Title: Silent Night
Author: R.L. Stine
Published: November 1991
Tagline: Happy holidays – you’re dead!
Description: Don’t open that present!
If only Reva Dalby had listened to that warning. [Literally no one ever warns her not to open a present, so we’re already starting with a lie.]
But beautiful, cold Reva won’t listen to anyone. Reva thinks she can have whatever – and whoever – she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby Department Stores.
Now, someone has some surprises instore [sic] for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.
Holiday cheer quickly turns to holiday chills for Reva. [Not holiday fear? C’mon, it was an easy rhyme!] Someone is stalking her, someone is trying to get to her.
Her money can’t help her. No one can.
After all, who can you turn to when murder comes gift-wrapped?
Wow, that description sure is dramatic, isn’t it? So, this book came out when I was ten, and I’m sure I must have read it right around that time. Possibly when we were traveling to visit family for Christmas, although it was so long ago, who’s to say for sure? Because I’m short on time with this one, I haven’t re-read it ahead of time – I’m pretty much recapping as I go, so I don’t have a lot to say beforehand, as I don’t remember it super well. I’ve had my memory jogged by various Fear Street and YA fiction podcasts who have recapped this one recently (hello, bandwagon, do you have room for one more?), but as far as my own memory of reading it . . . I got nothing. [Five Minutes in the Future Me: Except for the thing with the needle in the lipstick. I remember that shit vividly. Jesus Christ.] Except that Reva is a remarkably unlikable protagonist, but she’s so unabashedly horrible that it makes her kind of wonderful. She’s a love-to-hate-her character of the highest order. [Future Me: I’m wrong. She’s just stupid and terrible in a mundane, annoying way. I hate her, and I’m not loving it.]
Note: At the time I’m writing this, this book has been discussed on the podcasts We Know What You Did on Fear Street and RetRead Podcast, and by the time this recap goes live, I believe Nightmare on Fear Street will have their episode posted as well. They’re all worth taking a listen to!
We open two weeks before Christmas, with poor little rich girl Reva Dalby working at the perfume counter at her daddy’s department store. Well, “working” might be an exaggeration. She fixes her makeup, taps her long, purple nails impatiently on the counter, pretends not to notice customers asking for help, and talks shit in her head about the customers. So, you know, typical customer service stuff.
I have to stop right here and admit something. I’m not sure how “Reva” is pronounced. The podcasts I listened to seem to be going with a pronunciation that rhymes with “Reba,” like the country singer, but in my head I always want to pronounce it “rev – uh” instead of “reeve – uh”, and no matter how many times I correct myself to the latter, the former keeps creeping back in. But that’s the beauty of a written recap, isn’t it? I might be pronouncing it “Princess Fluffybutt” for all you know! (Yes, I play Borderlands 2. Whassup, Tiny Tina!)
Reva’s workday basically goes like this: refuse to do the tasks her supervisor tells her to do and mentally mock her giant shoulder pads; ignore customers; and laugh when a child pulls his mom’s skirt down. Also, fix her makeup. Like, a lot. She seems to favor magenta everything – magenta nails, magenta lipstick . . . actually, you know what? I think the first lipstick I ever bought was magenta, a couple years after this book came out. Look, the early nineties were a time of horrendous mistakes for us all, okay? Reva reapplies her lipstick by puckering her lips into a pout, just to make it super obvious that this book was written by a man who doesn’t wear lipstick. (I’m sure Eddie Izzard would never make this mistake.) It takes a second for Reva to feel the pain, but then the blood starts to flow and she realizes that someone put a needle in her lipstick! Gaaah, this shit makes me shudder so fucking hard. I just . . . gaaah! No, thank you.
That’s the end of the prologue, then Part One has us jumping back in time two weeks. So, I guess we’re four weeks before Christmas now. Cool. Reva is driving with her boyfriend of six months, Hank, when she suddenly pulls the car (a Volvo! They’re what all the cool rich kids are driving!) over to the side of the road and dumps Hank in very dramatic fashion. Reva would fit in perfectly on a Real Housewives of Shadyside type show. She laughs to herself about his temper – he once punched his fist through a screen door because she wouldn’t go see an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with him. Wow, that’s not actually funny or cute, that’s alarming. On a lighter note, the only Schwarzenegger movie to come out in 1991 was Terminator 2, which is an awesome movie and Reva was only being a jerk to herself for not seeing it. When she’s done destroying Hank, she kicks him out of the car and drives off to pick up her dad at the department store, thinking about how hot Mitch Castelona is and plotting to steal him away from his girlfriend, Lissa. Oh, honey. If he’ll cheat with you, he’ll cheat on you. Then she turns the car radio up and begins singing along loudly to “Silent Night,” which is so ironic I’m choking on it.
Reva goes into the closed department store to meet her father and give him a ride home, even though being alone in the dark and empty store freaks her out. His office is on the sixth floor, so this department store is much bigger than I was imagining at first. Is the second floor hardware, children’s wear, and ladies’ lingerie? And now I’ve got Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” stuck in my head, so thanks, Reva.
Reva walks through the store, freaking herself out more and more, wondering what if a deranged person is waiting in the dark? (Fuck right on off with that, Reva.) Or, what if a – gasp! – disgusting homeless person is hiding in the store?! Well isn’t Reva a big bundle of classist, ableist joy? She makes her way toward the elevator (goinggggg dowwwwwn) and suddenly a hand reaches out of the darkness and grabs her shoulder!
. . . mmm, nope, she just bumped into a mannequin. This is R.L. Stine we’re reading here, so we should be prepared for every chapter end to be a bullshit cliffhanger. That’s just how Stine rolls.
