07 November 2013

Retro Review: Lights Out by R.L. Stine

Title: Lights Out

Author(s): R.L. Stine

Genre(s): Horror, Young Adult

Publisher/Date: Simon Pulse / July 1, 1991

Series: Fear Street (Book #12)

Caution: Spoilers ahead!

Case Study

The trouble at Camp Nightwing begins with frightening acts of vandalism. After each incident, a red feather is left behind—a signature of the culprit. Camp Nightwing is on its last leg and with each incident, comes one step closer to closing its doors forever. Then, suddenly, one of the counselors is dead! An “accident" say the police. But Holly knows better--and she knows she's next! Between deadly sabotage she must also contend with ex-friends, potential boyfriends and jealous counselors. Will Holly survive the summer at Camp Nightwing or will it be lights out for her forever?

The Game’s Afoot

I’ve been a HUGE R.L. Stine fan ever since I was a kid, so when I found out the ladies at Forever Young Adult were going to revisit the Fear Street series, I decided to get in on the action. Lights Out was always my favourite book in the Fear Street saga so, naturally, it was my go-to pick for the re-read. I tried to remain cognizant of the fact that this book was written for children 20+ years ago, just to keep my expectations in check. 

Opening Scare: "Dear Chief, Here I am at Camp Nightwing, just as I promised. The other counselors are already here--and the lucky campers are arriving tomorrow. Everything looks cool so far. Don't worry about a thing, Chief. I'll make them pay. Every single one of them. Just as I promised you."

The Crime Scene: Camp Nightwing

"Holly looked at the trees looming at the edge of the campfire. Now that it was dark, the woods no longer appeared to be friendly and inviting, but instead seemed only to be full of dark, menacing shapes."

The Suspects: Just about everyone

Could it be Thea’s crush John? Why is he suddenly acting so cold toward Thea—what’s he hiding? Or is it Geri, Holly’s ex-BFF? She’s spiteful, mean and the bona fide Queen B of Camp Nightwing. We never really learn why her and Holly had a falling out, but is it enough to kill for? And then there’s Geri’s home-girl, Debra. This tough senior counselor is experienced in boating, crafts and making Holly’s life a living hell. Does she have it in for Holly, too? Doubtful since she gets killed. Or could it be the camp’s resident prankster, Kit? He has it BAD for Geri and pretty much goes along with anything she says/does. There’s also mysterious loner dude, Sandy. He seems nice… almost too nice. And then there’s Mick. At first he’s hot for Holly but after some blatant rejection, could he be out for revenge?

The Clich├ęs: Absent Adults

Whereas in most of these books, adults are conveniently absent or in on it, they’re present in the form of Holly’s lovable Uncle Bill and the police. Only they’re too busy to listen to Holly’s concerns. As things escalate, they start to view her warnings as the ravings of a paranoid city girl. Go figure.

Whodunnit: It’s Mick!

Just kidding! 

It’s actually Sandy. Sweet, kind Sandy. BOOM. Mick was just a red-herring. As it turns out, Sandy’s little brother died the previous year in a boating accident under the supervision of Debra. As payback for their negligence, Sandy starts sabotaging the camp and bumps off Debra in the process. Revenge is usually the motivating factor in Fear Street. Sandy’s plot to destroy Camp Nightwing doesn’t initially include hurting Holly, however, when her sleuthing gets too close for comfort, he has no choice but to try and eliminate her. Fortunately, Mick arrived in the nick of time to save the day!

Bonus Points: Cliffhangers + Murderous Confessions

I have to give my man, Stine, some serious bonus points for ending just about every chapter on a cliffhanger. THIS is what kept me going now and as child! I also really appreciated the murderer’s letters to “Chief.” In a big twist, you come to learn that Chief is actually Sandy’s dead little brother which really bumps up the psycho factor just a notch.

Closing Line: "He put his arm around her, and they wandered happily up the path to their cabins."

Summary Prognosis

I always hesitate when it comes to revisiting old favourites because I’m afraid that all appeal they once held will be lost, forever tainting any fond memories I may have had. But, ultimately, I’m glad I read Lights Out because I discovered something---sometimes it’s worth taking a stroll down memory lane. This book took me back to simpler times where reading simple books was enough. I expect a whole lot more out of what I read now, whereas then, all it took was a little mystery and a lot of mayhem to keep me turning the page. To some extent, I feel like a bit of a druggie when it comes to books—I’m always searching for my next big fix. Even when I find one, the euphoria I feel afterward doesn’t last very long. Call me jaded, but it’s a rare thing to find myself satiated en total by a book/book series. As a kid, this was not the case. Almost everything I read I found super enjoyable and I felt contented in that way readers do for a long time. So if revisiting Fear Street has done anything for me, it has reminded me of why I loved reading (and still do) in the first place. Overall, I’d say the book set out to do exactly what it needed to—it’s simple, creepy, effective and fun—everything you expected from R.L. Stine. In this case, a re-visit = a RAGING SUCCESS!

Rating: ★★★

Read It: AmazonBarnes & Noble
Discuss It: Goodreads Author's Website


  1. It must be interesting reading this as an adult and kind of stepping back to look at it differently while taking a trip down memory lane. lol about the whodunit reveal.

    1. I was hesitant at first, if only because of the expectations that were set during my childhood, but I tried to keep aware of it and it turned out to be quite the fun experience! I'd say, if you're able to keep your expectations in check then it's an interesting experiment.

  2. Hahahaha, I love this breakdown. So funny. Also, it's amazing how much better this sounds than Stine's offerings for adults. Seriously, what happened there?

    1. Ha thanks, Christina! Honestly, I haven't been brave enough to crack open one of his newer books BECAUSE I fear they won't live up to my high esteem.

  3. I love revisiting old favorites--it's surprising how some of them can actually be pretty bad, but still be entertaining. Makes you look at reading YA as an adult in a different way. ;) Great (and funny!) analysis.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

    1. Exactly. Sometimes I think it's best to let the memory suffice, but on occasion, I end up pleasantly surprised. This was one of those rare cases and I think it's because I purposefully kept my intentions low. It's certainly an interesting experiment, to say the least! :)

  4. Anonymous11/18/2013

    I REALLY need to read this book! I used to love RL Stine when I was a kid, so I would probably like this (I only read the Goosebumps series). More to add to the Goodreads list! :P


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