Title: Goosebumps #10: The Ghost Next Door
Rating: * * *
Hannah is convinced that a ghost has taken up residence in her town. During a boring summer holiday while all her friends are away at camp, she meets a new boy who has supposedly lived next door for several years. Hannah decides that he must be a ghost as surely she would have noticed having a neighbour? As she follows him around, she realises that he isn’t the one haunting the neighbourhood, she is, and her purpose in coming back is to save him from dying in a horrible accident.
The Ghost Next Door is one of the most affecting and emotional books of the series. Its strengths lie not in the spookiness of the story, but in the emotional feelings that it inspires. It has no twist ending. Instead, the finale is heartwarming, though also bittersweet. My only issue with this novel was the cruelty of the young boys who broke into and set fire (accidentally) to older man’s house simply because he was a grump. It was a rather disturbing addition to an otherwise sweet story.
Title: Goosebumps #11: The Haunted Mask
Rating: * * *
The kids at school think that Carly Beth is a giant scaredy-cat. After one particularly vicious prank leaves her in tears, she decides that she needs to find the most horrifying Halloween costume so that she can get revenge on the two boys who slipped worms into her lunch. She visits a local costume shop, and discovers the most terrifying masks in the backroom. When the owner refuses to sell one to her, she runs off with a mask anyways, and finds out quickly that her Halloween costume is something far more sinister than a piece of plastic. After she puts it on, it fuses to her skin, and she starts to develop a crueler, more monstrous personality…
The Haunted Mask is a Goosebumps classic. It’s probably the most well-known novel of the series, was the first story to be turned into a TV episode, and is one of Stine’s most remembered books. Upon re-reading, it holds up! Carly Beth is a likeable protagonist, and she changes for the better by the end of the novel. There are parts of the story that don’t make all that much sense, but overall, it’s a creepy and scary Halloween story that should feel just real enough to a kid to offer an appropriate number of chills.
Title: Goosebumps #12: Be Careful What You Wish For
Rating: * ½
Samantha Byrd is an awkward pre-teen who just can’t seem to catch a break. She’s constantly bullied by a fellow classmate, and all she wants is a fresh start. When she helps a mysterious woman, Clarissa, across town, she’s offered three wishes for compensation. As the title suggests, however, wishes must be carefully used. Every time Samantha wishes for something, her desires come true, but with terrible repercussions. She becomes the best basketball player when everyone else on the team falls ill. When she wishes to be left alone, everyone in the world disappears. And when she wishes that her bully was actually her best friend, she ends up with a stalker in her closet. Clarissa gives Sam one more chance, so she wishes that her bully was the one to meet the mysterious old woman. However, the bully’s first wish turns Sam into a bird, giving her a fresh start, but taking away her humanity.
The plot of Be Careful What You Wish For is not particularly innovative. The riskiness of wishes appears throughout many fables and stories, and this particular book does little to add to the mythology. However, it is quite possibly one of the first times that a young child is introduced to the trope, so it is probably best that the message remains simple. What is unforgiveable is the personality of the main character. Sam is whiny and petulant, and she never thinks before she acts. Given the fact that her first wish taught her just how dangerous thoughtlessness could be you would think that even a twelve year old would pause before using her wishes. However, Sam is not particularly talented at patience and forethought, so she suffers through a terrible series of situations, and an even worse fate.