[Book Review] April Fools by Richie Tankersley Cusick


You can fool some of the people some of the time...

One the night of April 1st, Belinda, Frank, and Hildy are driving home from a party when they get involved in a gruesome car accident. The people in the other car never could have survived the wreck, so Frank insists they take off. After all, what happened wasn't really their fault.

Two weeks later, Belinda is the only one who still feels guilty about the accident. Then the "pranks" begin. Someone sends her a bloody doll's head. A car nearly runs her off the road.

Obviously someone witnessed... or survived that car accident. And they're going to make her pay... slowly... for what happened.

April Fools' Day is over. But these jokes are for real.

If there's one thing Point Horror and Fear Street have taught me about the '80s and early '90s, it's that the punishment for covering up manslaughter back then involved death by pranks. Very odd, if you ask me.

In Richie Tankersley Cusick's April Fools, we have a plot that is essentially R.L. Stine's Dead End with an April Fools' Day gimmick. (Note that this comparison is based on which book I read first; April Fools was published five years before Dead End.) A group of idiot teenagers--Frank, King of the Fools; Hildy of the Skewed Priorities; and Belinda the Bland Everygirl--are on their way home from a party they were never supposed to be at when a drunken Frank grabs the wheel and starts ramming into the fender of a car that annoyed him; unsurprisingly, this ends badly. The other car careens off the road and explodes. Then, because they're very clever, compassionate, and noble individuals, the teenagers promptly make a pact to pretend the whole thing never happened. Just like in Dead End... and every other 80s/90s YA horror novel in which a group of teens accidentally kill someone.

After this stellar display of unquestionable morality, Belinda is the only one of the group who still cares that they killed some people. And Hildy isn't having Belinda's negative attitude.

Snap out of it, will you? It's over with. It's been two weeks, and it's over with. Besides, we made a pact and you can't break it. [...] For God's sake, it was a stupid joke! You know Frank--it was April Fools' Day, and he was the King of Fools! He doesn't take anything seriously on normal days. [...] You're being really dramatic about this. Your mom's gonna start asking dumb questions if you don't watch it.

Yeah, Belinda! Stop being so dramatic! We only killed, what, two people? I mean, c'mon; how many people do you think fit in that car we ran off the road, anyway? Five, max! Just chill, man! We got this.

But the audience is meant to sympathize with Belinda, so she can't move past her guilt that easily; Hildy's next argument is--what else?--that it wasn't really their fault and that they did everything they could to help.

How many times do I have to tell you, we didn't do anything. And we stopped at the gas station, didn't we? Well, didn't we? It wasn't our fault it was closed and the stupid pay phone was broken. Jeez, you're driving me nuts. 

Poor widdle Hildy!
I have no words for how much this character frustrates me, and that's before we've even gotten to page ten. Throughout the rest of the novel, she only gets worse; by the end of it, she's threatening Belinda with physical violence and her boyfriend, Frank, has threatened to tell the police that Belinda was the driver during the crash. Clearly, these three are the best of friends.

Beyond that, the bulk of the plot is typical Point Horror nonsense. The idiot teenagers get into trouble and refuse to take responsibility. The male friend behaves like an obnoxious prat. The female friend is catty for no discernible reason. The love interest does love interest stuff. The Everygirl protagonist gets scared of stuff. The idiot teenagers nearly die. Same old, same old.

As for the final reveal, I won't spoil it for you; I'll just point out that when you can easily tell who the surprise villain is by simply picking the least suspicious suspect, "not suspicious" becomes a suspicious trait.

Kinda lame, really.

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