Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fear Street Review: Cheerleaders: The Second Evil

Cheers- from the grave!
Out of the Grave

It's been a long time since I had one of these. I hate to say it, but I had a tough time reading during the summer even though, embarrassingly, I took this book with me to work literally almost every day after my last review of an R. L. Stine book. I know, I know, shame on me. Even more than that I must have looked mighty strange carrying around the same book (with a title like Cheerleaders) for months. I finally finished it, and here is my mostly kind of lackluster review. Sorry I'm not very bombastic with this one, but this book is very safe in my opinion.

What do I mean by safe? Well, it's simple enough. This book doesn't do anything new or different from the last book. Sure, it introduces a few new plot points and a new character or two, but mostly it is just like the first book except less interesting. Without the tension of the main character being blamed and hated for literally everything (and the subsequent mystery about what is actually going on), the book becomes a very simple evil spirit exorcism story. And an ineffectual one at that.

"The hooded man with the strange ghostly eyes- he must have followed her home."

This second Cheerleaders book starts a little after the last one. It is fall, and Corky is in the graveyard visiting her sister's grave. She's almost made out to be an odd sort of person for doing this, but she's obviously disturbed by the whole incident. Who can say that she's wrong to show her grief in this way? What is kind of weird and wrong is that she started dating her sister's boyfriend Chip. That does seem a little creepy, although I don't know if it's creepier for her or for him. You just know that relationship won't last...

I guess the story is pretty simple. Corky is trying to get her life back together. The other cheerleaders want her to rejoin the team, but she's reluctant to do so. And that's the basic premise of the majority of this book. Sure, a few new characters are introduced. John Daly, the brother of Jennifer from the first book, is shown in basically a single scene. He promptly goes missing and dies after threatening Corky. And Sara Beth, a college girl who seems to know a lot about the occult and the titular Fears of Fear Street. It's later explained that she is a Fear herself, which is why she is so knowledgeable and interested in the subject matter.

It's not very exciting to say the least. Most of the book revolves around Corky dealing with her issues, trying to pick her life up, and then slowly realizing that the evil is still around, although she has no idea where it could be. Her subsequent search for both history and truth is decently entertaining with the most interesting aspect of the story being the background on Sara Fear and Sara Beth telling the sordid tale.

"Chip's hand, cut off at the wrist, rested like a glove beside the blade."

There are a couple of deaths in the story, the most prominent being Chip, who dies after getting his hand sawed off. I will say that from my younger days this was the death from this series that was most ingrained in my mind besides Bobbi's own death from the first book. For whatever reason though, I had remembered Chip being more important than he ultimately turned out to be. He honestly did absolutely nothing in the narrative besides date both sisters and Kimmy. Then he died and left nothing else. Hell, he's barely mentioned after his death. Corky seemed to have gotten over it all fairly quickly. Then again she has to be numb about the whole thing at this point.

The gruesome bits in this book are few and far between, and the problem is that nothing here is all that interesting. I don't really care about Corky. I don't know why her character is so bland and uninteresting compared to her sister, but she truly comes off as a very dry character. Her mourning doesn't even really mean anything, and it should. There is an emotional detachment throughout this book. While the first book really pushed what bullying could do, showed some truly graphic deaths, and ultimately hit hard and didn't pull punches, this book does the opposite of all of those.

It doesn't show Corky's personality or grief, shoehorning her with Chip because he was a male character that was mentioned and dated Bobbi, I guess. It should be a book about her dealing with the death, ultimately finding a way to move on. Yeah, put the spirit story in there. Hell, even better, have her research the thing to see what it had been. But bringing the same story back again with simply another person possessed seems like lazy writing more than anything else. This whole book misses a ton of marks, and ultimately feels bland and uninspired.

Shame on you, R. L. Stine. For shame.

"A disgusting green liquid poured from her mouth. The stench of it rose up from the tossing water.
Corky gagged, struggled to hold her breath, trying not to breathe.
The thick green liquid oozed out of Kimmy's mouth. Took shape. Formed a long snakelike figure.
Longer. Longer."

Kimmy was ultimately the one possessed by the evil spirit. While this is perfectly acceptable, I guess, it also comes off as kind of stupid. Kimmy survives the book. But two guys are dead by her hand. I suppose the whole point of the spirit is that it doesn't (or isn't supposed to) get its hands dirty, but then it goes and tries to drown Corky with Kimmy's bare hands. In reality, a person who kills other people may actually get arrested and thrown in prison or something. There might be some sort of police investigation. Just maybe? But no. Those deaths were accidental evidently. Kimmy is never even looked at, and the spirit defense doesn't ever come up in court. That's really disappointing.

I'm being a little silly, but I do have a point here. This book clearly doesn't take place in our world, certainly not as I know it works. When I was younger this book worked so much better, back when I didn't know as much about things and stuff. But now it comes off as really stupid at times. I cannot suspend my disbelief as much as it wants me to, and thus my entertainment is stymied.

In the end Corky drowns the evil spirit out of Kimmy. It seems to work, giving a great description of what an evil spirit looks like in its native form. I don't mind the end of the book so much as the rest of it. At least there was some action rather than a reliance on Corky's personality like the rest of the book. I liked the apparent death of the spirit. And I liked how Kimmy's memory of all of the events since the graveyard were completely gone. That was a neat twist even if it was also pretty silly.

"IT CAN'T BE DROWNED."

In the end, there has to be a trilogy of books. So, the evil isn't gone, obviously. And it'll come back. That's for sure.

The Second Evil

I think it's obvious I didn't like this book. While it may have narrative important to the five book Cheerleaders series, it is wholly uninspired. I started reading it a while back, hoping to whip out a quick review of this months ago, but found myself unable to continue reading through pure lack of desire to want to read it. I found the writing lesser than the first book and the story completely uninteresting. There was no mystery, no great moments, nothing to really read and be in awe over.

The characters are mostly bland and uninteresting, especially Corky, who has no defining characteristics beyond "teenage female." Her mourning for her sister and her boyfriend should have been the main focus of the plot, but even though those aspects of her character were mentioned, very little ever came of it. He mourning was glossed over, becoming less about her character and much more about the fact of her mourning. That really seems like a poor choice to me. The emotional impact should have been there. It would have made the whole book much more than it was.

And what was it? A schlocky overdramatic evil spirit story. There were some good moments here and there, mostly involving Sara Beth Fear, who I don't think comes back in any of the other books (although egg on my face if I'm wrong). The history of Sara Fear was both interesting and nicely handled. It should have been the main focus of the book, showing Corky searching for answers about what really happened, rather than forcing a plot of the spirit possessing and killing others. Maybe that's just me though.

There are a few other creepy scenes, but most of them are simply written to be creepy, which in this case actually made me less interested in them. The graveyard scenes and the scenes with Corky in the school before she finds Chip dead really stuck out at me as those kind of scenes.

I don't know. There's not much else I can say. I didn't like this book, and would suggest others not to read it unless the Cheerleaders saga is important enough for you to read all the way through. The younger me loved this book, but older me sees it as an utter mess that could have been a whole lot better if it were planned out better. Corky finding Chip was still pretty good though. I liked that a decent amount. And I liked Sara Fear's backstory. Other than that, this book was utter dreck. Easily the worst R. L. Stine book I've reviewed so far.

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