Recap #311: Fear Street #1: The New Girl by R. L. Stine
Title: Fear Street #1: The New Girl
Summary: The new girl is as pale as a ghost, blond, and eerily beautiful — and she seems to need him as much as he wants her. Cory Brooks hungers for Anna Corwin’s kisses, drowns in her light blue eyes. He can’t get her out of his mind. He has been losing sleep, ditching his friends…and everyone has noticed.
Then as suddenly as she came to Shadyside High, Anna disappears. To find a cure for his obsession, Cory must go to Anna’s house on Fear Street — no matter what the consequences.
Anna may be the love of his life…but finding out her secret might mean his death.
Tagline: He had to learn her secret — or die trying!
It’s back to school time! Dove, Raven, and I finally graduated to Sweet Valley High over at sweetvalley.online. I’m pulling double duty attending Shadyside High School and moving to Fear Street!
I know I’ve read this before a long time ago, and more recently listened to multiple podcast episodes about it, but I don’t remember much about it at all, including that it opens with a Muffin Man prologue, so that’ll be fun!
I’ve missed my feud with Stine quite a bit, and I’m glad to be back to his books.
I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?
[Jude: In my experience, probably yeah, but then I personally regret everything. Like Wing I haven’t read this book since at least high school, and my only memories are of the beginning and the end.]
Anna is crumpled on the ground, dark and messy with blood. She was the bright and shiny diamond, Little Miss Perfect, and where does that leave our Muffin Man prologue POV? That doesn’t matter, though, because now Anna is not just perfect, she’s perfectly dead. Muffin Man pushed her and now that their mother has come home, Muffin Man starts crying and talking about a terrible accident that killed Anna.
Over to Cory Brooks for the actual first chapter. He’s awed by the titular new girl, who he first notices while he’s standing on his head in the lunchroom. His best friend David Metcalf dared him that he couldn’t do it. They are allegedly daredevils on the Shadyside High gymnastics team, but a headstand doesn’t sound all that daredevil worthy. [Jude: Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios are ashamed right now.]
Lots of people cheer and tease him until a teacher shows up, worried about all the noise. Cory doesn’t care; all his attention has turned to the beautiful new girl. She’s so lovely he thinks she’s a figment of all his blood rushing to his head.
Not that head, you dirty minded people.
He’s so distracted watching her leave the room that he falls over into his own tray of food, getting spaghetti and tomato sauce in his hair.
They don’t get into trouble, the teacher who came to check on him is amused, but Cory can’t stop thinking about the girl he saw. No one else remembers seeing her.
He steals some food from his friends and wanders out of the cafeteria, too caught up in his thoughts of the “hauntingly beautiful” girl to care about anything going on around him, including someone throwing a milk carton at him. [Jude: Hauntingly beautiful to match the pseudo gothic romance cover. God they don’t make ’em like they used to, Wing.]
Cory can’t decide if he imagined the new girl or not, but when he remembers he’s covered in his lunch, he decides it’s better if he doesn’t run into her just yet because he looks a mess. [Jude: You ARE a mess, Cory.] While he’s waffling over what to do about it, Lisa Blume comes to her locker next to his and teases him about being neater when they were childhood friends. They live next door to each other in North Hills, they’ve played together since they were toddlers, and their two families are really like one big family.
She lends him a t-shirt; he’s aghast that she wants him to wear a girl’s shirt, but it’s just a t-shirt from the Gap, it’s unisex. Oh for shirts that aren’t gendered. [Jude: The gender binary is the real Fear Street curse.] [Wing: That’s no lie.] She also tells him to wash the food out of his hair in the drinking fountain.
We switch to Lisa’s POV with no warning when he calls her a pal; she hates that he calls her a pal.
Back over to Cory after Lisa runs off to class. Now that he’s alone, he sees the new girl again, hurrying away. There’s something strange about her; her feet don’t make a sound as she runs, and she’s so light it seems like she’s floating.
You’re trying real hard to make us thing ghost, Stine, but this early in Fear Street and coming off of so many of your Point Horror, etc., books, I don’t really trust you to go full supernatural just yet.
He calls out to her, but when she looks at him, he thinks he sees fear in her eyes and she says something that he can’t hear but thinks might be “Please don’t.”
She vanishes into a classroom before he can decide what to do next.
Cory has a shit gymnastics practice three days later, but so did David, who sprained his ankle. At least Cory isn’t injured.
That doesn’t matter to Cory, though, because he’s distracted by the new girl. That’s why he had a bad practice, too. He hasn’t seen her since that afternoon but he can’t stop thinking about her. He even dreamed about her the first night, that he was in the lunch room, she started kissing him but her kisses were so soft that he couldn’t feel them. When he tried to touch her, his hand went right through her.
He wishes the dream was nice, exciting, she was kissing him after all, but it was eerie and cold. He doesn’t understand why he couldn’t feel her kisses or touch her.
