Where evil twins and friends come together to lovingly snark Point Horror and other teen genre fiction
 

Recap #106: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Title: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Summary: Welcome to Fear Street

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself…and see if its dark terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Quiet — hospital!

Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own. Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all. Laurie has seen too much — and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie. What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway — a prescription for horror!

[Wing: Oh god, that summary. That last line. I am dying. This is terrible.]

Tagline: In this hospital people are dying — to get out.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, and thank god I wrote this recap before I read that summary, or might have never read it at all. The book is a billion times better than that summary.

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Recap #103: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

book cover with window looking into white girl in blue bathing suit drowning in waterTitle: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

Summary: Katie Sullivan has everything – nice roommate, cool friends, and a great guy. Until the day she and her boyfriend are out on the river and their canoe overturns. She survives. He doesn’t. Katie can’t stop thinking about the accident, weighing the evidence, wondering if it was her fault. But someone else has already reached a decision about Katie. The verdict is guilty. The punishment is death.

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Thankfully, we’re back once again to a Nightmare Hall book actually written by Diane Hoh. Though none of the books so far have been as good as I remember, once again, I have distant memories of liking this one back when I first read it, especially the climax. [Wing: I love the window book covers for Nightmare Hall, but this one cracks me up. Is she drowning inside a room at Nightmare Hall? How is that even possible? If an actual pool, why does the pool have a window? Oh, cover designers. So delightfully ridiculous.]

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Recap #100: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

cover of Halloween Night II by R L Stine, has three figures dressed in skeleton outfits and black cloaks in front of a Halloween night backgroundTitle: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

Summary: Brenda isn’t really looking forward to Halloween this year. After all, it was only twelve months age that her best friend tried to kill her at a Halloween party and she’d rather not be reminded of that. [Wing: I’d rather not be reminded of that recap either.]

But her friends persuade her to take part in a Halloween revenge prank, guaranteed to scare the victim to death. And soon Brenda realises that she is never going to leave the terror of Halloween night behind…..

Tagline: Trick, treats and…death

Initial Thoughts

Hey guys, how’ve you been? I’m good thank you, a little under the weather-sore throat, headachy that sort of thing but nothing too serious just a typical change of weather cold. Speaking of, the weather has been great here, perfect Autumn weather very mild and breezy, some rain, the type were you can throw on a lovely warm jumper and go for a walk around the Common drinking a hot chocolate or snuggle up in bed with a good book and light rain tapping on the window. Work? Yeah work is going well thanks, except for the ridiculous amounts of stairs I have to walk up and down but at least my ass and legs will get toned-Amirite?

Huh? What’s that? Am I mindlessly rambling on about my daily schedule in order to avoid recapping this book? Now why would you suggest such a thing!? Questioning my work ethic and dedication? Well, yes you’re right I’m doing exactly that. This. Book. Gah. I only vaguely remembered this book before I read it. I don’t know what I was expecting but in retrospect I should have reread Wing’s awesome review of Halloween Night BEFORE I read Halloween Night 2: The EXACT Same Story But Suckier. Everyone in this book is insufferable and Stine has never met a cliff hanger he didn’t want to take behind a shed and get pregnant. That being said, lets all work together and power through. [Wing: NO. I refuse. I did my time. (Seriously, I’m grateful that Tuesday took this one on, because I could not do a repeat of the first book.)]

[Wing: Happy 100 recaps! You, our readers and podcast listeners, are the best part of recapping. You’re smart and funny and engaged, and we appreciate you so much! I’m thrilled we’ve made it this far, and I look forward to 100 more.]

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Recap #99: Fear Street: Halloween Party by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “Niki Meyer Is Stunning And Brave”

Title: Fear Street – Halloween Party

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt

Tagline: There is going to be an uninvited guest at this Halloween party on Fear Street…

Summary: WELCOME TO FEAR STREET

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself… and see if its dark terror and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Invitation To Terror

The invitation arrived in a black-boarded envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fiittng for an all-night Halloween party on Fear Street. But Terry and his girlfriend Niki wondered why they had been invited. They barely knew Justine Cameron, the mysterious transfer student who was throwing the party.

