Ghosts of Fear Street-How to be a Vampire

Hello, Spongey here.

It’s Stine review time and this month we are headed back to Ghosts of Fear Street. It feels like just yesterday we were ranting about Bobby Newkirk. For this I held a poll to pick the subject. The options were How to be a Vampire, Tale of the Blue Monkey, Field of Screams and Fright Knight. I didn’t know which would win and it was an interesting race. Vampire had a head start but close to the end Blue Monkey jumped up.

It came very close but in the end, Vampire won. With how popular vampires on and it being one of the more classic titles, this win makes sense. O was hoping Field of Screams could win as it’s wild but this was a good choice too. This has been one of the big ones I wanted so I am glad we got it sooner rather than later.

This is one of the few I have physically, and it’s actually a big nostalgic favorite for me. I have a strong memory of reading this once while at some family gathering. For some reason it stuck with me and was one I came back to a lot. I re-read it a while back and did a short Goodreads review for it. That makes this the first Stine review that I did a GR review for previously, what a milestone.

Thus I know what to expect from an adult POV. We’ll get to further see how it holds up and what made me like it back then. A trivia bit to put in is that this had an edition that was a “vampire kit”, coming with vampire makeup as well as “My Vampire Handbook” It’s rare so I don’t know what the handbook entails, perhaps a real version of the book in the story.

Our ghostwriter today is Katy Hall aka Kate McMullen. She mostly does freelance kids books that arne’t that horror-y but she’s still on the more notable side. She did a kids book adaptation of Phantom of the Opera once and has this Dragon Academy series that once did a crossover with Zack Files. That’s neat. She did a couple others and in one she is miscredited as Kathy.

I only mention that because I wanted to know if that was a miscredit so I contacted her to get the scoop. She told me it indeed was. Yeah, another mild connection, just had to bring that up. Anyway, let’s get into it.

This, is How to be a Vampire

I like this cover. It’s goofy with the vampire’s face and the shocked kids face but it is effective. It’s so cheesy that it’s fun and it sells the idea. I love the kid doesn’t notice the vampire and is more shocked at words on a page. Amusing stuff. Not the best but cute enough. According to the artist on his website, there were Pentagrams on the book but the publisher made them get rid of it for being “evil”. Yeesh.

And like with Werecat, we got a reprint. It’s somewhat better with the red eyes and cooler look. But something about this gives me Twilight vibes because 2010’s. Not sure how to feel aobut that since he’s…ya know, 12.Anyway, both work but the original is more charming.

The book opens with our protagonist Andrew Griffin headed home from school with his older sister Emily. She’s 12 and half and she’s a year older which makes Andrew 11. The older sibling is the age the protag usually is, weird. She’s the stuck up type which annoys Andrew. In return, she is annoyed with Andrew’s obsession with monsters and such.

He’s got a bit of Lucy Dark in him in that way, just with less iconic lines. There’s a whole thing he claims vampires might be out here but it just results in a fake out that is a scare prank. Great way to warm us up to this kid. Well kids actually as the prank was done by his friend TJ. Holy crap we got a TJ.

I admit having a character with my name did play a part in getting me attached to this one. The prank just had him pretend to be a vampire or something. He’s even more into monsters than Andrew but is loyal to vampires.

The next morning, Andrew tries to get out in time so he doesn’t have to talk to school, since the cemetery is close by.

“He knew that on Halloween, ghost kids rose from their graves. They tried to get real live kids to play a game with them. The game was called Hide and Shriek. The object of the game was to take the live kids back to the grave!”

I don’t think Kate even read a summary of Hide and Shriek. They make up for that with them mentioning Mrs. Gaunt, which is form “Who’s Been Sleeping in my Grave?”. Have we covered the continuity nods in these yet? Because despite the ghostwriters, they exist and it’s neat.

Andrew looks for something under his bed and finds an old looking book with no title. Must be someone’s idea of artsy. He takes it with him but when he looks at it next, he sees words as on the front page now. It has a title and it is, you guessed it, Body Switchers from Outer Space. Nah, it’s the title of the book.