Umm, Cory, my dude, it was a dream. Dreams can be weird. [Jude: The dreams that AREN’T weird are the dreams you need to be worried about.]
Stine, I absolutely do not believe he’d be this close to thinking about her as a ghost, even if he hasn’t managed to see her for three days, even if no one Cory asks knows who she is or remembers ever seeing her. [Jude: In fairness, Wing, this is Shadyside. It’d probably be weird if that WASN’T his first reaction. 80% of the kids in this town are either serial killers, monsters, or adults pretending to be kids.]
He’s imagining the new girl floating across the hallway when Lisa tries to talk to him, but he has no interest in joking around with her. No matter what she says, he grumps at her, though he does agree that she can come over even though he doesn’t actually want company.
Winter has finally hit Shadyside, and the walk home is freezing and quiet at first. Lisa hints that since neither of them have plans for the weekend, they should maybe, you know, do something together. She sounds tense; he blames it on the cold wind.
Cory, you are an idiot.
[Jude: He’s just not into you.]
He asks her if she’s seen his mystery girl, and though she’s incredibly disappointed (and Cory misses it yet again), she tells him that the new girl’s name is Anna Corwin, and she never says anything in the physics class they share, plus she’s absent a lot.
How long has she been at this school, exactly? It didn’t seem like long enough to have piled on noticeable absences, but okay.
Lisa accuses him and David of making a bet to see who can get a date with Anna first because they’re always picking on the new girls. God, Cory and David suck. Lisa, find a new crush and a new friend.
The only other thing Lisa knows about Anna is this: She lives on Fear Street.
Since this is the very first Fear Street book, let’s have a bit of description straight from Stine himself:
Fear Street, a narrow street that wound past the town cemetery and through the thick woods on the south edge of town, had a special meaning for everyone in Shadyside. The street was cursed, people said. [Wing: Cursed, I say!]
The blackened shell of a burned-out mansion — Simon Fear’s old mansion — stood high on the first block of Fear Street, overlooking the cemetery, casting eerie shadows that stretched to the dark, tangled woods. Terrifying howls, half-human, half-animal, [Wing: NEEDS MORE WEREWOLVES!] hideous cries of pain, were said to float out from the mansion late at night.
People in Shadyside grew up hearing the stories about Fear Street — about people who wandered into the woods there and disappeared forever; about strange creatures that supposedly roamed the Fear Street woods; about mysterious fires that couldn’t be put out, and bizarre accidents that couldn’t be explained; about vengeful spirits that haunted the old houses and prowled through the trees; about unsolved murders and unexplained mysteries.
Holy shit, how much do I want to live on Fear Street? The books might not always be great, but that’s a goddamn amazing place to live.
[Jude: Yeah but this was 1989. I imagine by now they would’ve gentrified the SHIT out of Fear Street, which I can’t tell if that would be scarier or not. Then again, the whole curse and everything would probably end in a lot of people dying if they even tried that shit.]
…or fear, I suppose, if you’re a character in one of the books.
Lisa tells Cory that Anna belongs on Fear Street, she could haunt it as well as any of the ghosts.
She again tries to hint at getting together over the weekend — girl, just fucking ask him — but Cory blows him off and cannot stop thinking about Anna Corwin and her “nice, old-fashioned name.”
Cory calls information for her number and manages to talk the operator into giving him her address, too, because it’s the operator’s last night on the job. What the ever loving fuck, you privacy breaking asshole. You could do so much fucking damage giving out that kind of information. Fuck.
AND THE OPERATOR IS A FUCKING WOMAN. I CALL BULLSHIT THAT SHE’D GIVE OUT AN ADDRESS TO A RANDO.
Cory talks himself into and out of calling several times. When he finally manages it, the phone is answered by an annoyed young man who tells him that it’s the Corwin house but no Anna lives there.
After that dramatic but actually well done chapter ending, Anna is the first person Cory sees at school the next day. He makes bumbling small talk and manages to freak her out by referencing the ghost stories about Fear Street. She flees shortly after.
The first gymnastics match of the season is against Mattewan, and Cory puts up some good routines, including a near perfect one on — who fucking knows, we’re not told. He has rings coming up, though. Maybe the near-perfect one was the floor? Or the pommel horse?
Likely the floor, since Arnie falls as he finishes and the team should be rotating together. And Arnie’s best event is the floor. He’s a lutz on rings and uneven on the parallel bar. So why is he on the damn team?
While he’s on the rings, Cory is distracted by Anna and falls. He can’t comprehend it at first, that he ruined his entire routine because one girl distracted him, but then laughs that he’s falling for her.
Oh good lord.
And that’s it for the event and the meet. Er, don’t gymnasts usually get back on the equipment and finish their routine? The fuck are you writing here, Stine?
