Back to Fear Street – The Overnight (Fear Street, #3)
It’s that time again – time to go Back to Fear Street! I must confess that I was a bit nervous about this third trip. My memories of Fear Street have been pretty rose-colored, and after reading the first two entries in the series and being somewhat underwhelmed, I was concerned that my return to the series would not live up to my own hype. But I’m happy to report that the The Overnight was a great ride! The premise is simple – six members of the Outdoors Club at Shadyside High decide to take an overnight trip to Fear Island, a small, uninhabited island in the middle of a lake in Shadyside, Ohio that, much like Fear Street, is shrouded in mystery and has its own creepy rumors, including rumors of ghosts and mutated animals. However, the club’s trip gets sabotaged when one of the students, our main character Della O’Connor, has a run-in with a stranger. I enjoyed my third outing more than the first two, so I gave The Overnight 4/5 stars on Goodreads. It was sitting at 5/5 stars, but there were some things that I wasn’t a fan of, including a deus ex machina-type of situation to explain away a significant plot point, internal thoughts of characters that were at times inconsistent, and an ending that was a bit too convenient. However, the good far outweighed the bad.
There were a lot of things I liked about The Overnight. Before even getting to the actual story, I have to point out that I have an original copy from 1989, so there were no unnecessary updates like in The New Girl and a couple of great references that surely made more sense to a reader in 1989 than a reader today. During a car chase scene, one of the characters does a maneuver and says, “‘That’s an old Kojak trick!’” Considering that Kojak was a TV series that ran in the 1970s, it makes sense that it was referenced in a 1989 young adult book. Maybe in the updated version of The Overnight, the character does the cool driving maneuver and says, “That’s an old Vin Diesel trick!” The other great reference is from a conversation our main character, Della, has with her mother. Before going on the trip, Della’s mother says, “‘If anything bad happens, you’ll call me right away, right?’” Della responds, “‘Call you? On what? I’ll tell you what – I’ll send up a smoke signal, okay?’” I loved this interaction! It’s easy to forget in 2018 how people were once so disconnected, so Della’s response really reminds the reader just how isolated the Outdoors Club will be.
Turning to the story, The Overnight was really easy to get into. It follows a similar pattern as the first two books – a character does something or gets involved with someone and starts getting threatening messages. However, what stood out to me with The Overnight was that it’s well-paced. It covers a small period of time – about two weeks – and unlike The New Girl, the characters in The Overnight don’t make silly decisions to move the story along. Rather, their decisions seem to make sense for the story and are not merely devices to push the story forward. I also found the characters in The Overnight to be less stilted than in the previous two books. They each had different personalities and spoke in a way that seemed natural for teenagers, and I really enjoyed the banter between the characters. We also get another return character. We had some return characters in The Surprise Party, and a character briefly mentioned in that book, Suki Thomas, gets a bigger role in The Overnight as a member of the Outdoors Club. As I mentioned in my last Back to Fear Street post, the recurring characters really give the Fear Street series an insular feel, so I was happy to see that continue in the third outing.
The Overnight also has a genuinely creepy first encounter between Della, our main character, and the stranger in the woods. It was an initially innocent dialogue but with something sinister underneath. It was like if you met Max Cady, the villain from Cape Fear (the 1991 version with Robert De Niro as Cady), while out in the park. The two of you would probably have a perfectly normal conversation, but it would definitely get very weird, very fast. If you’ve seen the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, you should really stop reading this and check it out – it’s a good movie! This initial encounter really stuck out to me because I don’t remember such an intense scene being in either of the first two books. It was a fun (and pleasantly uncomfortable) scene to read!
One last thought – like the first two Fear Street books, The Overnight does a good job with appearing deceptively simple. I go into them thinking, “Well, this guy is obviously the bad guy,” and I’ve been wrong every time, or at least not 100% right. The books stumped me as a kid, and they’re still stumping me now. I honestly wasn’t expecting that. I assumed since I’m older and my literary choices have grown in “level of difficulty,” I would be able to spot the twists a mile away. But maybe the Fear Street series actually does hold up after all these years, and maybe R.L. Stine can construct a thoroughly entertaining whodunit that can appeal to all ages.
I still have a long way to go, but I’m hopeful that the kinks were worked out in the first two books and the series will come into its own with The Overnight. We shall see on my next trip Back to Fear Street!
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.’