Hello, Spongey here.
It’s the month of horror, so it is the perfect month for a Stine review. Because I love this season so much, I figured I’d continue my streak of positive reviews. I especially wanted another positive Fear Street review on the blog.
Fear Street naturally has a Halloween book but oddly this is the only one in the main series, although there are two in the Sagas. I suppose being a teen series, Stine didn’t feel the need to use the holiday as much. The fact that Ghosts of Fear Street has two says it all. And yet we had a whole trilogy for Christmas, go figure.
I was excited to read this one as it has been hyped up as one of the best Fear Street entries, with praise especially going to the protagonists. After reading it, I basically knew it had to be this month’s review.
However, did it live up to the hype? Is it at least one of the good ones? Did I do the book that came before The Stepsister right after it on purpose? …The answer to the last one is no, but whatever.
This, is Halloween Party
I’ve decided to start talking about the covers to these Stine books again, cuz why not. Bill Shdmit was the main cover artist for Fear Street, he’s basically its Tim Jacobus. Anyway, this one is quite inaccurate (aside from her dress) but still pretty good. It makes for a really cool image that gets you in the mood.
The book opens with our protagonists Terry Ryan and Nikki Meyer walking in an old cemetery on Halloween night. The thing with these two is that they share about equal spotlight most of the time but we are introduced to Terry first and we get his POV more often, making him our main protagonist. That means this is the first male main character we’ve bumped into. I’ve read some others that have one and as you’ll see in future reviews, he’s a cut above the rest.
Anyway, Nikki is deaf. But she reads lips so well that most people don’t notice, and she’s never wanted any special treatment and the like. I can’t exactly properly talk about this aspect although I will say I do like her in general for being so awesome. They seem to get scared by a creature but it’s just one of their friends, Murphy Carter.
They head over for a party and then we cut to two weeks earlier. This use of this trope is especially pointless with how short this opening is but whatever. Terry is cleaning out his locker when he finds an invitation to a Halloween party being thrown by a new student named Justine Cameron, and it’s being held in a local creepy old mansion that she has moved into.
Justine has gotten to be popular because she’s quite pretty, and no one has really gotten to know her that well, although the boys have of course tried. We’ll meet her better in a second, but she sounds like a normal and not suspicious person. Anyhoo, Terry meets up with Nikki.
“Terry suddenly felt like the most important person in the world. Nikki always had that effect on him. He’d been going with her six months now, and he still couldn’t believe his good fortune. Nikki wasn’t the prettiest girl at Shadyside, or the smartest, but she was definitely the most special. When she came into a room, everybody automatically felt happier.”
Okay, that one weirdly insulting part aside, that’s kind of sweet. (Also, by the end of this, you’ll disagree on the her not being the smartest part.) Nikki says she got an invite but only certain others have as well. And those others don’t include some of her friends, like Jade and Deena from The Wrong Number. Didn’t take long for a name drop. They talk further about Justine and…
“She’s the best athlete in class. She’s in really great shape. I asked her about it once, and she told me she lifts weights”
“Whoa! No wonder she’s so…”
“She’s so what?”
The party soon becomes the talk of the town, and we meet another invited person named Ricky Schorr, an annoying joker who is actually another namedrop, having been in The Overnight. He’s actually a slightly important character in this so that’s neat. (He was also namedropped in The Stepsister, guess Stine really liked him). Oh and Lisa Blume from The New Girl is in this part, if you care.
Lisa manages to figure out that only nine people got invited to the party. Besides the ones mentioned, there’s Trisha McCormick, Murphy Carter, Angela Martiner, Les Whittle, David Sommers and Alex Beale.
“Angela was a slim pretty redhead-”
Of course she is.
Terry is upset about Alex being invited, as they used to be good friends until Alex turned on him after Nikki started going with Terry instead of Alex. Will there ever be a Fear Street book where someone takes a breakup well? None of these people really know each other, so they can’t figure out why only those people were invited.
Murphy notices that the people are either jocks, wimps, or someone’s girlfriend, although Justine claims it’s not intentional. Also, two bullies pop up and are pissed they aren’t invited, they’ll be slightly important later. Alex pops up and joins in the stupid Jocks vs Wimps things and wants to turn this into a whole ordeal. Terry wants no part in it but Alex does get under his skin a tad, so it’s a good thing Nikki is there to really want no part in this. Terry assures her it’s just a goof though.
“He’s serious about this! Deadly serious”
Spoilers, he’s not the killer. They don’t really tease him being a killer for the rest of this so that was pointless. Also, Terry is being lumped in with the wimps despite not being one at all. Over the next while, both sides start playing pranks on the other, one of which includes a chicken head or something. This counts as our random Fear Street animal cruelty.