When Cory looks again, Anna is gone, and he worries that he imagined her.
Saturday night, the night Lisa kept trying to hint they should spend together, finds Cory alone in his room listening to his Walkman and thinking about Anna Corwin. Shocking.
Again he spends a great deal of time talking himself into and out of calling her. Finally he settles on talking to her on Monday, asking her to the basketball game on Friday.
Lisa’s parents and Cory’s parents are playing Scrabble downstairs. When he asks if Lisa’s home, her mother tells him that she was pretty sad she didn’t have a date. Oh my god, woman, do you mean to embarrass your child? Even if you don’t know about her crush, and you likely don’t, that’s still embarrassing.
Cory takes cookies and potato chips with him next door because Lisa’s house never has good snacks. He notices the pale, pale moon, thinks it’s the same color as Anna’s hair. Even though he knows he’s being weird and obsessive, he doesn’t actually stop.
Lisa’s glad to see him, though she teases him about wanting someone exciting, and the snacks. He refuses to watch the Star Trek videotape she rented. (VIDEOTAPE, OH THE NOSTALGIA.) [Jude: BECAUSE IT WAS ALMOST THE 90S, YOU SEE!] Neither of them are into Star Trek, she just got to the store late and everything else was gone.
So … why did you rent it, pay good money, if you don’t actually like it? Oh, kid.
Though this book is mostly from Cory’s point of view, we keep getting asides about how Cory misses Lisa’s look of disappointment when he ignores her, or her embarrassment when their hands touch reaching for the chips at the same time, her tension when their knees touch and she puts her hand on his arm, plays with his hair.
I gave you shit earlier, but get it, girl. Making quite a move here.
Shame Cory’s too obsessed to notice.
All goes well, she comforts him about the terrible meet, until he admits that Anna distracted him and that’s why he fell. Then, ignoring her reaction, asks if she’s ever managed to talk to Anna. Lisa is, understandably, displeased and tells him to go home, she’s not in the mood for company, she doesn’t feel like talking.
It’s nearly ten p.m. when he gets home, and he actually calls Anna’s number. This time, a woman answers. Cory hears loud screeching in the background, like a girl screaming, and tries to convince himself that it’s the television.
Why do Shadyside people not just automatically believe things on Fear Street are ghosts? Everyone seems so primed to believe the stories until something actually happens and then they convince themselves otherwise. [Jude: It’s only funny when it’s happening to somebody else.]
The woman asks why he asks for Anna and she tells him that he knows Anna’s not there, he knows it, and he needs to stop. In the background, he hears a girl shrieking that she knows the call is for her.
He can’t stop thinking about why anyone would keep Anna from the phone, why he heard the screaming and shouting in the background, why they keep telling him she’s not there.
It must be Fear Street claiming another victim. She must be a prisoner in her own home, torturing her. [Jude: Does she live on 99 Fear Street, a.k.a. the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Amityville House?”]
He convinces himself he’s being ridiculous, too inspired by the movies, but again, you live in Shadyside! Anna lives on Fear Street! Where is your belief?
He sets off to check on her, but chickens out before he even manages to leave his house. He can’t go to Fear Street alone, not with the screaming and the family found murdered in the Fear Street woods a few weeks ago. No one reported them missing. No one could identify them. Another unsolved murder on Fear Street. [Jude: WHEN THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN?! That’s prime material for another book and I don’t think Stine ever followed up on it. You don’t just drop that kind of lore and do nothing with it!] [Wing: Damn it, I was looking forward to that book.]
He’ll call David! David is always up for an adventure.
…David finds this particularly adventure strange, but sure as shit, he’s up for it.
Believable, actually! Teenagers getting into trouble with their friends and doing stupid things. I feel it.
When Cory shows up, though, David’s mom won’t let him go out with his ankle still injured from gymnastics. Cory teases him about his mom being overprotective, but also promises to call him and tell him about what happens on Fear Street.
He listens to Q-ROCK on the drive, where they’re playing 24 hours of Beatles hits in alphabetical order.
Cory and I are both skeptical about listening to music in alphabetical order.
Fog, cold air, distracting thoughts of Anna, nearly wrecking the car because of thoughts of Anna, this is very repetitive and we’re only 25% through. Good lord.
He struggles to remember what her house number is, then takes off on foot so he can better see the house numbers. Everything smells sour like decay and an animal howls nearby. Not a dog, he thinks. Maybe a wolf?
NEEDS MORE WEREWOLVES.
Back when Cory was nine or ten, a friend dared him to walk through the Fear Street woods. He only made it a few minutes before something grabbed his shoulder — maybe a tree branch, maybe not — and he ran screaming down the street instead.
Fear Street is dark and deserted. Where is everyone? I know Stine is setting this up like a ghost story, and I appreciate that, the creepiness of Fear Street, but also people do live on Fear Street. Where are they?