The party was well under way when the lights went out. That’s to be expected at a spooky Halloween party. But when the lights came back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

For Terry and Niki the trick-or-treating has turned to terror. To their horror, they realize that someone at the costume party is dressed to kill!

[Wing: That is a very dramatic blurb.]

Initial Thoughts

This is by far one of the best Fear Street books, if not THE best. The cover artwork alone is stunning (despite floating pumpkin skulls aren’t actually involved in the book itself), and even with my love of holiday-themed horror, I’ve read enough reviews to indicate this is an Ensemble Darkhorse in the original series. The atmosphere and locations are vivid, and its heroine, Niki, is genuinely one of the best main characters Stine’s created in a sea of unlikable whiny, shallow, self-centered, hypocritical assholes. And not just because she’s “Special.” I even got my copy, which thankfully had the original artwork and not the dull reprint version, autographed by R.L. Stine. Seriously, this book is so good I never want it adapted into a movie or TV episode because I don’t think any other format could do it appropriate justice.

[Wing: I’m thrilled for this recap. All the Halloween recaps this year. All of them. Such a great time.]

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Recap #83: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Reader Beware– You’re In For Ten More Scares!

Can Jeff convince his parents there’s a live mummy in the basement? Will Adam escape from a monstrous flying gargoyle? Is Brian’s boarding school turning kids into robots? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to make you shiver!

[Wing: Stine is making a lot of guarantees with these books!]

Initial Thoughts

I’m not really sure what to say the theme for this collection is. The cover would have you think it’s summer related, but not really. It feels like some sort of middle ground between the first collection and the fifth, which was also the strangest. I think I can safely say you don’t really know what to expect from some of these titles, and they certainly are a bit more imaginative.

One story was adapted for the French novella line, and three of them got turned into TV episodes (one was a two-parter!). I think my favorite would have to be the last because it’s got a twist ending that’s definitely a lot of fun and won’t have you screaming in frustration.

Oh, and apparently this book came with a pair of actual boxers! [Wing: … what.]

For these subtitles I’ll be doing riffs on stereotypical anime and manga episode titles, like from Sailor Moon.

Oh and, Wing, hon, you’re really not gonna like the second story. [Wing: Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.]

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Recap #77: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

cover of The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson, has a figure in a black coat with its hood up carrying an ax, with the title and author information printed over itTitle: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

Summary: A SET OF keys jangled in my hand. The keys were my lifeline. One of them would be what saved the day. I held onto them as tightly as I could.

I was being followed. The man running behind me was my stepdad, Morris Heyward. He was holding an axe.

AFTER THE DEATHS of his best friend and stepdad, seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas can’t escape the memories of that night…the screams…the blood…the axe.

Now, Blake suffers from social anxiety and making friends at his new home seems impossible. With his therapist’s suggestion, Blake joins a social media site called The Reading Buddy. It is supposed to be a way for him to slowly step back into social relationships, and it doesn’t take long for him to become online friends with someone known as Charley17.

Recovery seems to be within reach, but once the school year starts, three local teens quickly pull Blake into their own circle, and soon it appears that Charley17 doesn’t want to share his new friend with anybody else.

The Reading Buddy is a Southern-set throwback to the teen horror and thriller novels from the 1990s and will keep you guessing until the very end!

[Wing: Oh dear. We’re kicking this off with yet another summary that is not so much with the accuracy, and is trying too hard to be Point Horror-esque for a book that really isn’t.]

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Disclosure: A copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. Or a lovingly snarky recap that may not be quite so loving, depending on how the story goes. Congratulations on book release day, Gibson!

