The Bookworm: Cheerleaders: The New Evil

Cheerleaders: The New Evil, by R.L. Stine. 199 pages. Pocket Books. December 1994.

Hot tears rolled down Corky’s face. Her entire body trembled. “I miss Bobbi so much! I think about her every hour!” Corky said, sobbing. “I think about my poor sister and the horrible way she died. And I don’t want the evil to be back! I want it all to be accidents, Debra! All accidents!” (p. 69)

On Christmas Eve, I not only watched Silent Night, Deadly Night for the first time, I finished this festive tale—Cheerleaders: The New Evil.

Yes, Corky and company are back, doing backflips, cartwheels, handsprings, tuck jumps, and fighting evil—all while cheering on the Shadyside High Tigers!

When strange accidents start befalling members of the Shadyside High cheerleading squad (again), Corky, Kimmy, and Debra suspect the evil is back (again)—despite the fact Corky thought she vanquished it once and for all at the end of The Third Evil. In an effort to protect themselves and dispatch the evil with spells from a book Debra found at a used book store (because those work every time, guaranteed), the trio of teens makes things worse. As the casualties on the squad continue to mount, and the evil begins wreaking havoc on the boys’ basketball team, Corky hopes she and her friends can figure out who is possessed and defeat the evil (again) before it’s too late.

Cheerleaders: The New Evil is not a bad book. Despite the fact I find it amazing that the evil is back for a fourth round, and that there are even cheerleaders left to be victimized, this book is a good read. There is a lot of action and excitement, and the mystery surrounding the evil and whether or not it is defeated (again) kept me guessing until the very last chapter or two. It kept my attention and entertained me.

It’s been a long time since I read a book in the cheerleaders miniseries, so my memory of the first three books is very fuzzy. Thankfully, Stine kindly inserts convenient and much appreciated back story to bring readers up to speed. Needless to say, I was very happy to get a refresher.

One thing I love about this book is the seasonal setting: December. It’s basketball season, snowy, cold, gray. The days are short and the nights come early. It’s fitting, of course, and exactly why I read the book now. Plus, there’s no better time to read a book with a menacing Santa on the cover. The descriptions of the snow and cold reminded me of winters when I was a kid, when it seemed like it was colder for longer and there was a lot more snow. (Winters are not as consistent as I remember them. They’ve been much milder since I returned to the Midwest.) The book also reminded me of going to basketball games in high school. Though it’s cold and snowy outside, it’s warm and cozy inside the gym. The squeak of sneakers on the court, the smell of sweat hanging heavy in the air, fans’ one-sided arguments raining down on the referees. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. . . . Not really, but it is magical in its own way, and Stine captured it very well.

Cheerleaders: The New Evil is the most nineties Fear Street book I have read yet. Yes, just about all of the books in the original series were released in the 1990s, but this book features a lot more cultural references than any other I remember. The crash test dummies are mentioned in the first chapter, characters wear Dr. Martens boots, Corky plays Mortal Kombat with her little brother, Jay always wears a Mighty Ducks hat, and Corky’s little brother eats a Fruit Roll-Up. (When was the last time you ate a Fruit Roll-Up? I bet it’s been about 20 years since I ate one, yet I can remember exactly what it tastes and feels like.) Dr. Martens and Fruit Roll-Ups may not be specific to the nineties, but both were very popular during the decade. Regardless, Stine laid it on thick! Even the cheers were nineties: “HOOP—there it is! HOOP—there it is! TWOOOOOOOOO POINTS!” It’s so corny, I got goosebumps. Part 2 is titled “Game Time,” which I assume is a reference to the Chicago Bulls’ iconic pregame chant.

It’s easy to see that Stine loves these cheerleader books. I think he even mentions on his website that the miniseries is his favorite. Confetti cannons, flaming batons, elaborate and dangerous stunts—Stine is always finding imaginative ways to inflict pain on these poor cheerleaders. Whatever can go wrong does go wrong—much to the dismay of Corky and her teammates. At a certain point in this book, I found it hard to believe that the school’s administration had not stepped in to suspend the cheerleading squad because of everything that has happened. How many cheerleaders need to be seriously injured or die before an adult at this school says, “I think it’s high time we stop having a cheerleading squad”? Being a cheerleader at Shadyside High is obviously detrimental to one’s health, so much so that it surprises me anyone wants to be a cheerleader in Shadyside.

To my amazement, though, this is not the end of the cheerleaders miniseries. It looks like there is one more book: Cheerleaders: The Evil Lives! I definitely need to track that one down.

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