It’s five minutes to 1965. Beth should be at the party having fun with her boyfriend. Instead, she’s looking for her best friend, Karen. Suddenly, a group of men barge into the house with guns—they’re attempting a robbery. One man grabs Jeremy, Beth’s shy brother, puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. However, nothing happens because the gun is fake. The robbery was just a prank pulled by Karen and some seniors. Upset, Jeremy runs off. Beth follows him into his car. They’re driving recklessly in the snow when suddenly they hit a boy. They swerve, then crash.
The story jumps in time to the present day. Reenie, Greta, Archie, and Sean are all friends who enjoy playing pranks on each other. For example, Archie hides in Reenie’s closet pretending to be a corpse. Reenie starts to get the idea that their pranks are going too far, though, when she falls off a cliff and nearly drowns in a frozen lake. She has an uneasy feeling when Archie suggests she throw a house party but ultimately agrees.
Archie and his friend Marc come up with the perfect prank to pull at Reenie’s party. They will get Sandi, the most popular girl in school, to ask P.J., the new quiet kid, to the party. At the party, Sandi will kiss P.J., then pretend to die. This prank goes too far when P.J. actually dies from shock. Reenie and her friends are horrified, but the horror turns to confusion when P.J.’s body disappears. In the next couple of weeks, Marc and Sandi are both murdered. Someone is taking revenge on Reenie and her friends, but they can’t figure out who.
In addition to the supernatural elements, The New Year’s Party has relatable characters, who are not perfect. Like many typical teens, the characters try to justify their wrongdoings. In addition, the story includes fighting couples, friends who party together, and friends that have trouble with trigonometry. The story jumps back and forth in time, but the time differences are separated by chapters.
In the climax of the story, Liz, P.J.’s sister, invites Reenie and her friends to a New Year’s party. At the party, Liz reveals who killed Marc and Sandi, and chaos ensues. This exciting conclusion that connects the past to the present will shock readers.
The New Year’s Party is a gripping story that will keep readers turning the pages. Every chapter ends on a cliffhanger. The vocabulary is simple, and the plot moves quickly. Reenie’s friends play multiple pranks that always seem real, keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. In true R.L. Stine fashion, the book ends with a twist. The New Year’s Party is a good book for readers of all types who are looking for a quick, enjoyable read.
- Beth is at a party scanning the room for her friend when she sees a couple who “were making out in the corner.”
- When the clock strikes midnight, Beth’s boyfriend, Todd, “pulled Beth to him and kissed her.”
- Todd asks Beth if she wants to move to the stairs, where “four couples sat on the carpeted steps, making out.” Beth “didn’t want to make out in front of the entire party.”
- At Reenie’s house, Artie sat next to Gret, then “leaned forward and gave her a long kiss.”
- Sandi, a pretty, popular girl, slow dances with P.J. When the song ends, she “pulled P.J.’s face to hers. Kissed him. A long, slow kiss.” Reenie observes Sandi “kissing the helpless P.J. so intensely. . . her mouth moving over his, her arms wrapped tightly around his slender shoulders.”
- Before he leaves the party, Sean “pulled [Reenie] close and kissed her. Reenie wished the kiss would never end. She didn’t want to think about anything but the way Sean’s lips felt against hers.”
- Reenie is hiding under the bleachers in the gym so she can listen to Liz and Ty’s conversation. Reenie watches as “Liz gently pulled Ty’s head to hers and kissed him. A long, serious kiss.”
- A group of men with pistols crash a house party. One of the men grabbed Jeremy and “pressed the gun barrel against Jeremy’s head. Then he pulled the trigger.” The gun didn’t fire because it was plastic. The whole thing was a prank played by a group of high school seniors.
- Jeremy is driving recklessly on icy roads with Beth in the car. They saw a “dim figure” in the road before “something bounced on the hood with a heavy thud. A face appeared through the foggy windshield. A boys’ face, his mouth open in a scream of surprise. The boy dropped to the ground. The car rolled over him with a hard bump.” Because they are scared of facing the fact they just killed a boy, they do not stop to help him and keep driving.
- Jeremy lost control of the car on the icy roads. “The car smashed hard into the snowbank. . . [Beth’s] scream ended in a grunt as she was thrown forward and her head cracked against the dashboard . . . Beth felt warm blood trickle down her forehead.” Beth watches the car break “through the snowbank” and feels “shock after shock of pain.” Beth is able to crawl out of the car, but she later realizes she is just a spirit, and her body is still in the car, dead.
- As Reenie puts her sweater in her closet, she sees “bulging, blank eyes.” At first she believes it to be a “corpse” with “gooey blood, dark and caked, oozed over his head.” The corpse is actually Sean, and he was pulling a prank on Reenie.
- Reenie falls off the edge of a drop-off that overlooks a lake. “She was falling, sliding and tumbling, down the snowy hillside. It knocked the breath out of her. She struggled to gasp in air.” She falls onto the frozen lake, and her “hip smashed against the hard surface. She let out a small moan of pain.” As she is walking to the bank, “the ice beneath her gave way with a groan. She slid into the freezing, black water.” Struggling to get out, “she thrashed her arms, trying to pull herself back up to the surface. . . her head hit the underside of the ice. ‘I can’t breathe,’ she realized. She pounded on the ice with her fists. Clawed at it.” Reenie passes out, but Sean rescues her.
- As Artie speeds into an intersection with Reenie in the car, another car hits them. Reenie heard “metal slam against metal. Shattering glass. The car spun, slamming her into the door. . . She felt the seat belt biting into her stomach, as she was thrown forward. Then she lurched back against the seat.”
- After Sandi kisses P.J., she shoves him away and “uttered a long, frightening moan. . . She sank to her knees, her eyes wide, her mouth hanging open. . . Sandi crumpled into a heap on the floor.”
- Artie and Marc are working in the garage when Reenie and Greta come over. Artie leaves Marc alone in the garage. Marc’s friends hear “a high, ragged scream of terror” come from the garage. When they rush to the garage, they see “a body lay sprawled over the shiny red hood. Marc’s body. Blood dripped from his mouth and nose and his head . . . was twisted around on his neck . . . completely backward.” Marc was murdered.
- Reenie leaves Sandi alone at the Burger Shack. When Reenie comes back, she finds Sandi dead in a trashcan. “Sandi’s eyes stared blankly at the ceiling. But she lay on her chest . . . Her head had been twisted around backward. And her face held the same terrified expression. Her blue eyes wide with horror.”
- Liz is holding Sean, Greta, Archie, and Reenie captive. Sean holds a knife as he demands that Liz open the door to let them go. Liz “threw herself at Sean,” who “toppled to the floor with Liz on top of him. . . His body twisted and thrashed as he tried to throw Liz off.” Liz “tried to choke” Sean but Reenie “grabbed Liz by the shoulders and struggled to pull her off Sean.” Liz “tore at Sean’s wrist with her teeth,” causing him to drop the knife.
- Once she regains the knife, Liz “grabbed Sean and pressed the blade against his throat . . . Reenie saw a drop of red blood roll down Sean’s neck.”
- While Reenie distracts Liz, Sean “grabbed Liz around the waist. He pinned her against him with one arm—and grabbed the knife away with his other hand.” Liz “stumbled into [Sean]. And the knife plunged deep into her chest.” Everyone is frightened, especially when, “No blood poured from the wound.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Reenie has a house party and runs into Marc. “He stood so close she could smell the beer on his breath.”
- At the party, Reenie notices Artie’s eyes look watery, and thinks, “Great. They’ve both been drinking.”
- Artie threatens P.J. after P.J. dropped a weight on him. Artie says, “I’m going to get that little creep, P.J.” Artie goes on to call P.J., “You little jerk!”
- After he describes their “dumb practical jokes” to a police officer, Sean admits he sounded like a “total jerk.”
- After they crash the car, Beth and Jeremy realize they are dead. They can see their bodies in the car. Jeremy tries to get back inside his body, but he can’t. He cries, “My arms passed right through my body!” Beth realizes Jeremy is starting to fade. Beth feels herself fading too. “Only the darkness remained. Everywhere. Closing on her. Claiming her.”
- It is revealed that Liz and P.J. are the same people as Beth and Jeremy; they just changed names. Their spirits somehow reappeared solidly enough for them to act like real people. They died in a car crash thirty years ago, and they were trapped for years in a “cold, gray place.” Liz explains, “As the years passed, we grew stronger. And then suddenly we were back. Back in our old bodies. People could see us and hear us again.”
- Ty confesses he was the boy Beth and Jeremy ran over, and he was also brought back to life to get revenge.
- As the clock strikes midnight, Beth, Jeremy, and Ty fight with each other. “Liz and Ty and P.J. whirled around, tugging each other as if in a mad dance. Faster and faster. Waves of icy air swept off their bodies. . . A ghostly whirlwind.”
- Beth, Jeremy, and Ty disappear once the clock strikes midnight. “A high, shrill whistle pieced Reenie’s ears. Louder. Shriller. Until Reenie covered both ears to shut it out. And the three ghosts began to fade. . . They faded to shadows. Then the shadows faded to smoke. A spinning column of smoke . . . The smoke faded. And floated away.”
by Jill Johnson