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Recap #149: Fear Street #31: Switched by R.L. Stine

Title: Fear Street #31: Switched

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt

Tagline: A mind is a terrible thing to lose.

Summary: She traded places with a killer…

There’s a little cabin in the Fear Street woods where a girl can really lose her mind. In fact, she can change it into someone else’s. That’s what happened to Nicole and Lucy. Now Lucy is in Nicole’s body and Nicole is in Lucy’s. What a trip!

But for Nicole, what a trap! Because Lucy is using Nicole’s body to get away with murder!

[Wing: Why oh why oh why do people ever think switching bodies intentionally (or letting someone else take over their body) is a good idea in these books? Why? I’m looking at you, The Accident.]

Initial Thoughts

I’m really not sure what I can say about this book right now without spoiling things or making blatant hints about how it will end. I can’t compare it to the other entries, other than I can safely say the main character might qualify as one of the few genuinely depressed protagonists in these books.

In the meantime, enjoy this awesome commission.

(Nicole Darwin and Lucy Kramer by Jerry Gaylord – I got this from Jerry several years ago at New York Comic Con. His wife Penelope did a commission of Holly Flynn from “Fear Street: Lights Out” for me at the same show. The two are awesome artists and they’ve become semi-regulars for me. I love the lightning bolt effect Jerry carried over from the cover)

Recap

You know things aren’t going to end well when this is the very first sentence.

My name is Nicole Darwin and I’m a loser.

[Wing: That’s a pretty compelling first line. Kudos to Stine for that. It makes me want to keep reading.]

Nicole spends the first chapter explaining who she is and how miserable and unhappy she’s felt over the last few weeks even with the gorgeous spring weather. [Wing: Considering we’re now on 10th winter, I hate you, Nicole.] She even burst into tears after ripping a fingernail while trying to get dressed, which she thinks is a sign of how messed up she is. But honey, I got so upset over my inability to properly put dinner on my plate I threw the damn thing on the floor so I sympathize. [Wing: Depression (and other mental illness) makes those little things way too big to carry. I feel for you both.]

Nicole goes on talking about how she gets teased by other girls simply for putting rose and lilac colored polish on her nails. Her boyfriend barely knows what’s on her mind and can be self-centered even if he’s nice. Her mother never stops with the “helpful hints” about what she should be doing, like “don’t look so depressed” or “why not cut your hair shorter?” Mr. and Mrs. Darwin are constantly in Nicole’s face, watching her every move and refusing her the same basic freedoms her friends are allowed. Nicole hates having to sit through dinner with them because they never have anything interesting to talk about and it’s excruciating.

Nicole’s felt so depressed she didn’t even finish her big biology report on time. She did all the research but didn’t actually put it together in her paper like she was supposed to. Her teacher’s disappointed she doesn’t even have a decent excuse and gives her until Monday to hand in her assignment, which is pretty generous. Nicole’s still upset because she had plans to go dancing with her boyfriend on Saturday, but good news for her because David’s decided to break up with her. His reason? “It’s all too much.” Nicole wants more than a vague answer, but David doesn’t clarify what “too much” means before he bolts. [Wing: Damn, that plays hardcore into younger!Wing’s fears that the people in her life (outside of her family) would do exactly that, because she was too much. (This lasted well into my bipolar diagnosis, but eventually I got that fear under control. The bipolar, only partially.]

Nicole can’t hold it in any further and runs out of the school ready to burst into tears. Two teachers see how upset she is and ask what happened, but she tells them she’s fine and runs past them. Outside in the lovely spring afternoon, Nicole can’t see any of her friends who’re probably off at their jobs or hanging out. Nicole expects her mom is going to get on her case for getting home late from school, and she once more can’t stand how she’s got no life to live. The only thing that comforts Nicole is when her best friend Lucy Kramer emerges from the school after her. Nicole and Lucy have been best friends since pre-school, and Nicole has always felt comfortable enough to tell Lucy anything that’s going on in her life. Nicole sobs into Lucy’s arms as she tells her what an awful day she’s had and how it feels as though her life has fallen apart. Lucy completely understands and shares with Nicole how her life’s been shit lately as well. But don’t fret because Lucy’s got an idea that’ll make everything better.

They can switch bodies.

[Wing: NO WHY THAT IS NEVER A GOOD IDEA. If you want to switch bodies to make your life better, CHOOSE A STRANGER OH MY GOD.]