This is the first time an author has reached out to us to have their book recapped, and I am both charmed and delighted by the opportunity and a little surprised. The author and publisher call it a book that will appeal to readers of retro teen horror from the 90s, which, you know, is pretty much our jam around here. I love a good southern horror, and I have high hopes for this one. I do worry that the marketing push to compare it to Point Horror and similar books is going to be a detriment; I’m going in with some solid expectations because I obviously know very well what teen horror and thrillers were like in the 90s. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. The summary and the marketing plan have driven home that this book will be that, and if it’s not, well … we’ll see.

Spoiler-Free Review

Because this is a new book, and you may want to read it without the spoilers of the recap, I’m going to start with a brief, spoiler-free review.

In short, I loved the first ¾ of the book, but found the ending badly paced, with whiplash characterisation. The book itself is very slowly paced, which is something I actually love, particularly in horror stories where the writing establishes the characters very well. That doesn’t not really happen here, but I still enjoyed the slow pace for a long time, until it finally because too slow, with too little happening. Spent a great deal of time adoring the main character and at least one of the side characters. Mostly handles mental health very well, until it veers sharply off track.

I think it’s a fun, entertaining read, but it makes a lot of style choices that I think you’ll either love or loathe, with very little in between. Like I said, it is slow, and at times almost seems to be leaning heavily into southern Gothic, but it never quite makes it. In the end, I think that’s my biggest problem with the book (except for the moment where Wing Goes Boom finally over mental illness); it starts to be a lot of things, and starts to have a lot of things, like strong characters and great relationships, but it never quite gets there. There’s a lot of build up for very little payoff (and I don’t mean in the plot, necessarily, but more in the writing style itself); it feels very surface level at times, when it was leading into a deep, profound setting and character-driven story.

I wanted more from it, and though I really did enjoy reading it, I’m also left unsatisfied and wanting more depth, more description, more characterization, more transitions — just more.

Per the marketing campaign from the publisher, it is being targeted to readers of retro teen horror — so, you know, us — and I can see why. It doesn’t quite feel the same as Point Horror or Fear Street or Nightmare Hall or Christopher Pike, etc. In some ways, it’s better. In some ways, though, it feels even more surface-level than they do. It certainly did invoke a ton of nostalgia in me, but not a lot related to the 80s and 90s teen horror. Mostly, small towns and high school football and marching band and werewolves. (You’ll see.)

I liked it. I’m glad I read it. I’ll reread it. But I am left not quite satisfied, and since the early part of the book was great enough it set my expectations high, that is even more frustrating than if it had been bad from the beginning.

Let’s do this.

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Recap #64: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Title: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Summary: Hayley is going to have the best year ever. After years of careful planning, she’s ready to serve as student council president AND editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Ivy League, here she comes!

However, just before student council elections, someone creates a fake facebook profile for Hayley and starts posting inappropriate photos and incriminating updates. It must be the work of a highly skilled Photoshopper, but the attention to detail is scary. The embarrassing photos of “Hayley” in her bathing suit reveal a birthmark on her back–a birth mark Hayley has never shown in public. . .

The situation escalates until Hayley’s mother reveals some shocking information. Hayley isn’t an only child: She has a twin sister who was adopted by a different family. And that’s not all. Soon, Hayley discovers that her long-lost sister isn’t just playing a prank–she’s plotting to take over Hayley’s life . . . by any means necessary. [Wing: Note: NO STUDENT COUNCIL ELECTIONS. No fucking birthmark. And if I’d read the summary before the book, it would have given away the big twist. What the fuck, publisher?]

Tagline: Some friend requests refuse to be ignored… [Wing: Note: NO FUCKING FRIEND REQUESTS ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO HAYLEY.]

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

The dedication reads: To the NYC crew: For always keeping me on the right side of sanity

Unsurprisingly, I am not looking forward to reading this book. I know I’ve read it before (and it’s the book that made Dove quit all new Point Horror until we recapped them), but I don’t remember a damn thing about it except that Dove hates it. I’m hoping for lots of Dove Goes Boom moments to get me through.