One day, Terry sees Nikki talking to a few people, including Alex and of course he gets a tad jealous. Nikki calls him out on all this and it ends with her storming off, oof. At least Terry isn’t quite as bad in this moment as he could have been. Later, Terry bumps into Nikki and they kiss and make up. I’d say that was fast but it’s good that they settled things easily, and Terry realized how silly he’s being before it got too out of control.
Also, Terry’s “cute pet name” for her is “Funny Face” which seems both rude and wrong. But things get ominous as Nikki finds a threatening letter in her stack of books.
“YOU’LL WISH YOU WERE BLIND TOO”
Okay first of all, yikes. 2nd of all, the blind girl book is way later. (Btw, we never find out who sent this, it’s likely the villain, it’s just not confirmed)
Terry assumes Alex is behind this and gets back on his bull, as Nikki tells him to please drop it and not even talk to Alex about it, as things will get too out of hand. Ugh I see how it is, we’re getting repetitive already, even as she’s telling him to drop it, for her.
“He looked down at her and felt himself melting. At times like this he knew Nikki was the most important person in his life, and he would do anything for her”
“Okay, Funny Face. For you”
…Oh, nevermind then. He even drops it because he doesn’t wanna upset someone he cares about it, not just because it’ll get him in the doghouse or whatever. That’s refreshing, and rather cute too.
Later, they go out to Pete’s Pizza and actually see Justine there, talking on the phone. Nikki ends up lip-reading some of what she’s saying.
“And she said, they’ll pay. Every one of them will play”
…Eh, clearly there’s nothing to be worried about.
With that, we move onto Halloween Night, and pick up where we left off at the start. See, the old Cameron Mansion is close to the cemetery, which makes this is all much lovelier and not suspicious at all. By the way, their parents are fine them doing this since Justine has an Uncle they don’t know who is looking after them. This is going to even dumber later.
Anyway, the mansion is well decorated and Justine comes out in a “Body hugging” gown. Ew aside, she was in another “body hugging” outfit earlier, so between that and the “Stacked” comment….yeah. On the bright side, Terry still thinks Nikki is the prettiest girl there, d’aww.
Everyone is having a pretty good time, especially with some of the fun fake scares Justine cooked up. Speaking of fake scares, we get one where Les pretends to be dead because we haven’t forgotten about the Jocks vs Wimps thing, but Nikki is still having none of it.
They get back to dancing but their fun gets interrupted by the two bullies (named Marty and Bobby) barging in to crash the party. They’re pissed and basically stated to be drunk, a dangerous combo. Also, underage drinking. How edgy of you, Stine!
Thankfully, Terry and David get rid of them by starting to drive away on their motorcycles then getting off at the last minute as the bikes speed away. Well, actually it’s just the one and the other bully speeds off before they can do it to his bike. Either way, it was kind of cool and they’re gone for now. I’m sure they’ll end up adding a lot to the book in the end.
Terry wants to call the police but Justine protests, thinking they won’t dare care back, even if they break and enter already. I’m still sure she’s on the up and up. Hey, I’ll stop making comments like that when the characters wise up a tad. And when I can find other things to snark on. They manage to get their spirits back up with some dancing and a couple minor scares.
Justine announces a treasure hunt, and whichever team finds the most items get a special prize.
“Please be careful. After all, anything can happen on Halloween”
They all go out to search for stuff, but Nikki wants to use this chance to explore the mansion and maybe find out what Justine’s deal is. She’s been bringing up questions because she’s smart, but of course almost everyone else ignored her. Thankfully, Justine made no rules about no snooping in any rooms where anyone could find anything incriminating.
She looks in Justine’s room and doesn’t seem to find much at first. Then she finds a photo of her with an older man, and then some pills that have the name Enid Cameron on them. There’s not much I can say without just mentioning the reveal but I will say that Nikki guessing she’s having a fling with an older man is a creepy thought, and not in the spooky scary way.
Meanwhile, Terry goes to the attic to find some items, and only finds a dead body hanging by a rope. …Think that’s one of the items? The body is of Alex, and David randomly pops up to be horrified at the body. But when they get the others to check it out, the body is gone, dun dun dun.
That’s because it was another prank. Okay, the first one worked to get us in the mood and give us a reason to be somewhat surprised when a death does end up happening but this just felt a bit like padding. It still serves that purpose, going along with Justine’s fun scares, but come on. Also, David was in on it, what a lovely fellow.