Lucy leads Nicole into the Fear Street woods, past the burnt remains of the Fear Street Mansion (where Simon Fear and his wife Angelica died a century past because he was a fucking idiot). Lucy wonders why anyone hasn’t torn down the rest of the mansion, as Nicole asks if Lucy’s serious about her proposed solution. Nicole explains to us Lucy’s got problems of her own; her parents are constantly arguing with each other and barely noticed Lucy existed. With the way Nicole’s parents have smothered her, she kinda looks forward to having parents who’d ignore her. And Lucy does have Kent Borden, a smart and funny guy, for her boyfriend. Nicole’s sometimes wondered what it’d be like to go out with Kent because of how well he treats Lucy. As Nicole thinks about the idea of switching bodies with her best friend and getting to go out with her boyfriend, Nicole admits the thought is a pretty strange and sick one. If only life didn’t suck so much for her.

Lucy’s brought Nicole to a portion of the woods where they’ve come across a long stone wall. Lucy reveals to Nicole her grandfather (who’d heard about it from the Fear Street Cemetery’s caretaker) told her about this place, home to the Changing Wall. If two people climbed on top of the wall and jumped down to the other side while holding hands, they’d be able to switch bodies. Apparently, condemned prisoners used this technique to hijack the bodies of innocent strangers so they’d be executed instead. [Wing: Now that is a reason to switch bodies, and a good plan to go with it. I mean, not a good thing to do, but, you know, logical and thought out.]

Lucy hoists herself up on top of the wall, but Nicole is hesitant about doing this. Nicole hears the long, mournful wailing of a bird, which is strange because no one’s ever heard a single animal living in the Fear Street woods. [Wing: Is this true? I need to reread the books in series order, I think, because I feel like that doesn’t hold consistent throughout the books. Maybe RetRead Podcast knows? They’re working their way through the books in order, and I could have sworn that they’ve mentioned characters hearing dogs barking.] Nicole wonders if the wailing is supposed to be a warning when Lucy asks for Nicole’s hand. Nicole gets hoisted up on top of the wall alongside her best friend; the two girls look down at the other side when Lucy asks if Nicole is ready. Nicole can’t believe she’s doing this when the girls jump…!

And when Nicole gets her bearing on the other side, she turns around to discover she’s looking at HERSELF. Nicole’s hands go up to her shoulder and she feels Lucy’s blond ponytail. They’ve done it. They’ve switched bodies! The two girls are so overjoyed their plan has worked they burst into laughing relief, holding one another and dancing and spinning around in a circle. Nicole’s crying tears of relief as she realizes she’s now Lucy Kramer. As the two calm down, they discuss battle strategy and decide to head back to their new homes. Nicole warns Lucy she might’ve gotten the short end of the stick on this one since David dumped her and her parents have been assholes. Lucy reminds Nicole this arrangement was her idea; she knew what she was getting. And hey, maybe she can win David back.

The two exit the woods, and as Nicole heads for Lucy’s house she reminds herself she needs to act sweet and serious, the way Lucy would, instead of sarcastic and cynical. Nicole enters the Kramer household, calling out to her “parents” she’s home, when she finds Mr. and Mrs. Kramer in the living room.

Dead.

[Wing: Well that escalated quickly.]

Nicole is horrified at the sight of the slashed up, mutilated bodies of Lucy’s parents sprawled on the floor. Nicole’s so shocked she can only repeat Lucy’s name over and over again, trying to figure out how to tell her best friend her parents have been murdered. Nicole leaves the Kramer house determined to find Lucy, stopping only to vomit on the driveway out of revulsion towards what she’s found. Nicole doesn’t think she can straight out tell Lucy what happened. Nicole thinks she can soften the blow by telling Lucy there was an accident. Unfortunately, no one is home at the Darwin house, not even Nicole’s parents. The doors are locked and Nicole can’t see anyone inside. Nicole refuses to tell the Shadyside police what happened before telling Lucy, thinking it would devastate her even more. And besides, the police would never believe Nicole inhabits Lucy Kramer’s body.

