Sunday, September 26, 2010
"Nothing bad will happen," Della O'Connor assures her friends in the Outdoors Club. So what if their advisor can't go on the overnight to Fear Island - won't it be more fun with no adults around? But it's no fun at all when Della gets lost in the woods, and the dangerous stranger appears, whispering threats, driving her to a violent act. Suddenly all of her friends are involved, prisoners in a conspiracy of silence, trying to conceal the terrible truth. But someone saw what Della did. And he's threatening them all, forcing them back to Fear Island to find the evidence they forgot to bury...
We begin with Della digging through her locker. She's disgusted because someone scratched 'Della and Gary' inside a heart on the the inside of the door. (WHO did?) She doesn't wanna think about Gary since she dumped him a few weeks ago. I pray this is Gary Brandt we're talking about. I'd like to know if he's MORE than just a disgusting slut. (Doubtful) Anyway, Della starts thinking about the upcoming Outdoors Club overnight and how Gary will be there. Unfortunately, Suki Thomas will also be there and she only joined the club to be near Gary because she's a skank. Dude, it has to be Gary Brandt! Suki and Gary are always mentioned together because they're partners in whoredom! (Why does this excite me so much? I hate myself right now.) We get a quick description about how beautiful Della is. Naturally, she's blonde and blue eyed because Stine apparently thinks any other hair color is the devil's work. Della shuts her locker and finds her ugly friend Maia Franklin (she's described as a brunette Orphan Annie with short frizzy curls and giant glasses. WHY?!) who probably only exists to make Della look better. They talk about the overnight and Maia's strict parents which leads Maia to make a quick reference to sex: "I guess [my parents] think if I spend the night camping out on an island where there are boys, I'm going to behave like a rabbit in heat." Thank you for that disgusting visual. Della's response: "And what's wrong with that?" What the hell is going on here?! I thought Shadyside teens were sexless androids! My entire belief system is shaken to the core. If someone says there actually ISN'T a pet cemetery on every corner, my head will explode.
The girls walk to Mr. Abner's classroom for a meeting of the Outdoors Club. Suki and Gary are talking and we have to get a description of Suki's looks because "very punky looking" girls shouldn't be in the outdoors, apparently. She didn't join for the nature. She joined for the Gary. ZING! The girls take their seats and soon after, Ricky Schorr comes bouncing in. I can't remember what other book this guy is in, but I do remember that he is incredibly annoying, thinks he's hilarious, and never shuts the hell up. He drops some leaves on Gary's desk and challenges him to identify them since Gary is the club president. Since this is Ricky we're talking about, the leaves are poison ivy. Gary didn't know which means Gary ain't no outdoorsman. He wrestles Ricky to the floor just as Mr. Abner walks in. He tells them to knock it off, informs Gary the leaves are grape ivy (Gary is a dumbass), and tells everyone he can't take them on the overnight Saturday because of a personal emergency. Everyone is really disappointed and Mr. Abner leaves after telling them they'll go sometime soon. Suki, because she's bad and rebellious, suggests they go alone. I really can't believe they're all so shocked at the idea. They're teenagers, not 6 year olds! Maia keeps screaming that her parents will kill her. THEN DON'T GO, GENIUS. Everyone agrees to go and Della persuades Maia. "Trust me, Maia. Nothing bad will happen." And we all know how that turns out...
It's now Saturday and Della is finishing her packing with Mom's help. Mom wants to know why the overnight has to be on Fear Island since it's so spooooky and Della says that's the point. I'm sure you want to know more about Fear Island. Well...here you go: "Fear Island was a small uninhabited island, covered with pine trees, in the center of the lake behind the Fear Street Woods. Even though it was the perfect spot for picnics and camping and only a few minutes' boat ride across the lake, few people ventured there because of the dreadful stories about it." Had enough? No you haven't: "Some said that strange animal mutations, hideous dangerous creatures that didn't exist anywhere else, roamed the woods. Others said the island was infected with poisonous snakes. And there were stories that the island had been used long ago as an Indian burial ground and that ghosts walked the woods at night, seeking revenge for their fates." Have fun, kids!
