This was the first of the Fear Street trilogies and is one of the most iconic of the entire series. There was as much petty high school drama as there was murder, which is the best thing about Fear Street if we’re being honest. Also, cheerleading is a really weird sport when you stop to think about it. The bus crash in the Fear Street cemetery gave the book a nice creepy start. There were some pretty good scares as Bobbi’s life started to unravel. I read this whole trilogy as a kid, and the one scene that stuck with me over the years was in the latter half of this book. Overall, The First Evil was a solid kick-off for the trilogy.
ERMAHGERD Special Edition: Evil Cheerleader #1. Photo by Naomi Abney.
Observations & Spoilers
The Evil is a catty bitch and I am here for it. From dropping girls during their cheers to messing up football players games, to killing the head cheerleader by drowning her in scalding hot water; no act is too much or too little for this evil spirit. The Evil basically lives for petty drama and murder. It gave the story a Real Housewives vibe that I wasn’t expecting. I would probably watch the shit out of a Real Housewives series that revolved around demonic possession and murder.
Simmons the bus driver/janitor at Shadyside High was not good at his job. He definitely should have been fired, though it’s not clear whether or not he was. He just didn’t appear again after this book. He played no small part in both of the student deaths. He was driving the bus with the door open when they crashed into the cemetery, which made me think of Otto from the Simpsons. He also never fixed the showers that ultimately scalded Bobbi to death. The Evil’s accomplice in all of this was his negligence.
A girl drowned in boiling water in a high school locker room. Another girl turns into a week-old corpse on top of the same grave she landed on during a bus crash weeks earlier. The police muttering “Fear Street” and the girls go free. I have a feeling there would be some serious legal trouble, lawsuits, and private investigations mucking up the girl’s lives from here on out. But the adults of Shadyside almost seem to shrug off the unexplained. This is the part where I reference back to my earlier pitch for Shadyside.
I’m pretty sure I read this out of order as a kid, starting with the Super Chiller sequel to this trilogy, The New Evil. I had a tendency to pick out books at the library by whichever cover spoke to me. So obviously the image of an evil Santa Clause sneaking up on a cheerleader in ice skates spoke to me on some level. Maybe it was because of recently discovering that Santa wasn’t real. Reasons for choosing aside, I knew about Bobbi’s death before I started the book, and her death scene still stuck with me for years after.
Corky Corcoran was clearly set up to be the main protagonist in the series by getting the quirky name. Bobbi may have been the star of the first book, but now it’s Corky’s turn. I cannot wait for the evil to stir up more drama in these cheerleaders lives in book two!
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each. I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are Concept (the overall idea), Execution (the mechanics of storytelling), Character (the protagonists, antagonists, and villains), Scare Factor (from a childhood standpoint), and Originality (subversion and reliance on genre tropes). Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Cheerleaders: The First Evil is ranked 20th of 79 in the overall Fear Street series and the Cheerleaders trilogy is ranked 5th of 6 among the Fear Street Trilogies, placing the book itself in the middle-high tier overall. The trilogy, as a whole, lands in the bottom tier when compared to other trilogies. It should be noted that the series ranking for the Fear Street books is a bit skewed in favor of the later books in the series, most likely due to the drop in popularity in the late ’90s. The books in the latter half of the series have a significantly lower number of ratings, which (I’m hypothesizing) is due to super-fans being unchecked by more critical voices.
The concept here of an evil spirit possessing various members of a high school cheerleading squad is a lot of fun. Being that it’s just Book one, it gave me just enough to get me to come back for book two. Whether or not that holds up will be determined.
The mechanics of this one were pretty strong, even if The Evil’s motives are a bit confusing. This early on, that works to the advantage of the story.
The petty high school drama is strong with this bunch, and The Evil loves drama. These are characters I never would have been friends with, but it was fun to read them in a horror plot.
Scare Factor: 2/2
The fact that Bobbi’s death scene stuck with me well into my adulthood says a lot about this one. The graveyard scene that kicked it off was creepy and memorable as well. The body count in this is also pretty high compared to the rest of the Fear Street books I’ve read so far, and this is only the first Cheerleaders book.
As much fun as I had with the first book, it’s basically a PG-13 Exorcist with cheerleaders. That particular combo hadn’t been done before, but the execution didn’t bring anything new to it. I could also dock a point here for the unimaginative title (The First Evil) alone.
Don’t miss the next post in the Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street Cheerleaders #2: The Second Evil
Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #11: The Haunted Mask