Only one house is lit up, but it’s not Anna’s.
The house next door is supposed to be Anna’s, but it is unkempt and looks abandoned.
When he heads back to the car, he hears someone behind him, following him, coming fast. And, again, a hand grabs his shoulder.
It is a man who saw him stop his car and wanted to see if he was lost or in trouble.
Needlessly dramatic cliffhanger chapter ending ahoy!
(Seriously, I don’t think it’s actually all that needlessly dramatic, but I missed saying it. This one is decent enough.)
They talk about the Corwins, and the man warns him not to go to their house uninvited because they’re strange people who keep to themselves.
While Cory talks to the man, he sees a light turn on in an upstairs window of Anna’s house. He talks himself into and out of knocking on the door, which is both repetitive after the multiple times doing this with the phone calls but is also believable and kind of cute. He’s nervous about the girl he likes, he’s nervous about this terrifying street, of course he has to talk himself into doing what he wants to do.
Plus he needs a good story for David, of course.
Always trying to impress someone. [Jude: Too bad he’s not impressing the reader, Wing.]
The door is finally answered by a young man with small, watery blue eyes and thinning blond hair. When Cory asks for Anna, he is taken aback and asks what Cory knows about Anna. Cory tells him that they go to the same high school, and the man tells him that Anna is dead and he should go the fuck away.
Cory doesn’t remember the drive home, only his fear. He couldn’t run fast enough to escape this fear, the echo in his head that Anna is dead, the stories of Fear Street and now he’s become one himself, he’s scared, he’s scared, he’s scared.
I really like the line about becoming a story himself: The stories are all true, and now you are one of them.
[Jude: Very John Carpenter. BTW, do you read Sutter Cane, Wing?]
He doesn’t sleep well and has terrible dreams when he does.
Monday, he goes to school early to wait at Anna’s locker. He even tries to open it at first, because he’s fucking creepy. While he waits, he keeps thinking that Anna is dead, Anna is a ghost — but ghosts aren’t real.
[Jude: With the way Cory keeps waffling I feel like Stine’s trying to write three different protagonists and keeps forgetting it’s THE SAME GUY.] [Wing: Editor: Too many characters, cut it back to make it easier to follow. Stine: ALL THE CHARACTERS IN ONE CHARACTER.]
Are you kidding me right now? You certainly think they are whenever Fear Street is involved. I’m not a fan of this waffling back and forth, over whether to call her, whether to go to her house, whether the ghouls and goblins of Fear Street are real.
Anna never shows.
He runs into Lisa later and the first thing he does is ask her about Anna, even before he says hello.
Fuck out of here, Cory.
Lisa asks why he’s being so weird and he opens up to her about Fear Street, the young man telling him that Anna is dead, his obsessive thoughts about Anna and whether she’s actually a ghost.
Like a good friend, Lisa listens the offers him a suggestion: He was at the wrong house and the guy played a mean joke on him.
Cory shoots this down immediately, ignores her when she talks to him about why he’s so obsessed with Anna.
Lisa takes off, and Cory’s left wondering why she’s been so temperamental lately, so grumpy with him. Dude, you don’t even say hello to her before you’re hitting her up for information about a girl she’s already told you she doesn’t know. Even if she didn’t have a completely obvious crush on you, that would be annoying. She’s supposed to be your oldest, best friend and you keep blowing her off [Jude: So we’re not doing phrasing, Wing?]
Cory works in the school office Monday afternoon and decides to try to find Anna’s permanent record, even though he knows it’s a terrible idea and will have dire consequences if he gets caught.
After a brief scare that he’ll be caught — he hides under the principal’s desk — he gets through the C files and sure enough, there’s no file for Anna Corwin.
Basketball game, Friday night. The one he meant to ask Anna to but instead goes with his friends and can’t focus on anything but thoughts of Anna. He’s even missing practice because he’s so distracted. Hurting his friends when he lashes out at them for worrying about him.
[Jude: Okay I think what’s pissing me off more is that there’s all this talk of Anna and she’s BARELY here, and I get that Stine’s trying to play up the mystery of who/what she is but when that means spending this much time on CORY being like… THIS, it’s not worth the build-up.]
All his fears about her not existing spill out to David, and he, too, listens to him and offers logical advice. (Again, I expect more belief in the supernatural from Shadyside teens, but whatever.) Cory’s seen Anna, she’s in a class with Lisa, she has a locker — she’s real, surely. He even explains away the missing file; she’s a transfer student and her file must not have been sent over yet.
It’s logical, but Cory doesn’t believe it.
He worries that he’s out of control, that he’s being haunted by Anna, that he can’t shut her out of his mind.
Later that night, Cory’s woken by a phone call warning him to stay away from Anna the dead girl or he’ll be next.
