Fear Street #27:
The Wrong Number 2
© 1995 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Bill Schmidt.
Sequel to: The Wrong Number
The Wrong Number 2 was a sequel in search of a story. RL Stine has said himself that the only lessons in his books are to run. That couldn’t be more evident than in this book, as the entire plot relied on Chuck having learned absolutely nothing from his ordeal in the first Wrong Number. So the entire thing was just a cascade of terrible decisions. This is by far and away my least-favorite literary plot device. I get that there are stupid people in real life, but I don’t need to be reading books about them. This was all the more frustrating because I liked Chuck in the first book. I did like the way some of the events in the first book were reframed with new context, and Deena and Jade were the lone highlights with their Nancy Drew moments, but there really wasn’t much else to like. I was a little bit confused at how different Jade looks on the cover of this book compared to the first. It almost seems like she was recast, for lack of a better word. Maybe Stine just forgot what she looked like, or maybe she just got a perm but I’m not convinced. The fact that I’m even mentioning it in this blurb speaks to how little this book gave me to go on. The Wrong Number 2 was, at best, a tedious slog. It was a struggle to finish. Sequels are definitely not Stine’s strong suit.
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Observations & Spoilers
The Wrong Number 2 opens one year after the shit that went down in The Wrong Number. Deena is having nightmares about their ordeal. Then gets a disturbing phone call that claims to have reached “your wrong number” before hanging up. She then gets another one later that night. The voice tells her they want revenge. She thinks it sounds like Farberson, the dude who murdered his wife and nearly killed Deena and Jade last year. But Farberson is supposed to be in prison. Jade, meanwhile, has either been recast or just got a perm. I’m undecided; the jury is still out. She and Chuck are still dating even though he is away at college. Ever the flirt, Jade doesn’t see any harm in continuing to also date other guys so long as she never takes them seriously. Foreshadowing: this fact will likely cause problems later.
Chuck surprises the two girls by coming home from college early and creeping outside Jade’s bedroom window. Apparently, he flunked out and decided to move to LA and pursue his film career. Deena gets another threatening call that discloses a detail only she, Jade, and Farbeson should have known about. Deena’s father and Chuck have a blowout fight over his dropping out of college. Jade gets a threatening note in the mail that says “you’re next!” Chuck then insists that they pay a visit to Farberson’s house to see if anyone is living there. If this sounds like a perplexing and utterly stupid leap of logic, that’s because it is. They see a light on in the house and are almost run down by a woman fleeing the residence. Deena catches a glimpse of her face and recognizes her. It’s Farbeson’s mistress! The one hw was supposed to run away with after killing his wife!
Jade decides that in order to get to the bottom of who is making the threats, she and Deena must go balls to the wall Nancy Drew. They dress up in adult clothes and Jade takes the lead, pretending to be a realtor, and they go and pay a visit to Farberson’s mistress, Linda. Linda has her house on the market and it provides a great opening for Jade and Deena. What ensues is probably the most entertaining scene in the entire book, where Jade does some great off-the-cuff lying. Unfortunately, it was not enough because Linda recognizes them. She reveals to them that Farbeson might be let out of prison due to some technicality. The technicality is never specified, but it seems pretty dubious. Linda claims she is terrified for her life once that happens, which is why she wants to sell her house and skip out of town. She also wants to know where Farberson hid the money he stole. She thinks Jade and Deena might know.
After the girl’s adventure, Chuck gets in a serious fight with Teddy. Teddy is the guy Jade had been kinda sorta but not seriously dating while Chuck was away. Chuck ends up in the hospital as a result. The girls tell him about the money never being found and Linda’s belief that it’s somewhere in Farbeson’s house. Then Chuck destroys what little goodwill he had left and confesses to Jade and Deena that he was the one who made the threatening phone calls. He had been jealous that Jade was seeing other people and he dreamed up this crazy scheme to get her to flee Shadyside and go to LA with him. This man is full of terrible ideas. I bet he will do great in Hollywood.
Things get worse when Deena hears the news that Farberson has been set free. Then she and Jade find that Chuck is missing from his hospital room. They figure out that he must have gone to Farberson’s place to see if he could find the money. They go to the house and find him unconscious and stuffed in a closet. Someone knocked him out cold when he was rummaging around. The girls convince him to cut his losses and leave with them, but they’re too late. Farberson comes home. They quickly hide in the basement but there’s no way to escape from it. Farberson catches them, and he’s got a gun. He demands to know where his money is; Chuck reveals that he found it but someone knocked him out and took it. He forces Deena to tie up Jade and Chuck, then he revs up his chainsaw that somehow still has power in his abandoned house. He’s about to go full Evil Dead on Deena when they are interrupted.
Linda shows up with a gun and tells Stanley to stop. He trips over a carton and gets gutted by his own chainsaw. The kids think they are safe, but Linda just sees them as loose ends. She does the full villain confessional and reveals she had been the mastermind of the whole plot in the first book! Farberson was just the sucker she got to do the deed. Linda finds some kindling and starts a fire, leaving the tied-up teenagers to burn. Jade manages to get free and helps untie the others. They then break the basement door down and escape while the fire starts blazing. They escape into the cold winter night as sirens can be heard blazing.
We cut to an epilogue six months later. Linda has been caught and sentenced. Chuck has given up on his LA fantasy (for now) deciding to take film classes at community college instead. The three teens are hanging out watching old Hitchcock movies when Chuck suggests they make a prank phone call for old times’ sake. There’s always room for more bad decisions. The End.
Let’s start with the things I enjoyed: Jade and Deena’s Nancy Drew fantasy realness did it for me. Stine even poked fun at it. It had the self-aware “you’re in on the joke” level of camp that I love about him. I just wish there had been more of it. I also liked the addition of Linda as a primary character and the reframing of the events from the first book with her as the mastermind. These things were not enough to save the book from Chuck and his many, many stupid decision. Literally, every bad thing that happens to them is almost entirely Chuck’s fault. The lone exception was Farberson getting let out of prison, which also seemed a bit unbelievable considering he was dead broke and that kind of shit usually requires high-priced lawyers. But none of it would have mattered if not for Chuck.
I have an observation to make on Stine and sequels, particularly where his Fear Street and Babysitter books are concerned. Sequels are not his strong suit. Even his most solid trilogy The Fear Street Saga has a weak second book. The Cheerleaders trilogy started out great but really hit a wall with The Second Evil. 99 Fear Street had a really strong first book and then kinda staggered in the two follow-ups. Silent Night 2 was fine but nowhere near as good as its predecessor. The same can be said for The Babysitter II. All of this is to say; I will still read the sequels of The Stepsister and The Best Friend, but my hopes of enjoying them are severely diminished. That said, I would love to be proven wrong.
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 strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
I liked the idea of bringing the perspective of Farberson’s mistress into the story, and the subsequent recasting of Farberson as a half-whit to some extent. It just wasn’t enough to carry the weight of the whole story.
The entire plot relied on Chuck being a complete idiot who learned absolutely nothing from his ordeal in the first book. This is my least favorite and over-used plot device in horror.
Deena and Jade had some fun moments in spite of Jade’s seeming recast on the front cover. The mistress was also a fun addition. Chuck was frustrating enough that it canceled out almost all of the good.
If there was a boring factor in my rubric, this would get a perfect score.
This was a sequel in search of a story. Nothing particularly scary, interesting, or memorable in the entire book.
Don’t miss the next post in the Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street #31: Switched
Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Pulp Horror blog series:
Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire