‘Fright Night’ is a horror story that takes place within a attraction called Fright Night where people pay to go through an extreme course and be subjected to all their biggest fears. Throughout the book there are multiple different character’s points of view that show how things go wrong at Fright Night, from the perspective of both attendees and workers. This is a personal story in which the lives of multiple characters combine to explain a tragic backstory and its lasting affects.
I give this book 3 stars (out of five), because the story was really good and there were lots of well placed plot twists but I think the delivery and writing could’ve been improved. I thought the basic concept of this book was really interesting and something that could totally be used to write a terrifying horror story. That concept being, a haunted house or Fright Night that is run or taken over by people who actually want to hurt the attendees, won’t stop or take the experience too far. There is lots of potential for horror stories within that scenario and this book took it in a completely different direction from what I expected.
Just a warning for the plot summary, this story is very complicated and complex for a number of reasons (showing multiple different points of view, flashbacks, plot twists, etc). So, in this summary I will be telling the story as the reader is led to believe and then go over the ending separately and explain the plot twists.
The beginning of this book is just a simple introduction to the characters, although it is clear that the main character Dylan has a hidden and mysterious backstory. We meet him, his best friend (who he lives with) named Quin and their other friend Sofia. While these characters, their lives and relationships are being explored and explained to the reader we are also introduced to a whole other set of characters; Kelly, Sandy and Nell. Kelly and Sandy (both guys, despite their names) are young adults living in housing for misguided people to help them get used to living on their own and eventually become normal members of society again. Nell is a neighbor who lives next to them and is supposed to be a positive influence.
Anyways the main plot starts when Sofia brings up the topic of Fright Night, it’s a horror filled night in the woods where people will be exposed to their biggest fears. Dylan, Quin and Sofia decide to sign up and Kelly and Sandy end up working as actors. Around the same time Sofia decides to visit Dylan’s old house to try and take some pictures for a birthday present. A neighbor lets her inside the house and she takes a picture of Dylan’s mom and a young boy that was in a frame (with the neighbor’s permission) and a postcard recently sent there. The foreshadowing starts when she reads the back of the card; “One day I will kill you.”
Later on it’s Fright Night and when Dylan, Quin and Sofia get there they end up paired with Nell and another guy named Martin. Together they start going through Fright Night, following the path and getting scared by actors every now and then. As they get farther and farther into the night group members start getting called forward to face their fears. Quin’s fear of fire or cremation and then Sofia’s fear of bugs, although Dylan ate the cockroach she was supposed to (because he didn’t want her to have to go through the fear that he’s experienced in the past). But when Dylan finds the picture (Sofia took from his old house) in her jacket pocket, he loses his cool. Sofia had already been on to him, he was lying about his limp and she knew there were things he wasn’t telling her. But Dylan freaks out and ends up getting in a physical fight with Quin, after that they get into another more emotional verbal fight and Dylan decides to leave. He walks through the forest in the dark for a while until he emerges on the other side of the woods and he ends up going back to his old house. The rest of them continue with Fright Night and I won’t spoil anything here, but let’s just say Kelly and Sandy overhear Nell talking about them and decide to take over Fright Night.
Here there will be spoilers, skip the rest of the summary if you want to avoid them.
Dylan’s story starts to be shared when in the aftermath of him leaving Quin reveals to both Sofia and the reader that the boy in the photo is not Dylan. Dylan has an older brother named Kelly, who was taken by social services. Kelly really, really liked Nell but he overheard her talking about him to Martin, and it turned out she lied to and misled him. So Kelly and Sandy decided to kill or at least hurt her and by extension the rest of her group (and they have a knife with them). They turn the direction of the sign and lead the group off track, luring them into the woods towards an abandoned bunker. Meanwhile Dylan decides he has to get back to Fright Night to apologize to his friends after discovering one of his neighbors gave Sofia permission to take the photo. Dylan sneaks back into Fright Night and finds where his group went off the path, he follows their route into the woods.
Dylan and Kelly’s backstory:
What happened is that they had a single mom who was abusive to both of them in different ways, she neglected Kelly but had MSBP (Munchausen syndrome by proxy) with Dylan. She made him pretend he was sick and hit him when he didn’t do what she said. One day when Dylan snuck out of bed to try and explain to Kelly what was going on, their mom snuck up behind him and pushed Dylan down the stairs (which is why he really has a limp). But she made everyone even Kelly believe that he was the one who pushed Dylan and he was removed from the home. Later on Dylan also moved in with Quin’s family because he wasn’t safe and their mother now lives in an institute for the mentally ill, but he still visits her every Sunday.
Back to the present storyline:
Sandy stabbed Martin, I don’t really need to get into details here and honestly I think his only motivation was that Martin hurt his best friend and he likes hurting people. Pretty quickly after that Kelly realized that what was happening was insane and out of control so he stopped Sandy and everyone ran away. On their way out they ran into Dylan making his way towards them. Upon explaining the situation to him Dylan decides he has to go back and talk to Kelly, Quin and Sofia go with him while Nell brings Martin to safety outside of Fright Night.
When Dylan goes back he has a very emotional and tense conversation with Kelly and Sandy, he finally explains his side of the story. Kelly was neglected and their mom only ever cared about Dylan, you can see why he did not want to listen to Dylan. But he explains that he wasn’t really sick, he had to pretend to be. Because that’s what their mom wanted and he’d get abused too if he didn’t play along. It makes sense, their mother hurt both of them in many ways, but she also turned them against each other. After Dylan finishes his story Kelly softens, he believes it. But Sandy does not, and he’s the one with the knife. Sandy tries to stab Dylan… but Kelly runs in front of him and gets stabbed in the chest. They call for help as soon as they can but it’s too late. Kelly is dead and Sandy is taken away by the police, and that’s the end of the action. But it’s not quite the end of the story, Dylan’s story ends with closure. He starts to move on and instead of visiting his mom, he recognizes everything he still has and spends a day at the beach (figuratively).
