If you grew up during the 90’s, you’ll definitely remember R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series as the epitome of teen horror. Only in Stephen King novels could you find more psychological trauma, gasp-worthy plot twists, severed body parts, or grisly murders. Reading Party Games, the first book in the reboot of the series, was like a walk down memory lane. As I plowed full speed ahead through Stine’s nail-nibbling story and trademark cliffhanger endings, I felt like I was 10 years old again.
The Story: Rachel and ten other classmates are invited by classmate Brendan Fear to his family’s summer home for his 18th birthday bash. Everyone knows the Fear family is loaded and Fear Island, where their ginormous summer mansion is located, is closed up for the winter. The teens have the entire island to themselves. The party is raging, drinks are flowing, and it’s all fun and games… until people start DYING (MWAHAHAHAHAHA). Ahem. Anyway, as the bodies start piling up, the remaining teens must find the killer before he (or she) finds them. Does Brendan Fear have more skeletons in his closet than he’s letting on? Did Fear Island make one of the party guests a little kooky? Or did someone else decide to crash the party?
The Low Down: This right here is classic Fear Street. R.L. Stine promised to reboot the series, and he did not let his fans down. In the tradition of the classic Fear Street novels, Party Games combines the right elements of murder, mystery, page-turning suspense, and, yes, suspending your disbelief of the situation. Some Fear Street novels have a supernatural element to them, but this is less supernatural and more realistic. There’s a minor supernatural undertone, but it’s not a major plot point. Although, it doesn’t seem like a “realistic” novel either because 70% of the story would not happen in real life EVER. (In my experience, there is not one set of parents on the planet who would allow their teenager to go to an exclusive party on a secluded island with no access to communication, transportation, or adult supervision. And if such parents do exist, I grew up in the WRONG town.)
My only major gripe with Party Games is that some the writing was exceptionally corny and just plain bad. However, it didn’t put me off enough to put the book down. It’s very possible the original series was also super corny and my young mind didn’t notice because I had little experience with great literature, and, well… it was the 90’s so corniness was kind of a given. Also, fans of excessive amounts of gore won’t find a lot of that here. Yes, there are descriptions of dead bodies, but they’re not terribly graphic. I remember the old books featuring severed limbs laying in blood-stained snow and graphically described murder scenes, but there wasn’t anything like that in Party Games. Either Stine got a little soft, or I am misremembering the original series on an epic level. I’d like to revisit some of the older titles to see if the writing and content truly changed from back in the day.
The Bottom Line: If you were a fan of the classic series, you’ll no doubt enjoy returning to the reboot even if it’s just to take a familiar stroll down Fear Street. If you’re new to the series, it will definitely appeal to horror and mystery/suspense fans. The cliffhanger endings to the short chapters will appeal to reluctant readers. There’s a minor romantic storyline, but mild language and a lack of sexual content would make it suitable for younger teens, or even older middle graders.
OFFICIAL RATING: 7/10
*Like the sound of this book? Check out Ten by Gretchen McNeil (another suspenseful murder mystery about a group of teens trapped on an island) or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, look for the original Fear Street series to see what it’s all about!