The only person she thinks can help her is Kent, so she heads to his house a couple of blocks away. The first thing she asks Kent when he opens the door is for help. Luckily for Nicole, Kent’s parents are in Waynesbridge at the moment so he’s alone. Nicole tells Kent all about Lucy’s idea to switch bodies with the Changing Wall, how they planned to live each other’s live for a bit. Kent seems to actually believe Nicole when he refers to her by her real name, but Nicole doesn’t stop as she gets to the part about finding the dead bodies of Lucy’s parents and how she can’t find Lucy. Nicole sobs as Kent promises he’s going to help her figure this out. Kent leaves to get Nicole a glass of water, and she begins to calm down… just in time to overhear Kent in the next room, calling the police to get Nicole.

Kent returns acting totally innocent, but Nicole is outraged by this betrayal and escapes from his house. Kent tries to follow after her but she manages to get away. Wandering around the neighborhood, Nicole asks herself why Kent would do this, but figures he was only humoring her and thinks she really is Lucy. Now scared of being found by the police and unable to return to her house Nicole goes back to the Kramer house. Nicole avoids the living room and plans to shower and change clothes before trying to find Lucy again. Nicole swears she’ll do everything to help Lucy like Lucy has always helped her. Problem is, when Nicole goes into Lucy’s bedroom she discovers all of Lucy’s clothes are gone. What she does find, however, is a bloody kitchen knife stabbed into the top of Lucy’s desk.

Nicole is terrified and tries to convince herself the knife isn’t real, but sure enough it’s there and it’s got something stuck at the bottom of the blade. Nicole removes the knife and reads a bloody piece of paper.

I HAD TO KILL THEM

I COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE

LUCY K.

Suddenly things start to make sense to Nicole. She realizes Lucy has set her up for the murder of her parents, switching bodies with Nicole and leaving the evidence behind that will have her blamed for Mr. and Mrs. Kramer’s deaths. Nicole doesn’t understand how her best friend could’ve done something so cold. [Wing: She told you exactly what she was doing when she told you the story about the wall, Nicole! Get it together.] Nicole briefly considers finding Lucy and threatening her with the knife to make her switch back, but even with what Lucy’s done Nicole could never harm her best friend.

Well, Nicole better do something because outside the Kramer house are two gray-suited police detectives. Nicole briefly panics but is determined not to be caught with the incriminating evidence and tries to sneak out the back. Unfortunately, by the time she reaches the back gate, the detectives have seen her and are coming after Nicole. They order her to stop, but Nicole ignores them and fears they discovered the dead bodies in the living room. Unfortunately, she’s now blocked in by the tall white fence in the Kramer backyard, a fence she helped Lucy paint one summer long ago. Nicole tries to hoist herself over the fence but it’s too big. Luckily, she remembers how Mr. Kramer installed a trick board that opens like a little door. It was built for Nicole and Lucy, as a little secret doorway for them. Nicole finds the right board just in time, dashing into an alley and through someone’s backyard. Nicole spots a little playhouse and hides inside from the policemen. Nicole tries her hardest to act like she’s invisible hoping the police won’t find her when she overhears them declare they’ll search in a different yard.

Nicole doesn’t leave the playhouse until her body stops trembling and she’s absolutely sure the detectives aren’t in the vicinity. To search for Lucy, Nicole heads back to Shadyside High; she’d left her car in the parking lot. Nicole uses the spare key hidden in a magnetic case in the fender and starts driving around trying to find her stolen body. Nicole wonders if Lucy was able to fool Mr. and Mrs. Darwin as she drives around their usual hangouts. Nicole’s search brings her to the Division Street Mall where she locates Lucy with two other girls, Margie Bendell and Hannah Franks, in the back of Pete’s Pizza. Nicole is outraged seeing Lucy having fun and laughing around with Margie and Hannah despite the torment she’s brought down on Nicole. Nicole marches into the restaurant and confronts the girls. Margie and Hannah are all “Hey Nicole” and Nicole thinks Lucy’s told them about the body swap. But why? Nicole can’t figure out what Lucy had to gain from telling these two when Margie and Hannah realize something’s bothering her. Nicole tells them she has to speak to Lucy, but they tell her she can’t because Lucy’s not here. Nicole realizes Lucy snuck out of the booth and gets angry thinking the girls let Lucy escape. She asks them how they could’ve possibly known she’s really Nicole if they weren’t talking to Lucy just now.

