YA Book Club: R.L. Stine’s Fear Street 'Ski Weekend'
Fear Street, above all other series, holds a special place in my heart. Today’s entry is our first, of many, Fear Street we’ll be covering, although ironically, it does not take place on Fear Street (yes, friends, Fear Street is a physical place in these books, although it is also a state of being that you can keep in your heart, always.) There is a passing reference to Fear Street, because those of you who are intimately knowledgeable about this particular series know that you can’t have a Fear Street without a reference to either the street itself, a raspy voice, or a murdered body whose mouth is frozen in a silent “o” of horror. Ski Weekend has two out of the three. Not bad.
So what is Ski Weekend about?
Ariel, Shannon, Doug and Red (yes, that is his name, and yes, he has red hair) are trying to get home to Shadyside after spending the weekend skiing at a lodge. Ariel, our protagonist, fought with her boyfriend Randy (don’t worry, you don’t need to remember his name, he’s never mentioned again) all weekend, and he eventually left her, Doug, and Shannon, to return home early. Enter Red, who happily takes Randy’s place, and hitches a ride home in the car with the trio since he lives in a nearby town.
On the drive back, the teens are dumb enough to attempt it in a snowstorm, which is an exercise in futility. They soon realize the error of their ways after taking a countryside road that Red swore would be plowed, only to end up basically stuck in a ditch. Not to worry though—they parked outside a massive ski lodge that appeared to have people home! Hooray!
The teens are welcomed into the lodge by Lou, who is clearly a drunk weirdo, and Eva, who isn’t a drunk, but is still a weirdo. Our intrepid hero Ariel consistently monologues to the reader about how she’s a “worrier” (note that this book was written in 1991, nowadays we’d call anxiety like we see it) and friends? She’s worried about Lou and Eva. Lou has a creepy thing for Shannon, leering at her consistently (again this is 1991, so obviously this is a Shannon problem and not a Lou problem) and Eva doesn’t know where tea is in her own kitchen! (cue ominous music.)
Now, I’m going to take a second as your resident Fear Street scholar and explain something to you, gentle reader. Throughout the entire run on Archway Press, Stine (which I’m sure was mandated by his publishers to do) had a habit of only having his villans drink beer, which is interesting because he wrote exclusively about teenagers who did teenager things. Yet they never imbibed (unlike in Christopher Pike books) so if someone is drinking beer in a Fear Street, you know they are a bad person before you even get to their bad person ways. Additionally, if said person is drinking beer and is deemed to have a raspy voice? You had better run for the hills, because murder is afoot. Now this changed slightly when Stine rebooted Fear Street with The New Fear Street series in the late ’90s, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, back to the plot. The snowstorm strands the kids at the lodge for the night, and when they go to leave in the morning, their car has been pushed down a ravine (oh no!) looks like they’re stuck for another day. They try to leave in Lou’s Jeep, but that’s out of commission, too!
Rather than try to be helpful during all of this, Lou keeps drinking and then demands to wrestle Doug. That is obviously a very normal thing for a grown man to do when he has strange teenagers staying in his home. So they wrestle, and Lou manages to blow Doug’s knee out. Oh well, these things happen.
During this time, Red is trying to fix Lou’s car, which is in the barn, in order for the teens to get to town and call a tow truck to come get Doug’s car. But since this is a Fear Street book, the entire situation is dialed to 11 when a stranger appears outside of the house, leering at the teens (Ariel, Doug, and Shannon, Red is fixing the car, remember?) but what did they expect? They’re in a Fear Street book!
Anyway, things come to a head when Red tells the other teens that he heard Lou plotting to steal from all of them (side note: what exactly did they have with them that this would be a problem? No one mentions gold doubloons in their luggage…) so they have to leave the house that very night! Then, surprise of surprises, Red reveals that he had fixed the Jeep, and was keeping it from Lou! (By the by, Lou has not stopped drinking, at all, for the entirety of this book. I think that’s a good call on Red’s part.)
The teens make their move, but not before Doug shoots a guy (who also appeared to have a gun) dead in the barn, while trying to get to the Jeep. The dead guy turns out to be the person they saw in the ski mask earlier that day (because he had the ski mask on him, see?) and also, twist(!) is Eva’s brother, Jake. Note: when they look at his body, his mouth is frozen in a silent “no” which is close enough to “‘o’ of horror” that I’m counting it.
Lou, drunk and angry, makes the kids go back into the house to wait for the police to come in the morning (the phones had been out all day, I guess he’s assuming they’ll be back up in the morning?) telling them to stay put. Ariel, in addition to a worrier, occasionally mentions she loves science and wants to be a doctor. Something about this dead body isn’t sitting right with her, so while everyone else is asleep, she goes to examine it, determining that the man had been dead before Doug shot him!
Now here’s where it kicks into overdrive. Ariel rouses the teens awake and tells them they have to escape now—there was trickery afoot, but are you ready for this? Red was in on it the entire time!
See, Red is also Eva’s brother. Together, he, Lou, and Eva conspired to kill the dead guy because he had robbed his siblings of their inheritance or something. So these three geniuses come up with the most boneheaded, overly complicated plan in the history of dumb murderers who think they’re smart. Basically after killing the brother, Red somehow got himself up to the ski lodge, an hour away, lured some teenagers into giving him a ride home, somehow convinced them to take a country road home, and then also somehow convinced them that they had to stop right outside the ski lodge where Lou and Eva were waiting. Then, after spending a night and two days there, he had to somehow lure them into the barn where the car was, and THEN get one of them to shoot the already dead brother. You have to wonder if fate was on Red’s side, because the stars really had to align for that plan to work, and it did, but he just had to choose a teenager who was into worrying and science, didn’t he? Rats!
Anyway, fate didn’t like Red too much, because after he was chasing after Ariel (who went out on a lake in a snowmobile, don’t question it, it works if you’re using Fear Street logic) he fell through the ice and died. These things happen.
Lou and Eva are arrested because the phones magically started to work again (Lou called it! Are these murderers psychic or something?) and Eva had phoned the cops, feeling guilty that she conspired to kill her brother, then frame some kids for it.
Thus the trio of teens are allowed to return home, because even though they were almost framed for murder, their parents still couldn’t be bothered to drive two hours to come get them, instead allowing them to drive home in a car that had been in a ravine not an hour before. Fear Street logic strikes again!
Friends, any Fear Street with a body count is a good one, so you won’t be surprised to hear I enjoyed rereading this immensely. It only would have been made better by the appearance of someone with a raspy voice, or a casual reference to Gary Brandt. Fear Street fans know that Gary Brandt is the coolest dude at Shadyside High.
As always, share your thoughts below, and let me know if I failed to mention any other classic Fear Street characteristics—ultimately we should compile a complete Bingo card with these.
In Fear Street related news, the trio of Fear Street movies are really happening! This is BIG news indeed and cannot wait to welcome dumb, murderous teenagers to my screen once more. A dream come true!
Next week we’ll be spending some time with Soda Pop and Pony Boy with S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders!
Header Image Source: Archway Paperback