Life is a beach...until you die
It's the ultimate party beach in California, summer fun in the sun to the max. And Karen, who's just broken up with her old boyfriend, means to enjoy every minute of it--especially having two new guys to choose between: one so handsome and one so deliciously dangerous. But the party summer takes a nasty turn when Karen realizes that someone is out to spoil all the fun. As the beach party gets wilder and wilder, Karen realizes that someone very close to her is too close--close enough to kill. Will the next beach party be her last?
We begin this tale of hot summer woe with Karen driving like a maniac to pick up her friend Ann-Marie at LAX. Karen thinks she looks pretty good in her blue sleeveless shirt and white tennis shorts. "Not as pretty as Ann-Marie, but okay." Boo hoo. The problems of beautiful people! Karen arrives just as Ann-Marie is stepping through the gate. She's wearing jeans and a sweater even though it's presumably a thousand degrees outside. We get a short description of how beautiful and thin Ann-Marie is. She's like a model and Karen is like a turnip or something. Ann-Marie notices that Karen is wearing a necklace with a crystal on the end. Karen says that Mike gave it to her just before she broke up with him. Ann-Marie makes a smart ass comment about it and apologizes by saying "Sorry. It always takes me a while to lose my New York edge." New York is not to blame for your BITCH Ann-Marie. Now get in the trunk like a good girl and keep your yapper shut until the car stops. The girls talk about Karen's parents who are newly divorced. Mom dealt with it by sobbing while listening to The Beatles for months and Dad entered into a mid-life crisis of sorts. "He's driving a Corvette, for one thing. And he's blow-drying his hair." Horrible! When a man suddenly starts caring about his luscious locks, you know he's lost his damn mind! Anyway, Karen got a Mustang convertible out of the ordeal, probably because a certain someone with incredible Breck hair felt guilty. Karen tells Ann-Marie that Dad has a girlfriend who looks young enough to be Karen's sister who lives with him in an apartment in Venice. Dad and Girl are gone for a few days so the girls will have the apartment to themselves.
That night, the girls go for a walk on the beach which is deserted because of peoples' fear of gangs, according to Karen. Roving sand gangs are the worst. Do you know how hard it is to get sand out of your hair?!
At the mention of gangs, one magically shows up. Five guys decked out in heavy metal T-shirts and jeans (a few even have earrings! NOOO!) with greasy hair and tattoos come out of nowhere. Why does Stine refuse to believe that hoodlums can indeed have good hygiene? His villains are always greasy. Did Patrick Bateman teach him nothing? Anyway, the leader, Vince, starts freaking them out, but they're rescued by two handsome strangers who pretend they've been looking for the girls. The greasers back off and walk away. What a disappointment. The guys, Jerry and Marty, take Karen and Ann-Marie to RayJay's, a coffee shop/pizza place because if you're under the age of 18, it's a requirement to eat pizza at least once a week. BY FEDERAL LAW. These assholes already have dates, though, who are waiting for them at the restaurant. The girls, Stephanie and Renee, warm up to the other girls when they hear about what happened on the beach. Later, everyone leaves and Renee grabs Karen's arm in the parking lot to tell her to stay away from Jerry. "I really mean it. Stay away from Jerry." Heard you the first time, pizza breath.
The next day, Jerry and Vince run into each other on the beach, but there's no conflict because Vince is actually a whiny bitch and Jerry is a muscular surfer dude. Renee is sunning herself on a blanket and complaining about how bored she is. Did I mention Renee is a rich, stuck up brat? Because she is. Jerry doesn't want to deal with her bullshit and they have a little argument before Karen and Ann-Marie randomly show up which Renee doesn't like. Karen gushes about Renee's snorkel stuff and that breaks the ice a little. Renee lets Karen use it and they both decide to swim out to a sandbar. When they're pretty far out, Karen surfaces and realizes Renee is far ahead. Then Karen feels something pushing her. It's the current which pushes her into some rocks and slices a hole in her wet suit. She calls for help and Renee, who has surfaced and is only a few yards away, ignores her. Karen realizes Renee probably knew this would happen and deliberately led her out here. The current tosses her into the rocks and she hits her head. Eventually Jerry sees her and swims out. Renee acts shocked when she sees Karen and swims over with Jerry. They drag a now unconscious Karen to the sand where Jerry gives her mouth-to-mouth. This whole thing is like a "very special" episode of Baywatch (minus the heaving jugs). Two Venice policemen show up and Karen explains what happened. Renee is stared at SUSPICIOUSLY but she's only guilty of being a major bitch and that's not in these cops' jurisdiction. A little later, Jerry invites Karen to come to a beach party (some come to party, some come to die...don't forget it!) on Friday night. She agrees, Jerry walks off, and Renee stares at Karen with a creepy grin on her face that can only mean one thing: DEATH BEACH!