Nicole leaves to keep searching for Lucy when Hannah and Margie try to stop her. Nicole dashes out of the pizza place and begins hunting through the rest of the mall, even though it’s late and the stores are beginning to close. Nicole tries Clothes Call, [Wing: THAT NAME.] one of Lucy’s favorite places to shop, but she’s not there. Defeated, Nicole heads back to her car and thinks she’s found Lucy, but it’s not. Nicole is confronted by Hannah, who was waiting by Nicole’s car for her and calls out for Margie. Nicole doesn’t get why the two followed her and tries to explain Lucy switched bodies with her, but the two keep asking her to calm down. Nicole breaks free of Hannah’s grip and gets into her car. The girls beg Nicole to stop but she drives away, amazed at how frightened they are and starting to wonder if Lucy’s been threatening them to help her escape.

Nicole sees no other option but to try Kent again, reviewing what she knows so far. She knows Lucy got rid of all her clothes which means she planned to run away, and the only person she would tell besides Nicole is Kent. Nicole’s starting to believe the reason Kent believed she’s really Nicole is because he’s been helping Lucy too, but doesn’t know if Lucy got to Kent before or after she murdered her parents. Nicole figures she’ll make Kent tell her where Lucy is; she’ll try to scare him or act mad to get the info she needs. Nicole sneaks in through Kent’s kitchen and can hear music from his living room. Grabbing a knife from the counter, Nicole’s prepared to scare the shit out of Kent if it means finding Lucy. Only it turns out Kent’s not very talkative right now.

Kent’s body lay on its back on the tile floor, arms and legs outstretched.

His head had been sliced off.

Puddles of bright red blood had streamed from the neck.

The head stood upright a few feet from the body, propped against the leather couch.

The mouth was frozen open in a wide O of horror. The blue eyes stared lifelessly up at me.

[Wing: WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY.]

Nicole can barely stand at the sight of Kent’s decapitated body, the head staring lifelessly at her. Nicole slumps to the floor, the knife in her hand, wondering if Lucy killed him too when she looks up to see the policemen watching her through the living room window. Now she’s been caught with a body AND a possible murder weapon! Nicole slowly backs away before one of the policemen enters the house ordering “Nicole” not to move. Nicole screams Lucy is the one they’re looking for, not her. She tries to escape through the kitchen, but a detective’s already in there. Nicole flees into Kent’s basement, forced to crawl up through the abandoned coal chute the house once used back when the furnace ran on coal. Nicole’s got no option but to head back to the Changing Wall in an effort to escape from the detectives.

Back in the Fear Street woods, Nicole huddles up against the stone wall and tries to understand what’s happened to Lucy. They were always the best of friends, even during those times when Lucy could seem cold and snobby. Nicole overlooked those moments because she knew there was more to Lucy, and being a friend means you focus on their positive qualities instead of the negative. Sure the Kramers weren’t too happy about her dating Kent, but only because they didn’t want things getting too serious between them. Everyone argues with their parents about something. So why would Lucy murder her parents and Kent if that’s what they argued about? Nicole remembers when Lucy was in that car accident and she was by Lucy’s side every day in the hospital, supporting Lucy even when it seemed hopeless. Nicole has always been there for Lucy, so what happened?

Exhausted, cold, and hungry, Nicole briefly entertains a desperate notion after discovering she’s still got her wallet on her. Inside is a bad photo of Lucy, a rare photo where Lucy did not look perfect and beautiful. Only Nicole was allowed to keep such a photo. Nicole wonders if maybe this would be enough to switch back, simply holding a photo of Lucy. Sadly, jumping off the wall again does nothing. Defeated, Nicole slumps back down on the ground and passes out.

Nicole awakens the next morning feeling like complete shit, and even discovers a black beetle had crawled into her hair while she slept. Focused on continuing her search for Lucy, Nicole leaves the woods and plans to sneak into her house to freshen up. On the way, she picks up someone’s newspaper and is confused when she sees the deaths of the Kramers and Kent haven’t been mentioned at all. Nicole figures at the very least Kent’s murder would’ve been discussed since she was found with the body, but nothing.

Nicole returns to her house just in time to see her parents driving off. Hidden behind a tree, Nicole notices her mom and dad look extremely worried about something, but hasn’t got the time to help them. They’re such boring, down-to-Earth people they’d never believe she isn’t Lucy. Nicole is able to get inside her house no problem and is able to shower and change clothes. Nicole almost cries being in her room again, musing how unhappy she’d been and now she’s desperate to at least sleep in her bed. Nicole finds all her cash, makes a quick meal of uncooked pop tarts and orange juice, and heads to school to find Margie and Hannah.