Cory is understandably worried about this, chilled by his fear even with the radiator on full blast. He can’t shake the harsh whispers from the call, can’t shake thoughts of Anna. He’s obsessive, and he’s out of control.
For a brief moment, he considers whether this is a prank by his friends but quickly dismisses that. They would never.
Next he considers the strange man he met on Fear Street, the one who may or may not be a neighbor.
That concerns him, so he forces himself to think about Anna instead. Considering earlier this evening you couldn’t stop thinking about her, Cory, I don’t think that was too difficult.
Another call startles him a bit later. This one is from Anna begging for his help, begging him to meet her near her house.
She sounds frightened, but Cory also thinks her tiny, breathy voice sounds sexy.
…not sure this is the right situation for finding her fear hot, Cory. Between this and your obsession, I’m rather worried about Anna.
Cory’s terrified about going to Fear Street alone in the middle of the night, but keeps reassuring himself that he’s brave. I don’t blame him for being afraid, even though he’s dismissed thoughts of ghosts throughout the book. Things can be scarier at night (or underwater, or on top of a mountain, whatever makes you tense).
He remembers another Fear Street story from last spring. Two cars hit head-on. A guy came out to check on them, found both cars filled with badly injured people, went inside to call for help. When it arrived ten minutes later (…Shadyside isn’t that large; that’s quite a long response time for a smaller town), the cars were empty but for blood.
Six injured people disappeared in less than ten minutes. Sounds like Fear Street.
[Jude: Tis only a flesh wound, Wing.]
Cory hits a gray animal on the drive. He doesn’t know what it is and doesn’t stop to check, just keeps going, forcing himself to think about Anna.
Thinking about Anna apparently steams up the inside of the car, because the windshield fogs and he struggles to see. He uses a rag to smear it across the glass, but that’s not really what he should have done. Defrost, open the windows, use the wipers, something. Don’t smear the glass, that makes things worse.
Cory works himself into a tizzy when he doesn’t see Anna until she scares him when she climbs straight into the passenger seat. She looks excited, a little devilish in her smile. That’s not a good sign, Cory.
He asks where she’s been all week, admits that he came by her house to talk to her, babbles at her even though he wants to stem his words, not to admit all the ways he’s obsessed about her.
Anna proves she’s real by kissing him, holding him close, needy and hard.
She whispers that he’s all hers, but Cory tries to convince himself that he didn’t hear her say that. Er, the way you’ve been, that sort of claiming sounds exactly like what you want.
Anna admits that she called because she just wanted to see if he’d come, he’s not actually in trouble. Cory doesn’t really mind, he just wants to kiss her, though he does take the time to tell her about the guy who told him she was dead.
Her brother, Brad, she explains, but all her excitement is gone, leaving her flat.
He’s unpredictable. Dangerous.
Anna flees. Cory tries to grab her to stop her (uncool, dude), shouts for her, runs after her, but she’s gone.
Then something grabs him from behind.
It’s his mother shaking him awake. Much later. Because we don’t actually get to see the dog jumping on him, hurting him. Instead, we get him remembering it, because that’s super exciting, being at another remove from the story itself.
The dog belonged to the weird neighbor, of course, Cory feels threatened by the man and doesn’t spend any time talking to him, but can’t stop wondering why the man is always around and whether he’s spying on Anna.
Cory does terribly at the meet later that day, he and Lisa briefly talk about Anna yet again, though this time Lisa prompted it. Apparently, Lisa visited with one of her cousins while Cory was off having his adventure with Anna and the dog. Her cousin’s friend goes to Melrose, the school Anna attended before coming to Shadyside. Lisa asked the friend about Anna, and the friend says that Anna died.
This is a dramatic chapter ending, and not an unnecessary one, but it’s not a surprise, either, we’ve been told several times that Anna is dead. Sure, this is another source, but we’ve heard it! This would have worked far better if it was the first time anyone had said it.
The story is that Anna fell down the basement stairs at her house and died instantly.
Cory’s done competing and leaves the meet earlier to investigate with Lisa. He frets over whether she could really be dead, whether he kissed a ghost, why she looked so afraid when he mentioned the ghosts of Fear Street.
But there’s no such thing as ghosts, right?
Here we go again, questioning ghosts when you live in Shadyside.
They go to the library to look through newspaper articles from a few months ago and find one about Anna’s death. Neither of them can explain the Anna who attends their school when she looks the same as the girl in the newspaper photo.
Cory returns to lurk outside Anna’s house yet again that night. The neighbor is out with his dog yet again. Cory wonders if they are ghosts too, guards to keep people from learning the truth, that everyone who lives on Fear Street is dead.
Instead of trying to talk to Anna, he heads home and dreams of being stuck on the rings at a meet, and is woken by Anna stroking his face and begging him to take care of her, kissing him, holding him. She tells him that she is dead, and he can die too so they can be together.
