Recap #60 – April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick

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Title: April Fools

Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick

Published: April 1990

Tagline: It’s no joke . . . it’s murder

Description: You can fool some of the people some of the time . . .

On the night of April 1st, Belinda, Frank, and Hildy are driving home from a party when they get involved in a gruesome car accident. The people in the other car never could have survived the wreck, so Frank insists they take off. After all, what happened wasn’t really their fault.

Two weeks later, Belinda is the only one who still feels guilty about the accident. Then the “pranks” begin. Someone sends her a bloody doll’s head. A car nearly runs her off the road.

Obviously someone witnessed . . . or survived that car accident. And they’re going to make her pay . . . slowly . . . for what happened.

April Fools’ Day is over. But these jokes are for real.

Nostalgia Time!


I’ve been a little hesitant to tackle RTC again, since her previous two books didn’t live up to my memory when I recapped them. I remember this one pretty well, helped along by several other recappers writing/podcasting about it. I remember Frank and Hildy being absolute assholes, but Belinda being a pretty good protagonist.

For some reason, I think I always found this book a little boring when I was younger, but I clearly read it multiple times – the spine on my old copy is pretty well-worn. And clearly my memory of Cusick’s books isn’t reliable, considering how much eight-or-nine-year-old me loved The Lifeguard. (I’m still cringing over that.)

Anyway, maybe third time’s the charm?

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Recap #55 – Sweet Valley Kids #4: Elizabeth’s Valentine

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Title: Sweet Valley Kids #4: Elizabeth’s Valentine

Author: Francine Pascal/Molly Mia Stewart

Published: 1990

Tagline: One of the twins has a new friend!

Description: Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield can’t wait until Eva, the new girl in their second-grade class, arrives from Jamaica. When Elizabeth is picked to show Eva around school, the two become friends, and Jessica begins to feel left out. After all, she and Elizabeth are supposed to be best friends.

To get back at her twin, Jessica ignores Elizabeth and pretends to keep secrets from her. She even pretends she has a new best friend. Elizabeth can’t understand why Jessica is being so mean. Everything’s a mess, and it’s up to Eva to help Elizabeth and Jessica become friends again!

Nostalgia Time!


Oh, sure, the one character of color in all of Sweet Valley is the one who’s made to solve these little white girls’ problems. *eyeroll* (This part of the story isn’t actually as egregious as the description makes it sound, but I was ready to go on a rant about how certain people are expected to perform the bulk of emotional labor for everyone around them.)

I read a shit ton of Sweet Valley Twins and SV High starting around age 8 or 9, but I don’t recall ever reading any SV Kids. So again, we have a book I’ve got zero nostalgia for. But I read the first book in this series around a week ago to prove a point to myself about how the twins’ ages and birthday are really messed around from series to series (Sweet Valley continuity is . . . not really a thing), and I decided to recap this one for Valentine’s Day, since it is ostensibly a Valentine’s book. Turns out Valentine’s Day is really just the backdrop and doesn’t really inform the main story at all, but . . . such is the wonderful world of Sweet Valley.

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Recap #35 – Trick or Treat by Richie Tankersley Cusick

 

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Title: Trick or Treat

Author: Richie Tankersley Cusick

Published: Oct. 1989

Tagline: Trick or treat, trick or treat, candy is dandy, but murder is sweet

Description: Dressed to kill. Martha knew there was something evil about the house she was moving into. It was so cold . . . and creepy. And it wasn’t just the house that was giving her a weird feeling. Martha was sure someone was following her . . . watching her every move.

Then the practical jokes began – the scarecrow with a carving knife in its head, the fire. And the phone calls: “Trick or treat, Martha . . . you’re dead.”

It was October, but these were no Halloween tricks. Someone would be coming home this year with more than just a bag of treats. And Martha was the prize.

Trick or treat.

Nostalgia Time!


Wow, October 1989? I was eight years old when this book was published. I don’t remember the first time I read it, but it had to have been when I was around 11 or 12. My copy is old and stained all to hell with soda that leaked out of take-out cups. I used to take shit care of my stuff when I was around that age.

So, let’s start with that description real quick. Are they really saying that a fire is a practical joke? A fire?! Yeah, that’s not a joke, wtf. Also, the abuse of dashes and ellipses you can clearly see in the description carries on throughout the book. Or at least throughout the first three chapters, which is as far as I’ve read as I type these words. Based on Dove and Wing’s recap at The Devil’s Elbow, I’m aware that this trend does in fact carry on the entirety of the book. Yay.

So, this is one of those books that I know I enjoyed as a teen. I remember it really well, even though it’s somehow inextricably linked in my head to Bebe Faas Rice’s The Listeners and Music from the Dead. I think there’s a similarity in stories, but it’s mostly the covers. Those three covers look very similar.

Anyway, since this is RTC, I’m already second-guessing my memory of liking this book. Remember the hell we went through with The Lifeguard? I’m gun shy on all Richie Tankersley Cusick novels now. But I swear I liked this one, guys. I swear I did . . . .

