During the 90’s, teen horror fiction was huge. Authors like R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike already had major hits, and Scholastic’s Point Horror was thriving. Recently, I’ve made it my personal mission to collect and read as many of the titles from the decade as possible. This month, for Horror Bound, I’m taking a look at a Fear Street title, The Knife.
R.L. Stine is without a doubt the most recognizable name to emerge from the 90’s teen horror boom, and with good reason. Stine wrote several titles published under the Point Horror label, as well as his massively successful Goosebumps series for middle-grade readers and then the teen-focused series, Fear Street, which he still publishes titles to this day.
For many people, The Knife might be one of the most unrecognizable titles from the Fear Street brand, but, upon starting it, I realized via various social media outlets that the book has a lot of fans and is actually a favorite among many Stine devotees. With all of the accolades, I went in with a heap of curiosity, and it didn’t take long for me to realize why people were raving.
The book is one of the fastest paced Fear Street books that I’ve read. The story concerns Laurie, who starts a summer volunteer position at Shadyside Hospital, where they are in the process of building a new wing onto the building, appropriately called the Fear Wing. Of course, a lot of weird things happen in the building, including a stolen surgical knife and the murder of a nurse. Many red herrings are thrown in throughout the story, and the big reveal at the end seems to come out of left field, but having not read the Fear Street books in order, and please correct me if I’m wrong, I have a feeling that the characters in question might play a part in previous titles.
Laurie doesn’t live on Fear Street, but, during the course of the story, she makes several trips to the location. In this book, Stine makes the most of the eerie and spooky atmosphere of the series’ titular setting. Stine has fantastically written those scenes and visualized them with short, simple sentences, which have always been a big strongpoint for the author, as he is able to paint such a clear picture in the reader’s imagination with so few words.
The biggest and arguably the only issue I have with this title is the lack of a big character arc for the main character. By the end of the book, I didn’t see much of a change in Laurie for good or bad. Early on, Laurie’s aunt suggests that working at the hospital over summer break would be boring for Laurie. There are a couple of minor characters that seem to go nowhere, namely Laurie’s boyfriend, who should have a larger role to play, especially since, under the circumstances within the story, their relationship feels like it should factor prominently in the end result.
Despite a few flaws here and there, if Stine’s goal was to show Laurie’s summer go from boring to not, he succeeds in spades.
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