Aaaaand then he really wakes up because the phone rings.
It’s Anna, begging for his help, begging him to meet her by the burned-out old mansion on Fear Street.
Yeah, that sounds like a great plan.
[Jude: They could get tetanus!]
Cory does question whether this is real, whether he’s still dreaming, whether he should go to her — but of course he must go, she needs him.
By the time he’s on his way to Fear Street, he’s less worried and more excited about the adventure of it all.
Anna’s not waiting for him at the mansion. He sits in the car for awhile, worried about running into the neighbor and his dog, but things are creepy and cold and dark and wet. Eventually he gets tired of waiting and walks back to her house, worries that her terrible brother Brad is keeping her from leaving. His fears keep growing, Brad keeping her prisoner, Brad dangerous, Brad finding out that she’s trying to escape and hurting her.
He forces himself to be brave and go up to the door to actually check on her. Cory tells Brad that Anna called him, and Brad snaps, demanding to know why Cory is trying to torture him, why he’s pulling this cruel prank, Anna is dead dead dead and Cory needs to STOP.
Brad drags Cory into the house and snarls that he’s going to get rid of Cory.
Brad is entertained by how scared Cory is and lets him go, warns him never to come back. Cory runs away as soon as he realizes Brad means it.
Outside, he sees a light on in a second story window and someone standing in it. He shouts for Anna, but the figure closes the blinds, blocks out the light, and Cory is left alone in the darkness again.
Cory’s friends give him grief about never paying attention when he’s with them, about always being distracted by his thoughts of Anna. Arnie pretends to choke on a peach pit as an oh-so-funny joke, Cory screams and calls them sick, and leaves.
He’s trying to stop thinking about Anna. His obsession with her is wrecking him, hurting his schoolwork, his gymnastics, himself, and all for a girl who has a creepy brother who claims she’s dead. He knows he has to force her out of his life —
— but he can’t. Not without answers.
Lisa awkwardly asks him to the Turnaround Dance, which is one where the girls are meant to ask the boys, I think, though I’ve always heard it called a Sadie Hawkins Dance, and also it is bullshit, a girl can always ask out anyone she wants.
Cory’s shocked by this even though the reader has been bashing their head against the table every time these two are together, at least if the reader is me. She’s so obvious about it, and she deserves better than this weird, obsessive, often annoying asshole.
He decides it’s a great idea because he’s already trying to get over Anna.
Yeah, using your best friend to distract you from another girl, that sounds like an A+ plan, you’re an excellent friend, I hate you.
Lisa’s genuinely excited, of course, and I am heartbroken for her, especially when Cory thinks she’s acting like she actually has a crush on him or something.
Then Cory sees Anna lurking nearby. Cory is immediately distracted and can’t stop looking at her even while Anna and Lisa have a cordial conversation.
Lisa has to run off to class so she won’t be late. Even though Cory and Anna will also be late, they linger, Cory reminds him of Friday, whispers something against his ear that he can’t quite make out, though he thinks it might be “You’re all mine now,” but surely that can’t be correct. They kiss again, until Cory struggles to breathe, then Anna runs away before he can ask her anything.
He spends the rest of the afternoon thinking about her and ignoring everything around him. Again. Oh god.
Lisa finds a dead cat in her locker. She’s horrified, of course. Cory finds a note tied around the dead cat’s throat warning Lisa that she’s dead too.
Gee, I wonder who might threaten Lisa after she asked Cory to a dance. I WONDER.
Anna waits for Cory until after he finally leaves the building. He doesn’t make it to practice. Instead he helped Lisa clean her locker. (Why are they cleaning the locker?! Dead animal, all that blood, the school should not allow students to handle that, oh my god.) He watches Anna closely to see if she knows what he’s talking about.
He decides she’s either a really good actor or she really doesn’t know anything about it.
Lisa named Anna the prime suspect because she’s jealous of Cory agreeing to go to the dance with her. Cory gets angry over this, but still keeps an eye on Anna when he gives her the details. She’s terribly distressed by it, and Cory feels guilty for suspecting her even for a moment.
Cory, you are an idiot.
Lisa then asks whether he would rather go to the Turnaround Dance with her. He waivers a little, but says yes, and she’s thrilled — until he says he can’t break his plans with Lisa, they’ve been friends for too long.
They walk for awhile, until Cory finally gathers up enough courage to tell her that he came by her house again and Brad told him again that she was dead, threatened him after.
Anna runs away, tells him he can’t get involved. He snaps that he’s already involved, he can’t stop thinking about her.
She tells him she doesn’t know why her brother keeps saying that, why someone called him, she doesn’t know anything, he has to believe her.
They start to kiss, then Anna pushes him away, shouts that someone is watching them, and runs. He sees someone in a dark fur parka fleeing in the other direction and decides that Anna is telling the truth.