That night, Karen whines to Ann-Marie about Renee and how she knows Renee could hear her yelling in the ocean. After they finish eating ice cream, Ann-Marie leaves to buy some milk because ice cream makes her crave milk. Yeah. Anyway, the moment she leaves, Karen gets the obligatory "threatening" phone call: "Stay away from Jerry." Or what? The caller is obviously new at this because they fucking forgot the threat! There must be consequences, creepy caller, if Karen disobeys your stupid commands! Ann-Marie returns a few minutes later and Karen tells her all about the call. Karen thinks it sounded vaguely like her ex-boyfriend Mike. She thinks she saw him on the beach yesterday, but why the hell would he call her about Jerry? The phone rings again and Karen answers it by screaming "Just leave me alone!" into the receiver. The caller turns out to be her dad. Oops. He called to tell her that he and his woman friend won't be back for another week which means Karen and Ann-Marie will be alone and completely vulnerable to the murder that is almost certainly coming their way. Nice timing, Father.
On Thursday afternoon, Ann-Marie is visiting relatives in Burbank so karen goes shopping. She runs into Mike on the sidewalk. "He was wearing white tennis shorts and a T-shirt that proclaimed in big green letters: GUMBY LIVES." Apparently Mike isn't aware that Pokey killed Gumby in a crack-fueled rage before turning his lethal hooves on himself...the day he found out this book was being published.
Mike is described as looking like Jim Belushi which is just so very unfortunate. Mike says he got a job selling T-shirts on the boardwalk. Karen's first thought is that Mike followed her here, but then thinks that's ridiculous. They talk a little and Mike asks her out. She says they're broken up, Mike replies that he thought they were friends, and Karen says that's just something people say. "But no-one ever really stays friends." Mike won't let it drop, but before he can say more, Vince pulls up on his motorcycle and tells Karen to get on. She does and Mike is, of course, furious.
Vince skids to a stop at the Promenade in Santa Monica. Karen says she wants to go home, Vince gets pissed because Karen isn't into him, and they leave. He drives like a maniac until he reaches her apartment where he lets her off with some parting words: "Say hello to your brother." Uhhhh...I'm guessing that's what he thinks Jerry is. Karen goes inside and is shocked to see words spray painted on the door to her apartment. "STAY AWAY FROM JERRY" The paint is fresh so the culprit is nearby...maybe. I don't care about who's doing these things because this person is lame. No originality, no murderous threats. I bet their lips aren't even dry! And that, my friends, is a crime against humanity. Karen enters the apartment and finds Ann-Marie inside. She didn't go see Aunt Freda after all and is blissfully unaware that someone spray painted the door. Karen shows her and says someone really wants to scare her. Ann-Marie's response: "Is it working?" Well, miss, you just shot to the top of the suspect list. And YES, it IS working!
It's now Friday night and Karen is telling Ann-Marie about her wild ride with Vince. Karen is strangely attracted to him even though he's kind of an a-hole. She wants to know why Ann-Marie isn't going to the beach party and Ann-Marie says she's too tired. "Aunt Freda wore me out." Wow. Just...wow. Then Ann-Marie gets all snippy about how Jerry seems into Karen and blah blah blah. Jerry shows up in a van with some other people and Karen leaves with them for the party. They build a fire on the beach and Karen and Jerry enjoy an intimate moment that I didn't want to be privy to. When they come up for air, Karen is shocked to see Renee watching them. Jerry calls Renee over and Karen actually says "We were looking for firewood." Oh Karen. You are truly a comedian...and kind of incredibly stupid. They all walk back to the fire, Renee clinging to Jerry's arm like the bloody little leech she is. A little later, Renee takes Karen aside to tell her an interesting tidbit about Jerry. "He needs special care." Jerry's brother Todd drowned last summer and something in Jerry's brain pan broke a little because he blames himself for Todd's death. Renee says she's only telling Karen this because she and Jerry have been through some hard times and she's not going to let Karen have him that easily.
Later, Karen goes home and Ann-Marie is out. Karen thinks that's a little weird because it's after 1 AM and Ann-Marie was whining about being tired earlier. Karen picks up some of Ann-Marie's laundry off the floor to put in her dresser where she discovers something strange. "It was a can of black spray paint." GASP...and such.
That night, Karen has a nightmare about getting her skin split open on some beach rocks. She wakes soaked in sweat at 7:30 AM and walks to Ann-Marie's room. Ann-Marie wakes up and tells Karen she hung out on Main Street with some people she somehow knows. Then Karen brings up the paint can and Ann-Marie predictably denies that the paint is hers and says she has no idea how it got in her dresser. She changes the subject and asks what they're going to do today. Karen made plans to rollerskate with Jerry so Ann-Marie rolls over and goes back to sleep because she's being ditched by her best friend for a guy they've known for a day. Good times.
Karen is now hanging out on the boardwalk waiting for Jerry who's over half an hour late. Then she sees Mike who hides behind a rack of shirts when he spots her. Jerry shows up a moment later and they skate off into the sun. Goodbye, Mike. You know we can see you, right?
