Back to Fear Street – Haunted (Fear Street, #7)
And…we’re back! I know you all have been waiting with bated breath for my next Fear Street entry, and well, the wait is over. So let’s talk about Haunted. The seventh entry in the Fear Street series follows a girl named Melissa (“Lissa”) who’s being haunted by a ghost who’s trying to kill her, making this the first book in the series to delve into the supernatural. It’s a basic premise that we’ve seen a thousand times in movies but with a couple of twists. And it’s because of these twists that I gave Haunted 1/5 stars on Goodreads. That makes Haunted my lowest-rated Fear Street book thus far. It was bound to happen sooner or later – can’t win ‘em all. And one star is better than no stars, amirite? This is another post where I think spoilers are necessary, so consider this your first and final warning:
So, Lissa is being haunted by a ghost named Paul. He pops up in her bedroom where he tries to push her out of the window, and he even shows up in her brand new, shiny blue Pontiac Firebird (a birthday present from her dad) where he takes over her steering wheel and tries to run her off the road. And when he’s not trying to kill her, he rips up all of her birthday presents during her party. Sassy! Paul eventually tells her that he plans to kill her because she killed him, except they’ve never met before and he doesn’t actually remember how she kills him because impaired memory is apparently a side effect of being dead. Lissa eventually sees Paul out with his friends – and he’s totally alive! Obviously, this confuses the hell out of Lissa, but after seeing the live Paul a few times and the ghost Paul having no idea what she’s talking about, she figures out that ghost Paul is actually from the future and that he’s come back to prevent her from killing him. Whew! Didn’t see that one coming, but I thought it was a pretty good twist. I’m sure there’s all kinds of plot holes and complications when you get into messy timeline situations, but all that’s usually over my head. So, yeah – pretty good twist. Lissa and ghost Paul then attempt to convince live Paul to stay away from Lissa so that he won’t get killed.
Another good twist is that while all of this is going on, Fear Street is being plagued by the Fear Street Prowler, and Lissa is rightfully terrified as she actually lives on Fear Street. Well, it turns out that the prowler is none other than the live Paul. Once you find that out, it becomes pretty clear right away how Lissa could kill Paul.
Now the bad stuff. R.L. Stine really doesn’t portray poor people very well in this book. I first noticed that in the way he has one character go on and on about how horrible this girl’s clothes are. She’s clearly disgusted by this girls “plastic pedal pushers,” her “tacky top with the fringe,” and her “white plastic boots.” When she mentions how tacky the girl’s outfit is, Lissa responds, “She’s just poor, that’s all.” Meanwhile, Lissa shows up later wearing her own fringed top, but I’m sure it’s top-of-the-line as it’s made clear throughout the book that Lissa is rich (or at least her parents are). Later, while Lissa is trying to figure out who ghost Paul is, she decides that he probably didn’t go to her high school, Shadyside High School, but to South because “ he said he was poor and everything.” South is then described as a “pit,” and another character mentions how she “unfortunately” knows all of the kids at South. Lissa eventually makes her way to live Paul’s neighborhood which she describes as being “creepy” and “horrible” – this coming from the rich girl whose house is haunted. Finally, live Paul and his friends are just bad seeds – they’re constantly drinking and they’re always making very lewd and sexually suggestive comments to Lissa, not to mention literally running after her in a parking lot. Plus, on more than one occasion Paul physically assaults her, grabbing her and refusing to let her go. He even says to her, “I don’t like it when rich, snobby girls hurt my feelings.” And let’s not forget that live Paul is the Fear Street Prowler, and the only time he’s portrayed as a decent guy is when he’s a ghost. So, the portrayal of poor people was off-putting, way too heavy handed, and didn’t really serve a purpose.