Reva makes her way to her dad’s office, and Mr. Wakely, the head security officer and father of Reva’s classmate Mickey, comes barreling out of the office and nearly runs her down. She finds out from her father that he had to fire Mr. Wakely for drinking on the job. Fair enough. Dad tells Reva he needs four or five people to work the stockroom leading up to Christmas, and she can hand out jobs to whomever she wants. No interviews or anything, apparently. Also, was OSHA not a thing yet? Because I’m pretty sure the kids Reva ends up giving jobs to are under eighteen, but you have to be at least eighteen to work in a stockroom. At least these days. I guess no one cared about the safety of teenagers in 1991. [Future Me: It’s stated later on that Reva is a high school senior, so it’s actually possible these kids are eighteen already. Meh, whatever.] Anyway, Reva is excited because even though all of her rich friends go away for Christmas vacation (and why would rich kids even want to work in a stockroom over their Christmas break?), Mitch is poor and will be in town. She can offer him a job and surely he’ll be so grateful he’ll dump his girlfriend for her! I think Reva overestimates what an honor it is to work at Dalby’s.
Reva calls Mitch and offers him a job starting Saturday at 8:30 – fuck interviews, I guess. She’s trying to be all sexy and shit, but his girlfriend, Lissa, is sitting right beside him while he’s talking to Reva, and she asks if she can have a job, too. Reva initially wants to nope the fuck outta that idea, but then decides it would be even more fun to steal Mitch away from Lissa right in front of her, so she agrees. But because Reva is the Boss Bitch around here, she lies to Lissa and tells her she’ll be working one of the perfume counters (rather than the dirty old basement stockroom) so she should show up in her very best clothes.
Reva is still chuckling evilly to herself when she gets a call from her cousin Pam, who is poor and lives on Fear Street, two things which earn nothing but derision from Reva. Pam asks for a job, and Reva lies to her and says there are no openings. Pam knows Reva is lying and slams the phone down after their conversation. Uh, Pam? Why not talk to your uncle? Why even bother trying to go through your cousin when you know what an asshole she is?
We get a perspective shift to Pam, because this is a Super Chiller and therefore has room to give us two protagonists. Pam wonders why Reva hates her so much when Pam has always been nice to her, not hurting her feelings by telling Reva that everyone at Shadyside High hates her guts. I mean, maybe that’s exactly what Reva needs to hear, though. Tough love and all that. Pam starts to call her boyfriend, Foxy (omg), but remembers that he has a research paper he needs to finish, so she calls her friend Mickey Wakely (he of the alcoholic, newly-fired father) and discovers he and his “good friend” Clay (I ship it) are going to go hang out at the 7-11. Remember when hanging out at the local convenience store was the thing to do? Pam drives her crappy old Pontiac (which was the boat of choice for all my friends’ first cars, too) to meet them and fuck around for a minute. The clerk keeps giving them the side-eye, and when they go to pay for their soda and chocolate bars, he insists Clay turn his pockets out. Clay, Pam has told us, has a bad temper. I wonder if he punched a hole through anything when Mickey refused to go see Double Impact with him.
The clerk isn’t letting them off the hook, and yells to someone named Eddie to call the police, because he’s sick of these damn punk kids stealing from the store. Clay is offended at being accused of shoplifting, so he decides to commit assault and battery, jumping over the counter and slamming the clerk into the cash register. He’s probably about to do considerably worse to prove he’s a fine upstanding young citizen who would never shoplift, when they hear police sirens from outside and take off in the Pontiac with Clay driving.
I bet you didn’t think this was the kind of book that would have a high-speed car chase in it, did you? Well, it does! Because small town cops will absolutely chase shoplifters through town at 95 mph, endangering everyone, for a fucking misdemeanor. (I know Clay assaulted the clerk, but that happened after the cops were called. As far as they know, it’s a shoplifting call.) Also, I don’t believe this POS Pontiac can get up to 95 mph.
They lose the police, which . . . yeah, sure, why not. Pam reveals that the cops couldn’t have taken down the license plate number because the plate fell off and her dad hasn’t had a chance to replace it yet. Uh, how have you avoided getting pulled over every time you drive down the street, Pam? I get pulled over for my stupid tag light being burned out; I can only imagine if I were missing the tag entirely. The kids are all on an adrenaline high, and then Clay reveals the can of jalapeno dip he stole. All of that for what I’m picturing as one of those little .79 cent cans of Frito dip. You attacked a man and almost killed all your friends and innocent pedestrians for less than a dollar, Clay. You are a dickhead.
Pam is shocked to discover that Clay really was shoplifting after all, and I want to slap her. Violently assaulting a store clerk and leading the police on a high-speed chase where they almost mow down some teenagers in the street don’t cause Pam to bat an eye, but shoplifting is what moves the needle on her moral compass? I’m not sure she’s the likable cousin after all. Mickey vents about his dad being fired after 25 years working at Dalby’s, and Pam confirms that Reva lied to her when Clay tells her that Mitch and Lissa just got jobs at the store that day. I don’t know why Pam is surprised. She was already sure enough that Reva was lying to her to throw her phone on the floor after talking to her, so . . .
Pam vows that she’s going to do something to get Reva! She doesn’t know what, but by god is she going to get her good! Well, at least she didn’t say she was going to murder her, which is usually the tried-and-true Stine cliffhanger cliche.
The next time we meet up with Reva, she’s driving around and trying to find something other than Christmas music on the radio, thinking how she’ll scream if she hears “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” one more time. Same, Reva, same. She spots a boy named Robb Spring, and thinks about how much she’s always liked him but she would never date him because he’s overweight. Wow, Reva. Just wow. She pulls over to talk to him, then gets one of her brilliant ideas for a stellar joke! She decides to offer him a job at Dalby’s as a Santa (because he’s such a fatty fat that he won’t even need any padding, get it?), but she tells him it’s a public relations job and to dress nice. So, this is basically the same “joke” she’s playing on Lissa, yeah? Hmm. Mean and unoriginal. Maybe Reva isn’t as much fun as I thought.
