Back to Fear Street – The Wrong Number (Fear Street, #5)
And here…we…go! I’m happy to report that I survived another trip to Fear Street! Join me, won’t you, as I tell you all about what happens when you call…The Wrong Number.
So, the fifth entry in the Fear Street Series is another simple concept. Our teen protagonists, Deena Martinson and Jade Smith, decide to make some prank phone calls on Deena’s brand spanking new phone. Like a real phone. You know like the ones with a cord? So after making some innocent prank phone calls to some kids at their school, Deena’s half-brother Chuck, a bad seed who moves to Shadyside after getting expelled from his other school, gets involved. And his prank calls are a lot less innocent – he calls in a bomb threat to a bowling alley and threatens another kid, saying that he’s the Phantom of Fear Street. Eventually, the three teens decide to stop with the prank phone calls after the bomb threat gets reported in the newspaper. However, one night Chuck decides to make a random call to someone on Fear Street. Because he’s new in town, he doesn’t believe the crazy stories about Fear Street and is trying to prove that the people who live on Fear Street are just like everybody else. He call the first name he finds in the phone book with a Fear Street address, but his call is answered by a woman screaming that she needs help because someone is trying to kill her. They hear a struggle and then a man’s voice telling them that it’s none of their business and that they got the wrong number. Instead of calling the police, they decide to go to the woman’s house. They see her stabbed and bleeding on the floor and get chased out of the house by a masked man. The woman dies, Chuck gets arrested for her death because his fingerprints are on the murder weapon (he picked it up in self-defense when the masked man tried to attack them), and Deena and Jade spend the rest of the book trying to prove his innocence and find the man behind the mask.
I gave The Wrong Number 3/5 stars on Goodreads. It was a pretty entertaining book as all of the books in the Fear Street Series have been thus far. Without fail, these books always suck me in and get me hooked. Unlike the others, though, I solved this mystery well before the ending of the book. It was pretty clear to me who the man in the mask was, so when Deena and Jade have their “A-ha!” moment, I was like, “Oh, I thought we knew that already.” The girls find out about halfway through the book, so Stine obviously didn’t intend for this to be the big mystery of the book. Once you find out who the man in the mask is, the story then becomes an old-fashioned sleuthing tale with Deena and Jade snooping around for evidence that the man in the mask is the real killer. So there is no twist ending here. And that’s not a bad thing – all stories don’t need a twist. But it takes the wind out of my sails a bit when I’m a few steps ahead of the protagonists. Also, the way the three teens get involved with the woman’s murder made no sense to me. They didn’t want to call the police when they first called the woman because they would have had to explain how they made the phone call in the first place and they didn’t think the police would believe them. Well, when they get to the woman’s house and see her on the floor, they then decide to call the police but get interrupted by the masked man. I just didn’t get this. Their reasons for not calling the police in the first place hadn’t changed, and they would have still had to explain how they randomly called the woman and ended up at her house. Maybe seeing her stabbed and bloody on the floor lit a fire under them, but she had said on the phone that someone was trying to kill her. And these kids were more worried about themselves than trying to help her. So, yeah – definitely some shitty kids. But remembering how I was as a teenager, I probably would’ve done the same thing. It is an incredible and extended period of self-focus and self-preservation.
We again have some recurring characters. Cory Brooks and Lisa Blume return for their fourth appearances, and Della O’Connor from The Overnight also pops up. However, like I said in my last blog post, these recurrences continue to just be mere cameos rather than important plot points. Here, Cory just happened to be at the bowling alley when Chuck called in his fake bomb threat, and he shows up at the end asking Deena if she really helped the police solve a murder. Lisa is the assistant editor of the high school newspaper and wants a scoop from Deena about Chuck’s arrest and then later about how the three teens helped solve the murder. Della just pops up at the end and says, “Congratulations, Deena!” So not relevant character recurrences at all. And really – the main common denominator in these stories so far is Fear Street, Cory Brooks, and Lisa Blume. Someone needs to investigate those kids.
Some interesting takeaways. The Wrong Number was published in 1990, so a teenager getting their own house phone was a pretty big thing. Case in point – when Jade sees Deena’s new phone, she says, “It’s pretty rad. It looks like the control panel for a jet plane or something.” Deena even has to explain to Jade what all the buttons are for – programming numbers, putting someone on hold, using the speakerphone. I wish I could remember reading this book as a kid. Did I read that exchange and think, “Man, can’t wait ‘til I get my own phone!” Or was I all cool kid and like, “Yeah, everyone knows what the buttons are for.” Who knows. But as an adult, I read it and thought that it was such a thing of the past. That an exchange between two teenagers about the buttons on a brand new phone would probably be considered “retro.” And how I’m at the age when things from my childhood and even my teen years are considered “retro.” An example – a really good book I just read recently called One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus has a part where two teenage characters are watching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer marathon. The show is described as their “latest obsession” but also as a “retro vampire show.” That’s my favorite show of all time, so I was left feeling both extremely happy that the show is still so relevant in pop culture but also reminded that I’m getting old and that my childhood and teenhood loves are now retro. So, yay? But anyway, I digress.
Another thing that might be considered retro – prank phone calls. Do kids do these anymore in the age of cellphones where you can see who’s calling? Growing up we had caller ID and *69, so prank phone calling was definitely not fail-proof. Maybe prank phone calls are just too simple. There’s so much technology and social media hijinks for kids to get up to nowadays that a good, old-fashioned prank phone call would probably sound pretty lame. But hey, they were simple and nobody got hurt. That’s right – I was a prank phone caller. But I only remember doing it once. I was going through a phonebook picking out random names, and I called this woman a few times and just hung up. I was so tiny and smug (probably not that tiny), until she called back and demanded to know who kept calling her. I think she also threatened to report me. I quickly brainstormed like the tiny, smug genius I was and said that I had been watching my little sister and that she was making the calls but that she wouldn’t do it anymore. Problem solved, and that was the last time I did that. Looks like I was a shitty kid too.
Ok, I’ve gone on long enough and hopefully you stuck around. If you’re reading this, I guess you did. Thanks! 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.’