by R. L. Stine.
Scotty has been with his girlfriend forever. He’s the star quarterback; she’s the bubbly cheerleader. They are about to go to Princeton together. He has been promised a position in her father’s architecture firm after graduation. The perfect life is being handed to Scotty on a silver platter. But then he cheats on his girlfriend with a redhead from the wrong side of the tracks, and a one-night stand turns into a nightmare when his spurned fling refuses to let him go.
Scotty is unlikeable from the outset. He is ungrateful to his girlfriend’s parents; a bad sport during his football game and sulky at the post-match bonfire. When he picks up his tormentor-to-be, Shannon, just a few pages into the book, I would happily have seen him offed there and then. But instead he has a couple of nights of fun before ditching the unsuspecting ‘fling’ in time for his girlfriend’s return from holiday. Admittedly, Shannon is creepy. Her small physique, childish voice and whispered threats give her a sinister edge. We are afraid of what she will do next as her behaviour towards Scotty becomes increasingly erratic and violent. However, at no point do I sympathise with cheating-Scotty and herein lies the main problem with the novel.
The Girlfriend is essentially Fatal Attraction for the teenage market, right down to the pet homicide. Which means that it raises the same questions for a modern audience as the Glenn Close movie. Why is the ‘other woman’ the villain of the piece? Why not the man who cheats on his partner, then lies to her to cover up his transgressions whilst physically and mentally abusing a woman whom he must surely realise is not of sound mind? Like the movie, the book ends with a violent confrontation involving all the points on the love triangle. However, like the movie, the lack of sympathy for the ‘bunny-boiler’ grates against modern sensibilities. And Scotty’s ability to dust himself off and carry on with his perfect life intact just makes me want to off him myself.
There are several gruesome moments which are very well executed by R. L. Stine (the bisected snake, the broken fingers) and Shannon is not someone you would wish to be enemies with. However, the lurking ‘brother’ from whom Scotty is desperately trying to avoid a beating doesn’t provide the scares he might and is essentially just there to facilitate the novel’s denouement. Furthermore, because I was cheering on, rather than being afraid of, Shannon’s crazy actions, The Girlfriend only merits a fear factor rating of…