The Bookworm: One Evil Summer

One Evil Summer, by R.L. Stine. 163 pages. Pocket Books. July 1994.

Surrounded by a dark fog, Chrissy floated up onto the hood of the Mustang, her long legs dangling. With her head cocked to the side, she studied Amanda a moment before speaking. “You know, they say people use only a small portion of their brains. Well, I use all of my brain. I can do anything. Anything!” (p. 117)

I never thought I would say this about a Fear Street novel, but I’m going to: the second (and unfortunately last) book in my summertime Fear Street set, One Evil Summer, is a page-turner.

Amanda Conklin’s family leaves their home on Fear Street to spend some time in the oceanside town of Seahaven. However, instead of whiling away the summer at the beach, Amanda needs to retake Algebra in summer school at the local high school. Because she can’t watch her two younger siblings during the day, Amanda’s parents are forced to hire a live-in babysitter.

Enter Chrissy. While the other Conklin’s fall for her charm and kindness, Amanda senses that there’s something wrong about Chrissy. Her references cannot be reached, none of the locals know her despite the fact she supposedly lives nearby, and the family pets act defensively around her. Amanda tries to convince her parents that something is wrong, but they refuse to listen. Snooping in Chrissy’s room, Amanda finds newspaper clippings that provide clues about Chrissy’s past, but Amanda isn’t sure how everything fits together. Unfortunate events begin to befall the family, and Amanda lashes out at Chrissy and accuses her of having evil powers. However, the elder Conklin’s chastise Amanda and attribute her behavior and strange theories to feelings of inadequacy and rejection.

Is Amanda right? Is Chrissy evil? Or is Amanda just imagining everything? The reader is left wondering, especially since the book begins with a scene of Amanda in a mental institution. It plants the seed of doubt in the reader, which makes it hard not to keep reading. Thankfully, the book concludes with a complementary bookend that settles the debate.

I really liked that about this book — the uncertainty that tinted every event. Is it really happening or is Amanda just crazy? Of course I wanted Amanda to be sane, and mostly read the book with that mindset. But that uncertainty was always there, making me over-analyze and seek clues for another explanation.

Another thing I really liked was the supernatural element. Sure, it was a toss-up whether or not it was real or imagined, but I dug it nonetheless. I much prefer the Fear Street novels involving the unexplained and supernatural than those that are more grounded. I suppose I like them all, but I prefer the ones with ghosts and whatnot.

Unlike Sunburn, a couple things don’t add up in One Evil Summer. After finishing the book, a number of holes become evident. But I have to remind myself that this is young adult fiction. The characters are teenagers, after all, so why does it surprise me when they do something illogical, or don’t do something that seems totally logical?

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