The Bookworm: The Burning
The Burning, by R.L. Stine. 179 pages. Pocket Books. October 1993.
The victims, the phantoms of the past, Fears and Goodes, roared around the room, their cries louder than the thunder of the flames. They swept round and round, faster, faster, until they became a raging whirlwind of pain, of brutal death. (p. 179)
Though I have a number of season-appropriate, summertime Fear Street novels lined up for the coming months, I decided to tackle the grand finale of the Fear Street Saga miniseries, The Burning, before reading anything else.
In The Burning, Nora Goode concludes her historical account of the Fear-Goode feud and the curse that has plagued the Fears for centuries. (With all the bad luck the Fears had been cursed with, I’m surprised the family survived as long as it did.) She covers a lot of ground and time, from Simon’s move to antebellum New Orleans and his courting of Angelica, the family’s aspirations and tragedies in Shadyside after the Civil War, all the way to the Fear family’s fiery end at the beginning of the 20th century. The Fear family’s saga was long and bloody, and the conclusion needed all 179 pages—the most of any non–Super Chiller book from the original series that I have read.
I have been following a Fear Street fan account on Twitter for a while and often see retweets of people saying the Fear Street Saga is their favorite miniseries. I can only scratch my head and wonder why.
I don’t get it. Perhaps it is because I am not much of a miniseries guy; I enjoy the standalone books so much more. But it’s also because I am hugely disappointed in the Fears’ saga. The Burning is very anticlimactic. Stine could have done so much more with the miniseries; there are so many missed opportunities to make the Fears’ story live up to the legend. However, perhaps that was by design since the real story often does not live up to the legend.
But come on—this is Fear Street! You can’t tease readers with tales of sacrifices and all sorts of unspeakable evil—which still haunts the street and affects just about everyone in the city—and not live up to it.
That brings up a shortcoming of The Burning: despite how much time and ground is covered, it does leave out a lot of time. What happened during that time is never mentioned, but the Fears’ reputation was cemented during those decades. Why not briefly allude to what happened, how the Fears became so infamous?
Why am I still expecting clarity, closure, and completeness from young adult fiction? Good question! These books were cranked out every couple weeks so it should be no surprise that some of them don’t satisfy.