Day #149: Childhood Revisions #2


R. L. Stine | The Wrong Number | Fear Street #5


What starts out as innocent prank phone calls soon gets Deena, Jade and Chuck caught up in a murder mystery. And if Deena and Jade can’t find proof of who the real murderer is, Chuck could end up in jail for life.

My take:

The Wrong Number transports us back to a time when speed dial and caller ID were awe-inspiringly new technologies. A time when a girl anonymously whispering into a phone about the possibility of meeting up for coffee was the equivalent of letting a guy get to second base. A time known as…the 90’s.

Our main protagonist for this story is Deena Martinson, who spends a lot of time thinking about how attractive her best friend Jade Smith is. That is, until her half-brother Chuck moves to town and saves a puppy from an exploding car, which prompts her to think also spend some time thinking about how attractive he is. And that’s kind of understandable, if you ignore the half-brother aspect of things.

When Chuck catches Deena and Jade making lame prank calls to one of their classmates, he decides to up the ante by calling in a bomb threat to a bowling alley, and vaguely threatening a guy he got into a fight with at school. Deena is suitably horrified, while Jade is already wondering how to make Deena leave so she can jump Chuck’s bones.

Later, Deena confronts Jade and Chuck about the prank calls and says they should stop making them. Chuck, placated after “talking” to Jade, who he’s now holding hands with (causing Deena to, no shit, feel a flash of jealousy), is all, ‘Yeah, okay.’ Of course, he goes back on his word almost immediately, proving what a stellar kind of guy he is (puppy saving aside), and also managing to randomly pick a number out of the phone book (phone book!) for a house where a woman picks up the phone for long enough to inform them that someone has broken into her house and is trying to kill her.

Unfortunately, they’re morons (seriously); and the kids freak out about the prospect of calling the cops, lest they somehow be connected to Chuck’s fake bomb threat. So, instead of just ringing the cops and telling them that, oh dear, we called the wrong number and this is what we heard, please go help this poor woman, they instead decide to drive over to the address themselves. Because what this woman in danger really needs right now is them.

Of course, we all know where this is going, right? The woman is already dead, the killer is still there, and in the process of fending him off Chuck gets his prints all over the murder weapon. Then there’s a car chase that amounts to nothing (at any point in the rest of the novel); Deena and Chuck decide to lie to the cops when they show up at their door at 2am in the morning, and Chuck ends up in jail, where he probably belongs.

The rest of the novel is basically about Deena and Jade being the worst detectives ever, yet somehow managing to scrape together enough information to work out that the dead woman’s husband was having an affair and is planning on leaving the country with his new girlfriend, now that he’s killed his wife and pinned it on some idiot kid. Because of course that’s what happened – R.L. Stine did everything but spell this out right from the moment the poor woman died.

Seriously, this is not a suspenseful addition to the Fear Street series.

After the obligatory ‘return to the scene of the crime and face the bad guy’ conclusion, right out of an episode of Scooby Doo, the cops show up and are all, ‘Haha no we totally knew it was this guy, we just kept your stepbrother in jail with hardened criminals for a few extra days, because reason.’ Thus, the cops steal the girls’ thunder, and hopefully set themselves up for a hell of a suing by Chuck, who’s been so scarred by his experience that he’ll probably piss his pants at the very thought of doing anything criminal in the future.

And thus ends yet another wholesome story from my childhood, Hm.


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