I was going to recap Party Games, which I read last week in a gleeful haze of nostalgia while my children were (conveniently) on a field trip to the local pumpkin patch. And I will recap it, probably later this week, but first I want to do Lights Out.
Because Party Games is eerily familiar in that "oh right, these are all alike" way, so now I'm working my way through a stack of battered paperbacks. Apparently "these are all alike" means "and I am compelled to REREAD THEM ALL." I don't know. These books have a Pringles effect.
Title: Lights Out
Author: R.L.Stine OBVIOUSLY, yeesh.
Setting/Vacation: Summer camp, in the woods. There are snakes. Which reminds me, I've also been rereading Trixie Belden.
Connection to Fear Street: The Fear Street books that aren't on Fear Street always confuse me. Is the Fear Street curse so bad it follows residents around even when they leave Shadyside?
So. Holly Flynn lives on Fear Street, but she agrees to spend the summer at Camp Nightwing because it belongs to her Uncle Bill and he desperately needs counselors. He's already had several failed businesses, and it looked like this summer camp might finally be the one that succeeded, but then last summer a camper was killed in a boating accident which makes it hard to get bank loans, apparently. I kind of side with the bank here.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's do this in order.
Chapter One: is 92 words long, and consists entirely of a letter from one of Camp Nightwing's counselor's to someone called "Chief," promising to "make them pay." Dun dun DUNNNNNN. Seriously though, 92 words? Is this fanfiction.net?
Chapter Two: Holly is at camp, being scared by a spider. We get the explanation about Uncle Bill, failing business, blah blah blah. Her friend Thea shows up and mentions that last summer she had fun with another counselor named John Hardesty; I guess it was the kind of "fun" that only ever takes place off-screen in these books. Their conversation is interrupted by a "frantic, terrified voice" calling for help.
Chapter Three: The voice is Uncle Bill's; a huge metal cabinet of sports equipment has worked itself lose from the wall and fallen on him. Dork. He's unhurt, but Holly finds a red feather behind the cabinet. Thea tells her this means nothing, because camp is full of feathers (for, like, crafts), and then mentions that Geri Marcus is also a counselor. Holly reacts dramatastically:
"No!" Holly cried. "Oh no! Not here! It can't be!"Chapter Four: Sadly, this is not because Geri is a known serial killer or Holly's lesbian ex who hates her now. She's just a former friend who, two years ago, was sneaking around with some guy her parents didn't approve of, and Holly--who had already told Geri she wouldn't lie for her--didn't manage to lie smoothly enough when Geri's mother called her house one night. So Geri got grounded and still hates Holly over this.
Although Holly's interior monologue on seeing Geri makes me start making up my own, more interesting, doomed-love-affair backstory:
Oh yeah, Holly also meets her senior counselor, Debra, who seems to dislike her for no reason.Watching Geri's easy stride, her perfect, blunt-cut strawberry-bond hair, dazzling smile, and creamy skin, Holly felt a mixture of emotions--warmth for the friendship she and Geri once had, and sadness and anger for the way that that friendship had ended.
Holly just stared. She thought the girl was incredibly attractive. No. Holly thought she was perfect.I'm having a really hard time not reading anything into that.
There's also Mick, a counselor who "looked like the actor Kevin Bacon" but later on the same page "there was something a little dangerous looking about him." I'm having a really, really hard time picturing that. Mick is writing a letter. Mick writes a lot of letters in the first week, he claims, and then mails them home one at a time throughout the summer.
Chapter Five: Last chapter's cliffhanger was Holly going back to her cabin and something swooping at her. It was a bat, and she scares the poor little thing by chasing it ineffectually with a paddle, until Debra comes back and competently uses a broom to usher it out of the cabin. Debra is impatient and harsh with Holly, and I don't actually blame her. If you hate the woods and everything in it, maybe being a counselor will not, in fact, help Uncle Bill make a go of the whole camp thing.
