Thursday, November 6, 2014

PARTY GAMES by RL STINE: A Review

Party Games
Written by: R.L. Stine
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: St Martins Griffin
Language: English
September 2014
Genre: Young Adult/ Horror

Her friends warn her not to go to Brendan Fear's birthday party at his family's estate on mysterious Fear Island. But Rachel Martin has a crush on Brendan and is excited to be invited. Brendan has a lot of party games planned. But one game no one planned intrudes on his party—the game of murder. As the guests start dying one by one, Rachel realizes to her horror that she and the other teenagers are trapped on the tiny island with someone who may want to kill them all. How to escape this deadly game? Rachel doesn't know whom she can trust. She should have realized that nothing is as it seems… on Fear Island.

R.L. Stine makes his triumphant return to Shadyside, a town of nightmares, shadows, and genuine terror, and to the bestselling series that began his career writing horror for the juvenile market, in the new Fear Street book Party Games.


+++++++++++++

When I think about some of my favorite books growing up, RL Stine’s Fear Street series and anything by Christopher Pike were pretty numerous on the teenage self’s bookshelves. Ooh how I loved the Fear street saga with the murders and the ghosts and the monsters. And Christopher Pike…he was my King and Koontz. Seriously it was all murder, mayhem, sex, booze…everything I wasn’t supposed to read all in a lovely paperback form. Babysitter’s Club and Nancy Drew they were not. I still have some of my favorites on my bookshelf such as Remember Me, Fall into Darkness, Witch, Whisper of Death, Scavenger Hunt, and the Last Vampires series. There were other horror lite books as well from Lois Duncan, Caroline Cooney, and others but those two were my favorite. Ooh I still love them as batshit crazy as some of the plots were (looking at you Scavenger Hunt).

When I heard that RL Stine was reviving the Fear Street saga after 15 years, my inner me may have squealed a bit. But love for nostalgia can be sometimes disappointing. Sometimes things we loved as kids don’t hold up to the ages. We have become different people with different tastes and higher vocabularies. And yet, there is something about the Fear Street books and that whole genre of YA horror that I still love to this day and I want more of to be honest. Plus nostalgia can be a wonderful thing sometimes and as I waited to get my hands on Party Games I started thinking about a lot of different things from my childhood and how they shaped me to be what I am today.

Party Games begins with Rachel Martin, a typical high school girl who lives in Shadyside and spends her afternoons as a waitress at one of the local diners. When her crush, Brendan Fear, invites her to his birthday party she cannot help but be excited. Sure he is a Fear and the party is on the isolated Fear Island, but those stories about the Fears are just stupid tales that no one really believes anymore. Her best friend warns her not to go, and the ominous dead rat in her bed should be a warning as well, but Rachel will not cave in. This is her chance.

As soon as the group of teens show up on Fear island, the accidents begin. It began with the boat captain, their only way off the island. Determined not to let an accident ruin his Birthday party Brendan sets up a scavenger party and asks Rachel to be his partner. But when the scavenger hunt turns deadly, Rachel finds herself fighting for her life instead of first place. Is Brendan really what he seems? Is there a Fear family curse? And is Rachel destined to be one of its victims?

Things I liked:
I was looking forward to this book so much. And because of that I had some high expectations. While Christopher Pike’s books were my favorite, the Fear Street saga came in at a close second. They were full of the supernatural, of ghosts in mirrors, and curses, and murder and mayhem. The story began slowly, but the plot of Fear Island and a Scavenger Hunt by famed game master Brendan had me intrigued. Add in an old boyfriend for Rachel and it was promising. Even more so when you hear the story of how the Fear family may have been bored one night on the island and so decided to turn out all of the servants and go hunt them for sport. Ooh potential ghosties. I am down.

Now it didn’t all go down the way I expected and there are some major flaws in the book, but we will get to that in a moment. There are some nice old school Fear Street references and little fan shout outs like that make me smile. Especially since Stine was inspired to go back to Fear Street after reading some tweets from fans who were and still are such big fans of the series. Sure the series is 15 years old and most of us teens are now pretending to be adults and kids of our own that may someday dig the series like we did.

I love anything with Scavenger Hunts and the Party Game murders were clever. I didn’t hate Rachel so that was a plus and I like the small twist in the story. There was the cheese factor that I am expecting in a Fear Street or YA horror novel (not unlike my favorite horror film).

Things I didn’t like so much:
But overall I cannot help but be a little disappointed. I know I had some high expectations and some pretty big nostalgia fondness going in, but both the pacing and the prose were a bit lacking. One of the things that I loved about the YA Horror trend is that I felt like I was reading a Stephen King story I could relate to. It wasn’t middle grade reading, but it also wasn’t full of words I had to go look up. This prose feels too Goosebumps and not enough Fear Street.

When I read a Fear Street book I want Fear Street. I want ghosts, I want the supernatural. I want curses. And Party Games really could have taken place anywhere, certainly not specifically Shadyside. I wanted more impending doom and glimpses of horror, but I really just got a story that was never really followed through and a dead rodent in a bed. I needed more than just the Fear name. I could have had so much more. This is your return to Shadyside Mr. Stine, a chance to please your readers from a bit of a go and to excite new readers and perhaps, if I am lucky, bring horror back to YA. In the end I don’t think this was RL Stine’s best, that he may be a little rusty when it comes to the Fears. Don’t talk down to your readers. Trust me they like to be scared and they will read your books if you give them the thrills they are looking for.

To finish this all off…I didn’t like the ending. Too neat. Too easy. It just doesn’t work like that. Also teenagers don’t say half of the things that were in the dialogue. Maybe I am just getting old, but I was disappointed in Party Games. Sure, I will wait for the next one and see if maybe Stine hits his stride again. And by the Powers that Be I really do hope there is a resurgence in YA horror. This just wasn’t it.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow.

Part of:Part of the Fear Street Series

Also Recommended: Remember Me by Christopher Pike, The Fog by Caroline B Cooney, Fear Park by RL Stine, and Witch by Christopher Pike

2.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks 

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