Back to Fear Street – Missing (Fear Street, #4)
Welcome back to Fear Street! This month’s outing, Missing, was another good one with some interesting flaws. Again, the premise was simple – our main characters, Cara and Mark Burroughs, are siblings whose parents go missing. The last time the siblings see their parents is a Tuesday morning at breakfast. They think their parents are busy at work as computer programmers, so they have some friends over Tuesday night but get concerned when their parents don’t show up that night and are still missing the next morning. The rest of the book deals with them trying to find their parents. Overall, I liked this story and gave it 3/5 on Goodreads, but like I said it has its flaws. So let’s start with the good.
I’m pretty sure this is the first book where the protagonists actually live on Fear Street. The siblings are new to the area but are quickly made aware of all the weirdness surrounding Fear Street and the woods behind their neighborhood. Them living on Fear Street doesn’t actually have anything to do with the story or the twist, but I’m sure future books will be different. It’s also the first book in the series that is solely written in first person, with the perspective switching back and forth between Cara and Mark. I enjoyed this format because it made the story seem more personal – I got to know exactly what Cara and Mark were thinking and felt more a part of their world. I also like when authors tell a story from different perspectives because the reader really gets to be the fly on the wall.
Another thing I liked about this story is that we have some more recurring characters. Cory and his best-friend-turned-girlfriend Lisa from The New Girl and The Surprise Party make an appearance, as does two of Cory’s friends from the first two books and a character from The Surprise Party. However, while I like seeing old characters pop up, I’m noticing that not much is being done with them. They’re kind of just there, making little cameos but not really affecting the story in any way. This is fine, but I’m hoping that there’ll be some old characters popping up that are crucial to the story – maybe a character that seemed harmless before but turns up as a villain or vice versa.
Finally, R.L. Stine stumped me again! A little ways into the book I was pretty sure I had a good idea what was going on and what the twist would be, but I was totally wrong. Not even close. It’s time I accept my limitations.
Now to those interesting flaws I mentioned. Cara describes her brother Mark as a serious no-nonsense type of guy that makes friends easily and that everyone likes. But my initial reaction to Mark was “Wow, what an asshole!” One example – while the siblings are still questioning where their parents are that first night, Cara gets a bit upset, as could be expected. And Mark says, “I got Cara calmed down in my usual way. I yelled at her and told her to shut up.” Like, who thinks something like that? A crazy person with anger management problems that’s who. Another example – when the siblings discover that their parents’ car is still in the garage and Cara suggests that they drive to their parents’ job, Mark kicks a rear tire and slams his fist on the trunk because he can’t decide between looking for his missing parents or going to school so he can take a math test and see his girlfriend. WHAT?!? So now he comes off like a crazy person with anger management issues and a complete idiot. Maybe I’m being a bit nitpicky, but these are our early introductions to Mark, and it just doesn’t paint him in the best light. I’m not exactly sure why he was written this way as we learn pretty quickly that Mark is not a villain and that he’s not involved in his parents’ disappearance. It just struck me as an odd choice. Thankfully, Mark’s character improves as the book goes on, which makes it all the more strange as to why he was depicted in such a negative light in the first place.
Another big flaw that stuck out to me while reading Missing is a character being written in such a way that it was more than obvious that he was an antagonist. Although to the author’s credit, this character had a twist of their own that I didn’t anticipate.
Now to some minor flaws that were more like personal annoyances and probably make me sound more like Mark than I’d like. When interacting with a character for the first time, Cara thinks, “I guess he was handsome. But with his white-blond hair, pale skin, and sparkling white teeth, he was practically an albino!” Geez, if I was an albino kid reading this I’d be pretty offended. Another minor flaw – Mark and Cara visit a coworker of their parents and instead of telling him straight out that their parents are missing, they act like it’s a big secret and instead just ask the coworker if he has their parents’ work number. Given the severity of the situation, I just didn’t understand why they felt the need to be so secretive. Finally, I’m no expert on sentence structure or grammar, but there was a sentence that I had to read more than once because I was surprised that it made it into the book. While thinking about his girlfriend, Mark says to himself, “I kept hearing her voice again and again, hearing her words again as she told me we couldn’t see each other again.” I added the word in bold for emphasis. I know I’m being overly critical and the book was written for teens, but I think using “again” four times in a sentence just sounded really awkward. I came across a website, 17 Fantastic Examples of Repetition in Literature, which differentiates between unintentional repetition which sounds awkward and sloppy and intentional repetition us a purposeful literary device and gives examples of the latter. I think the sentence in Missing is an example of unintentional repetition as it indeed sounds pretty awkward and sloppy.
So, I covered the good and the bad and now on to the funny – or at least funny to me. At the start of the story while Cara and Mark are having their little party, mention is made of a CD player being “really cranked up.” This probably isn’t very funny to you, but it’s funny to me because I had no idea that in 1990, when this book was written, CD players were mainstream enough to be mentioned in a teen horror novel. A brief Google search showed that the first CD audio players were marketed in 1982 and sold for a whopping $900 and that portable CD players were introduced in the mid-1980s but didn’t become popular until the 1990s. This was news to me because I was born in 1982 but don’t think I became aware of CD players until the 1990s. And I didn’t think they would catch on (silly me), so I kept buying tapes until the 11th grade when my first CD purchases were TLC’s FanMail album (with “No Scrubs”) and Eminem’s mainstream debut The Slim Shady LP. I was a bit late, but hey, better late than never right? And you’re welcome for that brief (hopefully correct) history of the CD player.
I’m almost done – I swear. My finale involves cereal and Coke, two things that I didn’t think went together and I’m pretty sure I’m right. So, when our siblings’ parents are still gone Wednesday morning, the kids look around for something to eat for breakfast and find a box of cornflakes but no milk. They apparently don’t waste time deciding to just pour a bottle of Coke on the cereal instead, and they conclude that “actually, it didn’t taste that bad.” I find that extremely hard to believe. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous and transports me back in time to my own cereal horror story. My story didn’t involve cornflakes but Apple Cinnamon Cheerios, and it took place while I was at my dad’s house for the weekend and when electric juicers were super popular. Like Cara and Mark, I too had cereal but no milk. So my dad, who was really into juicing, thought a good substitute would be juiced apples…over Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. It was the stuff of nightmares – like a Double Dare stunt or an inspiration for Fear Factor. I’m dry heaving just thinking about it. So yeah, I don’t believe that Coke and cornflakes actually didn’t taste that bad.
Ok, I know I spent most of this blog post talking about the negatives, but after all of my criticisms, I still enjoyed Missing enough to give it 3/5 stars on Goodreads. The story was good, entertaining, and kept me guessing, so even though the flaws started to add up, I think they were outweighed by the positives. Until next time…
Kia is a cohost of the Half Assed Horror Cast. Her favorite horror novel is Scott Smith’s ‘The Ruins,’ fave slasher is Freddy Krueger, and her favorite TV show of all time is ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’