Book Review: Haunted

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, so I’m up to the elbows in turkey today and making some family-favourite dishes (more on that later), so I thought I’d do something a little different for a book review today. Just in case you’re a poor schmuck like I used to be, in the office on Thanksgiving Monday by yourself without much to do other than troll the internet for random websites that would take up a big chunk of your time.

Allow me to introduce you to Shadyside Snark. Several years ago, my sister and I decided to take on the nostalgic, epic and slightly insane task of reading every of R.L. Stine’s Fear Street novel and writing a recap on them. It took us more than three years, but we tracked down every single book and recapped the crap out of them. If you are not familiar with the work of Mr. Stine (aka if you were not a teen in the ’90s), they are young adult horror books that were alternately grotesque or childish, and usually ended in a way that caused us to drop the book with a resounding wtf. Quite honestly, they are awesomely awful, or awfully awesome, you be the judge.

As an intro, here’s one of my “favourite” Fear Street books (from when I was eleven).

Haunted is a book full of awesome. Let’s start with the cover – good artwork, accurate, this scene actually does happen. And look how handsome our ghost is, with the floppy hair and the puppy dog eyes. Also, the jean tuxedo, very typical for 1990 – I like it! The tagline has got to be the best ever – ‘There’s a prowler in Melissa’s bedroom – but is he dead or alive!’ Fantastic! I’m hooked already.

Melissa, our intrepid heroine, is pretty but not THAT pretty. Fear Street protags are only really pretty when they’re really bitchy, and Melissa is not a bitch. Somewhat dim and occassionally prudish, but well intentioned. She wakes up screaming in bed with someone trying to break into her room – lead to exposition that someone has been breaking into Fear Street mansions and robbing them. And Melissa lives in a Fear Street mansion. No one seems able to stop the Fear Street Prowler. In Melissa’s case, it was a tree branch, but a sneaky tree branch.

Her dad, though, is nice enough to keep a loaded gun in his bedside table, and let’s Melissa know it’s always ready to use. He bought it as soon as he heard about the Fear Street Prowler. Overkill much. Since when does a B and E = automatic gun death? But this is important later.

There is then an awesome flashback scene, where Melissa remembers a fight she had with her boyfriend, Buddy, earlier that night. She hadn’t seen him in 2 weeks because he was on summer vacation, and she was soooo excited to see him. To talk about everything that happened over the past 2 weeks. They drive up to the make out point. Buddy then has the nerve to kiss her! Melissa of course chastised him for this, but he kissed her again! And put a hand under her shirt! Melissa responded with fury and horror, and couldn’t believe how selfish he was, making him drive her home in a snit.

To recap, her long term boyfriend just got back from a 2 week vacation, they drive up to a makeout point, and she’s furious he tried to get to second base. This is everything that is wrong with Shadyside. If the kids would just loosen up a bit, there wouldn’t be so many gd murders. I’m surprised nobody fall/jumps off a cliff at this point.

The next day is Melissa’s birthday, and she gets a brand new shiny Pontiac Firebird! I think to reiterate how rich she is. But creepy things start happening to her. Her car starts to steer itself, nearly colliding with an oncoming semi. And somebody slashed open all her birthday presents. She’s pretty sure somebody tired to shove her out of her open window, but when she turns around no one is there. And she actually gets into a fender bender when she thinks she sees a boy appear in the car next to her. Is there really a ghost haunting her, or is Melissa going crazy?

Nope, it’s a ghost. He appears to her one night while she’s in bed (as depicted by cover artist). She definitely clutches the covers to her chest – what if he tries to touch her boob too? But apparently all he wants to do is kill her, in revenge for killing him. Melissa is quite sure she never killed him, because she’d remember a thing like that. She says she’ll help find out who did murder him.

Melissa begins her investigation. All she knows is his name is Paul, and she apparently killed him. And he is angry. And poor. Even in death, ghost-Paul is characterized as poor. Unfortunately for Melissa, there have been no teen deaths in Shadyside for the past 6 months. Really? I find that suspect. Teens seem to be murdered approx every week around Fear Street. They should be holding monthly memorials, but apparently they’re going through a dry spell.

To ease her confusion, Melissa goes dancing with Boob-Touching Buddy. Things don’t go well though, because she tells him she’s trying to figure out the murderer of the ghost that’s haunting her before he kills her. Buddy thinks maybe she’s bit over-tired. Or drunk. Melissa responds rationally by throwing a hissy-fit, crying and running away. This turns out to be a big mistake because she runs into a group of boys. And they’re poor! So obviously they are drinking cheap beer and threaten Melissa, because that’s what poor boys do to rich girls. To add to the confusion, she recognizes one of them as Paul. She’s all – what are you doing here? and he’s all – can I touch your boob? until Melissa finally runs away.

It takes her awhile, but she figures out that Paul isn’t actually dead yet, and she must prevent his murder by not killing him. Ghost Paul gets all warm and fuzzy about this and starts crushing on Melissa. Melissa is now being stalked by human-Paul, and haunted by emo ghost-Paul, and finds herself falling in love with the ghost. Not human-Paul, though, because he’s icky and poor.

Melissa keeps on trying to warn human-Paul to stay away from her, so she won’t kill him, but he thinks she’s coming on to him. Finally one night, while her parents are conveniently in Vegas on a lawyer’s retreat (this is actually very realistic), human-Paul breaks into Melissa’s house. He is the Fear Street Prowler! Although he doesn’t really seem like an evil mastermind, since he’s drunk and banging into stuff. He corners Melissa, and … well, the implication is that he wants to touch her boob. Melissa is so horrified that she grabs the loaded weapon. She doesn’t care if she does kill human-Paul despite the fact that she’s in love with his ghost and promised she wouldn’t. No one will touch her boob!

There’s a fight for the gun, and ghost-Paul doesn’t want Melissa to be hurt, so he hits the gun out of Paul’s hand. Melissa catches it and it fires, predictably killing Paul. Ghost-Paul emotes about how he cares for Melissa, he’s not angry anymore, the usual stuff. They share a passionate kiss, and Melissa can really feel him, and his heat. Sexy! He fades away, totally content with his death closure. As a 10 year old, I totally swooned over this and wanted a ghost boyfriend to haunt me. I give this book 4 boob-touching incidents out of 4, for sheer awesome-ness.

Word of the day:

Plangent: resounding loudly, especially with a plaintive sound, as a bell

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