Things That Go Bump

Re-Reading RL Stine's Bizarrely Beloved Goosebumps Series

Book the Twenty-First: Go Eat Worms! 04/05/2012

Filed under: Goosebumps — Christy Admiraal @ 5:43 pm
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Tagline: “Homework was never this gross before!”

Premise: Relatively unlikeable protagonist Todd is really into worms. He builds worm farms. He spends recess digging. He thinks of new and inventive ways to use worms as a means of grossing out his sister Regina and her best friend Beth. But after he cuts a worm in half in front of his sister and all the inhabitants of the worm farm, weird worm-related things start happening. Worms show up in his sandwiches, on his pillow, and other horrific locations. Naturally, it’s actually Regina planting the worms everywhere to get revenge on Todd for all his wacky worm antics. So Todd and his chubby sidekick Danny form a revenge plan of their own, a plan that starts with returning to their normal digging spot. They’re doing their worm thing when a giant worm bursts forth from the ground and attacks Todd. Fortunately, the worm gets scared off by a giant papier mache robin that Regina and Beth made for the science fair. A traumatized Todd becomes interested in butterflies instead, kicking the worm habit, as it were, and all is right with the world, perhaps even righter than before. In the inevitable twist ending, a giant butterfly shows up with a pin, clearly poised to make Todd a part of its human collection. Clearly.

Creepiness factor: This book is horrifying. But its horror isn’t based on fright so much as disgust. Todd’s unexpected encounters with worms are revolting, ranging from putting a capful of worms on his head to drawing a hot bath that steadily fills up with worms. Pretty sick stuff.

Signature Stine moment: They’re here in force! But since I haven’t used one of these in a while, here’s a string of questions that go unanswered.

“Who was it? Who was sneaking down to the basement?

Who was sneaking down to the worm tank?

Who?”

This, of course, would’ve been way better if the final “Who?” had been in all caps and italicized. But you can’t have everything.

Accuracy of title: Regina shouts this at Todd a lot. Accuracy achieved.

Moral of the story: Don’t antagonize your sister or engage in any hobby that involves harming insects. And definitely don’t do both at the same time.

Overall rating: 5/10. I’m not fond of worms, and unsurprisingly, Go Eat Worms! did nothing to endear them to me, nor did it endear me to Todd and his wormy weirdness, Regina and her bad catchphrase, or Danny and his science fair-winning balloon-based solar system model. Sad, I know. But hey, that’s what happens when a book is premised on worms and isn’t called How to Eat Fried Worms.

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Book the Seventeenth: Why I’m Afraid of Bees 03/13/2012

Filed under: Goosebumps — Christy Admiraal @ 8:40 pm
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Tagline: “He’s no ordinary human bee-ing…” (A welcome return to the proper ellipsis, but pun-wise, this is pretty weak. Think about the wealth of bee puns out there. This is as pathetic as the time George Weasley defaulted to feeling “saintlike” and “holey” post-ear loss.)

Premise: Protagonist (?) Gary Lutz is kind of a loser, ridiculed by his peers, his sister, his sister’s cat, and his beekeeping neighbor, Mr. Andretti. (He’s probably not related to race car driver Mario Andretti, but I bet he gets asked if he is a lot.) Fed up with only feeling comforted by the unfeeling presence of his computer, Gary decides he’ll check out Person-to-Person Vacations, an agency which would allow him to swap bodies with someone else for a week. He goes for it and ends up in the body of a bee when the body swap goes awry. A large portion of this book is devoted to Gary’s misadventures as a bee. He’s not very good at bee-ing (sorry) one, so he tries to get his old body back. Unfortunately, its current resident, Dirk Davis, refuses to leave, going against contractual obligations set by Person-to-Person. So Gary does the logical thing and stings him. Then Gary’s back to his old body, Dirk’s back to his, and, presumably, all is right with the world again. The last page alludes to the idea that Gary has retained some bee-like characteristics, like a taste for pollen, but there’s sadly no twist here, earned, hackneyed, hilarious, or otherwise.

Creepiness factor: Nonexistent. Kid gets turned into a bee and eventually returns to human form. That is literally all that happens in this book.

Signature Stine moment: It kind of feels like Stine’s phoning it in here, perhaps coasting on the waves of goodness generated by One Day at HorrorLand. So there’s not much to pick from in Why I’m Afraid of Bees. But I was able to find a combination of truncated sentences and hypothetical questions, so there’s that.

“Were the others following me? Were they?

Yes!

They didn’t want to let me escape.”

See, Gary’s talking about the rest of the bees from Mr. Andretti’s hives, and he’s trying to find a way to–you know what? Never mind.

Accuracy of title: Inaccurate. Horribly inaccurate. As Gary Lutz himself puts it on the penultimate page, “I’m not scared of any of the things I used to be scared of.” And one of those things was bees. How do you like that?

Moral of the story: Next time you want to patronize a business called Person-to-Person Vacations, don’t.

Overall rating: 4/10. Granted, anything was going to be disappointing after the pure ecstasy that was One Day at HorrorLand, which somehow seems even greater now than it did a week ago. Nevertheless, this is a worse than average Goosebumps title. Hopefully, the undue sequel to Monster Blood will be better somehow. Oh, one thing I did like: Gary Lutz is a lot like 30 Rock’s Lutz, so if you could just go ahead and ‘shop Lutz’s face over Gary’s in the cover art I put here, that’d be great. Thanks!