The first chapter tells us the book is what it say on the tin. Andrew figures this is a weird TJ prank or something. I like how we’re getting started so quickly, not much time wasted here. Andrew makes a quick bathroom stop and notices his skin is looking paler. And he’s got a bit of a bite on his neck.

Damn it, he’s a zombie.

He goes to school where he meets up with TJ. His friend notices the whole pale thing and also his red lips.

“You look like you’re becoming…Andrew, are you turning into a clown?”

Okay, that genuinely made me laugh.

He tells him about the book and finds out his pal had nothing to do with it. They start to think something is afoot and that Andy is indeed becoming a vampire. I like how TJ’s nature makes it so he immediately believes this is real. Sometimes we even get the disbelief shtick with friends but not here.

TJ is even excited about it, wishing he could be a creature of the night too. Don’t we all? Andrew is more of a party pooper though, although he notes positives like getting to put people in trances. This may not be the case anyway since it’s sunny and he isn’t burning to death.

Later at lunch, he starts feeling terrible after eating some bread. His throat is closing and stuff, and the way it’s written is pretty upsetting. TJ does the Heimlich maneuver to get the bread spit out and they make sure to describe the process. You know those stories you see where someone learned to do this from some cartoon? Did anyone learn it from this?

Turns out the bread was garlic bread, so he is indeed a vampire. The best part of Spaghetti and he can’t have it now, what a shame. Later on the way home, Tj goes over the pros and cons of being a vampire when the bus suddenly stops. It randomly breaks down just as they are about to go over a bridge. When the kids get off the bus, it roars back to life but it stops when they get back on.

Clearly this bus hates kids. Actually, TJ figures it out it must be Andrew. That bridge goes over water and vampires can’t travel over water. That’s one I haven’t heard before. Emily gets off and is upset, especially after hearing the old “He’s a vampire” excuse. They walk home and suddenly dogs start chasing Andrew.

Another thing that just means you’re a dog or something. Turns out dogs hate vampires just like they hate ghosts. Nah, I know this trope extends to anything supernatural in general. They escape the dogs and connect those dots. They go home, where more writing appears in the book. Only Andrew the vampire can read it though.

It goes over on some rules, but only the things we already know like the running water stuff. This thing is a bit slow. So now with TJ’s help, they gotta survive being a vampire without this book’s help. First step, getting a coffin. Vampires can only sleep in them and it has your native soil in it. Another one I didn’t know.

I love this whole following exchange, they talk about getting this like it’s the most normal thing ever, it’s all just an annoyance to them. TJ goes as far to call a funeral home, only to discover coffins are expensive. So he has to use an old refrigerator box instead and fill it with dirt. But he ends up just sleeping in the closet anyway.

He wakes up to discover he is now hanging from the clothes rod. Mom sees this and is weirded out. I doubt it’s the worst thing she’s caught him doing. Also, Emily gets angry at everything, that girl needs help. He consults the manual and of course it just now tells him all the sleeping stuff.

He goes to school on his bike and finds himself going fast and beating Emily to school. Vampires are fast it seems. The downside is that NOW the sun is affecting him. I don’t like the sun as it is, so this would be a god send. TJ gets excited about Andrew being a vampire, as he can turn TJ into one and can have fun flying and such. We should all strive to have his optimism.

That night, Andrew can’t sleep and assuming it’s due to the cold, he checks the closet for a sweater. There he finds a black cape his mom happens to have and puts it on for vampire reasons. Don’t worry his Mom isn’t a vampire, we’re not getting that twist today. He tries going to sleep in that closet position but a bit later, he hears someone.

He thinks it’s Emily but instead, a vampire is there. Finally, it took you 64 pages. He is revealed as Count Humphrey Ved. Is that a reference to anything? He thinks Andrew is on the puny side, so he’ll have to work hard to make him worthy of the Dark Gift. Does he have the receipt? He randomly picked Andrew to give this gift to and hopes he won’t make his first mistake in 600 years.