Cory’s mom talks to him about his date with Lisa, how happy she is, how she always knew it would happen. Cory snaps at her that he has more important things to think about, but won’t tell her about Anna and runs off to his room instead.
The phone rings, makes Cory nervous, especially now that his parents went out and he’s alone in the house, but it’s David calling to be a surprisingly decent friend in a Stine book. He offers to listen to Cory if he wants to talk about what has him so distracted.
Cory turns him down, swears he’s okay, and it devolves into them arguing because Cory keeps being shitty to the people around him.
He goes next door to see how Lisa is doing and they joke around for awhile. Cory decides he likes her laugh, a sexy laugh, and she’s very cute, and she smells good.
Oh good lord, that was a quick turnaround.
Lisa gets a threatening phone call telling her that she’s dead too, over and over again, just like the note on the cat.
Lisa blames Anna, and she and Cory are still arguing about it at the dance Friday night. It goes poorly enough that she leaves him alone on the dance floor. He doesn’t follow her, doesn’t know what to do, finally decides to give her time to cool down and then apologize to her, even though he doesn’t think he has anything to apologize for.
He’s pleased when he thinks that Lisa is jealous of Anna and with good reason.
Except you swear up and down you’re just friends, you keep missing the signs that she’s flirting with you, except for that one night at her house, why would you be so happy that Lisa’s jealous of Anna? You certainly got pissy when your guy friends get frustrated that you aren’t ignoring them because of your Anna obsession.
Then a scream. A scream Cory knows immediately. Lisa’s scream.
Cory finds Lisa at the bottom of the stairs with a twisted ankle. She tells him she’s lucky, the stairs are hard, she could have died, and someone pushed her. She doesn’t know who did it, though, she didn’t see anyone around her, but as she fell, she saw a guy standing there. He recognizes Brad from her description and blames him for pushing Lisa down the stairs.
They logic out that whoever pushed her must still be in the building and go looking for him, even though Lisa still has that twisted ankle and all.
The dark makes the familiar classrooms creepy and unfamiliar. I love this detail. The dark absolutely can do that, and schools are surprisingly creepy when they are empty. Wonderfully creepy.
They don’t find Brad — or Anna — just a couple making out in a dark room.
Lisa’s highly amused by this, and while she’s picking on Cory, Brad comes to them.
He looks more frightened than they are, and he keeps muttering about it being a mistake under his breath.
He runs away, locks them in the soundproof music room before they can reach him, and Lisa wonders if they should call the police. Cory wants to talk to Anna first, of course.
Cory climbs out onto a narrow ledge and follows it over to a tree. The ledge is slippy, and it narrows, and the tree ends up being farther away than he thought — and then he slips and starts to fall.
Anytime Stine uses a “starts to X” it means that we’re in for a needlessly dramatic cliffhanger chapter ending.
Oh no, he’s falling, he’s falling, he’s falling —
— oh shit, he actually does fall.
I apologize, Stine.
He doesn’t get hurt, but he does miss the ledge when he tries to grab it like it’s a parallel bar. He lands on a ledge on the first floor and falls inside through a conveniently open window. I’m surprised enough he actually fell that I am not even going to worry about that window being open in the middle of winter when there’s been fucking snow on the ground.
He collects Lisa from the music room and takes her home. She apologises to him for a terrible first date, he apologises to her, and she kisses him.
They’re interrupted by a phone call. There’s harsh breathing for a bit, threatening, and then the call ends. Lisa is more angry than furious and determined to call the police.
Cory asks for time to talk to Anna first, swears he’ll go swee her first thing in the morning, make her tell him what’s going on, warn her that they are going to report Brad to the police.
…you’ve had zero luck getting her to tell you what’s going on so far, why do you think this will be anything different?
He spends most of the night trying to come up with a plan to deal with Brad and trying to sort out his feelings for Anna. He’s angry with himself for getting into this mess, but he feels sorry for her, too, and scared for her, and he’s still terribly attracted to her.
No one answers the door when he knocks. The strange neighbor turns up, more pleasant than Cory’s seen him before.
Well, Cory, you are there in the daylight and not lurking around in the dark like a creep.
The neighbor tells him that they left home early that morning. So much for that plan.
Lisa does not call the police even though Cory doesn’t manage to contact Anna at all. Lisa, honey, if you plan to call the police, you probably should do so now before someone attacks you again.
Monday, Cory tries to catch Lisa at her locker before school starts, but doesn’t manage to find her until after school. She tries to leave, he drags her out to his car like a fucking creep, and they go to the Pizza Oven to talk.