At Shadyside High, Nicole has some brief trouble because the policemen are checking out the entrance, no doubt searching for her. Nicole tries to get away again, this time on the local bus, but she doesn’t have any spare change and is forced to exit. Accepting she can’t run from these guys forever if she’s going to find Lucy, Nicole hides and waits for the detectives to leave, at which point she enters the school. Now she plans to wait until 4th-period gym, which she shares with Margie, by hiding in a closet in the locker room. She’ll wait for Margie to enter the locker and when she gets a chance, Nicole will pull her aside and force her to reveal where Lucy’s hiding.

Nicole spends hours waiting in the closet when she finally hears Margie and several other girls. Nicole panics when she hears Margie cry out, and peeks through the door to see Margie’s on the floor. Nicole blends in with the crowd to see what happened, and thankfully it was only a leg cramp. As the other girls leave, Nicole reveals herself and startles Margie. Nicole orders Margie to tell her where Lucy is so she can get her body back. Margie tries to get Nicole to calm down so they can talk, but Nicole’s too pissed off and repeats her orders. Nicole thinks Margie knows about the body swap but asks Margie if she knows Lucy murdered her parents and boyfriend? Nicole even offers to bring Margie to the Changing Wall to show her she’s being truthful. Margie responds she’ll go with Nicole if Nicole promises to go back to her parents. Nicole screams she can’t go back until she switches bodies again, and to do that she needs Lucy. Margie finally admits she DOES know where Lucy is when Nicole hears someone entering the room.

Nicole hides back in the closet, annoyed because she was finally getting somewhere. Only now she’s scared Margie’s selling her out and fears what she might be telling the other person. Good news for Nicole on that part, because now Margie’s dead too. Nicole finds Margie’s body sprawled on the floor, her head and cheek bashed in, an eye swollen shut. Horrified that Lucy has murdered again, Nicole runs out of the locker room and out of the school. As she runs, it dawns upon Nicole that Kent and Margie were both killed after she talked to them. Which means Lucy’s been following her this whole time, keeping tabs on her. Nicole cries out for Lucy to show herself, but she doesn’t.

Nicole wanders around town for the rest of the day, not knowing where to go or who to talk to. She sleeps in the woods again by the Changing Wall, but when she wakes up Nicole has a revelation. There’s one person she knows that Lucy would’ve gone to, someone they both knew and cared about. Lucy’s grandma, Carla, who lives on a farm in the nearby town of Conklin. Whenever things were really bad with her parents, Lucy went to spend time with Grandma Carla. After a while, even Nicole began to see the old woman as her grandmother since she spent so many summers with Lucy on the farm. Nicole is sure Lucy would’ve gone to Grandma Carla, and uses the rest of her money to buy a bus ticket to Conklin. She’s possessed by a premonition that she’ll find Lucy at the farm. [Wing: But weren’t you just convinced that Lucy has been following you and killing people, Nicole? Why would she be out at the farm if she’s doing that?]

One long bus ride later, Nicole has arrived into Conklin and Grandma Carla’s farm. Nicole is prepared to pretend she’s Lucy since she figures Lucy is pretending to be Nicole. Carla is genuinely surprised and delighted to see her and invites Nicole inside. The farmhouse smells of roast chicken and Nicole figures Carla was sitting down to eat, most likely with Lucy. Nicole asks Carla where “Nicole” is, stopping the old woman in her tracks. Carla asks Nicole to sit down and if she’s eaten, offering to make her a big bowl of soup in the kitchen. As Nicole sits down, she sees Carla go into the kitchen, but then gets up and realizes the old woman has called someone on the phone.

Nicole bursts into the kitchen, startling Carla and feeling betrayed. Carla claims she’s called someone for help, but Nicole screams she trusted Carla and doesn’t understand why she’s done this. Nicole continues to badger Carla about whether or not she’s seen Nicole, grabbing her and demanding answers, until the old woman finally admits she doesn’t know where Nicole is. Nicole thinks she’s lying and runs out of the farmhouse. Nicole searches for a place to hide as she hears car doors slamming, thinking the police are nearby. They’d find her in the cornfield, and she can’t hide in the old, disused well near the house. Nicole’s one chance to escape capture is to hide in the straw in Carla’s barn. And here’s where things finally start to look up for Nicole, because she DOES find Lucy.