Anyway. There's a campfire so Uncle Bill can get the counselors to introduce themselves. Mick enthuses about the Friday the Thirteenth movies, and then a guy in a hockey mask steps out of the dark woods carrying a hatchet.
Chapter Six: It's one of the counselors, a doofus named Kit. R.L.Stine frequently has a guy like this in his books: sort of geeky, tries too hard to be funny, not a hit with girls. My theory is they're self-inserts for "Jovial Bob Stine," sort of variations on his younger self.
Thea exposits that Kit is crazy about Geri, but Geri is Not Interested.
Someone named Sandy Wayne is one of the new counselors, and he's wearing two hundred dollar sunglasses and is tall and handsome.
John Hardesty, in whom Thea is very interested, is ignoring her and sitting alone, tying knots in a rope.
Uncle Bill warns them that counselors are not allowed to date campers.
Geri glares unblinkingly at Holly for a while.
Chapter Seven: is another half-page letter to Chief, this time confessing to removing the bolts from the wall and causing the cabinet to fall, and hinting that more accidents will happen.
Chapter Eight: Holly wakes to birdsong, goes for a swim, is warned about leeches by Sandy, and makes a mental note to get to know him better. Because of his great smile, not because of the thing with the leeches. At the dock she runs into Mick, who starts to tell her that the lake used to be called Feather Lake, and his grandfather told him something about that. But before he can tell her what, they discover all but one of the canoes have been sunk. There are holes drilled into the sides, and when Holly helps Mick drag the canoes ashore she finds a red feather in one.
Debra is peeved because she's been gone from the cabin. The campers have arrived, and as they're getting settled in there's a creaking noise and a crash.
Chapter Nine: One of the bunk beds has collapsed, almost but not actually hurting a camper. Everyone is startled and the campers are crying, and Debra comes back into the cabin and screams at Holly and blames her for...I don't even know. Not being calm enough? Also there's a red feather taped to the broken slat. Also Geri is there, "smiling strangely," and Uncle Bill shows up, but doesn't do anything particularly useful.
Holly tries to tell Uncle Bill about the red feathers, but he won't listen. Then she tries to ask Debra not to yell at her in front of their campers, and Debra gets mad at her for even asking. I would quit at this point. I can't wait for people to start dying.
In the mess hall, Kit shows up and throws a huge snake on the table.
Chapter Ten: It was a rubber snake. Also, Debra gets mad at Holly for being scared of it, even though Debra was as well. What a pointless bitch.
After lights out Holly goes out and meets Thea, who tells her Geri and Debra are good friends. That explains the pointless bitchery, I guess, though personally I draw the line at grudge-hating a friend's enemy for anything that happened two full years ago. I mean, I would have to be secondhand-mad at everyone in the world for all sorts of stupid shit if I didn't set limits, you know?
Thea is also sad because John is ignoring her.
On her way back to the cabin Holly hears footsteps.
Chapter Eleven: It's two of the older camper, Courtney Blair and Cyndi. I just want you to pause and savour the 80s perfection of those names.
Okay, so Holly escorts them back to their cabin and runs into Mick, who tells her he wants to get to know her better. She thinks he's coming on strong and wonders why, and he grabs her by the arm when she tells him she doesn't want to go for a walk with him, but then he storms off. Creepy.
Then she runs into Sandy (does no one in this damned camp go to bed at night?) and thinks she saw him sneaking out of her cabin, but he says he wasn't. He's kind about the whole Debra thing, asks about her camping experience, and sadly mentions he has no brothers or sisters. She tells him he's "restored her faith in human nature," which is a bit over the top but I guess when you're surrounded by creepers and mean people you overreact to kindness.
She goes inside and there's a snake on her pillow.
Chapter Twelve: She screams and Debra shows up, identifies it as a harmless garter snake, and tosses it. Then she calls Holly "worse than useless" for scaring the campers.