That night Reva babysits her little brother, Michael, and after she puts him to bed there’s a knock on the door that fills Reva with dread. No particular reason, other than the fact that this is a teen thriller so everything needs to be loaded with menace. It turns out to be Hank, showing up with his tail between his legs to ask for a job at the store. Reva basically laughs in his face, then sics her Doberman on him when he grabs her arm and won’t leave. The dog chases him to his car, Reva laughing about it the whole time. Laughing at the terrified look on Hank’s face, excited about the prospect of the dog tearing him apart. So, Reva’s a sociopath, right?
Now we’ve fast-forwarded about a week, I guess? Because it’s the next Saturday, first day of work, and Reva is laughing at poor Lissa, all dressed up in nice clothes to unload trucks. The head of the stockroom, Donald Rawson, seems to know this was Reva’s doing, but still gets up in Lissa’s grill and tells her to go home and change because they’ve got a huge truck coming in. Then Robb walks in dressed in a sports coat and tie, holding a Santa suit, and asks Reva if this is her idea of a joke. Well, yeah, Robb. I mean, have you met Reva? She’s kind of the worst. Technically, I think the Santa job might actually fall under the heading of public relations, so it wasn’t a total lie, was it? Reva takes time out of laughing herself sick to tell Rawson to make sure to assign Mitch and Lissa to different departments, making sure Mitch can hear her. For some reason, Mitch’s eyes light up at this. Oh son, no. Reva is awful; don’t be flattered by her attention.
As Reva walks to the escalator on her way to her cosmetics counter, she thinks about how grateful everyone must be to her for giving them jobs, even with her little jokes. Of course they’re grateful! Then someone grabs her and pulls her into a supply room!
Oh, it’s just Hank, “paying her back” for Sunday night with the dog. Turns out he was able to get a job at Dalby’s the old-fashioned way – you know, by applying for a job? Seriously, why has no one else Reva’s job-blocked just gone to the store and filled out an application like a normal job seeker? Hmm, Pam? But I digress. Hank got a job as a security assistant, watching the security monitors. Reva cracks that it’s perfect for him, getting paid to watch twelve boob tubes all day. Boob tube is such an eighties/nineties term. I hate it. It only seems appropriate if you’re sitting around watching the porn channels. (Yes, I know that’s not the kind of boob it’s referring to. Still what it makes me think of, though.)
Hank gets really aggro with Reva, grabbing her arm again. Look, Reva’s an asshole, sure, but that does NOT mean she should be manhandled and physically assaulted by this guy! Fuck off, Hank! Reva feels a real chill of fear now, and Hank tells her he’ll be watching her – because he’s got twelve monitors to watch her on. Damn, that is pretty menacing. I’m surprised Reva doesn’t immediately run to her dad and get Hank fired.
Perspective shift to Pam, hanging out with Mickey and Clay at Mickey’s place. Clay is messing around with a switchblade, because Clay is in training to be a Street Tough™. Would he feel better if he just broke into a medley from West Side Story? Mickey’s dad is drinking himself into a coma in the kitchen while the kids complain about Reva in the living room. Pam’s pissed that Foxy was able to get a job at Dalby’s when she couldn’t, and I still say either call your uncle directly or go fill out a damn application, Pam! Reva isn’t actually the hiring manager! She can’t stop you getting a job through conventional means!
So, Pam is pissed at Reva, and Mickey is pissed at Mr. Dalby for firing his dad, and Clay tells them he has a way to get back at both of them. He’s worked out a robbery with one of the night security guards! Mickey thinks he’s kidding, but Pam knows that Clay doesn’t have a sense of humor. Clay has this brilliant plan all worked out with a security guard named John Maywood who knows both his dad and of course Mickey’s dad. Maywood will shut off the alarm, let Clay in, then let Clay tie him up and knock him out to make it look real – and all he wants in return is for Clay to steal some things for him, too. Because, see, this isn’t a robbery for money, just material goods. Mickey is fully on board for this plan, but Pam isn’t sure. She thinks about how Reva used to be nicer to her, but how all that changed after Reva’s mom died, then about how Reva refusing her a job was the last straw. Pam. Reva doesn’t have the authority to refuse to hire you – go apply with an actual manager, idiot! Still, Pam doesn’t think she can actually rob her uncle’s store, which is fine with Clay – as long as she drives him and Mickey to the store, since she’s the only one with a car, and therefore the only one able to be the getaway driver. Oh, Clay, you sneaky rascal, you! For some reason Pam’s okay with this idea as long as she doesn’t have to actually be a part of the robbery. Except driving the getaway car absolutely makes you part of the crime you’re driving them to and away from, so . . . Pam, I remember liking you when I was ten. Man, the perspective you gain in 26 years!
Speaking of perspective, now ours switches back to Reva, about two weeks later, which brings us enough past the needle-in-the-lipstick incident that her lip is almost healed. I’m pretty sure that would take longer than that, but then again, what do I know. Plus the timeline of this book is . . . weird. I feel like I need to map this out, and . . . I just don’t care enough about this story to do that. Anyway, Reva is on the phone with Pam, ostensibly to invite her to Christmas Eve dinner, but mostly to be a snide little biatch. She tells Pam how lucky she is to not have a job, and how much fun it must be to have all that free time. I mean, as someone who’s been in the workforce for 20 years, yeah, it’s nice to have time off, but the lack of income usually outweighs the enjoyment of the downtime. Not that Reva knows what it’s like to be poor. Being poor is for losers, right?