A guy named Pete from the club arrives in his Subaru to take Della to the lake. He has a crush on her, but she's still mooning over Gary...even though SHE broke up with HIM. They arrive and see that everyone else is already there. Della can't get over how good Gary looks, but the sight of Suki curling around him like a feral cat really kills her buzz. They get into a couple of canoes and start paddling toward the island. Once there, Suki starts whining about a broken nail and Ricky won't stop making stupid jokes and I think it would be better is everyone just drowned them both now and saved themselves a lot of pain later. They set up two tents, one for boys, one for girls. At one point, Della realizes Gary is alone for once without Suki hanging all over him. At least Della THOUGHT he was alone. She walks along a short trail and finds Suki and Gary slurping each other up like they're cherry Slushies.
Later, Ricky takes out what we today call "paintball guns". In the faraway land of 1989, however, they're referred to as "pistols" for a "ZAP war". Actually, I can't even call them paintballs because the paint isn't in ball form. They're just squirting streams of paint at each other. The teams are boys vs. girls (of course) and Della hates having to associate with Suki. The girls decide to split up. Maia heads off first, leaving Della alone with Suki for a moment. Suki uses the opportunity to bring up Gary: "Gary's really nice. You broke up with him, right?" Della immediately runs off into the woods without answering. HA! After managing to hit Ricky with a blob of yellow paint, Della runs deeper into the woods and realizes she's lost. Dark clouds are rolling in and Della is starting to get really freaked out. The fact that she hears footsteps nearby isn't helping any. She thinks it's just one of the others sneaking up on her, but it turns out to be some creepy stranger. He's dressed nicely and is really hot so Della isn't as scared as she should be. Handsome strangers with nice coats aren't dangerous! Only dirty derelicts with ripped jeans are. *sigh* You poor stupid girl. Della explains what she's doing out in the woods, but the guy is really vague when Della asks him what he's doing out here. Eventually he says he's a college student from Boston doing a project on trees and that's how he came to be in the woods of Shadyside in the middle of the semester. "Lots of trees to study on the island. I'm doing my paper on tree reproduction." You're joking, right? Because that has got to be the lamest excuse in the history of EVER. He's acting really shifty, blatantly lying, and won't even tell Della his name yet she continues to chat and joke like he's her BFF. When Della FINALLY becomes suspicious, it's too late. The guy grabs her hair and yanks her toward him. She starts to scream, but the guy tells her it's useless because no-one will hear her. He starts babbling about communication and how the old man wouldn't listen to him and it's about time he got something he wanted. The boy ain't right. Della somehow manages to shoot him in the forehead with her paint gun. She runs, he catches her, they struggle, and she ends up shoving him down a ravine. Della makes her way down even though it's obvious he's D-E-A-D. She decides she won't let a random creep's death ruin her life so she just won't tell anyone. That's nice. She starts grabbing handfuls of leaves and piling them over his corpse...until she looks up and sees Ricky and Maia staring down at her. Uhhh-ohhh.
Della starts climbing out of the ravine screaming "He attacked me!" and starts rambling that his fall was an accident blah blah blah. He's still dead and it's still your fault. Pete, Gary, and Suki wander over to gawk at the dead man. Ricky asks plenty of stupid questions, Gary wants to know whether the guy is really dead, and Maia is crying that her parents are going to kill her. Because this is all about her and the fact that she might get grounded for 2.5 seconds. Let's all ignore the dead man! I'm beginning to hate them all. How surprising. Instead of getting the hell off the island and going to the police, they decide the best thing to do is to cover him with leaves and forget all about him. Then they go back to camp and choose to spend the night because their parents might get suspicious if they went home early. They cook hot dogs around the fire and Ricky tells plenty of stupid jokes that no-one listens to. Gary says that before they go to sleep, they all need to take an oath of secrecy. As if anyone will be able to keep this a secret. He's dumber than I thought. They all agree and head for their tents.
A few hours later, Della wakes up and thinks she hears someone outside the tent so she wakes Suki and Maia. Not once does any of them think it might be one of the guys out for a midnight pee. When Della creeps outside, she doesn't see anyone but notices the backpacks have been knocked over and assumes it was a raccoon or muscular chipmunk that she heard.
The next morning, everyone finds the canoes missing along with Ricky's backpack. Ricky whines like a little bitch and everyone else wonders what they're going to do. Can none of them swim? Why am I still asking questions? Maia is STILL worried about her parents finding out she's here UNSUPERVISED! THE HORROR! Shut up, Maia. A moment later, Ricky the Royal Jackass announces that HE moved the canoes yesterday as a joke. Everyone hates him even more than before, but they're relieved to be getting off the island and away from their dirty little secret.
