is a series of horror novels for young adults by prolific American author R.L. Stine. Written between 1989 and 2005, the series eventuated in an additional spinoff series comprising stories with lighter plots for younger children, called Ghosts of Fear Street.
More mature in content than its spinoff (or Stine’s most well-known series, Goosebumps
), Fear Street
follows a number of teenagers who befall grim fates in suburban environments while they negotiate the unique uncertainties and anxieties of adolescence.Fear Street
takes place entirely in a fictional city called Shadyside in the 1980s and 1990s. In each of its installments, a lone protagonist or group of friends, all ordinary teenagers by any measure, run into evildoers, often but not always supernatural. The books traverse the genres of fantasy, horror, murder mystery, suspense, and detective fiction, often including elements of multiple genres in a given plot. Many of the plots end in violence, death, and despair, and are highly graphic in nature. Fear Street
gets its name from a street of the same name in Shadyside, the site of many of the series’ horrors. The street was initially named after the Fier family, but its spelling changed after rumors spread that the family had been cursed during the Puritan era.
Fear Street’s origin story begins with the descendants of a husband and wife, Simon and Angelica Fier, who moved to Shadyside at the end of the Civil War. Simon’s ancestors, Matthew and Benjamin Fier, had wrongfully accused a mother and daughter, Martha and Susannah Goode, of being witches. After the women were burned at the stake as a direct result of their lies, Martha’s husband sought retribution by cursing their progeny to death by fire. Several Fiers survived and appear occasionally throughout the series.
A number of recurring characters either participate in or are referenced in multiple stories. Most notable among them is Cory Brooks, initially the protagonist of Fear Street
’s first novel, The New Girl
. In this story, the high schooler Cory is infatuated with a new classmate, Anna. When he tries to learn more about her, he finds that his friends have never met her. After he fails to find her family’s name in the town records, he comes to realize that she is a ghost. Other stories deal with seemingly innocuous minutiae of adolescent life that quickly grow sinister: in The Wrong Number
, for example, a man named Chuck accidentally misdials a phone number, reaching a psychotic murderer who proceeds to stalk him and his half-sister, Deena. Other stories follow the impact of human mistakes or misbehaviors on the non-human world. In Cat
, a high schooler named Marty kills a cat that has taken up residence in the gymnasium. Though he expresses remorse, he faces some unexpected just deserts when a gang of cats begins to follow him wherever he goes, seeking revenge for their friend’s death.Fear Street
is an extensive, loosely connected series, set in the backdrop of a single town but suggesting, through its plots, a pervasive aloneness. Stine’s cumulative suggestion, as he explicates the fates of its people, is that adolescence (and life in general) is frightening and unpredictable; occasionally subject to karma, but also able to dole out injustice and unearned terror.