Welcome to the first review in the Fear Street reread project in celebration of R.L. Stine rebooting the series! You can read the introduction to the series here.
He had to learn her secret or – die trying.
Originally published in 1989 then re-released in 1991, The New Girl is the first in the Fear Street series. High-school boy, Cory Brooks, meets a mysterious new girl who enraptures him. Is she dead or alive?
Fear Street has delightful covers so, first, let’s judge a book by its cover:
We see a thin blonde hurrying down a mist-shrouded street, lined with old-fashioned houses. Unfortunately, this cover lacks some of the awesome 90s-ness of the later covers in the series – in fact, it’s feeling a little too Nancy Drew. This cover was done by ENRIC who also did the cover for The Surprise Party, which has a similar old-school feel, but we don’t want old-school here,; we want CHEESE-TASTIC. Fortunately, the cover on the book I found at the used bookstore has a Lisa Frank Hollywood Bear sticker on it, so it’s not a total loss.
However, this dated cover is still better than The New Girl covers from the 2006 re-re-release. These have a slightly different tone.
This must be to appeal to those super edgy teenagers who sext while driving that I hear so much about.
The New Girl begins with a prologue – the gist is someone named Anna is murdered by a jealous sibling! Who is Anna? Who is the sibling that murdered her for being Mom’s favorite?!
Our story begins with all around jock Cory Brooks showing off in the cafeteria at Shadyside High. In the middle of his demonstrations, he sees a new girl float by – described in very Aryan terms – pale, blonde, blue-eyed. Distracted, he face-plants into his food tray as he is doing some fancy gymnastics because he’s super special and has been on the varsity team since freshman year. He has black curly hair. In my mind, I’m casting him as Mario Lopez. You know, for diversity.
When he recovers, no one else seems to have seen her but him! She is described as “hauntingly (authors emphasis not mine) beautiful.” Laying it on pretty thick there aren’t you, book?
Cory then runs into his BFF Lisa Blume. Lisa is described as resembling Cher. Would high schoolers in 1989 find this all that impressive? Or would it be like me telling a high schooler today that they resemble a young Britney or Christina?
Anyhoo, Lisa gives Cory a new shirt to wear, and he’s like “ew, I can’t wear a girl’s shirt after having finished exerting my masculinity (and failing) in the cafeteria!” And Lisa’s like “it’s from the Gap, it’s unisex.” Because Lisa is hip and edgy and writes for the school paper.
Oh, but turns out she hates when Cory calls her pal because she’s totally pining for him! In my Lisa Blume fanfic, Lisa goes on to attend Sarah Lawrence and joins the riot grrrl movement. Her and Cory have a falling out because he thinks she’s getting too weird, and she’s pissed that he won’t acknowledge his privilege.
Cory sees the new girl again – being all haunting and stuff. He finds out her name is Anna Corwin, and she just moved in on Fear Street.
Here’s the 411 on Fear Street – it’s supposedly cursed, it winds past the town cemetery, there’s a creepy, burned-out mansion on it, folk disappear in the nearby woods, etc.
Anyway, Cory decides to call information for Anna’s number. (Does information exist anymore?) He gets her number then convinces the operator to give him the address! Cory and the operator then pat one another on the back for being “nice.” Uh, no, you’re both assholes.
Anyway, there’s some general confusion – Cory calls and is told Anna doesn’t live there; other times he calls and hears her screaming in the background. Eventually, Cory winds up on Fear Street at Anna’s house. A guy with a “rhinestone earring” answers the door.
Oh, but we also learn he has watery eyes! What is it about watery eyes and sketchy characters?
Cory asks for Anna, but Justin-Timberlake-Steve-Buscemi-eyes gets upset and reveals that Anna is “DEAD!”
Cory is bereft. He decides to check out the permanent records at school, but finds nothing on file for Anna. So he stops eating and going to gymnastics practice because he’s a melodramatic teenager. He randomly sees Anna, but can’t seem to get a straight answer from her.
Then one night, Anna calls, asking for help, and Cory is totally turned on by her “almost childlike voice” because he’s going to end up being the guy who becomes a high school coach and has sex with female students. Anna carries on, and I’m pretty sure Cory is jerking off to her “enticing” voice. Female terror is hot.
Anyway, he hops in the car and speeds over to Fear Street to help her. He arrives at Anna’s, and she leaps into the car. He wonders if she’s real, and to prove it she makes out with him. I’m guessing Anna is not a ghost. I’m hoping instead she’s a succubus come to suck the soul of men who find female terror arousing.
Anyway, after kissing him so hard that his mouth nearly bleeds, Anna reveals that the person who keeps claiming she’s dead is her brother Brad, and he’s like soooo dangerous. Then she disappears into the night.
The next day, Cory finds out from Lisa, who found out from her cousin’s friend, that Anna is dead! Cory doesn’t believe her since he totally made out with Anna last night. Lisa insists they investigate because she has super sleuth reporter skills which she will later translate into a very successful career as a music reporter (see my Lisa Blume fanfic).
