The Bookworm: Wrong Number 2

Wrong Number 2, by R.L. Stine. 165 pages. Pocket Books. January 1995.

Farberson waved the pistol. “It’s got real bullets in it,” he said dryly. “I know you kids think this is some kind of Nancy Drew adventure story, but it’s not. It’s all real. And if I don’t get my money, I’m really going to hurt you.” (p. 133)

No, this isn’t some kind of Nancy Drew adventure story. It’s Fear Street!

And a Fear Street sequel, no less—because fans of the series apparently wanted more from the prank-calling team of Deena, Jade, and Chuck.

Yeah . . . not really.

Regardless, I could not buy and read The Wrong Number without buying and reading Wrong Number 2. (It’s interesting that the sequel’s title excludes The.) And to my surprise, the sequel turned out to be a worthwhile and intense read—albeit as boring and tedious at times as its predecessor.

So, Deena and Jade are back, but this time someone is calling and threatening them. “This is your wrong number. I’m going to disconnect your line. Real soon” (p. 11) threatens someone with a deep voice. Is it Stanley Farberson, the man Deena and Jade helped send to prison for murdering his wife in the first book? It can’t be, because he is behind bars for years.

In an effort to find out, Deena, Jade, and Chuck return to the house where it all happened—of course. (The characters seemingly find every conceivable excuse to return to Farberson’s house.) They then get involved in a search for stolen money that Farberson squirreled away somewhere inside. Can they find it before Farberson’s former mistress does? When Farberson is released from prison due to inadmissible evidence at his trial, things get really interesting.

In fact, they get INTENSE! The last 30-some pages of the book are riveting and include the most perilous and terrifying scenes I have read in the franchise. I was ready to pan this book for being humdrum and boring, but the end redeemed it, especially after it seemed the plot had died midway through the book. The climaxing chapters are an engrossing race against the clock. Though I assumed that the characters would escape and survive with just the slimmest of margins to spare, I found myself doubting that presumption. Are they really going to get out of this? I asked myself.

The end also features one of the more gruesome deaths in the franchise. It can’t top the death by potting wheel in Lights Out, and Stine thankfully chose not to describe it in as much detail as he could have (Deena averts her eyes), but it is no doubt messy and painful.

Deena’s half-brother Chuck is away at college in the first 30 pages of the book, so I did not expect him to be a part of the sequel. However, he makes a triumphant return and plays a prominent role, doing his best to throw a wrench in everybody’s sane, well-laid plans, driving the drama. For that reason, I visualized Chuck being David Spade’s rebellious son in Grown Ups 2.

Though nearly five years passed between the release of The Wrong Number and Wrong Number 2, only six months passed in the world of Fear Street. Since Wrong Number 2 features the exact same characters as the original book, you would except the two girls featured on the covers to look the same. Do they?

At first I did not think so, but after closer inspection, I think there is a resemblance.

Another interesting thing I want to note about the cover of Wrong Number 2 is the very questionable sticker placement by the online retailer I bought it from:

Yeah . . . not the best place for a sticker.

Speaking about Deena and Jade, here’s something that annoys me about the franchise as a whole: The female characters seem overly simplistic and stereotypical. Most of the female characters are very concerned about their appearance. The female protagonists always compare themselves to their “gorgeous” friends, who look like one movie star or another and have an impeccable and hip sense of fashion. (In Wrong Number 2, Deena compares Jade, who has an affinity for wearing cat suits, to Sharon Stone.) The female characters do not have many interests outside of boys, fashion, and gossip. The female characters are much better developed in the recently released Fear Street novels, but they tend to be oversimplified and stereotypical in the older books. How much of that has to do with the target demographic, which I assume is pre-teen/teenage girls? How much of that has to do with the oversimplified nature of the genre? How much of it has to do with Stine? The ladies on the We Know What You Did on Fear Street podcast have noted that Stine’s portrayal of teenagers and high school is antiquated, likely based on his own experiences as a high schooler in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I can see all of those being a factor, but I think the demographics and genre probably are the most likely culprits, especially since the male characters also tend to be simplistic and stereotypical.

Also noteworthy about Wrong Number 2 is the ad for The Wrong Number at the very end of the text. A couple lines after the conclusion is a kind reminder that, hey, this is a sequel: “Go back to where it all began! Get the whole terrifying story—read THE WRONG NUMBER.”

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