If you’re an adult who enjoyed R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS series as a kid and/or his FEAR STREET series as a teenager, then his new RETURN TO FEAR STREET series, beginning with You May Now Kill the Bride (2018), will surely pluck some of your nostalgic heart-strings. (The distressed, much-read appearance of the cover is an obvious nod to that very appeal.) I devoured Stine’s work as a young reader, so I wondered, what would my slightly-more-mature self think of it now?
The answer is that I wasn’t blown away by the quality of Stine’s writing nor his subject matter, but You May Now Kill the Bride was fun in a melodramatic paranormal soap opera kind of way. The biggest appeal for me was the nostalgia factor, and Stine didn’t disappoint: I remember staying up late under the covers to read his earlier FEAR STREET novels by flashlight, thrilling as his teenaged protagonists fought against or embraced their demonic-lite heritage, and I would say that’s probably the best way to read his later books, too. Don’t take anything too seriously, don’t think too much about how the plot points converge, and you’ll be just fine.
This is a tale of two weddings, separated by generations: the first takes place in the early 1920s, a time which is exceedingly good for the wealthy Fear family; the second takes place “this year,” and is replete with cell phones and modern slang. The first wedding is Rebecca Fear’s, although if her younger sister Ruth-Ann has anything to say about it, it won’t be a terribly joyous occasion.
There’s a curse haunting the Fears, one that requires a member of the family to embrace the dark witchcraft flowing through their veins, and which often causes tragedies to occur over and over again. The second, but narratively more significant, wedding is Rebecca Fear’s, and the disruptive factor is her younger sister Harmony — though what Harmony does is nothing compared to what fate seems to have in store for Rebecca. If Harmony is to make things right with Rebecca, she’ll have to call on all the power at her disposal, an act with unimaginable consequences.
It’s pretty easy to figure out what’s happening within the present-day timeline, as Stine’s strong point has never been subtlety, and character motivations may as well be spelled out in neon lights. (Or LEDs, depending on your generational preference.) There are a few red herrings sprinkled hither and yon, but they’re quickly discarded. Stine goes heavy on the dramatic tension and uses multiple love-triangles to complicate the plot, and the teenagers are either annoyingly overblown or completely accurate, depending on the reader’s experience. And the ending was exactly as I expected — not for nothing do I consider Stine’s work a good starting place for younger readers who aren’t quite ready for Stephen King, who also never met a happy ending he didn’t like, no matter how much more satisfying a downturn might be.
I can’t speak to how it will appeal to its intended contemporary YA audience, but You May Now Kill the Bride was fun for me to read, and I recommend it for older readers for whom a nostalgic trip down memory lane is exactly how they want to spend a weekend afternoon.