Reva changes into a white cashmere turtleneck that she knows makes her boobs look awesome (paraphrasing here), and internally wonders why Mitch hasn’t made a move on her yet, despite her not-so-subtle hints that she’s hot for his bod. I mean, maybe he loves his girlfriend or something, Reva. I know faithfulness is a hard concept for you to comprehend. Michael pops into Reva’s room, possibly perving on her while she’s changing (although he’s only six, so maybe not), and begs her to take him to see Santa at the store. She declines because she’s already late for work, even though as she tells Michael, Daddy won’t let them fire her. Oh god, the entitlement!
At work, Reva finds and corners Mitch in the stockroom, and then points to their white sweaters and claims they match, like totally OMG! Except Reva is wearing a turtleneck, and we’re told Mitch is wearing a sweatshirt, and neither of those are sweaters. A turtleneck can be a sweater, but not always, but a sweatshirt is never a sweater. R.L. Stine needs to stop describing outfits if he can’t even identify basic articles of clothing. Anyway, Reva basically sexually assaults Mitch, grabbing his head and kissing him. She looks straight into the security cameras, hoping Hank is watching. Because siccing your attack dog on a guy isn’t bad enough – make him watch you make out with another guy, too! That’ll show him for . . . doing . . . whatever it is Reva thinks he’s done to deserve being tortured by her! Yeah! *confused but enthusiastic fist pump*
Of course Lissa walks in while this is going on, and Reva is amused by the whole thing, casually greeting her like she was perfectly justified in having her tongue down this girl’s boyfriend’s throat. Hell, in Reva’s mind, everything she does is justified. It’s stated that Reva casually wipes some of her lipstick off Mitch’s chin, and I’m puzzled, guys. How the fuck are you kissing that’s getting your lipstick on their chin?! All I can picture is this:
Lissa tells Reva she can’t just play with people, and Reva is all like, who’s playing? and then laughs hysterically at her own joke. I don’t see a joke there, but all right. Reva thinks she’s way more clever and funny than she actually is. So again, sociopath, right? Lissa runs away, and Mitch tries to run after her, only to be stopped by Reva, who toys with him a bit before running off herself. She thinks to herself what a wimp he is, but soon he’ll be her wimp. Why? Why is that appealing, Reva?
As Reva walks past Santa Land, she sees a kid sneeze in Santa Robb’s face, and this is apparently the funniest thing she’s ever seen. It’s a riot! She’s still laughing when she gets to her job post! Reva is basically a cartoon villain, isn’t she? In olden times, she would probably bring marshmallows to witch-burnings.
Someone has left a wrapped present for Reva at her perfume counter (wasn’t she working the cosmetics counter before?), and when she opens it she discovers a beautiful glass perfume bottle – filled with blood! Which she promptly drops and it shatters on the counter, spattering blood all over her white sweater. (Turtleneck!) I have never had a perfume bottle that would shatter that easily. They’re usually made of super thick glass that you would have to work at to shatter, but I’ve got no choice but to go along with this, do I?
This blood spatter gives Reva a flashback of when she was in kindergarten and a little girl named Sara dumped a bucket of red paint over Reva’s head. Somehow Baby Reva got it in her head that it was blood and spent hours begging her mom to wash away the blood, even after she was clean. Well damn. That’s kind of awful. And now I feel bad for Baby Reva. Teenage Reva finds what she calls a “gift card” in the box, and for an embarrassing amount of time I was confused, thinking maybe her tormentor had given her like $20 to the Olive Garden or something. But this was the era of paper gift certificates, not plastic magnetic strip gift cards, so of course what she meant was a little paper card with a message on it. That message is “Happy Holidays from a friend” and Reva immediately thinks it’s Hank doing this to her, and thinks to herself, What a dork! That’s a really tame thing to think of Hank as, Reva. The mildest thing I would think to call someone tormenting me would start and end with the same letters as dork, but that’s it.
Now Reva decides to get Hank fired, even though she has no evidence he’s the one tormenting her. She marches up to the sixth floor and spots Hank by the security monitors, helping to install VCRs. Are you telling me that they didn’t already have recording devices hooked up to the security cameras? I find that unlikely. Also, does this put a kink in Clay’s robbery plan? Is Maywood going to turn the security recording off before letting the teenage robber gang in? Because that would look highly suspicious.
Reva walks up to Hank and tells him she knows it was him, and he has no clue what she’s talking about. He says he’s installing a VCR for every monitor, and hold up. Are there only twelve security cameras in this entire store? That’s five floors worth of store to cover . . . with twelve cameras. Twelve. That’s not even including the truck bay and stockroom, which should definitely have cameras. I don’t think Stine has ever worked in any type of retail store. Anyway, Reva replies “Thrills and chills,” which is a phrase Stine uses a lot, apparently believing that’s how actual teenagers talk.
Hank tells Reva he couldn’t have left anything at her counter because he’s been here all day and his coworkers can vouch for him. She yells that he’s lying, of course making herself look hysterical, then runs to her father’s office, but he’s in a meeting that she can’t interrupt. She decides to go home and change, because I guess this is one of those retail jobs where you’re just allowed to come and go as you please, when she hears the sound of machine gun fire! Chills and thrills, guys. Chills and thrills.
Reva drops to the floor, then her dad comes out of his office, sees the blood all over her sweater (I guess we’ve dispensed with calling it a turtleneck), exclaims that she’s been shot, then faints dead away. So, this is an interesting turn of events – usually it’s a teenage girl doing the fainting. At any rate, Mr. Dalby is clearly not the guy you want around in an emergency. When he comes to, an employee informs him that the sound they all heard was a string of Christmas lights shorting out and popping. Would that really be mistaken for machine gun fire? Personally, I was hoping it was just some kid popping a massive amount of bubble wrap.
