It's officially February and the Valentine's season! This time of year is filled to the brim with red and pink decorations, candy hearts, boxes of chocolate, flowers, fancy dinners . . . and murder!
Okay, so maybe not everyone's Valentine's Day includes murder, but when it comes to R.L. Stine and Fear Street, you are guaranteed a death or two. Such is the case in his 1993 (republished in 2011) novel: Broken Hearts.
This story of holiday horror revolves around two main characters, Josie and Melissa. After a horrible horse riding accident (caused by the two teenager's carelessness) these two girl's lives change forever. When a close friend is left with serious injuries from the incident, they both try their best to move on with their lives.
However, it seems that someone doesn't want them to move on. Someone wants them to remember . . . and pay for their mistakes.
It all begins when Josie starts receiving threatening Valentine's in the mail. Poems that foretell of death and murder are the last thing either of these girl's expected during this season of love. However, a killer is out to get them before they can hold their final celebrations.
Broken Hearts is probably one of my favorite Fear Street novels I've read to date. The tone seemed somewhat more serious than other entries in the series thus lent itself to a more "80s slasher movie" style story line.
While Stine doesn't shy away from a few false scares and fake outs, the majority of the horror is true and really happening. This is one reason I love this book. The thrills are more tense and frightening since you know for a fact that something truly sinister is going on. Someone is really killing people and seems to have their sights set on Josie and Melissa.
Additionally, I have a great love for any kind of holiday horror fiction--and Valentine's Day is no exception. While Stine could have worked in a little more "holiday cheer" along with the horrors, he has just enough love letters, decorations, and even Valentine's parties to give it the right flavor.
Best of all, I really enjoyed the story's climax when the killer is revealed. I thought I had it all figured out but was blown away when I realized I'd been wrong. It made for a satisfying conclusion to a well written and evenly paced horror thriller.
If you're looking for something to read this Valentine's Day, go ahead and order a copy of this book. You won't regret it.
RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
What could be better than a spooky old mansion on a secluded island? A few murders, perhaps?
R.L. Stine's Fear Street series of books has been a staple of young adult horror and thriller fiction since the late eighties. Stine, who is more well known for his middle grade Goosebumps books, took a long hiatus from the classic young adult series after its original run in the nineties.
However, in recent years, he returned to the seminal haunted town with a six book run from Thomas Dunne Books. While it was a short run, this new series was a welcome return for fans of the popular horror author--and thankfully, we have even more titles to look forward to in the upcoming Return to Fear Street series being put out by Harper Teen, which supposedly will take on a retro appearance for the cover art and presentation, a smart move considering the popularity of Stranger Things.
However, I'm here today to talk about the original revival of books in the Fear Street universe. Party Games was the first entry in this six book run and proved to be a strong opening to a series of exciting stories that appeal to today's teens and nostalgia seeking fans alike.
Party Games stars a young woman named Rachel, who is your regular high school aged girl. She enjoys spending time with friends, works a part time job for extra cash, and has a strong interest in boys. When she is invited to Brendan Fear's birthday party at a secluded mansion on Fear Island, she is all too thrilled. Not only does she have a secret crush on Brendan, but the party allows her to hang out with a wider circle of popular teens.
As any fanatic reader of Stine, as myself, we all know that things will never go according to plan--and they don't. Omens of doom follow Rachel everywhere she goes, warning her not to attend the party. Passing these off as nothing to worry about, she makes the boat ride out to the island and the party. However, when some of the party guests turn up dead, it seems that someone is playing a much sicker version of party games than anyone expected.
As with any Stine book, the first half of the story is riddled with "false scares." It is exciting because you are never sure what is really happening and what isn't. Are the teens really dying, or is it all an elaborate prank to scare the party goers witless. Let me just say now, not ALL the spooky happenings are fake.
There are some truly effective scenes in this story which are filled with gore and scares galore. Stine also is a master of making you both care about and hate his characters. Some of the people in this story you wait around hoping they'll get their just desserts. Others you root for to escape. Others you just aren't even sure if you can trust.
My favorite scenes from this particular title revolve around the house's grim history and the potential ghosts it has left behind. Stine knows how to come up with some disturbing backdrops for these stories, which makes the book all the more enjoyable.
The only trouble I saw with this title was that perhaps there were one too many fake outs. Just when I thought the story might be getting into some seriously scary territory, it all turned out to be a facade. Even when there was some good scares left underneath, I almost wished some of the scariest moments had actually occurred.
All in all, Party Games is a fast paced and easy read for those looking for a quick scare. You can't usually go wrong with R.L. Stine, and Party Games is no exception. If your a fan of teen horror and haven't yet looked into this revival of a classic series, I'd encourage you to check it out.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 PENTAGRAMS
Occult Concept is a horror blog and podcast focusing on cult cinema from the 70s and 80s as well as fiction in a similar vein. We are also a publisher of indie horror fiction in the genres of occult, paranormal, and sci-fi.