Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review: Party Games

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.

I'll be honest...while I devoured Fear Street novels as a kid (12/13 or so) they are not what you'd call tightly written grand works.  They are enjoyable cotton candy that while didn't often frighten me (by the time I was reading Fear Street I had been watching Slasher/Horror films for nearly a decade, Fear Street paled in comparison to some of them) they did leave me guessing as to whether it would be a mundane reason or a supernatural one. And just how ridiculous the wrap up could get.

So to that PARTY GAMES perfectly excels.  I wasn't sure, even as the book wrapped up, whether this was a supernatural story or a whacked out mundane one and while it had shades of  my favorite show Harper's Island it wasn't an out and out similar situation. 

Where Stine excels, where he has always excelled in my opinion, is his ability to  draw a reader in.  Sometimes it takes a little while, but by the time he starts the ball rolling towards the ridiculous conclusion you'll be eagerly turning the pages like I do.

Here's the thing - Rachel is not likable.  Brendan, his friends, his cousins...they're not really likable.  They're not well developed beyond some traits to hang off them.  His best friend for instance was basically a class clown sort, who hit on everything and made off color jokes.  Rachel endlessly calls him "cute" and "adorable in his own way".  And despite what the summary may lead you to believe Brendan Fear is not apparently the most popular kid ever.  He's gamer chic - that is he's a hardcore gamer (in every sense of the word), but he's not your typical gamer.  He's more hipster really.

Rachel is also firmly of the "too stupid to live" category of heroines--but that's par for the course in Fear Street novels so I would have been surprised if she had any sort of survival instinct.  Throughout the novel she makes countless newbie Scream Queen errors that if not for the grace of God (Stine that is) things would have gone much differently.

Which leads me to a weird sort of complaint but...[spoiler]no one dies.  I mean literally, no one dies.  Those who do "die" aren't dead, they're part of an elaborate prank and when the real bad guys pop around they're basically all talk[/spoiler] I'll give Stine credit, he managed to one up himself with the story of Brendan's great aunt the Taxidermist who well taxidermied (is that the word?) herself alive.  That story was all kinds of creepy.  As was the pit of human bones (yeah I can see the Fears playing "The Most Dangerous Game" with their servants...creeps).  Plus he tossed in a few red herrings that weren't very obvious as being decoys.

Still the ending is kind of bland and just like every other Fear Street book I'm left wondering about the parents of this town.  Seriously--even if this one had a low body count (compared to older books) I'm still surprised any of them choose to remain in a town with such a dark, gory and murderous past.  And Rachel's parents!  Oh my shiny stars - she never makes mention of them being concerned about her wellfare.  She just decides to run off to a remote nie on unreachable island owned by a family who's last name is basically a by word for "creepy", overnight with a group of friends she maybe mentioned in passing.  This doesn't ring any bells at all?

I'm happy to return to Shadyside, and while it wasn't quite what I was expecting given some of the lead up and events that occurred, I did enjoy the absurdity of it all.  Here's hoping there's more planned that bring back the creep factor!