Monday, January 5, 2009

The Thrill Club, or “Revenge of the Ghostwriter”

Alright, Shadyside fans, we’re up and back to blogging. My post-Christmas indulgence has gone on far too long, so I really need to get to work about now. I thought I’d start the new year with a basic Fear Street, The Thrill Club.

First things first. Omg, look at their outfits. The blonde is clearly wearing her grandmother’s patchwork quilt. And a neon checkered vest paired with a purple … bowler hat? This has to be the best outfit ever. Also, the tagline is absolutely classic: “They’re dying to join.” I bet a club that actually had the motto: Dying to join? would do fabulous. Teens love to pretend they’re dangerous.

And the six crazy kids in this club are no different. Because is there anything MORE like pretending to be dangerous than sitting around on weekday nights and telling ghost stories to each other? That’s not a thrill club, that’s a Girl Guide’s meeting! (Or, for all you Canadians out there, Brownies! I was totally a Brownie). Anyways, this book actually starts with one of the girls, Shandel, walking down Fear Street alone on a chilly night, after fighting with her friend. She’s freaking out, hears someone behind her, and before you know it, her throat has been slit. Chills!

Actually, this is a story that Talia wrote, as the Thrill Club’s resident horror writer. Just like R. L.! But wait, it gets better. Talia hasn’t been up to writing her famous horror stories lately, so she got her boyfriend Seth to write them. Just like R. L.! Yes, this is a Fear Street book about a ghostwriter. Could it get any better?

Shandel thinks it could, because she’s kinda disturbed that her friend slit her literary throat. And since being the bestest horror writer out there is SUPER important to Talia, she can’t tell Shandel it’s actually her boyfriend who fictionally offed her. Everyone gets into a totally bitchy fight. Nessa, the one who is completely unimportant to the story thinks it’s funny, while Maura, the chubby redhead, sides with Shandel. Because Maura HATES Talia because Talia stole Seth from her. Talia (in her head) is like, yah, well look at me, you chubby red head (because Talia is beautiful). So, just a heads up, this book is big on the teen drama. Aka, awesome! Also, Maura’s boyfriend Rudy sides with Talia because he is not-so-secretly in love with her.

Talia starts to feel a little too picked on by the group, so she responds by stabbing Shandel in the chest. Panic ensues. Turns out it was a fake collapsible knife, but for reals, I feel like Talia has some issues. And if I were Shandel, I’d watch my back.

Trouble in paradise with the new couple Talia and Seth. She stole him from Maura 3 months ago, which is years in high school land, and is sad and bored because he’s been all distant. She worries that she’s tiring of him already. Le sigh. Then, later, she reveals his dad died, like, a month ago, so why doesn’t he get over it already? In Shadyside-land, a death of a loved one is gotten over in about 2 weeks, if not before hand, so we assume Seth took this sudden death really hard. She also reveals Seth found his father’s body, listening to some weird chanting tape. His dad was an anthropologist, studying tribes in New Guinea. Oh, man, I hope there’s a zombie in this! Seth plays the tape for Talia, and he starts to go into a weird trance.

That’s enough for Talia, who’s had enough of her boring depressed boyfriend for one night. She decides that she’s done with Seth for good, and starts avoiding him. Then she gets in trouble with her math teacher, who accuses her of cheating. Seth has been doing all her homework for her, but she can’t understand why someone would tell her math teacher this. Besides the fact that they met you, you bitch. I can’t understand why a high school math teacher would care, but perhaps my math teachers were a little more jaded than those at Shadyside High.

At the next Thrill Club meeting, pretty much everyone is late. Talia stumbles in, feeling weird and groggy, with bloodstains on her sweatshirt. Seth comes in not long after her. My first thought would be to ask Talia whether she’d consumed any unattended drinks given to her by Seth, but then everyone discovers that Shandel is missing. They all pile into the car to look for her, and find her in the Fear Street cemetery with her throat slit – just like in Talia/Seth’s story. Things do not look good for our bratty heroine. Seth drives her home and starts making out with her, and then basically kicks her out of the car. Ooh, I so do not like this story line!

Talia’s feeling of weirdness continues on that night, especially after she finds a blood covered knife in her dresser. Like the blood on her sweatshirt. She has no recollection of where she had been or what she had done before the meeting, but begins to think it may have been something nefarious.

The club members go to Shandel’s funeral, which I believe may be one of the first funerals I’ve heard of in Shadyside. I thought they were just going to do, like, mass memorials every Tuesday or something, but apparently Shandel gets her own funeral. They must have full clothing stores for “Fashionable Funeral Wear” everywhere around there. Talia during this time totally changes her mind about Seth, and gets all clingy and needy, as he becomes more distant and not into her. He breaks a date, so Talia decides to write a horror story to make herself feel better. Because horror is known for giving warm fuzzies to people who may have just killed their friend. She spaces out in front of the computer, and only comes back to herself when two detectives show up at her door. They say Shandel’s mom just got a call from Talia, confessing to Shandel’s murder. That’s just mean and fucked up, whether you did it or not, but Talia has no recollection of making this call.

However, some anonymous person (Maura) told the entire school about this, so everyone at Shadyside assumes she’s a murderer. Pfft, big deal, so are half the people there. Talia’s having a terrible time, until she runs into Rudy, and they go to the secret rendezvous of the open gym to kiss. Then they decide to stay with their respective people, so that’s that. Only … Talia sees Nessa and Seth openly flirting. When she confronts them in anger, Nessa’s pretty much – wtf? You called me last night to tell me you were dumping him and it was okay. Talia is pretty shocked because she’s done nothing of the sort, and doesn’t talk to Seth for a week. Then all of a sudden Seth wants to get back together. (See? Total teen drama!) He shows up at her door wearing a tribal mask and gives her a horror story for their next Thrill Club, which they have not disbanded since the untimely death of their other friend.