At 9 PM, Karen says she should get home to Ann-Marie, but Jerry doesn't want her to go so they make out instead. FINALLY she goes home. Ann-Marie is gone and left a note saying she's out with friends. Karen crawls into bed...and jumps out screaming. She turns on the light and sees that the bed is full of jellyfish. "When Ann-Marie walked in a few seconds later, Karen was still screaming." The girls stay up all night. Ann-Marie keeps saying Renee has to be doing all these things even though all signs point to ANN-MARIE, JELLY LOVER.
In the morning, Karen walks to Renee's house to confront her. Except she can't because Renee is lying on the kitchen floor, dead as a doornail. Karen ends up at the police station waiting to be questioned. She called the LAPD immediately after finding Renee. Jerry has already been questioned and it's currently Ann-Marie's turn. Karen's mom is also there. Finally Karen is questioned and she keeps the jellyfish and black paint to herself. 20 minutes later, it's all over and Karen's mom wants Karen to come home with her. Karen refuses because she wants to make sure Jerry is ok. Barf. Karen and Ann-Marie are walking home when a girl claiming to be Jerry's sister pops out of nowhere, asks "Are you Karen?", and proceeds to beg Karen to stay away from Jerry before running away. Since Karen is an imbecile, she will do no such thing. Once they reach the apartment building, Jerry appears out of nowhere (are he and his sister magicians?). Karen mentions his sister and he says he doesn't have a sister. Of course. OF COURSE he doesn't! Why? Because it's Stine's way to make things as unnecessarily complicated as possible. The madness has descended!
On Sunday night, Jerry, Karen, and Ann-Marie are at RayJay's. They're eating pizza (do I even need to say it?) and talking about Renee. Jerry admits he intially thought Renee killed herself instead of being brutally murdered because she knew he was going to break up with her. Because you're so great, eh, Jerry? I spit on you and the ancestors from whose loins you were spawned, you self-absorbed twat. Anyway, Karen notices Mike looking through the window at them. Karen goes outside and Mike runs away because apparently that's literally the only thing he knows how to do.
The next afternoon, Ann-Marie goes for a walk and Karen suns herself on the beach. Vince shows up and he and Karen take a walk together. She asks questions about the police questioning him and blah blah. Then Vince grabs her and kisses her hard. She's confused and torn because of her feelings for both Vince and Jerry so she just walks back to her blanket. She finds a piece of paper stuck inside the blanket that has the words "STAY AWAY FROM JERRY" typed on it over and over. Seriously? Are we STILL doing this? Obviously the passive aggressive bullshit doesn't work with this chick, mysterious weirdo. Get a new M.O. or please feel free to fall off the face of the earth. A second later, Karen applies some sunscreen and screams in horrible pain at the burning sensation.
At the doctor's office, Karen is treated for burns that resulted from the hydrochloric acid someone dumped in her bottle of sunscreen. She doesn't want the doctor to call the police or her parents because that would be the SMART thing to do and Karen is an idiot with a death wish. So she flees the doctor's office and once outside, comes upon Vince who waited after dropping her off on his motorcycle. As he drives her home, Karen wonders if Ann-Marie could be behind all this. HMM! When they arrive at the apartment, she sees Mike running out the door and away. Are you kidding me? Karen goes inside and finds Ann-Marie behind a chair. She says she was looking for her necklace, but she's bright red and looks like a liar. Karen brings up Mike and Ann-Marie looks embarrassed and says they've been seeing each other. She was never with "friends", she was always with Mike. Karen finds this hilarious because she was beginning to suspect them both of being psychotic maniacs! What a hoot! The phone rings a moment later and Karen answers. It's the girl who claims to be Jerry's sister so Karen hangs up on her.
It's now Friday afternoon and Karen is with Jerry at the beach. They're about to go snorkeling since that worked out so well last time. There are a ton of people around because it's a beach party. Yes, a BEACH PARTY so someone is gonna die. Right? Just let me believe. Karen and Jerry swim out a few yards, but Karen's burnt shoulder and hand start to hurt so she asks Jerry to help her to shore. "I'm not Jerry. I'm Todd." Aaaand we come to the end of the fuckery maze. Jerry is completely insane because he blames himself for Todd's death. He killed Renee because she was too close to Jerry (who now thinks he is Todd) and now he has to kill Karen for the same reason. He says "Jerry is bad." before grabbing Karen's snorkel mask and throwing it away. He swims off as Karen starts to go under.
Somehow Karen manages to get back to shore, though, where Vince helps her out the water. Jerry's sister runs up and asks where Jerry is. She explains that Jerry shut the rest of his family out and thinks he has no family. The three run off to search for Jerry who is close by. He's behaving normally now and allows his sister to lead him away. He tells Karen he'll call her later. Karen asks Vince if he's really someone she can lean on and he picks her up and carries her across the sand like a hero in a movie no-one ever wanted to see.
Conclusion?: This has got to be the dullest thing R.L. Stine has ever written. EVER. My brain cells are dropping like flies...
Next time: "Trapped" Shadyside High's nutty answer to The Breakfast Club.