[Dove: Yep, I haven’t read this from beginning to end. I actually refused to finish it because it was so awful, so… I guess my feelings about this pointless waste of my time can be inferred from that. Also this will mean my comments are largely useless. I’m actually very much looking forward to Wing’s recap of this, because it means I’ll get to find out exactly how it happens without having to revisit the book itself.]

[Wing: YOU DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING READ IT THIS TIME?! DO YOU KNOW THE TERRIBLE BOOKS I’VE READ SO I CAN PROPERLY COMMENT ON YOUR RECAPS?! YOU LEFT ME TO DEAL WITH THIS ALONE?! WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, DOVE.]

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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Recap #54: The Boyfriend by R.L. Stine

The Boyfriend by R. L. Stine

The Boyfriend by R. L. Stine

Title: The Boyfriend by R.L. Stine

Summary: You lie, you die

Dex is madly in love with Joanna. He would do anything for her… but she doesn’t care. To her, boys are there to be used and thrown away. After Joanna breaks up with Dex, he does something no other guy has done to her before.

He dies.

Joanna tries to pretend she’s sorry. But this time she’s gone too far.

Tagline: Her boyfriend’s back . . . from the grave.

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

Oh, god, we’re back to Stine already? I thought I was taking a break from our feud! Ah, well, I guess an evil twin’s work is never truly done. That summary, at least, is an interesting twist on how “boyfriend’s back from the grave” stories usually go. Is that a sliver of hope I feel? I think it is! I’m sure it will be burned to the ground within the first few words sentences chapters.

I’d never read this before, and now that I have, I wish I hadn’t.

[Dove: This was the second PH I ever bought, once again, a promise of supernatural, and once again it’s a fucking miracle I bought any more books in this series. I hate this book. Seriously hate. There are more offensive books out there, but for some reason, this is the one I hate the most.]

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Recap #47: Halloween Night by R. L. Stine

Halloween Night I by R. L. Stine

Halloween Night I by R. L. Stine

Title: Halloween Night by R. L. Stine

Summary: Brenda hates her cousin, Halley, and she’s not the only one. Halley shouldn’t go around stealing other people boyfriends, it could get her into trouble.

Big trouble…

Brenda is determined to have her revenge – the perfect finale to her Halloween party She’s going to stop Halley’s evil games once and for all, and give her just what she deserves… Come party time, Halley’s in for a nasty surprise…

But does Brenda really hate Halley that much? Surely she only having a little Halloween fun… isn’t she?

Tagline: This party is a killer…

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

I’m pretty sure I read this back in the 90s because the US cover looks familiar (and is much better than the UK cover), but I have absolutely no memory of the characters or what happens, so it will be like I’m reading it anew. I love Halloween, I love horror, and I feud with R. L. Stine. What could possibly go wrong?

Happy Halloween, guys!

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Recap #39: The Phantom by Barbara Steiner

The Phantom by Barbara Steiner

The Phantom by Barbara Steiner

Title: The Phantom by Barbara Steiner

Summary: When Reggie Westlake turns up at the school rally marking the start of the football season, the crowd goes wild. He’s the greatest player Stony Bay High School ever had. Quarterback and Captain, Reggie led the winning team for two years running, raising the school spirit higher than ever before. No one could forget his black and gold jersey bearing the number nine. He’ll always be the school hero, the one everyone loves. There’s just one thing… Reggie’s dead.

Tagline: He’s got the killer instinct

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, but I love high school football and ghost stories, so … who am I kidding, I’m pretty sure this is going to be terrible. I guess we’ll see.

(Note from the future: Actually, I quite enjoyed it, until that ending.)

[Dove: I had never read this before either. Hadn’t even heard of it until I bought a bundle of PH books and it was in there. I wish I could go back to that time.]

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