The Dead Boyfriend: Fear Street’s Relaunch Comeback?

The Dead Boyfriend (Fear Street Reboot #5)

Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Fears

Caitlin has never had a real boyfriend before. When she starts seeing Blade, she throws herself into the relationship with fervor. She ignores her friends who warn her that Blade may be a phony and that she is taking the whole thing too seriously. Caitlin is smitten. She doesn’t care if she loses her friends. All she wants is Blade.

When Caitlin sees Blade with another girl, she completely loses it. She snaps. Everything goes red. When she comes back to her senses, she realizes that Blade is dead―and she has killed him. But if Blade is dead, how is he staring at her across a crowded party?

This book could have gone two ways: very good or very bad. And honestly while reading it, it kept flipping between the two. Caitlin is a bit of a character. The entire story is recounted through her writing in her diary. Don’t worry, we still get scenes in real-time, but everything is being told as it already happened so we also get the commentary and foreboding statements that Stine loves so much (and a lot of the time, I wish he didn’t).

Caitlin is funny and likeable. Clearly a flawed character, but it’s her flaws that make her interesting and relatable for the most part. One of her flaws is her flair for the dramatic (though she’s aware of this and tells us as much in the beginning). Being in a drama queen’s head can get tiring at times, but it mostly keeps things fun – with a comedic undertone in an otherwise dark story.

Yes, she kills her boyfriend. It says as much in the synopsis so I’m not giving anything away. But, what I didn’t like was Stine trying to put a supernatural spin on Blade’s murder. I think this novel would have been much more interesting, unique and suspenseful if we got a modern-day Macbeth (in terms of the guilt and psychosis, not ambition). A look at someone who acted in the heat of passion. What does that look like? How can someone be driven to kill someone else? How psychologically horrifying and interesting that story would be. Having a person so consumed with remorse and guilt that she starts seeing things. That she thinks her boyfriend has come back to haunt her and the reader must decide whether or not this is a ghost story or a human story built on paranoia and the very definition of a “breakdown”.

Sadly, that’s not what we get. Instead, Stine inserts his signature cheese, making a story with so much potential corny and creepy – if you’re twelve. I thought part of the goal of Fear Street’s relaunch was going to have the series grow up with today’s YA audience. I don’t expect full-on adult horror, but writing books aimed as 14-20 where the “thrills” wouldn’t thrill anyone past the age of 10-12 – there is a problem. I want these books to grow up. GROW UP!

There is a new Fear (maybe), magic, the undead, questions of sanity and murder. Everything that would normally make a Fear Street book great. But I can’t seem to get over what this book not only could have been, but honestly should have been.

Another thing that bugged me: this book contradicts the third installment in this series, The Lost Girl. These books were published within one year of each other, so that makes me think Stine is either incredibly sloppy or this book was written by a ghostwriter who didn’t do their homework. Either scenario bugs the crap out of me. (I get Stine has a lot of book commitments, but when you relaunch a series after a decade and it’s only six books, they are not writing gigs that should go to someone else.)

On a brighter note, the thing that saved my opinion (and the rating) of this book is a twist at the end. I didn’t see it coming, and that’s a rare thing for me – even with adult novels. I not only appreciated being surprised, I enjoyed the surprise. Sadly though, Stine has his signature “twist ending” where the last line is a twist and that final twist seems to undo or take away from the rewarding one. This book is a great example of an author not knowing when to stop, trying too hard and getting in his own way. I expected better, especially when a wonderful story is sitting in your lap.

When I was thinking about how well the fifth installment of Fear Street’s relaunch did, I was on the fence. Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 I thought, but a twist at the end saved it, rocketing it up to 4.5. But in typical Stine fashion he had to add a final twist, which took away from that twist and knocked it back down ever so slightly.

Dear R.L. Stine,

Please learn to quit while you’re ahead. Thanks ever so much.

An Annoyed Fan

If you’re a Fear Street fan, this is worth checking out. If you’re simply curious, this installment still can’t capture the effect of Party Games but is a close second. Here’s hoping the final book in the relaunch series gives me hope that Fear Street isn’t as dead as the boyfriend in this book. It’s brings back Shadyside’s cheerleaders so it’s a real possibility Stine can still show that Fear Street has a place in today’s YA horror-scape. Fingers crossed…


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