The Bookworm: The Prom Queen

The Prom Queen, by R.L. Stine. 167 pages. Pocket Books. March 1992.

I sighed. I hadn’t realized how tired I was until right then. When you think you’re about to get stabbed to death, it tends to make you wide awake. Now that I was relaxed again, I was exhausted. (p. 143)

It had been ages since I last read a Fear Street novel, so I gladly slipped The Prom Queen into my reading queue.

Amazingly, and sadly, I only have one more standalone Fear Street novel left from my original collection. I believe the four others I have are all part of mini-series. I really need to track down copies of the books I do not have. It may sound corny, but I have fallen for the Fear Street series all over again and would love to collect as many of the books as possible.

In The Prom Queen, Lizzy McVay and her four good friends have all been voted as candidates for prom queen. Each one is excited about their nomination and a friendly, though at times biting and fierce, competition arises among the girls. Then one of the queen candidates, Simone, disappears. Lizzy, answering Simone’s call for help, arrives too late and finds a pool of blood in Simone’s room and sees a man in a maroon jacket running into the woods with a large, gray sack.

Simone’s disappearance casts a dark shadow over the competition and rightfully frightens the four friends. Coincidentally, a serial killer is also on the loose and everyone in the area is hyperaware that danger could be lurking around every corner and in every dark room. Especially, of course, those that belong to Shadyside High prom queen candidates. A few weeks after Simone’s disappearance, Rachel is found dead in her room after spending the evening home alone after her boyfriend breaks up with her.

The serial killer is eventually captured and everyone breathes a sigh of relief, but Lizzy wonders if Simone’s kidnapper and Rachel’s killer is still at-large and whether or not it could be someone they know. She suspects a creepy baseball player named Lucas because he often wears his maroon satin Shadyside High baseball team jacket — the same type of jacket Lizzy saw on the man running into the woods the night Simone disappeared. Dawn, Lizzy’s best friend starts acting strangely, too, and Elana begins dating Simone’s long-time boyfriend. Elana is then found dead and everyone begins to suspect that someone is hunting down the prom queens one at a time.

If so, why? Will Dawn and Lizzy survive? As the tease on the back cover says, “Can she stop the murderer before the dance is over — for good?”

In terms of the writing and character development, The Prom Queen turned out to be the best Fear Street book I have re-read. (Perhaps the fact it had been so long between re-reads had something to do with that. I’m not sure.) Unlike many of her fellow Fear Street protagonists, Lizzy was a confident young woman who was not distractingly self-conscious or obsessed with perceived faults and shortcomings; she didn’t bemoan having curly hair or admire the straight hair of her friends, as some other Fear Street girls have done. (Does Lizzy have curly hair? I honesty could not tell you. If it was mentioned, it did not make a lasting impression on my image of her. As a reader, I usually dismiss character descriptions and visualize the characters however I want.) Lizzy had a habit of trying to figure out what everyone else is thinking; she did it multiple times during the book and I felt Stine used it to perfect effect. A number of the other characters, especially Dawn and Lucas, had distinct voices and characteristics that set them apart. The writing, though very simple, was succinct and perfectly captured emotions and scenes.

The Prom Queen, though, was not without its moments of cheese and convenience, though. The mini-drama surrounding the supposed serial killer had nothing to do with the prom queen killings. The incompetence of the Shadyside police was on full display. They questioned Lizzy and friends for hours about Simone’s disappearance and the murders of Rachel and Elana, but nothing happened; weeks pass and the cops are as befuddled as everyone else. One would think that the Shadyside police would have a few competent detectives, or be able to do something, especially given all the murders and weird things that happen around town. And the most sadly ironic thing about the whole book is that, in the end, no prom queen is ever crowned!

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