The story is of Rudy hanging a gag puppet in his basement (like he always does) but somehow entangling his own neck in the noose and offing himself. Fictional Rudy is not super clever. Talia thinks it’s in poor taste, after what happened last time, but Seth is convinced it will prove she has nothing to hide. Yah, right. Talia goes over to Rudy’s early to help him set up his gag puppet, and what do you know. The horror gang shows up to find Rudy, hanging from the ceiling, Talia cowering in the corner with rope burns all over her hands.

So Talia’s admitted to a mental institution, which is pretty fair, all considering. Even Talia is convinced she killed her friends, the evidence is that convincing. During her time there, Seth gets back together with Maura, which Talia finds out when she’s released into the care of her parents pending her trial.

Seth celebrates Talia being released from the loonie bin by giving her another story he wrote, about how she kept Shandel’s and Rudy’s heads as trophies, then attacks Seth with a hacksaw. Um, fairly insensitive, dude. He wants her to read it at a club meeting (which she is for some reason still invited to?), and Talia really needs to learn her lesson. He pretty much makes her read it, and while she intends to change it while reading, for some reason she can’t. This buzzing starts up in her head, then a voice, telling her to get the hacksaw and kill Maura. Sooo, Talia is for reals crazy, right? Nessa, Maura and Talia all struggle over the hacksaw, as Seth sits there listening to his Walkman. Talia all of a sudden comes back to herself, having no memories what just happened.

Seth then gets up, saying they all were going to die. He explains that his father didn’t die, but rather escaped. The weird New Guinea chanting is some magic transfer chant that allows you to leave your body and take over someone else’s. His father just didn’t return. Now, I understand abandonment issues, but Seth took this too far. He comes after Talia, hating on her because she was only using him and was going to leave him like his father. He had entered her body (metaphysically only of course) and made her kill Shandel and Rudy. Seth then starts chanting with the weird tape, and leaves his body and doesn’t come back.

After this all charges are dropped against Talia – because the excuse my boyfriend possessed my body with a New Guinea transfer chant and made me do it always go over well – and everyone is happy. But didn’t Seth, a total psycho murderer, just take over someone else’s body, and is walking around in their life now? That’s not cool, and I’d be watching my back.

So, my favourite thing about this book is that it is totally a horror story written by a ghostwriter, ABOUT a ghostwriter of horror stories who goes crazy and tries to destroy the writer’s life. R. L., should you be worried? I loved it, except the ending lacked plausibility. And you know how I look for plausibility in my Fear Streets. I give it 26 ghostwriting ghost stories out of 29.


Chad Walters said...

We have Brownies in the US too, and there was a funeral at the beginning of The New Boy.

Anonymous said...

Life is cheap in Fear Street. They can't afford to mourn for long.

Also, I like this book much more now that you pointed out the meta-ghostwritten nature of it.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog! It's such a work distraction. I'm amazed at how well I also remember certain books. So many Shadyside memories...After you go through all the Shadyside books, don't forget about Stein's NON-Shadyside 'horror' books like Eye Candy, Halloween Night, The Babysitter(s), and my personal fave...TWISTED--(really hard to find). Keep up the good work! PS I met Stine at a book signing when I was 11 and he autographed his newest book at the time--the one about the pretty twins and Bobby Newkirk--for me!!! Hee hee.

Deathycat said...

This book was so awesome. It was one of the first FS books I ever read. ^_^ I think there were funerals in the Cheerleaders books.

Anonymous, I envy you.

L. K. Stine said...

I think we're all pretty envious of Anonymous. A book actually touched by the YA horror master himself - what would that get you on ebay?

LAK said...

Ah blog posts! Thank you!

If my 'friends' were running around with fake collapsible knives and stabbing me; I might find new friends. Just sayin'.

Anon-You are lucky! Living in the bitter cold north of Canada means we never get to meet our heroes!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I'm only 'anonymous' because I was (am) too lazy to actually activate an account and create a password, etc...I'm 29 now and was about 12 when RL was on Long Island, where I grew was easy for him since he lives in Manhattan.

I do remember the line to meet him was OUT THE DOOR and that he was very nice but...well...let's just say he looks EXACTLY like his pictures. I'll find the book and try to scan it--it may be at my parent's house.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, you were actually in a room sharing oxygen with R.L. Stine! It's every 90s youngster's dream come true. I have several signed books, but none are Stine's, and I've never met any authors. Even though I know of one who lives in my hometown.

L. K. Stine said...

OMG! A scanned picture of R. L.'s autograph? Be still my heart!

Anonymous said...

Only because I'm in NY...Stine was my idol in the 90s, along with Christopher Pike. I promise I'll try to find the autograph! By the way, it may be bitter cold in Canada but it's also damn cold here in the Tri-State area...

Anonymous said...

So which FS books did Stine REALLY write?

This is bull shit! I'm so pissed, seriously!

Adam said...

Apparently the ghost writer was Tom Perrotta (Election, Little Children)

I wonder if the other ghost writers found any kind of success like Mr. Perrotta's.

RecallerReminder said...

Talia was unbelievable! So its not weird she end up being the murderer against her will...And I really dont understand how she got away with it with such a lame excuse.