Reva doesn’t tell her dad about the bottle of blood or Hank, I guess because she doesn’t want to stress him out. So, Reva is capable of human empathy in select situations? Noted. She tells him she’s going to go home and change, then feigns horror at his suggestion that she change into something from the store. I mean, I guess this is a running joke between them, but it just comes across as dickish. And if Reva had any work ethic at all, she would change at the store to save time. She was already over a half hour late to work, and now she’s just traipsing off home for god knows how long. Isn’t nepotism grand?
While she’s driving home in her totally cool Volvo that all the teenagers are lusting after, Reva thinks about how awesome it was seeing the look of defeat on Lissa’s face when she walked in on her and Mitch, then about what a wimp Mitch is but how she can amuse herself with him for the time being. How to win friends and influence people 101. Breaking out of her sociopathic musings, Reva looks in the rearview mirror and notices a car behind her. Convinced for no good reason that it’s following her, she starts making random turns down side streets, and the car really is following her! She immediately jumps to thinking it’s a kidnapper going to hold her for ransom, instead of wondering if it’s one of the probably hundreds of people she’s treated like shit out for revenge. Instead of driving up to a police or fire station and laying on the horn (which is what I’ve always been taught to do if I’m being followed by some creepy rando), Reva decides to lead him straight to her house. She pulls up in the driveway, because apparently the house doesn’t have any sort of gate around it or anything, despite how rich she’s supposed to be, and realizes she’s forgotten her garage door opener. What? Shouldn’t that shit be clipped onto the sun visor? I hate when stories rely on stupid decisions by the characters and unrealistic plot contrivance. (Except in Slay Bells, where it was so egregious that it became almost transcendent.)
She decides to make a run for the front door, and the guy who was following her jumps out of his car and runs after her. She can’t find the right key to get in the house before he accosts her on the porch, but guess what? He just wanted to tell her that he bumped into her in the parking lot and broke her taillight! Dude, what the fuck? You chased a teenage girl through town, into her driveway, then up on her porch, and at no point did you think that this was inappropriate in any way? I really wish Reva had pulled into a police station so that they could have reamed you out for acting like a scary creeper! Instead of being pissed off at this dude, which I feel would be more in character for Reva, she’s embarrassed at the way she reacted and takes his insurance info, thanking him for his thoughtfulness! Then she thinks about how he was trying to be a good citizen and she reacted like a paranoid nutcase! No, no, no! When some stranger follows you home, you have every right to fear for your safety and react accordingly! What the fuck, Stine?! This sends a really bad message to kids reading this in regards to keeping themselves safe and un-kidnapped/murdered! (There’s one of the Give Yourself Goosebumps books where the correct choice is to get in a car with a creepy stranger. Stine is apparently anti-Stranger Danger.)
Part One of the book ends with Reva thinking that whoever’s trying to scare her is doing a good job, and wondering what’s next. Hopefully not another creeper chasing her through the city to tell her that her tire looks a little low.
Part Two opens with Pam and company driving to commit grand larceny. Clay informs us that they caught a break because some kid messed up installing the VCRs to the security cameras, so that answers my question from earlier, I guess. While they’re driving, a police car pulls up behind them, but then goes about its merry way. So I guess Pam’s dad must have replaced the rear license plate, then? The boys are planning what items they want to take, while Pam freaks out about this whole plan. She starts out not wanting to be a part of the plan at all, then decides she doesn’t want to wait around in the car, so she’ll come inside and wait around. That . . . doesn’t seem to make sense, but then again I’ve never tried to rob a department store. This might make perfect sense for all I know.
They park by one of the loading bays, and as they go toward the door that Maywood left unlocked for them, Pam realizes Clay has a gun. Well, I’m sure that’s nothing to worry about, right? They get inside and head for Electronics, Pam gets startled by a mannequin (guess it runs in the family), then the boys realize they don’t have anything to carry their stash out in. I guess this isn’t the sort of department store that supplies shopping carts? That seems weird, because how the fuck are customers supposed to cart around their intended purchases? Oh, sure, just throw that big screen TV over your shoulder and make your way to the checkouts, John Q. Customer! The boys figure they can make several trips since they have all night (debatable), while Pam looks at the TVs and thinks that she should be home with her parents watching the Grinch on TV. Guys? It all makes sense now – Reva is the Grinch!
Pam freaks out over a noise she hears in one of the offices, and the boys dismiss her concerns. But then a security guard appears and Pam panics before realizing that this must be Maywood, who was supposed to meet them in Electronics. Except, surprise! This isn’t Maywood! This is some big fatty fat security guard, because all fat people are evil according to 90s YA thrillers! The guard rests his hand on his gun holster like some sort of cowboy gunslinger, then yells at Clay (who is demanding to know where Maywood is) that “Any talking, I’ll do it, hear?” which is so old-timey gangster sounding that I’m wondering if this is actually a supernatural thriller about a security guard possessed by Jimmy Cagney. The security guard orders them to put their hands up, and Mickey and Pam start to comply, but Clay stridently Damns the Man and keeps asking about Maywood, so the guard hits the alarm. Well, fuck. Clay yells for the others to run, and as Pam and Mickey get farther away, Pam turns and sees Clay pull his gun on the guard, then a shot rings out as the guard reaches for his own gun. The guard’s days of doing old-timey gangster impressions are over as he clutches the gunshot wound in his chest and falls to the floor.
The kids are all understandably freaked out, and haul ass to the loading bay door, where Pam’s car is nowhere in sight!
Mmm, yeah, they ran to the wrong door. Pam’s car is by the next bay over. They drive home, apparently not talking about anything that just happened, because we get that exposition the next day.
