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Retro Read: The Stepsister

By: MissM

Retro Read: The Stepsister!


It is time for us to take a peek into the wonderful world of young adult fiction from the nineties. I have never been one to shy away from my love of books. There is no discerning eye for a particular read either. I enjoy all kinds of books. My nose is never turned upward at a single thing. I do find it rather tiresome when boorish ragamuffins insist on being uppity regarding a hierarchy of novels. (I totally typed that in my Downton Abbey voice.)


Anyways, the king of all young adult book series in the early 90’s was of course Fear Street. I could enter tireless debates on the matter since there were a few wonderful series of young adult books during that time, but no other series managed to also end up on the news for rotting the brains of America’s youth with gore and horror. Fear Street caused so much concern for many parents that it’s in part due to all the controversy that the series flew off the shelves in the first place.


The Stepsister was my very first Fear Street book to read, and believe me, I nearly read them all. I was in the 5th grade and I had ordered The Stepsister from my Scholastic order form. I love that even in public school, shopping was encouraged. Say what you want about capitalism, but it certainly breathed life into class after lunch.


Anyways, after a terribly long wait for my book to arrive, my nerves and the nerves of my teacher, were finally squashed once my hands got to hold the spooky mysterious looking book.


I felt so grown up, “I’m finally going to get to read a Fear Street book!” It would have seemed that all the cool kids were reading Fear Street books, but back then, cool kids didn’t read. They were busy creating the social school caste system and finding out who would be ordering the pizzas for the weekend party at whoever’s house.


I felt cool though. Just look at the cover and I’ll explain why.


First off, the font for Fear Street just looked foreboding. As if to say, “What you are about to read will shock and disturb you.” I was a fan of horror movies so any chance I had to get a few scares in was fine by me. Some people love the rush of a roller coaster or jumping out of a plane, I love the rush of a good scary book or movie. I realize that the word ‘good’ is completely subjective. Fear Street might not be hardcore horror, but it scared me back then.


Anyways, so the cover seems interesting. Some brunette girl is reading what appears to be an important journal or diary, and in the mirror is a reflection of a blond with an icy death stare... and an outfit that makes my shoulders hurt. A caption reads, “When she moved into Emily’s room, the terror began…” The Stepsister… Dun-dun-dun. How could anyone not want to read this book? Let’s delve into the plot!


The plot is pretty simple. Emily and her sister Nancy welcome a new stepsister Jessie into their family. (Their mom marries a guy and he brings his kids into the fold.) Trouble usually brews in stories like these and sure enough Emily thinks her new stepsister is all Single White Female. All kinds of weird and terrifying things start happening that leads Emily into believing that Jessie is up to no good.


Plot wise, the story was meant to lead the reader on a thriller and an obvious attempt to make it seem like Jessie was some twisted evil stepsister, only the (read: sort of shocking) twist was that all the deviousness was actually created by Emily’s real sister Nancy! Apparently Nancy was harboring some sort of grudge with Emily for the death of their father. It was a bit convoluted, but that is expected with a Fear Street book and just why I love them so much. In the end Nancy is carted off to get mental help while Emily bonds with her stepsister.


This is of course a rough (very rough) condensed version of the story, but you completely get the point! I really enjoyed this story. I remember sneaking it with me in class and reading it whenever I had the chance. I was completely immersed! On my way home from school I’d sit in the back seat of my mom’s Caprice Classic just pouring through those pages until the “shocking” end. I can recall that exact moment when I finished this book. Isn’t that funny?


I can’t say that I recall my memories of every Fear Street book I read, but this was my first. The Stepsister also had a sequel, the aptly titled: The Stepsister 2. It continued the sordid tale of Emily and her wackadoo family, and was a somewhat enjoyable read; though nothing can beat that first trip to Fear Street.




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