Book Review: Halloween Party – Fear Street #8 (R.L. Stine)

About

Halloween Party book

This is the eighth book in R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series. It was originally published in 1992.

The invitation arrived in a black-bordered envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fitting 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 beautiful and 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 come back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

Analysis

Talk about a throwback! Just the simple act of browsing these books and picking one to purchase brought back so many memories! I was never a Goosebumps fan – no particular reason, I just never took to them. I watched the show once in a while, but mostly found it silly and boring (I much preferred Are You Afraid of the Dark?). But Fear Street books, those were my jam. I probably borrowed every one available in my elementary school library, and bought a bunch from thrift shops well into middle school. I couldn’t get enough of them. I remembered being legitimately terrified, and was so ready to revisit the world. This time, though, the experience was a little different… I laughed SO MUCH.

So Bad, It’s Good

(Beware of Spoilers!)

Nostalgia is a finnicky thing. More often than not, going back to childhood faves are just a cruel reminder that all your faves are problematic… especially in the 90s. But, credit where credit is due, this book was not particularly cringe-worthy. But, it wasn’t particularly well-crafted, either. It was, however, a hell of a good time!

I’ve heard R.L. Stine claims he can write a Fear Street book in something like 10 days… yup. I fully buy that. They are short (this one was a 2-hour read), formulaic, and wildly unrealistic. I bet Stine has as much of a laugh writing them as adults do reading them. That’s not to be mean – I genuinely enjoyed reading this book, in the way I enjoy a cheesy, formulaic horror film from time to time. ‘Tis the season!

I think what I most got a kick out of was the main character, Terry’s, pet name for his girlfriend – Funny Face. Yup, a teenage boy, regularly calling his girlfriend Funny Face, as though he’s an old man talking to his granddaughter. This made me laugh out loud, every time… especially at the end, when Niki (AKA Funny Face) risks her life to successfully save him and their friends from certain death. When they reunite, this is how Terry reacts:

Terry found Niki and hugged her tight, kissing her face and hair. “Funny Face,” he said over and over, “Funny Face.”

LOL! I literally laughed all through typing that.

As for the story – oh boy. It’s wild.

The new girl in school, Justine, is unbelievably beautiful and cool and mysterious. So when 9 seemingly random kids get invited to her very exclusive Halloween party, they don’t know what to make of it. Oh, and the party is happening in an old mansion on Fear Street, that had been abandoned for nearly 30 years, since its owners died in a fiery car crash. Justine, however, has recently moved in with her uncle – they’re distant relatives of the original owners, and they’re fixing it up.

Why does anyone ever hang out on Fear Street in this town of Shadyside where nothing good EVER happens? I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.

ANYWAYS, the kids go to the party and tension is running high. Leading up to the party, the “Jocks” have teamed up to challenge the “Wimps” – as you do when you’re going to a creepy Halloween party. The goal is for one team to scare the pants off the other. So when weird things start happening, like dead bodies popping up, maybe it’s a prank? Yes. Two chapters end on dead body cliff-hangers, only to turn out to be pranks. But the third body – that one’s real.

Who’s the killer? Maybe Justine… she seems weird, right? Right. After a little snooping, Niki realizes Justine is a fully grown woman who is out for revenge. Why? Because those were her parents who died in that fiery car crash, caused by two cars full of partying, drag-racing teens – and each and every one of her 9 guests is the child of one of them. Super convenient that each of the 9 teens stayed in Shadyside and grew up to have one child who now attends that high school. Just saying…

So, when she traps them all in the kitchen to burn to death while a very loud sound system plays the sounds of a horrible car crash (where did she find that cassette?!), no one knows what to do. Except Niki, because she’s smart and brave – which is pretty cool. Niki eventually saves the day… hence the “Funny Face, Funny Face” stuff from my earlier quote.

Some Stuff I Liked

This book was HILARIOUS, but there were a few genuinely good things about it. The book did not promote any casual racism (though diversity wasn’t a thing either), casual sexism or other casual isms. There wasn’t anything in the way of toxic masculinity – two of the boys dislike each other because of a girl, but it’s framed as them just being immature and knowing it. And they all drool over Justine, but in a pretty benign way that is never aggressive. There is one HORRIBLE moment, though:

[Terry] watched Niki proudly. Niki was the prettiest girl there. Justine was too ghoulish, and Angela looked like a tramp…

Whoa! Right?! Was not expecting that. Not great.

But mostly, it’s stuff like:

“Niki makes her own decisions.” Terry stood up, “I don’t own her.”

Something else of note is that, not only is Niki the most rational, smartest one of the group, she’s also the hero. What’s more surprising about this, though, is that Niki is deaf. We’re told most people can’t tell because she speaks pretty well and is excellent at reading lips. Rather than being portrayed as a handicap, the story highlights her lip-reading as an asset. In fact, it’s integral to her figuring out that something is off and, more importantly, to her figuring out how to save everyone. While the car crash sounds drown out everyone’s ability to communicate, Niki is not at all thrown. Frustratingly, she can’t get anyone to hear her or read her lips, so she makes her own plan, and sets off to save the day.

Final Thoughts

If you have a soft spot in your heart for R.L. Stine, I encourage you to revisit his work one Saturday afternoon. It’s a really good time.

Knowing it’s really, really for kids, I give this book a solid 3/5.

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