Fear Street Super Chiller #3: Goodnight Kiss
I recall enjoying both of the Goodnight Kiss books as a kid, but I can’t say that they hold up more than twenty years later. The most frustrating part was how it seemed to stuff in every known vampire trope, right down to the Gabri being afraid of the garlic April was putting on her pizza. That, and it was impossible to look past the fact that the vampires referred to “blood” as “nectar.” It all but killed any potential the book had for actually being scary. There were some elements I liked. The characters were well-defined, and I liked the plot of two vampires making a bet to see who could turn a teenager into an Eternal One first. I also liked how the cover made me feel like I was reading a trashy romance novel on the subway. In the end, the good parts were ultimately not enough to stop the sweet, sweet nectar from leaving a mediocre taste in my mouth.
Observations & Spoilers
Let me start with the hate first. The vampires constantly calling blood “nectar” made this so laughably cheesy it was distracting. It made the Eternal Ones sound more like hummingbirds than bats. There were some good scenes of Jessica making fun of Gabri’s outdated phrasing of things, but in the end she called it nectar too.
Comic by Rob Lang.
While the vampires use of the word “nectar” made them unique, Goodnight Kiss stuffed in every other known vampire trope. Fear of garlic, sleeping in coffins, no reflection, turning into bats, etc. Wouldn’t the garlic that April put on her pizza have poisoned her blood Gabri? Would that make me immune from vampires because I put garlic in everything?
I like how Gabri was old in a cheesy, outdated sort of way. I also liked the whole subplot of Matt having to wait for a whole day to get a roll of pictures developed. The elements that place these squarely in the 90s are part of the nostalgic charm in re-reading these. R.L. Stine was right when he said recently that cell phones have ruined almost every horror plot.
Todd’s character was coded queer. I’m not saying Stine wrote the character as gay. I mean, he did spend a lot of time making out with Jessica. But he is exactly the sort of perpetual third wheel introverted outside that I would have related to. Everyone looks for reflections of themselves in characters; queer people like me grew up with very few examples and most of them were tragic. By that read, Todd ended up fitting the “bury your gays” trope when Jessica accidentally killed him by going “too deep.” Unfortunately, my dream sequel where Matt is the broey supportive best friend of gay vampire Todd will never come into fruition.
In the end, days after Matt saves April from Gabri, but then it turns out he was too late. In the final twist, April reveals to Matt that she has been turned into an Eternal One and plans to drink his nectar. I’m curious if turning into a vampire immediately makes one sinister, where a human suddenly becomes nothing more than meat? Or maybe April just wanted to get back at Matt for being a shitty boyfriend earlier in the book? I might just have to wait several more years to see if Goodnight Kiss 2 answers any of these very important, burning questions.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 point 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, Goodnight Kiss is ranked 35th of 79 in the overall Fear Street series and 6th of 13 in the Super Chillers sub-series, placing it squarely in the middle tier for both. 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 90’s. 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 seeds were there with the two vampires competing to turn one of the unsuspecting teenagers first. It could have been more fun if the vampires and their culture were a little less generic. Also, having vampires live in a beach town to pray on tourists also doesn’t make a ton of sense given that summers have shorter nights.
The overall plot was solid enough, driven in large part by teenage drama between April and Matt. It felt a little bit clunky the way that it jumped between points of view, and it definitely ran a bit long.
I liked that the vampires were legitimately old and had a hard time keeping up with the slang and styles. The scenes between Jessica and Gabri had some good moments. April and Matt were basic as fuck, but it worked well for the plot. I also found Todd relatable in a coded queer, introverted-outcast sorta way.
Scare Factor: 1/2
Todd’s corpse appearing to Matt was a pretty freaky scene, but that was about it. Calling it nectar instead of blood made it impossible to take the vampires seriously.
Not a single original take in the one, unless you count the vampire’s use of “nectar” instead of “blood.”
Don’t miss the next blog in this series:
Fear Street #5: The Wrong Number