Normally I would really appreciate that the point of view switches between a few of the different characters, especially since in this case it was used to show two different sides of the same story. But although I do like this in theory, in this specific book it wasn’t used perfectly. Because I think it can get a little bit messy and confusing at times if you don’t pay close attention, mainly at the beginning when we’re still getting to know the characters. And there were too many coincidences or things that at least in my opinion seem too convenient and unrealistic. One character would think about something and in the next chapter after the point of view changes a different character will be internally thinking about the exact same thing without any clear connection. Or for another example, Sofia moves something in Dylan’s room and later on he immediately notices and jumps to the conclusion that it was her, even though that doesn’t really make sense and wouldn’t logically be the first thing he assumes.
I just think things like this happened too often and that leads me into my next point, which is basically the same thing except it applies to inconsistencies or things that are just too plot convenient outside of the changing perspective. There are even more examples of this, like when Sofia visits Dylan’s house and there’s just a random neighbor there to let her in. Honestly, to me the entire time I was reading this book it felt like the author planned everything out beforehand in or in earlier drafts but forgot to make things feel natural in the final draft. It just feels like everything fell into place too perfectly, without logic backing it up.
Similarly to the switching point of views I also liked that the chapters varied in length, from upwards of 5 pages to only a single page. I think this also slightly increased the sense of realism because it switched from person to person and gave the readers information on what they were feeling or thinking in that moment. Overall having chapters of different lengths is just something I personally like to see in books and I wanted to point it out, especially because it was used effectively here. There’s also some time switching, the beginning starts right before Fright Night and then it cuts to five days earlier, but besides the beginning everything else is in chronological order. I think this foreshadowed the upcoming events very well.
One of my more random and less pressing criticisms is that the author never stated the main character’s age and I honestly was picturing the characters way younger than I should’ve until I found out they were like seniors in high school. I would just suggest slipping in some context on the character’s age in the beginning to avoid confusion, but it was fine the way it is overall.
The plot twists in this book were actually very, very well done. There were three main ones and I only saw one of them coming which is pretty good for such a short book (under 200 pages). I think this story used the plot twists really well, even more so with the use and tool of multiple perspectives, because the author used that to reveal information to the readers and other characters while also keeping up with other characters.
I have mixed feelings about flashbacks in books generally, because when used well they can be a really interesting mechanic but when done badly it’s just an overused way to give the reader information. In Fright Night while I was reading at first I didn’t really like the flashbacks because I thought they were happening too often and I would’ve rather just gotten Dylan’s backstory and then started to read about what was happening in the present. But as I kept reading they grew on me, I actually started liking them and now looking back I think they were used effectively to spread out the information and even mislead the readers at certain times. These flashbacks were also placed and timed to go along with the current storyline and they showed how Dylan’s past and trauma was affecting him and his actions/decisions in the moment, which was helpful to understand his motivations and intent.
(Skip to the last paragraph to avoid spoilers)
Okay so now I need to mention something that really confused me when I was first reading this book, I don’t know what else to call them other then, Murder Poems. There are eight poems throughout this book, they’re all only titled Murderer and have a general foreshadowing vibe (since they talk about a murder that hasn’t happened yet). They all appear to be written by the murderer but besides that the reader has no indication of who is writing them. I call them poems but they aren’t really, some of them are only one sentence or question. But they’re all chilling and clearly written after the ending. I think that the poems seemed to be placed and worded to imply that Kelly was the one writing them, which makes the end reveal even better. It was very, very weird to find out that the person actually writing them was Dylan. But it makes a lot of sense looking back on them after that reveal. The last poem is titled ‘Murderer?’ and it clearly shows that Dylan feels like he is the murderer because if he had acted differently than Kelly wouldn’t have died. Dylan takes responsibility for his death even though he wasn’t the one with the knife, which is why all the other poems make sense; he thinks of himself as the killer. I definitely did not see this twist coming and I think this was a really unique addition to the story that made it even better and built up the tension.
I mentioned this before but this book does a great job of showing both sides of the same story, I thought it was super interesting to show how both Dylan and Kelly thought of each other differently and had lived in the same house but under completely different circumstances. When they meet again in the forest for the first time in years there’s obviously some confusion and miscommunication between them, but at least in the end they were both able to understand and realize that their mother was the one in the wrong not either of them. I think this part was very well done, although other situations needed to be more realistic, this one actually made some sense.
I also really liked Dylan’s glasses and how they played into his character. He never needed glasses but he kept wearing fake ones even after he stopped living with his mom. And as we’re shown through flashbacks they were one of the only times he slightly fought back against her, and he always wore them as a reminder of that. It was Quin breaking them that set him off and made him really angry. It’s a similar thing with the key necklace that he always wears, when he goes to his old house and instantly uses the key, it makes a lot more sense. But at the beginning of the story it was a total mystery. These two items are pretty important to his character and show what he’s been through, I personally liked the inclusion of these details.
Overall I found this story to be good and very interesting. I gave this a lower rating because I felt the writing quality was lower than it could’ve been but I still really appreciate and needed to bring up that this was actually based on someone’s real story. The main character Dylan was exposed to a certain form of child abuse and I have to give props to the author for getting a real victim’s story to make this part of the book as realistic as possible.