The Bookworm: The Boy Next Door
The Boy Next Door, by R.L. Stine. 147 pages. Pocket Books. June 1996.
Maybe he doesn’t hate me after all, Crystal thought. He probably didn’t even see me on Sunday. He must have been angry at something else when he kept slamming that hoe into the ground. (p. 25)
Why was the boy next door slamming that hoe into the ground? Because he is one disturbed mofo. However, that does not keep Crystal, her best friend, and sister from obsessing about him, from fighting over who he will ask out first.
Of course, it would not be any fun if they ignored him.
Having finished the Fear Street Saga, The Boy Next Door marks my return to the much more engaging horrors of modern day Shadyside and Fear Street. I was just not a big fan of the Saga miniseries. Not only did the saga of the Fear family and the legend of Fear Street not live up to the hype, the stories were not that interesting. The third book, the finale, was an especially boring bomb (despite the fact I did not mention that in the review; at least I’m saying it now). And, boy, is The Boy Next Door a triumphant return!
The Boy Next Door tells the story of Scott, the boy who moves in next door to Crystal and her sister, Melinda. He’s hot, the new star of the football team, and quickly becomes the obsession for Crystal and her best friend, Lauren. They compete to be the first one Scott asks out. However, something’s not right about the boy next door. Scott seems to be hiding something and has odd fits of anger, as that poor garden hoe found out. Nonetheless, Crystal, Lauren, and eventually Melinda are dying to get to know him better—literally.
The Boy Next Door is one of the better Fear Street books I have read. It is not super cheesy, there is very little convenience, if any, and the story is solid. Stine does a good job of introducing the characters and developing the plot. Much of the book is written through Crystal’s perspective, but Stine makes things interesting and puts readers into Scott’s head. That allows Stine to effectively provide useful insights and background information that may have otherwise been revealed through cheesy convenience.
There are a couple things that are not explained, but do they need to be? This is, after all, young adult fiction. I keep having to remind myself of that, but I cannot help feeling cheated. What exactly is Scott’s major malfunction? Stine provides hints through glimpses of Scott’s home life and inner thoughts, but nothing concrete. Grr!
The story also does not take place in early summer, as I expected from the publication month. Instead, it takes place during late summer, at the beginning of a new school year. I thought the publication month is usually a good indication of what season the events in the book take place, but I always seem to be proven wrong.
One cool thing about this copy of The Boy Next Door is that it features information about the “What Should Happen to Honey” contest to help Stine write The Best Friend 2. (Perhaps all copies of The Boy Next Door featured the same info.) According to the ad in the back, after The Best Friend was released, “hundreds of you wrote in to tell us how unhappy you were with the story—you wanted Honey to pay for her evildoings... Now the book YOU demanded. Write in and tell us: ‘What Should Happen to Honey?’” Readers could submit an essay no longer than 500 words explaining what should happen to Honey. Stine would then choose the essay he liked the most and write The Best Friend 2 in October 1997 using ideas based on the winning essay. The essays were due August 1, 1996, and only those 16 and younger by the deadline were eligible. (I would have been eligible.) The winner received five copies of The Best Friend 2 signed by Stine.
A couple things came to mind when I read about the contest. First of all, it amazes and intrigues me that readers wrote Stine and voiced their displeasure about a book. I would have never thought to do that when I was a kid. I doubt I would do something like that now. If I don’t like what happens in a book, it is what it is and I deal with it; I don’t feel the urge to write the author and complain. (I write a blog post!) Secondly, The Best Friend and The Best Friend 2 just shot up the list of Fear Street books I need to get. I can’t wait to read the unsatisfying first book and its crowdsourced sequel!