Or rather, she’s found her body, because this girl claims her name is Nancy. Nicole listens to the new girl in her body explaining Lucy forced her to switch at the Changing Wall and has been trying to find her as well. She doesn’t even know who Nicole is.

PSYCH!

It really is Lucy, and she laughs her ass off that Nicole is so gullible she almost believed her “Nancy” sob story. Lucy gets up and starts to run, Nicole chasing after her even as she hears someone else in the barn. By the time Nicole gets outside, Lucy’s vanished again. Someone grabs Nicole from behind and she believes it’s one of the officers come to arrest her. But it’s the last person she could’ve expected. It’s Kent! Head firmly attached to his neck, Kent informs Nicole he’s come for her. Nicole, shocked Kent is alive, argues she still has to find Lucy. Lucy’s voice is suddenly heard coming from the well and she’s calling for Nicole’s help. Lucy tried to hide in the well, but now her grasp is slipping on the rim and she’s going to fall! Nicole tries to run to help, but Kent grabs her and orders Nicole to let Lucy drown. Nicole is horrified, not just because it would be her body that dies, but Lucy is still her best friend. Nicole tries to get to the well in time to help Lucy, who’s now hanging by one hand. Nicole tries to help Lucy get out of the well, but her grip isn’t strong enough and Lucy slips. Nicole hears Lucy scream all the way down into the dark, fetid waters. It’s so dark in the well Nicole can’t even see Lucy, but she can hear her cries for help. Nicole pleads with Lucy to swim up towards her voice, but soon she hears total silence in the well.

Overcome with pure despair, Nicole sobs into Kent’s arms that Lucy is dead and she couldn’t help her. And now Nicole’s trapped in Lucy’s body. Kent tries to help Nicole back to Grandma Carla’s house when surprise! Lucy steps out from behind a bush, soaking wet and covered in filth! Nicole sinks to her knees in relief and confusion, asking how Lucy got out of the well. Lucy ignores her and reaches toward Kent with both hands. Lucy then rips off his head at the neck, asking to switch.

“Let’s switch!” Lucy’s shrill scream rose into the night air like a wailing siren. “Let’s switch! Come on-let’s switch!”

I kept my eyes closed. I never wanted to open them again.

“Let’s switch!” Lucy shrieked. “Come on, Nicole! You switch heads with Kent – and then I’ll switch with you!”

Nicole shuts her eyes and tries to block out Lucy’s horrible screaming, but when she opens them, Lucy’s gone. In her place, Nicole finds not only her parents and Grandma Carla and the police, but the Kramers and Kent. Lucy’s parents and boyfriend are all alive, and Nicole’s parents run to her and envelop her in a tear-stained hug. Nicole doesn’t understand what’s happening, doesn’t register as Mrs. Darwin apologizes to Carla for Nicole bothering her. Mrs. Darwin thought Nicole was finally doing better, had finally accepted Lucy’s been dead for three years because it’s been months since her last nightmare, until she had her relapse a few days ago. Ever since Lucy died in that car accident three years ago, Nicole hasn’t comprehended Lucy’s dead and has suffered from horrible nightmares and hallucinations. She’s often believed she was talking to Lucy, or imagined she IS Lucy, but these vision always turn horrible and violent (as in the visions are violent, not Nicole). Mrs. Darwin thanks Kent for having called her and Nicole’s dad when Nicole showed up at his house saying she swapped bodies with Lucy. For the past three days they’ve even had these hospital workers, whom Nicole thought were the police, looking for her. Nicole is just overjoyed to know no one’s been killed and doesn’t struggle when the hospital workers take her away.

Six months later, Nicole’s recovering in a mental hospital and for the first time in forever is feeling really good. The doctors think she’s making progress and hopes to be released in time for graduation.

The best part is that Lucy’s visited her every single day.

Final Thoughts

So yeah, ableism and “Crazy Means Dangerous” condensed into one entire book about ableism and “Crazy Means Dangerous.” Even though Nicole is the only one who uses the word “Crazy.” Stine made it so obvious Nicole hadn’t really switched bodies; what, were we truly supposed to believe everyone was just humoring her by calling her Nicole even though she thought she was in Lucy’s body? If anything, this might’ve been a prototype for “Fear Hall” since I believe Stine handled the hallucination angle better in that book than in here. Or maybe the horror aspect was supposed to come out of us knowing there was something truly wrong with Nicole’s situation, just not in the way she was seeing things.

