Fear Street #1: The New Girl
This book ended up being quite different than I expected. The ghostly cover and the creepy prologue had me hoping for something supernatural, but that’s not how things panned out. The plot was largely driven by the stupidity of the main character, Cory, as he became hopelessly infatuated with the mysterious Anna. I’m always a little bummed out when the seemingly supernatural elements turn out to just be “crazy” people. Ultimately the book suffers from having an unremarkable and forgettable premise. It's not that it's bad so much as it's relentlessly mediocre, which is almost worse. It was a disappointing to note to launch the Fear Street series on.
Observations & Spoilers
The moral of the story is essentially that high school boys are idiots, and that the smart girl was right all along. That by itself could be a great theme; what’s lacking in The New Girl is the premise. His particular stupidity can be attributed to infatuation mistaken for love, which makes him relatable, but it wasn’t strong enough to drive the entire plot. All Cory had to do was not ignore the red flags, listen to his friend Lisa, and nothing would have happened.
Anna turned out to be super creepy, but also somehow not as creepy as she could have been. Yeah, she put a dead cat in Lisa’s locker. And she probably killed her sister before assuming her identity. But she never really did anything of consequence to Cory. She tried killing him at the end when he wouldn’t let her kill Brad, but beyond that she just didn’t feel fleshed out. There were plenty of opportunities for her to be more manipulative, and to maneuver Cory into protecting her from Brad earlier in the story. But it was clear by the end that Anna was no mastermind of anything; she was just very intent on taking on her dead sister’s identity. The New Girl was like a lightweight Fatal Attraction.
I have a strong preference to supernatural horror, and I was really hoping that was where this one was going. It’s such a bummer to have the horror story your reading for the ghosts explain away the ghosts. I wanted Anna to be some kind of half dead person draining Cory of his vitality, or maybe the real Anna’s ghost attempting to regain her life even though she was dead. Instead I got a Scooby-Doo mask reveal. Anna was unmasked as the real villain who was trying to frame her brother Brad and Brad explains everything to Cory in one info-dump of a monologue right at the climax of the story.
The unsung hero of this story is Lisa. She was right from the start, and she was a clear catch that Cory was oblivious to. She gets what she wanted in the end, but I’d like to think she can do better than Cory. Thankfully most high school relationships don’t last, so there is hope for her yet.
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, The New Girl is ranked 21st of 49 in the main Fear Street series and 46tth of 79 overall, placing it in the Middle High and Middle Low tiers respectively.
The concept is solid enough, it was just boring. I wanted Anna to have some kind of power over Cory. I wanted her creepiness to be several steps further along. I wanted Brad to be in on it. I wanted supernatural, like the cover and the early chapters all suggested. It ultimately fell short, which made it forgettable.
All Cory had to do was not ignore the red flags, and all Brad had to do was kindly let Cory know that his sister was crazy and he should stay away. When a story rests on something that simple being able to upend it… well, let’s just say it ended with Brad having to explain everything in a big anti-climatic info-dump.
These weren't my favorite characters, but they were at least consistent and the one thing that made this book work on any level. Cory is intentionally written as an oblivious idiot, but in the end he finally recognizes the smarts of his best friend Lisa. Where this loses a point is I wanted Anna to be a whole lot creepier than she was, and Brad’s motivations don’t hold up to any scrutiny.
Scare Factor: 0/2
This just wasn’t that scary. All Cory had to do was not chase after the ghost chick, but he was stupid and repeatedly did so. Sure there was a dead cat in a locker and Anna tries to kill Cory at the end, but it ultimately fell flat on being truly scary.
This felt like a book I’ve read before. And it shared a lot of the same frustrations I had with Party Summer. I can't give any points here because the story is ultimately so forgettable.
Don’t miss the next blog in this series:
Goosebumps #8: The Girl Who Cried Monster