Pam wakes up the next morning to a note from her parents letting her know they’re at the home improvement store. I’m not convinced Pam’s parents actually exist. We haven’t seen them yet and we’re well over halfway through this book. She hears a news report on the radio about the robbery, claiming the thieves got away with $25,000 from a safe in one of the offices. Say what now? Pam is confused, seeing as how she and the Teenage Robber Gang came away from this debacle empty-handed, and she calls Clay to shriek about how it’s wrong, it’s all wrong! Clay’s all like, No shit, my gun wasn’t even loaded so I couldn’t have shot the guard! Dun dun DUNNNNN! So, Stine seriously wants us to believe that during the whole car ride home the night before, neither Mickey nor Pam turned to Clay and said “I can’t believe you shot the guard!” or anything like that? The whole ride, Clay didn’t speak up and say, “Huh, that’s weird, my gun wasn’t loaded so I wonder who shot the guard?” Your characters are terrible when they don’t behave like actual human beings, Stine.
Pam tells Clay they need to go to the police and explain what happened, and Clay claims the cops will never believe them. Fair enough, I guess, although it would be easy enough to run a ballistics test on Clay’s gun and determine that he didn’t fire the killshot. But of course these books rely on scared people digging themselves in deeper and deeper instead of being reasonable and stopping things before they get out of control, so expect things to get worse and more convoluted before we’re done here.
Reva rides to work with her dad, and he suspects that the robbery was an inside job, but can’t imagine why any of the employees would shoot the guard, who was apparently well-liked by everyone. He mentions that the guard was shot in the back, which definitely means Clay didn’t do it, and I guess means that the blood on his chest was the exit wound, so Clay was pretty lucky not to get shot himself in some two-birds-with-one-stone scenario.
Mitch comes to see Reva at lunchtime and tells her that Lissa broke up with him, so he’s free and clear to date Reva now! Reva acts like she has no idea what he’s talking about, prompting him to first scream at her and grab her by the arm, then throw a bench against the wall. Holy shit, does every dude in this book have serious anger issues? Can we at least address this as a bad thing instead of normalizing it or insinuating that Reva, the Evil Femme Fatale, is driving them to it? People who “joke” about how overemotional women are have clearly never seen a boy react to being told no. This shit isn’t cool, guys.
When Reva gets back to her perfume counter, she finds another package left for her, except this one is comically huge. It’s a box almost as tall as she is, and this just does not sound practical at all. Also, why are all these evil presents being left for her at work? Does the tormentor not have her home address?
Reva opens the lid and finds a corpse curled up in the box, and starts to scream!
Nope, just a mannequin. I call bullshit on the description of this mannequin being folded up. What the fuck kind of mannequin can be folded up? You can pull them apart at the waist usually, but fold them up? No. Stop trying to make fetch happen, Stine.
Reva’s supervisor keeps demanding to know who did this, like it’s Reva’s fault or something, and honestly, I think we’re all overreacting to what is literally just a mannequin in a box. Like, it’s only disruptive because of Reva’s reaction to it, right? Otherwise, it would just be, “Oh, someone put a mannequin in a box. That’s weird. Oh well, back to work!” As far as terrorizing someone goes, this is almost ludicrously tame. The needle in the lipstick was way worse (gaaaah!), and that’s what this asshole started with! See, my problem with this is the same as my problem with Jack Nicholson in The Shining – he starts out at a ten, then has nowhere to escalate to. Reva’s tormentor starts out with bodily harm, then deescalates to putting a mannequin in a box; are you fucking kidding me?
Reva’s coworker points out that there’s a gift card attached to the mannequin, and once again I have to remind myself that the evil prankster is not treating Reva to a meal at Applebees. The card again says “Happy Holidays from a friend.” Just in case we forgot that this is supposed to be menacing. Reva panics and flees from the department, with her boss yelling after her. To be fair, that’s how I felt at every retail job I ever held, even without someone sending me scary presents. Reva wonders who is doing this to her, and how far will they go? Really, Reva? The mannequin in a box is what makes you wonder this, and not the needle in the lipstick (gaaaah!)?
Cut back to Pam, hanging out at Mickey’s with him and Clay. They’re talking about why the cops haven’t caught up to them yet, and Pam mutters something about them getting away with murder, which of course Clay doesn’t take well. I mean, calm down, Pam. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I’m pretty sure all you can really be charged with is criminal trespass. Maybe leaving the scene of a crime as well. Clay hasn’t been able to contact Maywood, getting no answer when he phones him, and just as Mickey’s saying that no one knows they were there that night, the phone rings. Pam answers it for some reason, and it’s a husky voice proclaiming, “I saw what you did,” and “I want my share.” The first part makes me think that maybe Pam just happened to pick up in the middle of the caller doing some Phil Collins karaoke.
The next night (Tuesday night, for whatever that’s worth), Pam is at home with Foxy while her parents are out grocery shopping. Nope. The parents are a figment of her imagination. Just like the ghost dad in The Best Friend. Pam gets another call from the creepy caller demanding ten thousand dollars or he’ll tell the police everything. He claims he saw them kill the guard, and Pam starts screaming that they didn’t do it. Right in front of Foxy, who she didn’t want to know about any of this. Way to fuckin’ go, Pam.
Pam tells Foxy everything, and he tells her she needs to go to the police and tell them everything. Three guesses what her reaction is. Then Foxy insists they go see Clay, who is of course at Mickey’s house. Foxy tells them that they all need to figure out what to do about the blackmailer, and Clay claims that whoever it is, he’ll kill him! Pam believes he really means it, and the chapter ends with her begging him to tell her he’s only joking. How many times has Stine pulled this “I’ll kill so-and-so!” cliffhanger chapter end in his books? I’m sure someone out there has compiled a full list, and I’d bet my life it’s not a short one, either.