The next day Holly tries to talk to Uncle Bill AGAIN and he's impatient and dismissive. Seriously, I would quit. She hates camp, Debra is a bitch, and the person who begged her to do this as a favour to him won't listen to her. You are at a SUMMER CAMP with ACCIDENTS and MYSTERIOUS CLUES, Uncle Bill, how have you not figured out that you are in an R.L.Stine novel and need to be careful?
Chapter Thirteen: is another letter too Chief, promising that someone is going to die. HURRY UP ALREADY.
Chapter Fourteen: Holly feels better because she's made the decision to find out what's happening at camp. She decides it has to be one of the counselors and therefore she has to get to know them all better. She goes to "the big softball game" between Camp Nightwing and another camp, and spends so much time staring at the counselors that Mick invites her to "do some more staring--up close and personal" at the lake that night, because she's been watching him all day and he thinks she's interested. Ha. She agrees. At the lake that night he's strange and grabby, and she pushes him off the dock and he gets mad, and then Geri pops out of the bushes to yell at Holly for "trying to steal Mick" from her, which...he's a person, Geri, not a trinket someone can walk off with. Go yell at him if you think he's unfaithful.
Chapter Fifteen: Holly is nearly hit by a softball on her way to breakfast, and Sandy checks to make sure she's okay. She confides in him about the accidents and the feathers, because she has never read one of these books and doesn't know how dangerous that is. Sandy mentions that he's leading a wilderness trip for a few of the older campers and she's one of the counselors that Uncle Bill has chosen to go on the trip. Right, because Holly will be such an asset out in the wilderness. I'm beginning to see why all Uncle Bill's businesses fail: he's an idiot.
Then Kit and Mick and Geri drag Holly into the woods and threaten her with a bucket of leeches.
Chapter Sixteen: Geri threatens Holly for a while, sticks some leeches on her, and finally Mick gets her to knock it off because she's starting to sound like she's going to escalate from bullying to murder. Holly thinks at one point she sees Sandy watching, but he doesn't come to her rescue when she calls for help.
On her way back to the cabin Holly hears someone yelling "No! Please, no!"
Chapter Seventeen: Holly follows the scream but finds only John, standing against a tree and concealing something behind his back. He accuses her of spying on him and she gets mad and leaves. Then Sandy almost runs into her while she's stomping back to the cabin and SERIOUSLY, IS ANYONE ACTUALLY WATCHING THE CAMPERS? Because most of the counselors are just running around in the bushes.
Holly checks the list of people going on the overnight wilderness thing and finds that in addition to her and Sandy, there's Geri, Mick, and Kit. And someone named Stewart Winchester. I have no idea who he is.
Chapter Eighteen: At dinner, Kit is dressed like a gorilla and swinging from the rafters while Geri ignores him. Debra is late, so Holly goes to the crafts cabin to get her, and finds her corpse slumped over the pottery wheel, which is rubbing the bitchface right off of her.
Chapter Nineteen: Holly stares at the corpse for a while and notices that Debra's owl pendant must have gotten caught in the wheel. John shows up and tells her to stay with the body while he goes to get Uncle Bill. Nice. While he's gone Holly notices a red feather caught in the wheel.
Chapter Twenty: is another letter.
Chapter Twenty-One: Geri accuses Holly of being glad now that Debra's dead. The police listen to Holly when she tells them about the accidents and the red feathers but she can tell they don't believe her. Uncle Bill gets MAD AT HER when she tries to talk to him again. Also he's assigned GERI to be her new senior counselor. I hope he's the next victim.
Chapter Twenty-Two: Holly sneaks into Kit and John's cabin while everyone else is telling ghost stories around the campfire. She's surprised to find Kit's stuff is neat and organized. She finds a locked box in John's stuff, and then he walks in.
Chapter Twenty-Three: John gets mad at her for going through his stuff. I can't say I blame him. She tells him all about the red feathers and whatever, and he accuses her of thinking she's Nancy Drew.
On her way back to the campfire she looks into Mick and Stewart's cabin, and sees Mick writing a letter. On the wall over his head are a set of Native American rattles, each one of which has a band of red feathers on the handle.