“Don’t you know all’s fair in love and Halloween tricks?”
Nikki tells Terry about what she found in Justine’s room, but then Justine herself appears to give Alex’s team his prize, special chocolates from Paris. But before he can get them, Justine falls down due to the stairs breaking on her.
Well, I guess a dangerous accident happening to her clears her name somewhat. Instead, the teens all blame everyone else, given how these pranks for this dumb war can get. They help her up as she hopes they can back to partying, and Nikki is still not sure about Justine, so she storms off.
Terry loses a couple points with my by arguing a bit with her about this but he doesn’t go full tilt asshole I suppose. He just barely stops before he can get on my bad side. Suddenly, the lights go out and Justine starts another game. Basically, you have to say the worst thing you’ve done, and everyone votes on if you were telling the truth or not. Now she’s back to being suspicious.
Ricky goes first but doesn’t really wanna talk about it. The only thing he can say is that something happened during an overnight on Fear Island, where they thought someone was dead. He can’t get himself to finish it but that’s okay, you can read all about it in The Overnight! Wow, now that’s continuity, and a good tease for me since I haven’t read that one yet.
Terry thinks this game is dumb and cruel and starts wondering where Nikki is. He goes around to find her and ends up back in the attic where he finds the dead body of Les. And don’t worry, he’s actually dead this time. He’s also got a knife in him, so someone at this party is a killer.
David pops up (okay, can he teleport or something?) and they tell the other guests about this. Also, Uncle Phil has vanished and Nikki’s still gone. Surprisingly, Alex offers to help look for her.
“For a moment, Terry wanted to tell Alex to mind his own business. But he read an expression of concern on his former friend’s face and realized for the first time how much Alex cared for Nikki. Besides, he told himself, the most important thing wasn’t who found her, but to find her as quickly as possibly”
Wow, what’s with all the maturity in this book? It’s kind of throwing me off. David goes outside to get some help, but discovers that every tire on every car has been slashed. Then those bullies decide to show up again to cause extra conflict when there’s already a killer on the loose. Before these drunk assholes can do some damage, David falls and gets knocked out.
Back with Terry, he checks the basement and finds her. Well, that was fast, damn. She explains that she went back to Justine’s room and in an old shoe box, she found an old newspaper article about how Edward D Cameron and his wife Cissy were killed in a car crash after it was hit by a car driven by James B Whittle. Whittle had been drag racing with a car driven by John McCormick. Whittle had some friends with him, including Robert Carter, Jim Ryan, and Arlene Coen.
They were survived by a daughter Enid, age 1. Yeah, remember that name from earlier? Yep, those were her parents and Enid is her real name. Also, those names I mentioned are of these kids parents. (Coen was Nikki’s Mom’s maiden name). But that’s not the biggest bombshell.
The article is dated 28 years ago, so if Enid is Justine then,….
“She’s not a high school student! She’s a grown woman!”
….Well, I guess that makes her weird sexualization (screw you WordPress, that’s a word) slightly better. But uh…she was somewhat hitting on people like Alex to get them to do what she wants ….Yikes, bro. But wait, she must have been super short to pass of a high schooler and sign up without anyone questioning anything!
But yeah, obvious villain was obvious, just did not expect that weird turn. Anyway, someone caught Nikki snooping, then knocked her out and put her in the basement. By the way, Nikki picks up on all this quickly but Terry is slow on the uptake for some reason. Come on, man.
They confront Justine about this, but she tries to claim it’s all a prank, bro. She even says Wes is in the other room. And he technically is, because his dead body is setup at a table. Now that’s darkly funny. Suddenly, they get locked in and Justine jumps into her motivation speech.
She recaps what we already know and reveals that she invited the children of the people that resulted in her parents death to her party for revenge.
“How can you make us responsible for something that happened before we were born? It’s not fair!”
“What happened to my parents wasn’t fair either!”
I like that she has a decent motivation, but I agree with Angela. Why don’t you go after the parents themselves? The kids had nothing to do with it! I get ancestral sin and all that but at least have the parents be here too. And yes, I am not surprised we’ve got a Stine book where all the blame for what is going on can be put on parents, although at least they weren’t parents at the time. ….But they were adults when their kids were invited to a party held by someone with the last name of a couple they accidentally killed! Just saying, they should have asked more questions.
Anyhoo, she has speakers which start playing car crash sounds, so they can know what it feels like even though she can’t stage one herself. She also lit up some oily rags in the other room so they will get all smoky too. Okay, this is an awesomely messed up thing to do but why did the son of the guy who killed you get a basic bitch of a kill while the ones who were just there get all the theatrics?