Thursday morning, Reva confronts Hank at the store, first apologizing for her behavior toward him, which she absolutely needed to do, then telling him to knock off the stupid pranks. He has no idea what she’s talking about, then tells her he doesn’t hate her – he feels sorry for her. This pisses her off more than if he had straight-up called her a cunt, apparently, and she screams that he’s crazy and sick. Why is the term “sick” used so often by Stine? It seems so out of place here. Hank tells Reva he really does feel sorry for her, because everyone at school hates her and she doesn’t have a friend in the world, then he challenges her to name one friend. She can’t, and then she realizes that he’s right – she admits that ever since her mom died she had to be hard and close herself off, and she didn’t have time for friends. I think this is a bullshit excuse, but fine. It’s the only one we’re gonna get. Reva falls into Hank’s arms and allows him to comfort her, but she’s still unable to cry. I guess the ice around her heart hasn’t melted quite yet.
That evening Pam can’t get hold of Reva or Foxy, so she decides to walk to Foxy’s house since he only lives a few blocks away. On the way there, someone grabs her and drags her off the sidewalk and behind a hedge. Guess who! It’s the blackmailer! He again threatens Pam and demands ten thousand dollars, and she again tries to tell him they didn’t take any money. Then she manages to break free and spin around to get a look at him, and it’s . . .
Nope, Stine’s going to tease us. Several times, because right now all we get is Pam exclaiming, “You! I don’t believe it!” and then You! is all, Too bad you turned around, and presumably is about to kill Pam? But she gets away and runs to the street where a car stops for her, and it’s conveniently driven by Foxy. Foxy to the rescue! Then Pam tells him, “You won’t believe who is blackmailing us! You just won’t believe it!”
Look, when we find out the identity of the blackmailer, it’s not that shocking. Calm your tits, Pam.
The next day, Reva actually gets to work on time. Has Hell frozen over? Are those pigs I see flying? Are there monkeys flying out of my butt? At any rate, she walks by the electronics stockroom and sees Mitch and Robb attempting to beat the living shit out of each other. Very mysterious! Rawson breaks it up, then tells Robb to get his Santa costume on and get his ass out to Santa Land, even though we’ve been told Rawson is the head of the stockrooms and therefore should have zero authority over the Santas. Maybe he’s just a control freak. I worked with a woman like that – a low-level supervisor in a completely different department who used to come over and try to boss me around and tell me how to do my job. Every store seems to have one.
Some indeterminate amount of time later, Reva takes Michael to see the store Santa. Despite her soul-searching after her talk with Hank, she’s still a fucking asshole, convincing Michael to sit on Santa’s lap instead of standing beside him, because she’s under the impression that Robb hates having the kids sit on his lap and she wants to torment him for no fucking reason whatsoever. Also, I’m not sure why she always thinks the Santa on duty is Robb? Surely department stores hire more than one Santa for the season? After sitting on Santa’s lap, Michael announces that he’s a fake because he felt the padding in his stomach. Oh really? But I thought Robb was such a fatty fat that he didn’t need any padding, Reva.
Reva drops Michael off at her dad’s office and goes back to her perfume counter. So, was she doing this on her lunch break? Or did she just wander off from her post once again? What’s the point of a rich girl having a job to be taught about responsibility and work ethic (the only reason I can fathom for a spoiled brat rich girl having a job) if she’s allowed to do whatever the fuck she wants with no consequences? I’m so fucking done with Reva. I hate her. A lot. Not even in the fun way I thought I did at first. She’s just fucking awful.
Ugh. Anyway, when she gets back to her counter, she finds another comically huge package (not that kind) waiting for her. It looks exactly like the one the mannequin came in, and this time Reva is determined not to scream and put on a show for her tormentor. But when she opens it, she finds Mitch inside, dead with a knife shoved between his shoulder blades! Well damn. That’s how you escalate, mmkay?
Reva spends the rest of the day with her mind whirling, then wakes up in the middle of the night with a sudden conviction that she knows who killed Mitch! But we’re going to have to wait to hear her brilliant brainstorm, because Stine loves his bullshitty cliff hangers.
We pick back up with Pam, demanding to know if Clay killed Mitch. Oh, that’s right, Mitch was the blackmailer. I simply can’t believe it, can you?! Clay refuses to answer, because Clay is a little shithead who wants people to be afraid of him. He finally denies it, then screams at Mickey that he’s not a liar when Mickey expresses doubt. Then Mickey’s dad walks in and screams at them to go outside if they’re going to fight. What the fuck is up with all the screaming? I don’t think people normally scream at each other as often as Stine seems to think they do.
Reva gets up early Saturday morning so she can ride to work with her dad and tell him about her “I know who killed Mitch” idea. Except she doesn’t fucking tell him; she makes him wait til they get to work, then demands to see the security tape (I guess Hank finally managed to get that shit set up properly) of Santa Land from the day before. Somehow from this shitty-quality security tape, she manages to identify that the Santa isn’t Robb. It finally hit her during the night that Michael had said the Santa was wearing a pillow, but Robb is a “real chub” so he didn’t need padding. Go fuck yourself, Reva. I mean, congrats on figuring that shit out, I guess, but seriously go fuck yourself.
Mr. Dalby calls the police, and four officers show up to Santa Land to arrest Robb. Bullshit. There’s no evidence for an arrest. At worst they would be showing up to question him, not arrest him. But I guess Stine thought it would be hilarious to write a scene where Santa gets arrested in front of dozens of kids. It’s been done before, but sure. Ha ha fucking ha.
Pam shows up while Robb is being dragged away, and starts yelling, “Foxy! What happened? Why are they arresting you?”
So. Robb is Foxy. Foxy is Robb. Get it?