I’d read this book once and thought it was “Eh,” read it again and loved it, and then read it a third time for this recap and realized it was kind of rushed. It’s all plot about Nicole trying to find Lucy again and everything is from her point of view. This is probably even sadder than the “Fear Hall” books because while no one died, it’s clear Nicole is not getting better, the doctors are incompetent, and it’s only a matter of time before her hallucinations turn violent again.

Her parents fucking piss me off even more than Hope Mathis’ mom did. You thought she was getting better? Fuck you, lady, Nicole cried over a torn nail and she didn’t even start her biology project which would’ve made or broken her ability to graduate on time, and you think she’s improving? Her parents have supposedly been breathing down her neck 24/7 and never realized she was getting worse until all this happened. I wonder if the fact these visions keep turning violent and Nicole has hallucinated Lucy dying all over again comes from a part of her subconscious that knows Lucy’s dead for real and is trying to make the rest of her understand Lucy’s gone?

Of course, I feel bad not just for Nicole but for the Kramers as well. Nicole thinks she’s suffering, but these two lost their daughter and they’ve probably had a hard time moving on when Lucy’s best friend keeps disrupting their lives thinking she IS Lucy. I know it sounds mean to Nicole, but for their sake, I hope Lucy’s parents move out of Shadyside to rebuild their lives.

[Wing: That is a really good point about the Kramers. It must hurt worse than ever every time their daughter’s best friend turns up claiming to be Lucy, because they’re having to relive things over and over. I’m honestly surprised they haven’t left Shadyside.

I’m not sure that I think this is ableism, personally. There’s no actual violence, there’s her internalized horror and however she’s trying to process it, which negates that crazy = dangerous thing for me. And it’s an interesting look at how the people around you want you to get better, want to fix you, but don’t understand that maybe there is no fixing, maybe there is no doing better. They believe so hard in healing that they can’t see what’s actually happening, which is heartbreaking and understandable. I did not rage on this one the way I did Fear Hall. Plus, I think Stine’s massive foreshadowing of what actually happened is intentional. I’m not sure we as the reader are supposed to fully believe that they switched bodies (though I think this would have worked better as a non-Fear Street book, really), but are going along with Nicole through the horrors she’s experiencing. Book is super rushed, though.]

Jude on April’s recaps

I have to explain to you guys something about this month and why I’m doing my recaps in this manner.

On April 1st 2016, 10:55 AM, my best friend, Patricia J. Thompson, died. She was a writer and retired professor of women’s studies. She considered herself a Hestian Feminist and had constructed a Hestian/Hermean system on public/private thinking. She was the daughter of famed Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, but spent decades fighting to have her place as his daughter officially recognized.

Despite the massive gap between our ages, Pat was one of the closet friends I’ve ever had in my life. I met her my first semester at Lehman College when I enrolled in her Family Relationships course. We instantly became friends because I was the only person in her class who knew who the Greek goddess Hestia was. Pat became my friend during a very horrible period in my life and her classroom gave me a space to take about my problems at home, plus several other traumatic situations I never really talked about before I entered therapy. I enjoyed hanging out with her before and after classes, just talking about anything. When I took her last course before she retired, Women In Antiquity, she repeatedly praised my final paper on Wonder Woman as one of the best things she ever read. Pat was one of the only people I’ve felt comfortable being alone with and I’d visit her at her apartment in Manhattan, although with my anxiety I didn’t hang out for that long. Still, she cared about me so much she considered me an adopted grandson and frequently called me such. But, really, she felt like more of a mother to me than my birth mother has been.

You guys think I’m putting her on a pedestal because she was my friend, but I’m not. She was truly one of the most loving, kindest, caring people I’ve known. Even my horrible parents and my awful sibling liked her. Hell, my sibling cried after meeting her, exclaiming Pat had treated them so kindly. It still makes me cry thinking about it. Pat was always supportive of who I was and she made me feel like the things I had to say were worth saying and believing. She believed in me as a student, writer, and human being. The only time she ever got mad at me was after my suicide attempt in 2013. She… meant so much to me.

