cover image Party Games

Party Games

R.L. Stine. St. Martin's Griffin, $17.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-05161-5

In this return to Fear Street, one of Stine's most popular and enduring series, after a nearly two-decade hiatus, 17-year-old Rachel Martin defies horror-story common sense: never attend a party at a supposedly haunted mansion on Fear Island, in the middle of Fear Lake, at the end of Fear Street, hosted by sexy Brendan Fear (on whom she has a crush). Ignoring her ex-boyfriend's warnings, Rachel joins a group of friends to celebrate Brendan's 18th birthday in the spooky, sprawling, and ancient mansion. Before long, the teens end up stranded on the island during a blackout. And then the first body turns up. Stine's talent for escalating tension, establishing a creepy atmosphere, and keeping readers on edge with multiple twists is undiminished, but the overall effect is like that of a haunted house%E2%80%94all smoke and mirrors. Truly scary scenes, like Rachel clawing her way out of a forgotten mass grave, are undermined by cheesier "gotcha" moments and fake-outs. The story is solid, but doesn't entirely live up to its potential. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. Agency: Parachute Publishing. (Sept.)