Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Don't Stay Up Late" by R.L. Stine

Lisa Brooks is left with a minor brain injury after a car crash that kills her father. She is warned her condition will lead to strange visions and hallucinations. Her shrink suggests that she get a job to focus on something other than her injury. So she gets a gig as a babysitter for eight-year-old Harry Hart. Pretty soon, she is being stalked by a mysterious demon-like creature.

Is the creature real? Or is she just crazy? When people begin to die, it's clear that something evil is lurking out there, but poor Lisa can't get anyone to believe her.

"Don't Stay Up Late" takes the Fear Street series in a supernatural direction. That has lead to accusations that this story is more like Goosebumps, which could be apt, but it doesn't detract from what is a fun, fast-paced and appropriately cheesy B-grade horror tale. The Fear Street books of old usually weren't supernatural, but a few of them were. Several of the mini-series, such as "Cheerleaders", "99 Fear Street", "Fear Park", and "The Cataluna Chronicles" all had supernatural storylines. So it's not out-of-the-ordinary for this Fear Street entry to go that route.

There was a lot that irked me about the book, but I had to remind myself to let it go, and not approach the material as an adult, but as the 13-year-old who initially got hooked on this series. I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep, and wound up devouring the entire book on my Kindle until the sun came up. Just like I used to do as a teenager. (I still remember the time I stayed up all night reading "The New Boy", way back in 1994). Stine is a little more careful with his chapter cliffhangers. There are several silly ones, but it's nowhere near as bad as the ludicrous cliffhangers found in "Party Games". It was done just well enough to keep me from taking a break.

I didn't like our main character, Lisa Brooks. Head injury aside, she was really insufferable. She spent a lot of time shrieking at people and flying off the handle, especially if they didn't believe her stories about the demon she was seeing. She knows that people won't believe her, but keeps on telling them, and keeps on getting upset and histrionic when they continue not to believe her. She made me roll my eyes several times. Her intelligence could be questioned as well:

1. Instead of shrieking at people who don't believe her, she could grab her phone and get some evidence to force them to believe her.

2. Despite knowing that boyfriend Nate will be making a horror movie at his house, and that he collects horror masks and memorabilia, she goes to his house and immediately thinks she's being attacked by an actual monster (obviously, it's Nate in costume). I mean, duh.

Stine's writing hasn't gotten any better since his 90s heyday, and the material is all pretty silly and juvenile, but it once again captured the spirit of what it was like to read a cheesy, scary story when you're young, which is pretty special. This is a big step up from "Party Games", and should hopefully see the Fear Street relaunch for a few years to come.

(RIP Point Horror Relaunch).

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