He demands the truth, and she tells him that she, Brad, and her mother moved to Shadyside a month ago. Her father disappeared years ago. Her mother is sick and frail. Brad is the head of their family. A year ago, the girl he loved was killed in a plane crash and he lost his grip on reality in his mourning. He imagined that Emily was still alive, became very protective of Anna and her older sister Willa. He started calling Willa his girlfriend’s name (oh, good, there’s the incest hint), telling people that Willa was dead, not Emily, etc. Then one day Willa fell down the basement stairs and died. Brad swore it was an accident, but he and Willa were home together that day. Anna and their mother never believed it was an accident. Brad got a little better after, but then he started telling people that Anna was dead. They moved to Shadyside hoping that a change of scene would bring Brad back to himself. It didn’t.
Cory struggles with believing this story. He questions her about the newspaper obituary, and Anna again blames Brad for not being able to handle Willa’s death and giving the newspaper Anna’s name instead.
Anna kisses him until she sees Brad outside the window, staring at them, and then she runs out the back door of the restaurant.
Cory tries to call Lisa when he gets home, but she’s out with her family. When he tries to call Anna, there’s no answer, no matter how many times he calls, no matter how long he lets it ring.
He goes to Anna’s house yet again, terrified that Brad has killed her.
Cory hears her screaming inside and finds Brad holding her back while she shouts that Cory’s come to see her, Brad needs to let her go. Cory attacks Brad to free Anna, Anna begs for his help, Brad’s a better fighter than Cory until Cory hits him in the head with a heavy vase.
Anna clings to him after, thanking him. He tries to pull away, wants to call the police, but she won’t let go, begs him to come with her now that they’re alone, they have to celebrate. She tries to seduce him, leads him upstairs, shows him a silver letter opener shaped like a dagger. She wants to use it on Brad.
Cory tries to stop her, but she tells him she won’t let anyone stand in her way, not even him.
She starts trying to stab Cory instead of Brad, though, even while he begs her to listen to him. She backs him up against an open window (why so many open windows when it’s so cold out?) and he falls out.
Except he doesn’t, he catches his legs on the windowsill, using his gymnast skills.
I’m still so surprised that he actually fell earlier than I’m going to treat this as a necessarily dramatic cliffhanger chapter ending.
He flips back into the room, flips down the hallway, kicks the letter opener out of Anna’s hand. She tries to attack him with her bare hands, but he easily restrains her.
Then Brad comes up the stairs, and Cory realizes he’s trapped.
Brad doesn’t attack, though, simply tells Cory that he warned him. He’s more weary than anything else.
Brad tells him a very different story: Anna isn’t Anna, she’s Willa, and Brad and their mother suspected that Willa pushed the real Anna. She was always jealous of Anna, her beauty, her friends, her intelligence, and Anna never stopped telling Willa that she was better than her.
Willa seemed okay when they first came to Shadyside, but then Cory started coming around asking for Anna and Brad figured out what was going on. He tried to scare Cory away and knows he should get Willa professional help, but they can’t afford it.
Still fucking true for so many people. Fucking hell.
[Jude: Brad, hunbun, you could’ve possibly told Cory about Willa the first time he started asking about your dead sister. Like a simple “are you thinking about Willa?” considering there’s only one teenage girl currently living in your house.]
Brad says that pushing Lisa down the stairs was a mistake, he was waiting for Willa and tried to grab her, not push her, but nothing went right and he hid. He was trying to protect Cory from Willa.
Brad tells Cory to call the police. They have to get Willa help.
Calling the police on someone having a mental break is a terrible fucking idea and is likely to end up with the person having the mental break getting hurt or killed.
Later Cory fills Lisa in on the truth and has to admit that she was right, though it was Willa, not Anna. He feels so strange and twisty, his emotions tangled, and he can’t sort them out.
Lisa teases him about picking a terrible girlfriend. He agrees, says he should let her pick them out from now on. She agrees, touches his cheek tenderly, and they kiss.
Because of course they’re going to end up together despite how shitty Cory’s been to her, and all his friends, for the entire book. Thanks, Stine.
I’m mostly left feeling flat. There was quite a bit of repetition (we’re going to Fear Street, we’re going to school, we’re going to a meet, wash rinse repeat) and Cory was such a shit to all his friends that the ending doesn’t feel satisfying to me as the reader.
Still, there were some fun little moments, and Cory losing himself in Anna and ignoring his friends believable. There were some tense moments, and I might have shipped Cory and Lisa had just a few little things been different.
Glad to be back to the feud, glad to be back with Fear Street.
[Jude: I’m kind of glad I haven’t gone back to this book in so many years because I feel like the repetition would’ve made it impossible to enjoy the book. I can give Stine a break because this was the first Fear Street, but it’s so weird comparing this to the first Goosebumps book.]
I never read this one until like 2019. I liked it a bit more when I reviewed but it’s still not good. That said some of the ideas got used better in later ones, The Perfect Date is kind of the better version of this. It’s interesting how Dead House is a better first book but that’s likely just cuz he’d be doing this for a bit longer at that point. It is funny how more people die in that one.