Once Della gets home, she struggles not to tell her mom what happened because Mom would probably have a heart attack if she knew her perfect spawn just killed a man. Della sleeps all day and wakes at 4 PM. She makes herself a sandwich, eats it with a Coke, and does some Government homework without thinking about her victim very much at all. At dinner, she realizes she no longer has an urge to tell her mom anything and talks about the paint war instead. A little later, Maia calls. She's totally paranoid, convinced her parents suspect something, and begs Della to come over. Della searches for her wallet before leaving (will she have to show ID before Maia's parents let her in?) but can't find it.
At Maia's house, Maia answers the door and drags Della to her pink frilly room where she breaks down and sobs. Della tells her she needs to get some sleep and forget about the man in the ravine because he was crazy, not some innocent boy. Eventually Maia calms down and Della leaves in a fairly good mood. That doesn't last long, though, because someone left a little surprise for Della at home. She finds an envelope on the porch and opens it. Out falls a tiny silver skull (the dead guy was wearing a necklace with one on it) and a note that reads "I SAW WHAT YOU DID." Of course you did.
On Tuesday night, the Outdoors Club gang (except Pete who is late) meets at Della's house to discuss the note. Della assumed it was one of Ricky's jokes, but even Ricky has higher standards than that. Gary also received a skull, but no note. How very sinister. Gary mentions he lost his wallet and Della says she did too and that must be how the sneaky skull gremlin got their addresses. After discussing that, they hear someone knocking on the door. But when Della answers, there's no-one there. NOOO! She runs to make sure the other doors are locked and a moment later, the knocking starts again. Gary answers, there's nobody there, and they chalk it up to neighborhood kids playing a joke because that makes them feel better. Since Gary is a total dumbass, he decides the best plan of action is to take the prankster's picture. He grabs Della's Polaroid and tells her that the next time the person knocks, jerk open the door and Gary will snap a picture. The knock comes, but the guy leaps off the porch and runs. All Gary got was a blurry photo of the screen door. A second later, Pete walks in and they explain what just happened. He says he didn't see anyone, but that doesn't make sense because he was practically right there. I'm watching you, Pete...
Maia has had enough and says she's leaving, but Pete stops her with a newspaper article (the almighty power of print). It tells the story of a recent burglary/murder. Two men broke into the tiny cottage of a gardener who was rumored to be an eccentric millionaire who kept his money hidden somewhere in the cottage. I'm sure. The burglars found nothing but the gardener so they killed him for not being rich. A picture of one of the burglars shocks everyone: it's the man they (accidentally!) left for dead in the woods. They believe that the man who is half-heartedly stalking them must be the dead guy's partner out for revenge. They all argue over the guy's possible motives because they're all morons--didn't they just say he wants revenge? Maia doesn't join in the conversation because the only thing she gives a damn about is whether or not she gets in trouble with her parents. Della finally loses it: "Oh, Maia - stop thinking about yourself for once! You're only worried about your parents finding out that you went on the overnight without a chaperone. You don't care what happens to the rest of us!" And none of you care about the deceased gent who's currently rotting away under a pile of moldy leaves in the woods. Your parents obviously raised you right. *sigh* Maia shuts her mouth and everyone starts arguing again. Until they hear a knock at the door. But don't get too excited--it's just Della's mom and her friend Mr. Garrison.
Mr. Garrison is probably more than just a friend, as evidenced by his hasty explanation for walking Mom home: "Your mother forgot her house key." That's just fine and dandy, Mr. Garrison. But if she did indeed "forget her house key" what the hell could you do? There's no mention of you being an expert locksmith so me thinks you were over for super happy fun time. Don't worry, Mr. Garrison, we won't tell. Anyway, everyone explains they were having an Outdoors Club meeting but they're done now and they all leave. Pete stays behind to ask Della out for Friday night and she says yes. Love blossoms even among the darkness of murder and lies. NOT!
It's now Friday night and Della and Pete are dancing at The Mill (a dance club that was once...a mill). After a while, they get all sweaty and tired and decide to leave for a burger before going home. As they're driving, someone starts tailing them. Pete, who is proving to be as stupid as Gary, pulls over and starts to get out to confront the driver. But Della stops him and begs him to just drive. He speeds away and the other car immediately follows. It starts bumping Pete's dad's precious car so Pete makes a sudden U-turn in the road and the car speeds past them. But of course it isn't over. The car turns around and promptly crashes right into a tree. NOW it's over. Pete drives over to check the damage and decides to get out to see if the driver is still alive. The car is completely totaled but the driver's side is surprisingly unscathed. The car is empty.