However, the tape part doesn’t affect Nikki as much due to her deaf-ness but she feels enough of the vibrations to know this is bad and she’s gotta save them. Okay, that’s a cool way for that to come into play. Nikki gets the idea to use a dumbwaiter system that Justine used to get her into the basement to go down there and away from the smoke. She gets Terry and Alex to help her out with this, and after some struggling, she gets outside through a window in there.
She also finds Uncle Phil in there, bet you forget he existed. Eventually, the others are able to get out as well. Also, Terry’s happiness about Nikki being all right is super cute. David stumbles over to where they are, and his story amounts to “the drunk guys left and when I woke up, I called the police”. Riveting, they added so much.
Phil explains that he actually wasn’t aware of the really terrible stuff going on. After his brother/Justine’s dad died, he raised her but he never got over the death and over the years, he communicated his bitterness to Justine. He realizes he should have taught her forgive-ness and love but instead…whoops. So again, legal guardians are the worst.
Oh and if you’re wondering, that older guy in the photo from earlier was just her boyfriend, who she ditched (along with her career, whatever it was) to basically throw everything into all this. There’s being dedicated, then there’s that. Phil just wanted to scare the kids a bit and had no plans of murder, but she didn’t get the memo. Jokes aside, I really like this idea of Phil starting all this because he couldn’t get over what was basically a bad accident
Speak of the devil, she appears, pissed at Phil’s betrayal.
“I planned the perfect revenge! And it would have succeeded-”
If it weren’t for you meddling kids?
Then she randomly starts running back into the burning house. They are able to grab her beforehand, but what was she doing? Was she….oh, if so, that took a dark turn. Anyway, Terry was almost in the way of the flames but Alex manages to save him.
And with that, the two finally kiss and make up. D’aww. (Not literally, but man that would be a great twist). Justine is taken away, as Phil says she will get the help she should have gotten a long time ago. Nice to see some slight sympathy given to her.
With that, morning breaks, and it’s no longer Halloween.
“I don’t know about that” said Nikki, holding onto Terry’s arm as they began to walk away. “It’s always Halloween on Fear Street”
Nice. The End! Yeah, it just stops there, but at least we got an actual wrap-up to the loose ends this time so it’s not quite as bad as usual.
Well, The Stepsister being the best one I had reviewed was nice while it lasted. That said, I couldn’t give it a higher rating due to some issues. There are of course the usual weird plot/logic problems, like how Justine passed off as a high schooler and all that.
But then there’s some pointless stuff, like the drunk bullies and all that. (Side note, one of the bullies is a name drop so we may be seeing them again another tine, lovely) When I first read this, I felt like there could have been a better sense of escalation as the prank scares turn real, but now I think it’s really only Alex’s prank that kind of gets in the way of that. Although it does make for a good contrast when someone actually dies. (By the way, they sure got over that quickly).
I do find it weird that the people Justine invited just so happened to be either jocks or wimps so that whole thing could start. I feel like she should have at least been the one to point it out, so that she get them to all fight instead of working together when the horror starts. It kind of worked that way but given how well she planned this out, that could have added to it.
Otherwise, this one was pretty solid. The setup is a good one, with some good descriptions of the creepy house and the scares she set up, really gets you in the Halloween mood. Justine herself also made for a decent villain, with how she tricks everyone as well as her motivation and even her not being seen as a total lost cause at the end. Granted, her being the villain is fairly obvious but with that accident she staged, I least see why it would throw off the kids, somewhat.
But for once, the highlight would be the heroes. Nikki manages to be really awesome and proactive, and her being deaf did end up adding something while not defining her character. That said, some bits can be a bit much with how slow Terry is compared to her.
But speaking of Terry, he felt more like a real person compared to most characters in this series. He gets caught up in the Alex thing, but only because he’s a former friend being a dick and possibly still wanting his girlfriend. I really like how their arc has a clear Point A and Point B with a proper resolution that I thought worked.
We also see how much he really cares about Nikki and it ends up being really cute. It’s nice to have a couple I can root for, since he really only got heated when Alex was involved and that was resolved by the end.
Overall, it has some kinks but Halloween Party manages to be a pretty solid Fear Street entry with a fun spooky mood, a decent villain, and strong protagonists. It’s one worth checking out,
I was hoping to have it higher going in, but ah well, Still solid.
Next time, I would like to stay on Fear Street, but I think we should tone things down a tad. Maybe bring it closer to Goosebumps. If only there was a series that was basically like that I could back to. If only…