Foxy Robb starts yelling all about how he did it for Pam, and he only wanted to get back at Reva! Goddammit, Robb, you keep your stupid mouth shut until you get a lawyer, ya hear? You don’t even know what the cops want with you yet – they think you’re confessing to murder you big dum-dum! I’m so sick of all these stories that rely on easily-remedied misunderstandings to drive them. This could be cleared up with literally one question from Robb – “Excuse me, officers, what am I being detained for?” But nooooo, that’s not how Stine rolls at all!
Sorry, guys. I forgot how frustrating I find this sort of shit.
Reva goes back to work at the makeup counter, even though she was at the perfume counter before. Either she’s constantly switching back and forth between the two, or Stine thinks that makeup and perfume are the same thing. For some reason the store closes at seven that night, because fuck longer holiday hours, and Reva is going to have to take the bus home because dad had to go to a meeting and took the car. Do you believe this girl would ever deign to set foot on public transportation? Because I sure as hell don’t. You’re telling me the Dalbys don’t have a car service of some sort? A limo that can pick Reva up? An honest-to-goodness Disney princess carriage?
Pam flags Reva down for a heart-to-heart, which they have in Pam’s Pontiac. I’m sure Reva finds that only half a step above public transport. Except Reva’s actually being decent to her cousin, and Pam insists that Foxy Robb couldn’t have killed Mitch, that he wasn’t at his Santa post because he sneaked away to spend time with her, and then she tells Reva about the blackmail but not the robbery. Kind of a cop out there, Pam. She tells Reva that Robb was the one playing the mean pranks on Reva and that she told him it was silly but he was just so mad at Reva for the way she was treating Pam. Wait. Pam told him it was silly? Silly? Girl, he started out by putting a fucking needle in Reva’s lipstick! (Can’t stop won’t stop shuddering.) I don’t think silly is the word you’re looking for.
Pam and Reva hug it out, then Pam offers Reva a ride home, and Reva invites Pam to stay for dinner and hang out just like old times. But before they’ve driven very far, Reva realizes she left her purse at the store and they go back for it, Pam staying in the car to wait on Reva. Reva gets a little spooked by the empty store, as usual, before getting up to the sixth floor and running straight into Mickey’s dad, fired security guard and full-time alcoholic, Mr. Wakely!
He has a gun, and he points it straight at Reva and starts rambling about the robbery, instead of making up a bullshit excuse for why he’s there. This makes me so mad. Literally all he had to say was nothing, but he starts telling Reva everything, forcing himself into a position where he has to kill her! He could have just said nothing! Fuck these super-villain monologues! Anyway, if you care, his super-villain monologue goes something like this: He and Maywood set up three kids to distract the guard on duty while they emptied the safes. But then he realized one of the kids was his, and he thought the guard was about to shoot Mickey, so he shot him first. Then he found out Mitch was blackmailing the kids, so he killed him, too. He’s here tonight to finish emptying one of the safes.
Okay, cool, but why send Reva Mitch’s corpse? He has no idea what you’re talking about. He stashed the body in the first container he could find. It just happened to be the box the mannequin had been in, which then got delivered to Reva a second time. What? Where was this box? Who is in charge of delivering packages sitting in random spots throughout the store? Why did he kill Mitch at the store, where there are security cameras capturing your every move? Why didn’t the mysterious package delivery elf notice blood seeping out of this particular package? Was a box nearly the height of a teenage girl really the most convenient place to stash a body? Did he have to use a stepladder to drop Mitch into the box, or did he tip the box on its side, shove Mitch in, then tip the box rightside-up again? I’m so confused about all of this. I want answers, Stine!
Sure enough, after this monologue Mr. Wakely says he has to kill Reva because she’s given him no choice. Bullshit, you fucking asshole! She had no idea about any of this; you’re the one who decided to run your damn mouth off about everything you did! Why do men always want to blame women for their own actions?
Reva runs to the balcony overlooking the store, then ducks when Mr. Wakely comes running at her. He sails over the railing, and even if he had tackled her, they both would have gone over, so what was the fucking point in that? He hits the Christmas tree and somehow gets electrocuted from the lights on it. Okay. He’s dead, Jim.
Hank shows up to comfort Reva, because he was down in the basement fixing something and saw the whole thing on the monitor in the basement that we’re only just now hearing about. He claims that Mr. Wakely’s entire confession is on tape, even though there’s no way in hell these low-rent security cameras are audio-equipped.
Can this book be over now?
We get a bit of a wrap-up chapter, in which Robb apologizes for the mean things he did to Reva, who “jokes” that she’ll find a way to pay him back since it’s her turn. Oh, fuck off, Reva. We have no idea what’s going to happen to Mickey and Clay, but Pam is only being charged with trespassing. Well, did I call that one or what? Also, she’s in her parents’ custody and they finally appear on the page. I guess I can’t claim they don’t exist any more, huh?
The book ends with Reva leaning against Hank and marveling that she has feelings again – warm feelings, sad feelings, all the feelings! But really, all I can think of is this:
Reva makes a New Year’s resolution (is it New Year’s already? I need a coherent timeline, dammit!) to never lose those feelings again, but seeing as how there are two sequels to this book, it doesn’t sound like she was successful. But for the moment, she’s the Grinch melting the ice around her heart, and Scrooge hugging Tiny Tim and screaming “God bless us, every one!”
Nostalgia Glasses Off
I . . . I’m not even sure how I feel about this one. Frustrated, mostly. I couldn’t even find much amusement in Reva thinking she was so clever when really her “jokes” were weak and pathetic and unoriginal. Also, this book suffers from Spiderman 3 syndrome – too many villains! Seriously, three different villains? In a fucking Fear Street book? That’s way too much cluster-fuckery. I know I read the sequels to this back in the day, but I really don’t remember them. I think I’ll keep it that way, thanks.