I, I can’t, you guys can’t comprehend what it was like for me to learn she died. It felt like such a horrible April Fool’s joke when I got to the hospital and learned her time of death, which was around the same time I’d left the house to visit her. April Fool’s, she was already dead by the time I left to see her! That month was a nightmare for me. I’d scared more than a few people into thinking I was going to kill myself even though I had no intention to. It wouldn’t have made a difference. Thinking about her death and how she died still makes me sad and angry I just want to, to, UGGGGH it’s so frustrating for me! And knowing she’s dead while so many other people out there keep making the world a horrible place I wanna scream and break stuff and, damn it!

So, look, it’s been two years since she died and I’m not over it. I thought maybe I could do some exploring on my feelings through the posts with this month and the books I’m reviewing. I’m not gonna pretend I’m magically gonna be over Pat’s death come May, but it’s better than doing nothing but stewing in my regrets.

Jude’s analysis

So why did I choose this book for my ongoing analysis of my feelings about Pat’s death? Obviously, because of how Nicole was handling, or rather, how she refused to handle, her best friend’s death, and the way her parents reacted towards it.

The rest of April 2016 was a horrible time for me, yet it wasn’t until two weeks after Pat died that I’d become extremely upset and enraged by the unfairness of the situation. I wrote harsh, cruel things on Tumblr, ranting about how I wanted to die and make people suffer. A world without Patricia J. Thompson is not a world worth living in. A world where Patricia Thompson is dead and I’m still alive is a world that needs to burn. The night before she died I’d even prayed to God for me to die so Pat could live. In my darker moments, I still wish that.

Two Wednesdays after Pat’s death, my father picked me up from work and brought me home like he always does. Well, an ill-thought out comment on my part led to my complete breakdown a few moments later. I told my dad it wouldn’t matter what happened to me and because he followed me into the house demanding to know what I meant, I told him. To me, Pat was gone and I’m never going to see her again, because I’m such an awful, useless person I’m going to Hell no matter what I do. Pat’s off wherever she is and I’m never seeing her or anyone else I care about again. I was sobbing, huddled on the staircase screaming at my father and grandfather not to touch me, that I wasn’t able to do anything for Pat before she died and I haven’t been able to help any of my loved ones. I was filled with such self-loathing I truly wanted to die even though I didn’t want to commit suicide. I swear I have never felt as badly as I did in that moment.

My dad forced me to spend the night at his place, obviously scared I would try to kill myself. My mother kept trying to call my therapist and sent me text messages insisting I would “Get the help I need,” but all she was hoping to do was get my therapist to write a prescription so I’d be nice and doped up. I don’t mean to disparage people who take medication, and granted my mother was also dealing with her boyfriend’s cancer, but that’s always been her usual method to try and fix things. She searches for a quick fix so she doesn’t have to deal with things like this, which in my case meant getting me put on meds. Which still pisses me off to think about remembering I’d still been trying to do what I could to help her deal with her boyfriend’s impending death, and this was her response. I don’t really remember what else happened that night except I had a phone session with my doctor. I’m not sure how I dealt with the rest of the month besides attending Pat’s wake.

Nicole is essentially the person I could possibly become, or at least, the person I fear becoming. I don’t know how that sounds but it’s true. Her parents could barely comprehend how badly she was doing which, I guess I was somewhat luckier in that regard, but in three years since Lucy died her life has basically stopped. I don’t know where I’m going to be at this point next year, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to get over Pat’s death.

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2 Comments

  1. Jude Deluca
    Posted 24 April 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Honestly Wing I was worried you were going to hate this book because of its take on mental illness. I apologize for making assumptions about it being ableist because, if I can level with you guys, thinking about ableism and the problematic portrayals of mental health is still a new area for me because I never really thought about it in regards to this genre. I mean, sure, I figured Stine’s portrayal of split personality cases wasn’t accurate, but my ability to properly recognize the other problematic aspects is still developing.

    If anything, working for this group is helping in that regard.

    Also, I think Nicole assuming Lucy would be at her grandmother’s could be chalked up to how exhausted and stressed she was at the time. She’s been sleeping in the woods and she’s barely eaten in three days, I’m surprised she didn’t have a fever by that point.

    • Wing
      Posted 30 April 2018 at 2:54 am | Permalink

      No worries! I didn’t think you made assumptions. I love discussion and debate about these stories and how they fit into our culture; what works for one person may not work for another.

      That’s a good point RE Nicole’s assumption.

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