They go to the microfilm room at the library (lol), and lo and behold: “Anna Corwin, Melrose sophomore, dies in accident.” Cory is totally bereft. We know this because words blur before his eyes – a sure sign.
Cory dreams about Anna coming into his bedroom that night. He wants to “pull her down on top of him.” His dream is interrupted by a call from Anna who needs Cory’s help. He rushes to her aid, but dangerous Brad opens the door. He then drags Cory in by the collar. Brad is super scary and menacing and watery-eyed:
But Brad decides to let Cory go after this bustling display of masculinity.
Cory continues to brood. Stine is usually more succinct than this. I want to punch Cory in his brooding face. I hope his succubus girlfriend eats his soul soon.
Finally, Anna shows up, just in time again, when Lisa asks Cory to the dance, and he agrees. Anna lays her mark on Cory by kissing him till he can’t breathe. Do it, Anna, save Lisa the trouble, and suck out Cory’s soul!
Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen. Anna tries to convince Cory to ditch Lisa and go to the dance with him, but he shows he has a shred of decency and refuses. Then, Lisa finds a dead cat hanging in her locker!
Lisa, because she’s not a total moron, is convinced it’s Anna, but Cory won’t believe her. She also cleans up the cat blood and carcass because apparently Shadyside High leaves such things to students. You will find this to be a common theme in Shadyside.
Cory finds Anna again and tells her about what happened. She is shocked, of course. We learn more about why Cory likes Anna – because she is pretty (typical for a high school boy) and because she is childlike (less typical).
Cory decides to hang out at Lisa’s in order to distract himself from Anna. He starts to realize that Lisa is hot. A call interrupts this little revelation and says “you’re dead, too,” then hangs up.
At the dance, Lisa keeps insisting it’s Anna. Cory refuses to believe her. They decide dancing to Phil Collins will fix the tension. I know. Fortunately, they move on to Prince. Lisa keeps insisting it’s Anna, and Cory, because he’s such a good reader of people, insists it isn’t. Lisa, fed up, storms off, but soon we hear a scream!
Lisa is found at the bottom of a stairwell. She was pushed by some guy she describes as having “watery eyes.”
Other than a badly sprained ankle, Lisa is okay. Cory and Lisa decide to go find the watery-eyed guy who pushed her.
Cory uses his awesome gymnastics skills to uh, walk around outside a window, and wind up in the woodshop on the first floor. Yeah, I am not really sure how. Usually, in Fear Street, winding up in the woodshop would indicate a gore alert, but, alas, no such thing happens. As does nothing else in this chapter.
Cory finally tracks down Anna and gets the story from her. Turns out watery-eyed, rhinestone-stud-wearing Brad went totally crazy after his girlfriend Emily died. He started confusing Emily with their sister Willa. Eventually, Willa winds up dead at the bottom of the basement stairs. Brad claims it was an accident, but Anna and her mother are suspicious. They decide to move the family across town to Fear Street which is surely a great idea because no one in the surrounding township has ever heard about all the crazy shit that goes down on Fear Street.
Cory, in a rare moment of intelligence, mentions the newspaper clipping. Anna, after a long pause, tells him Brad told the newspaper it was Anna who died because he couldn’t face Willa’s death. Suddenly, Anna flees as she is often wont to do. Cory then sees watery-eyed Brad looking all threatening through a window.
Cory rushes to Anna’s house where he finds Anna and Brad struggling. Cory steps in the middle and knocks Brad out. Apparently, this makes Anna so hot she wants to immediately go upstairs to her room with Cory.
Surprisingly, Cory once again uses his brain instead of his dick and insists they call the police. Anna then tries to attack Cory with a letter opener because letter openers in the horror genre are always really, really sharp. She corners him towards the window and causes him to fall. Fortunately, since Cory is a gymnast, he catches himself on the ledge then does a forward flip and kicks the letter opener from Anna’s hand because he is also a ninja.
Cory gets a hold of Anna right as Brad is waking up and coming for him, but turns out that Brad, despite the watery eyes and rhinestone stud, is a good guy! He reveals that Anna is Willa! Turns out there was no girlfriend Emily, and Anna died in a so-called accident. They suspected it was Willa, but couldn’t afford to get Willa therapy. (Highlighting that mental health is a privilege, Imma give Stine some props there.)
When Cory mentions the whole pushing Lisa down the stairwell thing, Brad says it was a mistake and he thought Lisa was Willa. Brad makes the brilliant suggestion to call the police, and I am guessing they do because the book ends with Cory and Lisa hanging out and kissing. Ew.
I can only comfort myself with this ending by knowing that Lisa will soon graduate and go on to bigger and better things, and soon Cory will become a funny story about her laughably disappointing “first time.”
Moral of the story
Female terror not hot.
Real Anna, 1 dead cat (ugh)
The ole switcheroo, sibling murdered by jealous sibling, psychotic girlfriend
Cher, the Gap, Walkman, Phil Collins, Prince
2 out of 5
Despite being one of Stine’s personal favorites, The New Girl just doesn’t do it for me. There’s some interesting suspense building for the mythos of Fear Street, but the teenage brooding is verbose, and there’s nary an inventive death scene in sight.