Andrew tells him about the book and how it’s been of no help, and Ved just assumes he broke it. It is tossed away and now the titular book no longer plays a part in the story. Honestly that’s kind of funny. First order of business is flying lessons. Ved throws him out the window and it turns his powers let him fly with his arms. Jack Johnson is proud.

He turns into a bat after he starts doing this, so there’s another power checked off. There’s a fun bit of them flying which ends with Andrew not looking out for that tree. This makes him turn back to human and that comes with a short but neat body horror description. There’s an Animorphs joke to be made here.

I love how Ved is less of an evil creature and more of an asshole teacher who chews his student out for the tiniest mistake. He has this asides to himself like “Dark powers, give me strength” that are funny. He promises Andrew will get used to being a vampire, once it all kicks in and he has to rely on only blood for food.

Next he forces him to train his hunting skills, starting with a bunny. Long story short, Andrew is forced into almost having rabbit for dinner but he comes to his senses thanks to a sneeze. Yes. Ved sees this as a good thing as clearly it means Andrew prefers human blood. That can’t happen until his fangs come in though, bummer.

That ends training for tonight so Andrew goes home. He tries to get some sleep but gets the urge to check something. He goes to the bathroom and in the mirror he sees he has grown fangs. Ved is likely upset this was right after he left. He tells Emily about this and she takes the place of the nonbeliever parent.

Thankfully after seeing the fangs and how they are indeed real, she abruptly changes her mind. She goes “How could you do this to me?” and focuses on herself which is funny and in character for her so far. Andrew brings in TJ to see if he knows how to fix all this. He still wants to be a vampire and is let down that Andrew wants to reverse this. I have nothing to say to that, he’s an icon.

Emily comes in and decides to help go through TJ’s vampire books for advice. After some banter, they discover the main way is to kill a vampire who turned you. The method is to stake him, decapitate him and then stuff garlic in his mouth. I feel those last bits are in the wrong order, garlic won’t hurt when he’s dead.

He doesn’t wanna do that and..that’s the scene. Abrupt. That night, Ved shows up for more training. Andrew’s fangs are gone but they come back when he is reminded of the rabbit. He has Ved stall by making snow. I can’t tell if this is made up vampire stuff or just obscure lore. He has Ved teach him how to become a red mist which is cool.

The stalling only works for so long until it’s time to hunt humans. It turns out Andrew and the others thought of this whole plan and it’s time to star that. He tells Ved his first victim should be this jerk-y guy from school who happens to be at the creepy Cameron mansion on a dare.

Cameron Mansion…either that’s a random name or a direct reference to Halloween Party where we also had a Cameron Mansion. Any references to the main series are usually generic so this feels weird. I don’t recall Cameron Mansion being a thing in the rest of the series so this would have to be specific it is. Neat.

They run to the mansion, and turn into wolves to get there faster. I didn’t know vampires could appropriate the other side until this book. They get there and Andrew springs on his victim upon spotting him which is just TJ in disguise. He pretends to trap TJ but Ved holds him in place with powers, so he can’t hand him the stake.

Andrew almost gives into his vampire nature but thankfully Emily comes in. TJ is snapped out but now the stakes come out and Ved can tell he’s been tricked. In response, he takes away Andrew’s vampire privileges.

“You’re not getting the Dark Gift. now. You’re getting death. I’m going to kill you”

I love how on the nose that is.

He wants to kill them all and while Andrew tries to get him to only take himself, he declines that. Good gesture for Andrew at least. Ved tugs on Emily’s pearl necklace and it shatters. Suddenly, he stops to count them. One of the books from earlier mentioned uncontrollable counting being a vampire thing. Great, our big bad is The Count.

Also, the necklace was established before and I thought it was weird until it became Chekov’s Necklace. This distracts him but they can’t escape in time so he comes back to his senses to go after them. Ved uses his powers to freeze TJ and Emily which just leaves him and Andrew to fight.

“And one more thing. Humphrey is a stupid name for a vampire!”