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Recap #34 – Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan

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This isn’t the cover I have, but it’s the one I remember.

Title: Gallows Hill

Author: Lois Duncan

Published: 1997

Tagline: They don’t burn witches anymore. Do they?

Description: Sarah can see people’s secrets in an ordinary crystal paperweight. Too bad they still believe in witches in Pine Crest. And they don’t like them at all. Sarah’s about to relive a horrible ordeal that happened hundreds of years ago – unless someone can undo a terrible wrong.

Nostalgia Time!

I remember checking this out of the library when it was brand new. I mentioned this briefly in my Killing Mr. Griffin recap, but I read this book shortly before the TV movie aired. The movie was kind of a huge disappointment, but I remember liking the book a lot. I don’t remember the book very well, because the movie overrode my memory of the book a bit, and they changed, uh, pretty much everything from book to movie. Anyway, I tend to prefer LoDunc when she does supernatural, and Gallows Hill has reincarnation, witchcraft, fortune-telling . . . the LoDunc I enjoy the most!

Although, I do recall something about our main girl, Sarah, dressing as a “gypsy” to do her fortune-telling, which is . . . not great. Both that LoDunc uses that word, which we now recognize as a slur, and that we’re using Romani culture as a costume. Maybe this isn’t as egregious as I remember, but then again, maybe it’s worse. 1990s books were full of stuff that makes us cringe these days, so this is pretty much par for the course.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to revisiting this one. Even if I don’t like it as much as I remember, it can’t be as bad as the last one – Jo Gibson’s The Seance, which had me rage-caps-locking and cursing like it was going out of style.

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Recap #33 – The Seance by Jo Gibson

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Title: The Seance (the cover up there is from the omnibus 3-in-1 collection, as it seems it’s near-impossible to find The Seance by itself anywhere)

Author: Jo Gibson (aka Joanne Fluke)

Published: I’ve got conflicting reports here. Google Books says March 1996; the collection I have has the copyright date for The Seance as 2014. 1996 feels right, but why would a Halloween book be published in March . . . ?

Description: There’s nothing like a killer party on Halloween – especially when it’s in a secluded lodge in the woods. But when Jennifer Larkin’s friends insist on holding a seance – in spite of the warnings of a local psychic – it’s anything but a game. For the spirits are vengeful. The partiers are prisoners. And no one gets out of here alive . . .

Nostalgia Time!


Well, I’ve got nothing. I’ve never read this one before. I’m hoping it’s going to be as ridiculous as Slay Bells but less boring than My Bloody Valentine.  Since those two followed the same template, I’m going to assume this one does as well, and make some predictions based on that template. First, our protagonist will be in love with someone who “doesn’t know she exists,” but then end up with her friend’s brother. Second, there will be terrible threatening poems sent to people before they’re murdered. Third, the main girl will be painfully clueless and naive about boys, and all wide-eyed ignorance about, well, everything really. Fourth, the killer will have some completely convoluted plan that may or may not end with trying to kill the main girl to keep some other dead girl company. Fifth, the motive will probably end up being some variation of “he’s crazy, and crazy people don’t make sense lol amirite?” Which, to be fair, ends up being the driving force of most of these books.

Once again, I’m going to recap this as I read it, one chapter at a time, so I have no better idea of what’s about to happen than you do. I’m sure I’ll make some embarrassing assumptions that will be proven wrong, but I’m willing to take that bullet for y’all.

Note from Future Me: Trigger warning for rape. I won’t recap it graphically, but it’s unavoidably there. I had no idea this was where the story was going to go, since Jo has never had any sexual content in previous books I’ve recapped. This shit caught me by surprise, y’all.

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Recap #22 – Hit and Run by R.L. Stine

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Title: Hit and Run

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: June 1992

Tagline: Look before you cross . . . .

Description: License to drive. License to kill.

Eddie, Scott, Winks, and Cassie. They went out for a drive one night. Just to practice, so Eddie would be sure and get his license.

Then Eddie had a little accident. Now four friends share a terrible secret.

Because Eddie hit someone and killed him.

Didn’t he?

Nostalgia Time!


This came out a couple months before my 11th birthday, and I’m pretty sure I remember reading it around that time, but I had only the vaguest recollection of the book itself. It started coming back to me as I read it, but I think I would have figured this one out pretty quick even if it hadn’t. It wasn’t hard, especially taking into account the fact that R.L. Stine was almost vehemently opposed to anything supernatural going on in his Point Horror novels. Rule of thumb? If it appears to be zombies, it’s really just an elaborate prank set up by your shitty friends. (Spoilers.) Which is why I thought this recap would be perfect for April Fool’s Day. I considered doing Richie Tankersley Cusick’s April Fools, but I couldn’t handle another RTC so soon after recapping The Lifeguard. I’m still scarred by that one, guys.

So, apparently the copy of this book I bought at a used book sale a few months ago belonged to Thelma. I hope Thelma enjoyed it more than I did.

