YA Weekend: You May Now Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Series: Book 1 of Return to Fear Street
Publisher: HarperTeen (July 24, 2018)
Length: 344 pages
Nostalgia’s a powerful thing. It seems that to this day, I cannot look at R.L. Stine’s name on a cover without feeling a thrill of excitement, remembering how my mom would take my brother and I to the library or bookstore as children, where we would both geek out over picking up latest Goosebumps book. Later, I graduated to the Fear Street series. Looking back, those weren’t exactly great books, but as a preteen, I adored them. Those stories provided me hours of entertainment and quite possibly the spark that resulted in my love of the horror genre today.
So yes, when I found out about Return to Fear Street, I was curious about the series’ latest revival (there had been others, which largely passed me by). My interest was further piqued by the cover to the first book, which kicks things off with a retro “pulp” look along with the tagline “two sisters, divided by time.” Sure enough, the story of You May Now Kill the Bride is presented to us in several parts, the first of which takes place in 1923, introducing Rebecca and Ruth-Ann Fear. These early chapters tell of how a bitter rift was formed between the two sisters, when Rebecca, the older one, causes a scandal by stealing Ruth-Ann’s sweetheart. However, on the day of Rebecca’s wedding at a lodge atop a scenic mesa, the groom commits an unspeakable act before all the assembled guests. Inevitably, Ruth-Ann is blamed because of the suspicion that she’d been dabbling in the dark magical arts of her family, and also because her anger over her older sister’s betrothal was no secret. What should have been a joyous day of celebration instead turns into a day of horror, tragedy, and death.
Fast forward to present day, and the story shifts its focus onto another pair of Fear sisters, Harmony and Marissa. Like her ancestor Ruth-Ann, Harmony has a knack for the family magic, which she has used in the past to play tricks on her siblings. But at Marissa’s wedding, taking place in the exact place of Rebecca Fear’s disastrous 1923 nuptials, Harmony goes a little too far with her pranks. Marissa goes missing, leaving her groom at the altar. At first, everyone thinks its cold feet, but Harmony doesn’t think so, after finding an ominous note in her sister’s room. Repeated failures to locate Marissa and reach her on her cellphone lead to the police being called to search the lodge and its surrounding gullies. Harmony is beginning to wonder if the stories about this being a cursed place is true, especially once she starts experiencing strange things happening to her.
First off, let me just put it out there: You May Now Kill the Bride isn’t likely to be the magnificent comeback you’re looking for, but damned if I didn’t have fun. And amazingly, while experience has taught me that few things are as good as you remember, I actually thought this was amongst the better Fear Street stories I have ever read. On the whole, the writing was also quite good, a step up from what I recall. Best of all, this book was an electric shot of nostalgia, just like I wanted. It has retained a lot of the series’ unique quirks, such as the corny attempts to end almost every chapter on a cliffhanger. Funny how little things in the writing like that could bring me such glee.
In terms of the story, I’ll be honest—I didn’t expect much. But again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Following the current YA trends, You May Now Kill the Bride clocks in at about 350 pages, or approximately double the length many of the original Fear Street novels used to be. I really appreciated the deeper character and story development this afforded. The horror was also well done. On some level, I think I had expected the campy, pulpy murder mysteries from back in the day, but of course, the genre has evolved a lot since then, and this return to Fear Street feels better suited to today’s YA horror readers who are more used to darker fare with a hint of the supernatural. Nevertheless, the content is still rather tame, despite the story’s more twisted and violent bits. Dubious plot points and questionable explanations aside, the ending even finished on a somewhat happy note.
Back when I used to read the Fear Street books, it wasn’t for the logic or artistry in the stories. I picked them up because they were full of fun thrills and silly teenagers meeting their untimely demises. In a way, this reboot of the series is in keeping with the same spirit, though I also think that it’s different enough to establish itself as something separate. That said, I don’t know if Return to Fear Street will be successful in attracting a whole new generation of R.L. Stine fans, as something tells me that these books would be better received by readers much like myself, for whom series like Goosebumps and the original Fear Street were staples of their childhood. We’ve may have all grown up a bit since then, but I still found great enjoyment and delight in reading You May Now Kill the Bride. If you’re looking for a nostalgia kick, I recommend checking it out.