The Cover: Satisfyingly reminiscent of traditional 90’s Fear Street covers. We always got either a ridiculously hot or ridiculously frumpy looking girl on the cover, and this one gives us one sporting mom-jeans and a bad haircut. The creepy figure lurking in the background screams out at your inner child, and the iPad tells you that Fear Street now exists in the 21st century. Nailed it.
Back Blurb: In the small town of Shadyside, don’t stay up late-–because horrible things happen in the dead of night…
Lisa Brooks is plagued with nightmares and hallucinations. Could they be caused by the horrifying accident that landed her in the hospital for weeks?
When Lisa finds out that a woman on Fear Street is looking for a babysitter, she jumps at the chance to keep busy and take her mind off her troubling thoughts.
Her friends are concerned: “Do you really want to work on Fear Street?” But Lisa isn’t superstitious. Besides, the little boy in her care is charming, delightful, and beautiful. She isn’t even worried when the mother gives her strict instructions: “Don’t let him stay up late.”
Lisa is happy in the new job. She knows she’s on the road to recovery. But then the murders start–-and her friends begin dying one by one.
Are Lisa’s nightmares coming true?
The Book: When the first of the new Fear Street novels came out last fall, I was beyond excited, much like many other R.L Stine fans of the 1990’s. Party Games was both wonderfully indulgent and mindlessly entertaining. Bringing back all the Fear Street horror was not only a pleasurable stroll down memory lane, it also added some variety to the Dystopian novels dominating YA today. The second book of the relaunch, Don’t Stay Up Late, was fun but fell unfortunately short of the usually high Fear Street expectations.
Reading the book is similar to watching a cheesy horror flick: not much character development, lots of buildup to dead ends, and killing off of minor but seemingly important characters. The plot is easy enough to follow. Lisa Brooks is a newbie to Shadyside, blissfully unaware of the horrors of Fear Street. But after a tragic accident claims the life of her father, she starts experiencing terrifying hallucinations of ghastly monsters. Her psychiatrist suggests a hobby or activity to get her mind back on track so she can learn to function normally (as if normal exists in Shadyside). Lisa agrees to take a well-paying babysitting job to keep busy and help support her mother, who can’t work because of her injuries from the accident.
Lisa’s friend Saralynn, her boyfriend Nate, and his best friend Isaac warn her not to take the job. But Harry is a sweet, angelic little boy, so what could go wrong? Everything, obviously, because he lives on Fear Street. Harry’s mother Brenda warns Lisa that Harry cannot, under any circumstances, stay up late. He needs more sleep than most boys his age, and if he doesn’t get enough, it’s “not good for him.” She doesn’t elaborate, so Lisa doesn’t question it. However, sweet little Harry finds ways of manipulating Lisa into letting him stay up past his bedtime. Lisa begins seeing a hideous monster and then other terrible things start to happen. But nobody will believe her, even after a girl is murdered, because of her history of hallucinations. Soon Lisa discovers there may be a link between Harry and her friends, and she doesn’t know who she can trust.
The monster/demon plot is creative, but the book’s description about the hallucinations automatically sets you up to think that everything Lisa sees is not going to be real. Nobody else is seeing what she sees, and the creature conveniently only shows itself when she’s alone. There is an obvious attempt to make it look like Nate and Saralynn are behind the mysterious events because of Nate’s obsession with horror movies. You see the truth coming from a mile away, so at several points in the story it’s tempting to just put it down and finish it another day. But after the truth is revealed, the ending has several twists that make it all worth it.
Don’t Stay Up Late is light and breezy, but by no means any of R.L. Stine’s best work. Lisa is sadly a very unlikable character who is an irrational and spoiled brat. Ugh…my name is Lisa. She should have been awesome. But she’s a high school junior who basically threw a tantrum and pounded on the back of her father’s seat while he was driving, which caused him to steer onto oncoming traffic and meet an untimely death. All because SHE LEFT HER CELL PHONE BEHIND. Seriously. Her mother seems to adjust fine, despite the fact that her daughter’s immaturity killed her husband. Lisa shows an almost complete lack of emotion expected from a girl who just lost her father in a tragic accident (an accident that was her fault, nonetheless). The aftermath of her father’s death is unrealistic; it would be expected that there would be significant life changes, such as the family’s income being sliced in half and Lisa learning to cope with losing a parent at a young age. But she just takes a few weeks off and goes back to school. Not to mention the fact that Lisa is just really dumb and missing the common sense chromosome. She frequently jumps to conclusions (OMG he’s a monster!) and leaves the child she is supposed to be babysitting unattended several times. But, hey, it’s a Fear Street book. It’s not supposed to make you think or teach you life lessons, it’s just supposed to make you squirm.
When you first read the title of the book, it doesn’t sound right. It seems like it should be “Don’t Stay Up TOO Late,” because that sounds like more of a warning. The phrase “Don’t stay up late” just sounds like your mother nagging you, but it makes more sense once you start reading. You’ll also notice that Shadyside is now more racially diverse, and there are mentions of several characters from the previous book. So if you haven’t read Party Games, don’t read Don’t Stay Up Late first because you’ll know which characters live. In normal Shadyside canon, there are a few recurring characters who appear randomly but never are the stars of their own stories. Each book has completely different main characters, probably because there are so many deaths that if you read out of order some deaths will be given away. But that’s one of the quirks of Fear Street that make us love it; you never know who or what you’re getting. Actually, I take that back: you will ALWAYS get really hot girls that wear short skirts and tights, and boys with friendly smiles whose eyes “crinkle up” at the corners. I guess that’s cute when you’re a preteen, but when you’re post-college it means you need to start investing in some wrinkle cream.
One thing I liked about this book and the last is that many characters have names that were popular for teens in the 90’s and early 00’s, so it’s staying true to the original 90’s vibe. I like the inclusion of new technology like cell phones, but sometimes Apple products just don’t work with the plot. For example, when someone hangs up using a cell phone, there is no click like a landline. Also, if Lisa was really seeing crazy things, why didn’t she just flip on her camera? But the old “not getting signal” and “cell battery is dead” excuses conveniently fill these plot holes.
One thing that should be mentioned is the disturbing prevalence of editing errors. I’ve seen quite a few back in the day, like the glaring addition of an M before someone screamed “Ow!” in The First Horror (99 Fear Street). Luckily that was fixed in the Kindle edition, but apparently someone missed a few things in Don’t Stay Up Late. There are several paragraphs where quotations marks are missing or added erroneously, and it’s kind of disappointing considering the price for the hardcover book.
Overall, Don’t Stay Up Late wasn’t as great as Party Games, but enjoyable regardless for the nostalgia. R.L. is writing for a 2015 preteen audience, but the feel of the 90’s is still there. Teens today might not enjoy it if they haven’t been exposed to the original Fear Street; it is definitely aimed towards the older fans who want to revisit some old goodies. True Fear Street diehards will still very much appreciate this book and look forward to the next in the series. And yes, we will pick apart every minor detail, because we love R.L Stine, and that’s what true fans do. Can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next!
What did you think of Don’t Stay Up Late? Sound off in the comments below!