/or still trying to cast Mr. Drummond as the fake bad guy.]

+ Bad Guy POV: Tells us nothing new, except that the end is almost here.

+ Everyone heads out on yet another hike. Terry doesn’t really want to go, but she doesn’t want to stay alone at the camp either. She says maybe the ghost of Johnny is haunting the camp, seeking revenge. Despite that gloomy start, the hike goes well. They work hard clearing the path, and even laugh and compare blisters and bruises on one of their breaks. Then they split up, unable to agree which way the path continues, and suddenly they notice a storm blowing in. Right after they notice that, they hear Linda’s voice, calling for help. They run to find them, and end up at the top of a wall of rock that stretches at least thirty feet to the dry streambed below. Linda is on a rocky ledge about halfway down, and she’s holding her ankle like it’s injured. Mark’s not far from the top on another ledge, but his fear has him terrified. Jordan, who had gone with them on the other path, is missing. Steve climbs down to help Linda, and Paul climbs down to help Mark.

+ Bad Guy POV: Um, basically Bad Guy tells us it happened all by itself, Bad Guy did nothing. Oh, Bad Guy, don’t start being a failure now!

+Big storm blows up, and they’re alone at the camp because Tim and Michelle went to town to get batteries. As many trips as they’ve made to town, you’d think batteries would have been on the list at least once, but whatever, Tim and Michelle, whatever. Convenient that you’ve taken the only vehicle this particular night. While the others are preparing dinner, Linda heads out on one of the trails, and most of them go looking for her when they find out, but Terry stays behind because she’s afraid of storms. Rachel leaves the others to check the girls’ cabin, and waits for them there. A gust of wind blows a shutter loose and spreads papers and candy wrappers across the floor. Rachel goes to close the shutter and slips on the paper; of course, what she sees when she picks it up scares her so much she can’t cry out.

[Dove: I’m with you on the Tim/Michelle romance. They’ve clearly been going into town for sex, not supplies.]

+ Bad Guy POV: Waiting, waiting, after seven years, I can wait twenty more minutes, whatever, so bored.

+ Back to Rachel and the paper. It’s one of the letters Linda has been reading, but it’s not from her boyfriend, it’s from Johnny, of course. Poor unhappy Johnny. And now Rachel knows that Linda is trying to make them pay. She hurries off into the woods, trying to find the others, and catches up just in time to find Linda demanding to know the truth. Steve says that Mark and Steve made Johnny go out that night to make sure Mr. Drummond wasn’t coming, because they got him scared of Mr. Drummond. They promised they would leave him alone if he went out that night and checked. Linda has a rifle and she demands that for once Jordan, who never makes a decision but just goes along with the others, decides who dies, Mark, Steve and Stacey or Paul. But then Rachel throws the flashlight at her and ducks when the rifle swings toward her; she misses what happens next, but Paul disarms Linda, and Mark, Stacey, and Steve climb out of the gully, and Mr. Drummond comes up from behind Linda. It’s his rifle, and he says he never keeps it loaded. Linda says she just wanted to scare the others; Mr. Drummond stops and tells her that Johnny was a nice boy. For all that Linda is the Bad Guy in this situation, it’s actually pretty heartbreaking. She misses her brother, she’s hurt by how they treated him and how they’ve forgotten him, and she’s just sad. I’m pretty sure I’d go on a rampage too if I thought a bunch of punk kids had killed my brother.

+ Rachel and Paul head back to camp together, the storm over, the rain slowing down, the thunder just a low rumble in the distance. The worst of the storm was over. Subtle metaphor right there.

Final Thoughts

Things I Loved:

+ Use of the location to create a nice, tense atmosphere, but also a beautiful location.

+ Rachel, an active, self-aware hero who actually made decisions and followed things through and tried to find answers.

+ A sister wanting to avenge her baby brother.

Things I Loathed:

+ Bad Guy POV OMG AUTHORS NEVER DO THIS AGAIN!

[Dove: Uh, Wing? Sweetie, you’re doing Class Trip next. I hate to break it to you, but that’s got a whole lot of Bad Guy POVs.]

[Wing: UGH. I’m thinking Point Horror drinking game may need to happen.]

So yes, up next will be Dove doing Beach House and Wing doing Class Trip. Hope you like.

You may also be interested in reading:

I am the evil twin. I'm in a feud with R.L. Stine, who is terribly prolific. Every story needs more werewolves.

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  1. By [reading] Wednesday Reading on 11 May 2016 at 2:35 pm

    […] CAMP FEAR by Carol Ellis: Out of print, but one of the Point Horror-esque books from the 90s that I love most. Mother’s Day is a difficult time of year for me, so I went back to some easy comfort reading. A bunch of counselors are getting a summer camp ready before the campers show up, but there’s an old secret about a dead boy that haunts them. (Also, I love Point Horror snarky recap sites: CAMP FEAR at The Devil’s Elbow.) […]

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