fearstreetnights1

First off, I’m not the target audience. I’m 34, will soon be 35. I read RL Stine (fear street and the standalones) in Jr. high and high school religiously. I even kept reading them after school was finished. From time to time, I come back to the old classic, and I’ve picked up a few of the newer books as well (this trio of books started in 2005). I think some of them hold up well, the stories are truly written well enough for the target audience, and the suspense is there, likable characters exist to keep you interested, etc. I just reread THE CHEATER (fear street) a few months go, and I enjoyed it, there were sufficient twists, and I liked the main characters enough to care what happened to them.

This book was a bit different. First, what I did like. I liked the idea of a group of teens sneaking out at night to hang out, have the city to themselves, whatever. It’s a fun concept, something I can imagine I’d love doing if I were a senior in high school, but the execution here is pretty poor. We start off with Jamie and her boyfriend Lewis. They sneak out at night alone, spending time near the old Fear mansion on what is now a desolate Fear Street, most of the houses gone, a shopping complex is being built on the site, the Fear mansion itself will be gone too soon enough, parts of the house already torn down. An accident occurs, and we’re suddenly sent a year into the future where a new all night bar called Nights has opened, and the group of kids who hang out at night has grown, most of them meet at the bar, sometimes heading out to other places to hang as well.

We get used to Jamie and Lewis, then they are suddenly pushed to secondary status as others become central to the plot, mostly Nate who is friends with the two, a night person himself. I had trouble buying most of the dialogue between the teens. No way kids today talk like they do in the book, and I’d argue that even when I was in high school in the late 1990′s, no one really talked the way they do in this particular book. Too many embarrassingly bad lines thrown back and forth, and none of the teen stuff felt true to life, so it definitely takes you out of it, and you’re reminded you’re reading a book that might be popular, but few would argue it’s truly great writing. Stine knows his bread and butter, the elements that made him wealthy beyond imagination, and he’s sticking with it, even if it all does feel a bit outdated.

What sounds like a whodunnit sort of mystery novel turns out to be supernatural in nature. I won’t spoil much by saying that, but the supernatural element takes hold and it’s pretty much what you get through to the end, it leaves off nicely for the sequel and the third book.

Let me quickly add the whole of the Nights bar- it’s all just plain bizarre. We’re supposed to believe that a popular new bar in the new shopping complex in a city the size of Shadyside is so desolate every night of the week that the bar tender, who is often asleep at the bar, would be able to allow teens into the bar, drinking whatever they want, coming and going all hours of the night, without anyone noticing. Without the authorities saying- hey, why is this bar always filled with kids, and bar tender, how about a trip to jail? None of this is executed well, and it just seems silly, and again takes away from any realism the book might have had. Add that to the poorly done teen dialogue, and the book suffers immensely. Besides- if this whole night people group is so secret, and they fear being caught by adults, why not meet somewhere away from people, instead of smashing car windows downtown Shadyside, yelling and hollering, etc all night long?

Stine was always one of the tamer YA horror authors, never getting too serious or too grown up (you want that, you go to Christopher Pike), so he has a formula, and it’s one that has worked well for him, and he keeps it alive here. Not a great book, not a terrible book, but hopefully the rest of the series redeems some of the lesser qualities of this first entry.

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