I also wasn’t a fan of all the convenient things that happened at the end. Throughout the book Lissa complains about it being so hot in her room, and she often sleeps with her window open despite being terrified of the Fear Street Prowler. Then at the end, while her parents are out of town, she decides it’s too hot to sleep in her room so she’ll sleep in theirs…because it’s air-conditioned! This whole time I’m just thinking, “Man, why don’t these people just turn on their AC,” when it turns out they’ve had air conditioning all along but for some reason not in Lissa’s room. Who needs a new car for their birthday? I’ll take some ductwork please. I mean, her parents are rich right? Surely they can afford it. It seems that the revelation about Lissa’s lack of air conditioning at the end of the book is solely for the purpose of relocating her to her parents’ bedroom. Why? Well, it’s revealed rather early in the book that Lissa’s father keeps a gun in his nightstand. And this just so happens to be the night when live Paul (aka the Fear Street Prowler) decides to break-in to Lissa’s house, and of course the window he comes in through is the window in Lissa’s parents’ bedroom. There’s a confrontation, and Lissa gets the gun but refuses to shoot Paul despite him being very threatening towards her. Eventually, ghost Paul shows up, and he’s able to take the gun away from live Paul and throw it to Lissa. For some reason, he was never able to make live Paul see him, which surely would’ve caused live Paul to rethink his life choices. The gun accidentally goes off when Lissa grabs it, killing Paul. Instead of saving his own life, ghost Paul decides to save Lissa’s life because he didn’t want her to get hurt and because he cared for her. Even ghost Paul hates live Paul. Maybe I’m being overly critical, but by the time I got to the final showdown, I had already predicted everything that was going to happen and was a little underwhelmed by how all the elements came together.
Tallying everything up – I talked about two things I liked and two things I didn’t. That should even out, but the bad stuff just really dragged the book down for me. Hence, my low Goodreads rating.
Now for the fun stuff. We have some more recurring characters – Lissa’s best friend is Della O’Connor, the main character from The Overnight, and Della’s boyfriend is Pete Goodwin, who also appeared in The Overnight. Della also makes a cameo in The Wrong Number, while Pete gets an honorable mention in Sleepwalker. Neither of these characters play significant roles in Haunted, and for some reason Lissa never even tells Della about ghost Paul (or live Paul for that matter). She only asks if she knows a student who died named Paul. A minor character from The New Girl and The Surprise Party that I’ve never mentioned before, David Metcalfe, also makes another minor appearance. He’s basically the class clown of the Fear Street series, but maybe we’ll see him develop as the series continues.
Tom Cruise gets another mention as Lissa comes across a Tom Cruise/Paul Newman movie (I’m guessing The Color of Money). She’s trying to take her mind off of being alone in her house, but the movie has too many commercials so she just turns the TV off. I’m sure this is an indicator of just how nervous she is, but from my 2018 perspective, maybe also an indicator of how few TV options she probably has. While her TV options may have been limited, Lissa’s clothing options certainly weren’t, and Haunted gives us a great description of 1980s clothing. Haunted was copyrighted in 1990, but we all know that’s still basically the eighties Lissa goes to a teen dance club with her boyfriend (who spends the book not believing Lissa when she tries to tell him about ghost Paul) dressed in a “sparkly midriff-length top and black Spandex bicycle shorts under a thigh-length purple skirt.” It’s like the eighties exploded and landed perfectly on her body. Wait, there’s more – she’s sweating so much from all the dancing, so she wipes her forehead with a tissue “from the small bag belted around her waist.” If that’s not a fanny pack I don’t know what is. And her outfit sounds like what I used to wear around my house to act out Kids, Incorporated – except I tied my bicycle shorts around my hair so I could “whip my hair” while performing “Tell It to My Heart.” I didn’t care who was in the living room – that was my stage so watch me perform! Great times!
Finally, I don’t have any ghost stories of my own, but my grandmother told me that she used to always see her father’s ghost in her doorway when she was about to get sick and that my grandfather once saw a headless ghost while walking through the woods to work. He dropped his lunch pail and ran all the way home. She also told me that her mother saw a ghost in a hallway when she was getting off of an elevator. I used to pray that the ghost of my Aunt Betty would visit me, but that never happened. I was always a bit scared of it actually happening, although she wouldn’t have threatened to kill me like ghost Paul. But she would’ve definitely pinched the hell out of my cheeks. By the way, these weren’t the adorable prayers of a six-year-old. I was in high school, so it was more like The Craft. Anyway, I usually believe ghost stories (although not of the ghost hunter variety), and I believe my grandmother. I’m not so sure about ghosts from the future, but I’ll keep an open mind.
See you in July!
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.’