It's now Monday afternoon and Della is telling Maia about the car. Maia freaks out a bit and then they go to the Outdoors Club meeting. Mr. Abner comes in looking like Howdy Doody and begins apologizing for not being able to take them on the overnight. But he has great news! He'll be able to take them Saturday! Damn it all. Della and Ricky at least attempt to act enthusiastic, but the other pretend they have plans and might not be able to go. The meeting is over so they all head out after promising to meet with Mr. Abner on Wednesday to let him know if they'll be able to go. They stand around in the student parking lot trying to think of a way out of the overnight. Ricky brings up his missing ZAP gun and asks Della if she can bring it to his house. Unfortunately, it's lying at the bottom of a ravine with a dead man. Ricky completely loses it, saying when the cops find the corpse, they'll see his gun and know it's his because he's known for his ZAP guns. Yes, he's serious. Ricky angers them all by saying if he gets caught, he'll take them all down with him. Della says everything is her fault so she'll go back to Fear Island for the stupid gun. They all decide to go on the overnight if for no other reason than to retrieve Ricky's gun. "It couldn't be any worse than the last overnight - could it?" Shut up, Maia.
It's now Saturday and the Outdoors Club is floating across the lake to Fear Island. Once they come ashore, Mr. Abner says they'll go on a hike now and set up camp later. Della and Pete decide they'll get the gun after the hike when everyone is gathering fire wood. After what seems like an eternity of walking, they finally go back to build a fire. Della and Pete attempt to run off to the ravine, but Mr. Abner assumes they're going to go make out or something and tells them to come back. He goes on ahead and a moment later, they hear someone screaming. It's Maia who is sitting on the ground with Abner's bloody head in her lap. The creepy man has followed them here and Maia saw him hit Abner with something and run away. Gary, Suki, and Ricky decide to go back for help and as they're leaving, Ricky reminds Della about his damned stupid gun. There are much bigger things to worry about!!! Della decides to go for it now and Pete says he'll go with her. Maia doesn't want to be left alone so Della tells him to stay. At first he argues, but Della has a whistle and says she'll blow it if anything happens. He gives her a flashlight and she runs off into the woods.
As Della nears the ravine, she spots a flash of light (possibly made by one of those newfangled FLASHLIGHTS) and realizes someone else is out here. She starts runningand ends up falling down the ravine. Smooth. She thinks she's fallen on the dead man but the leaf pile is flat. She searches for her flashlight and finds it, but it's dead. Then someone shines a light on her from above. "No! It can't be! You were dead! I know you were dead!" The man ignores Della's screams and jumps down into the ravine. She cracks her flashlight over his head and it suddenly flashes on. Har har har. She doesn't recognize the man and thinks it must be the "dead" guy's partner in crime. She crawls out of the ravine and starts running toward camp. Except the "dead" man steps out from behind a tree and stops everything. Della says he's dead. Obviously not, smart one. The man says he has a very faint pulse and was NEVER dead! I can feel my brain cells dying the longer this conversation goes on. Della asks him why he's been messing with her and her friends and he says he thought he could blackmail them and get some money since the old gardener didn't have any. Then he starts smacking Della in the face and telling her to shut up. He pulls out a pistol and Della thinks she's about to die, but it's just that stinking ZAP gun. He starts laughing as paint drips down Della's forehead. She runs, but he catches her and tells her she shouldn't have done that because he has a real gun and now he might have to use it. Of course Super Pete saves the day by running in just in time and shooting paint into the crazy man's eyes. Yee haw! Della and Pete make it back to the campsite with the man on their heels. But the cops have arrived and play time is over.
A week later, Della is preparing to go to Pete's house. He comes to pick her up with a folded tent in the backseat as a joke. It would be funny if it weren't so unfunny. The book ends with Pete asking if you can roast marshmallows in front of a TV and Della replying "We can try." Tune in next time as these lovesick fools go up in flames!
Conclusion? I would have liked this book a lot if there hadn't been so many holes in the story. I'm left with more questions than answers: is Gary's last name Brandt? What happened to Ricky's backpack? How deep was that ravine? Why didn't Della check to see if the man was actually dead? On the second overnight, why didn't they just convince Mr. Abner to go somewhere besides Fear Island? Why was Mr. Abner dressed like a deranged cowboy? Why did Della break up with Gary and why did she want him back? I kind of wish this book had been about the adventures of Della's mom and Mr. Garrison.
Next time: "Phone Calls" Another sad attempt at comedy. This one could get ugly...