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You go, Thelma

 

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Recap #18 – My Bloody Valentine by Jo Gibson

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Title: My Bloody Valentine

Author: Jo Gibson (Joanne Fluke)

Published: Feb. 1995

Description: Be mine . . . and die. It’s Valentine’s Day at Hamilton High. [Pretty sure it’s Valentine’s Day everywhere, but okay.] Everyone’s excited about this year’s big dance, especially the six girls competing to be Queen of Hearts.

One student at Hamilton High is paying extra close attention to the contest. Because it takes a very special girl to be queen . . . and if her heart isn’t pure and good, she doesn’t deserve to win.

In fact, she doesn’t deserve to live.

Poor Amy Hunter. Five girls down . . . one to go.

Nostalgia Time!


Well, guys, once again we have a book that I didn’t remember at all. Like, nothing sparked a memory, except when a certain character showed up I was like – it’s him! He’s the killer! And he was. (Saying “he” isn’t a spoiler – we get killer POV scenes that flat-out state the killer is male.) So, I would have been about 13 and a half when this book was released, chances are I bought it around that time. Probably only read it once since it’s pretty unremarkable and I obviously remembered nothing except who the killer was. This is the same author who wrote Slay Bells, which was one of the most fun recaps I’ve ever written, so I was hoping for something similarly over-the-top bonkers, and . . . I was pretty disappointed. This book was released a couple months after Slay Bells, and it’s like Gibson kept the template from that one to write this one (the similarities are ridiculous), but forgot how to make it fun. Which is sad for me, but hopefully not for y’all. My recap will probably make the book sound more fun than it is. Don’t be fooled though. This book is solidly “meh.”

Also, it has nothing to do with the slasher film of the same name. Just throwing that out there so there’s no confusion.

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Recap #17 – Broken Hearts by R.L. Stine

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Title: Broken Hearts

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: Feb. 1993

Tagline: Valentine’s Day can be a killer

Description: Roses are red, corpses are blue. On Valentine’s Day, you’ll die too!

There’s someone out there, someone who kills on Valentine’s Day. Josie and Melissa are scared—especially when they receive threatening valentines. Then the murders begin. Who is sending these horrible valentines to the girls of Shadyside High? And who will be the next to die?

Nostalgia Time!


I wanted to recap Valentine’s books for February, and I caught this one for sale cheap on Kindle, so I thought to myself, perfect! The cover and description were familiar, so I knew I’d read it back in the day (I was eleven when it was published, so probably sometime around then), but I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything about this book . . . until I read the first couple of pages. Then it all came flooding back and I remembered who the killer was and why, although there was one surprise that I didn’t remember at all. Having said that, it’s never a good sign when I’m three pages into a book and suddenly remember, Oh, yeah, this book sucks. I’m pretty sure I thought it sucked the first time I read it, although I have no memory of the first time I read it. Hey, one of these days, this section might actually contain fond memories of actually reading the damn book I’m recapping on my nostalgia recap site, right?

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Recap #13 – Silent Night by R.L. Stine

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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?

Nostalgia Time!


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!

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Recap #12 – The Best Friend by R.L. Stine

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Title: The Best Friend

Author: R.L. Stine

Published: December 1992

Tagline: Sometimes friendship can be murder . . . [But I thought friendship was magic!]

Description: Best friends . . . to the end! [Oh. Is Honey actually Chucky? Hidey-ho! I’m your friend to the end! My name’s Honey and I like to be hugged! Ha ha ha!]

Who is Honey Perkins? She’s been telling everyone in Shadyside that she’s Becka Norwood’s best friend. But Becka’s sure she’s never met Honey before.

Honey systematically moves in on Becka’s life, copying her in every way. But when Becka presumes to have more than one “best friend,” the horrible accidents begin. [“Accidents.” Riiiiiight.]

Does Honey just want a friend? Becka wonders. Or does she want more – much more! [Like . . . lovers?]

Nostalgia Time!


Okay, full disclosure here: I fucking hate this book. Not because it’s badly written – it’s actually one of the better entries in the Fear Street series. My hatred of it is personal – it came out when I was 11 and in a very dark place, depression-wise. The gaslighting storyline in it hit a little too close to home, and still does. I have a visceral reaction to gaslighting due to someone in my life constantly pulling that kind of shit on me, albeit generally more subtly than Honey does to Becka. I’m not gonna go all out and say I’m triggered by it, but it’s definitely something that affects me on a deep level. Also, there’s a fair bit of ableism here, with Becka questioning her sanity and constantly thinking she’s going crazy, but I’m pretty inclined to give it a pass since that’s the whole point of gaslighting someone – to make them question their reality and sanity.

I remembered the end of this book, but the rest of it was refreshed by listening to the RetRead Podcast episode of it. Fun fact – apparently so many kids hated the ending of this book and wrote to Stine to tell him that, that he ran a contest giving people the chance to come up with an idea for the sequel, where Honey gets her comeuppance. I can’t remember if I read The Best Friend 2 or not. I probably did, but I have no memory of it. Maybe I’ll try to get my hands on it to recap at some point.

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