Chapter Twenty-Four: is another letter to Chief, to make us think that Mick is the one writing them. The letter writer, who can't be Mick because that would be too obvious, says one of the counselors is getting too curious and she'll have to be the next to die.
Chapter Twenty-Five: Uncle Bill calls a special meeting to tell them that if anything else goes wrong the camp will be shut down, so he really needs them to work together as a team. Uh, I doubt it was lack of teamwork that's led to two people dying at your stupid camp, Bill. After the meeting Holly brings Uncle Bill a coffee, because she feels sorry for him, and he's nice to her but tells her not to go looking for trouble.
Chapter Twenty-Six: The wilderness trip is still on, of course, because Uncle Bill is an idiot. John, Kit, and Mick are all not talking to Holly. She's sharing a canoe with Mick. That night she hears someone crying in the woods so she follows the sound, because of course she does. She finds John, and he's holding a knife.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Courtney Blair, who you might remember is one of the campers, emerges from behind a tree and makes John stop vaguely threatening Holly with the knife. It turns out they're secretly dating, which is forbidden at camp, and they're also not allowed to date at home because of the three-year age difference. Holly agrees not to tell anyone they're dating. So would I, probably, but I WOULD tell someone that John's a creepy idiot who threatened me with a knife.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: I have to quote the first line of this chapter because I love it.
Holly awoke from a warm and cozy dream about shopping at the Division Street Mall back in Shadyside to find herself wet and cold and sleeping outdoors.You know camp sucks when you're having happy dreams about being back in Shadyside.
Anyway, sandy is waking her up to go on an early-morning canoe ride. YOU GUYS, I KNOW WHO THE MURDERER IS.
Holly doesn't, though, even when she catches him referring to his brother who went to Nightwing Camp last year and remembers he'd said he was an only child. He tells her she's been careless: she didn't tell anyone she was going on the river with him. Uh-oh.
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Sandy raves a bit about his brother, Seth, who hated his name so Sandy always called him Chief. Seth died at camp last year because "Debra was careless on a canoe trip." Sandy pulls a red feather out of his pocket and says "This was his sign," and I don't even know what that means. Do other people have physical objects that are their "sign"? Instead of signing stuff did Seth just tape a feather to the page?
Chapter Thirty: Sandy becomes crazy and murder-y (more so) and tries to take them both over the rapids.
Chapter Thirty-One: Holly knocks him in the head with a paddle, then falls out of the canoe herself, and starts to swim to shore. A tree nearly hits her.
Chapter Thirty-Two: But it doesn't. She dives under the tree. LAMEST of cliffhangers.
She makes it to shore and starts trying to walk back to camp, and Sandy shows up in front of her. I guess he wasn't really unconscious.
Chapter Thirty-Three: Holly runs from him and climbs a steep hill, planning to hide in a cave. Just inside the cave entrance she finds a nest of snakes.
I know it looks like I'm slacking, but these chapters are only about three pages each.
Chapter Thirty-Four: Holly throws a snake in Sandy's face and he falls down the hill. This time he really is unconscious, though still breathing, and his arm is broken. Why do books always say "his arm was twisted unnaturally beneath him" or "twisted at an unnatural angle"? That isn't unnatural; it is completely natural for your arm to twist once it's broken and you've fallen off a cliff and landed on it.
Anyway. Mick shows up and Holly falls into his arms, because he's not a murderer, yay! An ambulance takes Sandy away to "get the help he needs" (no, really, Uncle Bill tells Holly that when she gets back to camp).
Then she tells Mick she's okay thanks to him, and it's official, I want to choke everyone in this book. MICK SHOWED UP AFTER YOU DEFEATED THE KILLER, HOLLY. HE DOESN'T GET CREDIT FOR THAT.
She casually picks up a snake to demonstrate How Much She's Changed, and Mick condescendingly tells her that she's "starting to catch on to this place."
|You don't deserve to look like Kevin Bacon, Mick.|