You should have saved this genius for the pre-kill one liner, kid. There’s a chase that goes on for a bit and eventually Ved is led outside…just as the sun comes up. You do the math. Yeah, he’s hit and crumbles to dust. Andrew didn’t plan this, he even goes “oh yeah I could have done that on purpose”. I’ll forgive this shtick because I like the book.

With Ved defeated, the others come out of their trance and they go home. They want to test to see if Andrew is truly human again. Emily wants to cross the bridge to see if running water works now but he still wants to take the long way. After some whining, Andrew shuts her up…by drawing fangs.

She runs off but ah it’s just a prank bro. Good to know that the mild bonding we got was for nothing. TJ asks for more info on how Ved was stopped and Andrew says he didn’t take him and do what the book says. TJ reveals that you have to do exactly what it says, as sunlight only kills the vampire and doesn’t free anyone of the curse.

And because some books just happened t be true I guess, this is accepted. Andrew isn’t listening as he’s busy staring at that sexy neck of his. He pulls out fangs for real. TJ reacts by being happy and jealous as he never changes.

Andrew leans in and thinks about how soon TJ wouldn’t have to ask what being a vampire is like, he’d understand everything. The End. Well, that twist was fair for the most part. It is a bit weird but I’ll allow it. I’m only bugged by the Emily part. Also, they say he put on sunscreen so that’s how he’s not frying. He just happened to know they’d be up until now?

Whatever, it’s done.

Final Thoughts:

Taking nostalgia aside as much as possible, I rather like this one. It’s a basic premise that is done well and gets enough out of it. It’s refreshing how simple this is, without much to make it overly complex. We do have the vampire rules but it’s kept simple until the end. We get started right away and just riff on the idea.

Granted, it takes maybe a bit too long for Ved to show up and they could have done a bit more with him. What we get works though. As for other flaws, maybe a few bits could have been played more seriously and while Andrew isn’t too bad, I’d drop some of the prank stuff.

I can see others being a bit more bugged by some of that but otherwise this was fun. I think Katy Hall’s experience being mostly with lighter fare helped this one. This is a fairly comedic story, treating the whole vampire thing in a casual way. It feels a bit more “realistic” as to what this would be like. It’s just funny to see them care more about having to sleep upside down than the darker stuff.

We get some of that with him having to drink blood and that did add some mild intensity. We even get one of the better climaxes which goes on for long enough. It may not that horror focused but it’s not free of that. It’s a good example of a more comedic kids horror book done right, to me at least.

Ved makes for a good villain being threatening enough but mostly funny with how he’s just a teacher pissed at his dumb student. He adds to the comedy of it all. I like how they mix up vampire stuff, by including lesser known lore. Andrew is fine, for his pranks he is mostly likable. Emily is indeed a bitch so I get why he’d pick on her.

She can be a bit much but I do enjoy their dynamic most of the time. I liked the team up but the final prank was dumb. TJ is the MVP thing, he’s fun with his vampire obsession and he truly wants to be one. One of the more unique and solid friends in these/

Writing is a bit clunky at times but has its moments and mostly works fine. It’s in the third person and it seems to just be how Katy prefers to write from what I can see. Pacing is mostly good, a few nitpicks aside it flows well. As a whole, there is a charm to this one that makes it one of the better ones. The humor doesn’t always work but it mostly works in making this a lighter vampire story that is fun.

It’s not one of the deep scary ones but it gets the job done well. A few min0or annoyances this holds up as a fun read. If you’re getting into Ghosts, this is a good one to start with. It shows how other authors can put their own stamp that helps it stand out from the crowd.

That’s about it, not a lot to go over here. Solid read, glad I finally got to it.

Rating: Good

A basic one this time but that was less work for me at least. Fun times with this one. Next month, I have a big April project that will make me skip the Stine review. I’ll explain things in due time, don’t worry. When we return in May, I think it will be finally time to tackle Goosebumps Triple Header. Finally.

See ya.


About Spongey444

I'm 25 and I mostly spend my time watching TV and movies, hence why I ended doing a blog all about those things. I tend to have weird tastes, but I like think I'm just fair on things. Actually nah, I have bad tastes.
This entry was posted in R.L Stine Reviews, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s