The Bookworm: Cheerleaders: The Second Evil

Cheerleaders: The Second Evil, by R.L. Stine. 167 pages. Pocket Books. September 1992.

And then Corky’s ear-piercing screams drowned out the roar of the whirring saw blade as she caught sight of Chip’s severed hand. Chip’s hand, cut off at the wrist, rested like a glove beside the blade. (p. 94)

Having read the first installment of the Fear Street Cheerleaders trilogy last October, I returned to the series last week with The Second Evil. It is the first book I have read from the haul of “new” Fear Street books I bought this summer. (Completing the Cheerleaders series was a priority.)

The story of The Second Evil picks up a month or so after the events of The First Evil. Corky Corcoran has quit the cheerleading squad, but Kimmy, Debra, and Ronnie ask her to return. They have all been through a very traumatic ordeal and feel they should band together for support and to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Corky, who misses her twin sister, Bobbi (who was basically boiled inside the locker room shower in the first book), reluctantly agrees.

Debra has become obsessed with evil spirits and the occult. She has even taken to wearing a black robe and a necklace with a crystal. (I think everyone can agree that the world needs more cheerleaders who wear black robes.) Debra tells Corky that the evil spirit they thought they buried and defeated at the end of the first book is still alive. And, like clockwork, guess what happens? Mysterious things start happening to Corky. A strange man with gray eyes begins stalking her, a tea kettle pours boiling water over her arm, and she hears screams when she returns to cheerleading practice. When taking an exam after school in a science room, all of the animal specimens come alive and she is attacked by a human skeleton. When she escapes, she seeks out Chip, her boyfriend, and finds his body in the woodshop, his hand severed by a circular saw.

Debra was right — the evil is still present. Supposedly burying it did no good. With the help of Corky and Kimmy, Debra unsuccessfully tries to find the spirit in the burned out Fear mansion using a ritual she read about. Things quiet down after Chip’s death, though, and the girls seem convinced things have finally returned to normal. That’s when the evil reemerges and tries to kill Corky — twice! In the end, Corky fends off the spirit again, this time drowning its host. However, The Second Evil ends with Corky receiving an ominous note, setting up a third and final chapter in the series: “IT CAN’T BE DROWNED.”

There is also a little side story about Corky’s interactions with a character named Sarah Beth Plummer, a local community college student studying the Fear family. Sarah Beth tells Corky and Chip, and eventually Debra, about the life and death of Sarah Fear, whose grave the evil spirit rose from. Corky gets suspicious when she sees Sarah Beth and the mysterious man with gray eyes in the Fear Street cemetery one night. The information Sarah Beth provides help Corky and Debra (and the reader) make connections between the past and the present. Will all the puzzle pieces fit together nicely at the end of The Third Evil? Given the disappointment of the 99 Fear Street series, I’m a little skeptical.

My memory of The First Evil was a little fuzzy since I read it last year, but Stine dropped a couple convenient references that helped me recall the most notable events: Bobbi’s death in the shower, Kimmy’s vicious rivalry with the Corcorans, Bobbi’s inability to catch Kimmy during a dangerous routine, and the tornado of dirt in the Fear Street cemetery. (How could I forget that?) All of them were at least mentioned, which strengthened the connection between the two books. Obviously, the continuity is both appreciated and vital to maintain the series’ story arc.

Just as I did with The First Evil, I assumed The Second Evil took place during football season. It was one of the reasons why I waited to read the book until now. However, the story begins in late-November, presumably after football season has ended, and continues through December and into January — basketball season! What sport will The Third Evil cover?

Much like the first book in the trilogy, The Second Evil was well written. I made sure to make note of a couple lines and graphs that impressed me:

The late-afternoon sun had lowered itself behind the trees, making shadows stretch all across the leaf-covered lawn. (p. 36)

It was a cold, clear night. An enormous orange moon hung low in the charcoal sky.

It doesn’t look real, Corky thought. It looks like a moon in a science-fiction movie. Everything seemed sharper and brighter than it should have been. As she made her way down Fear Street, Corky felt as if she could see every blade of grass, every leaf, in sharper-than-life focus. (p. 80)

Isn’t anyone here? she wondered. The vast school building was so silent that she imagined she could hear her thoughts echoing in the hall. (p. 93)

She could feel the panic well up. Could feel it deaden her legs — could feel the fear rise up from her stomach, tighten her throat. She could feel it pulse at her temples, hear it ring in her ears. (pp. 105–106)

And then there is this gem:

“Too bad you’re not in sixth period study hall. In the library,” Debra said. “You should have seen Suki Thomas with Gary Brandt. Well, Suki was giving Gary a sex ed. class. They didn’t even bother to go back to the stacks.” (p. 6)

Oh, Suki Thomas — that slut! I recently picked up the new (literally) Fear Street book, Party Games, and am curious to see whether or not Stine has abandoned the recurring characters, like Suki Thomas, or somehow included them once again. That dovetails into something else I am curious about: If Party Games is set in the contemporary era — all those recurring characters would now be in their late-thirties or early-forties — how does Stine incorporate modern technology into the stories? I will have to wait and see.

One last thing. The cover art for The Second Evil is, I think, hands down the creepiest of all the Fear Street books I have read. Instead of being cartoonish and over the top, it is understated and oh so effective at conveying the malicious intentions of the evil spirit. That look… Wow. Creepy.

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