As I said last time, reading all the Goosebumps books in the original series was just too much of a rollercoaster to convey in one blog.

 

R.L. Stine was never the most talented of authors, but he does have something of a knack for giving an audience just what they’re looking for. Still, when you’re cranking out 62 books over the span of 5 years, not to mention spinoff series, chances are you won’t be on top of your game every time. So now, to close this series on horror novellas and get back to movies and TV shows, here are the ten books in the series so bad they’re scary. But first, the theme song: http/www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIe6JwvnNoo

 

Dishonorable diss mention: I Live Your Basement

This is easily the sloppiest, most incoherent book in the series, but I can’t decide if I hate it for that or if I want to read it again. This is an off-the-wall onslaught of insanity that I will admit is never boring, and it does manage to be just a little creepy.

 

 

And with that out of the way, let’s get to the entries that I really don’t recommend

 

10. Don’t Go to Sleep

 

 

A boy bullied by his older siblings and regulated to the smallest bedroom decides to disobey his parents by secretly sleeping in the guest room, waking up to find that he’s been sucked into a nightmare. The setup sounds like standard Goosebumps material, maybe even good material at that. And to the books credit, it technically follows through on what it promises (save for the image on the cover). But this book is the series’ front-running example of stumbling at the delivery.

 

The “living nightmares” that the hero encounters can be categorized as one of two standard plots. One, the basic “be careful what you wish for” story, falls flat by going for laughs in a way that comes out annoying, letting the protagonist become the oldest sibling so the book can continue bullying him in the same manner. The other, a story about finding your way home from nightmare land before the thing gets you, is self-explanatory in its problem: “Nightmare land” is not in the least nightmarish, just the kid waking up as random people/things in the same neighborhood, and the thing after him, instead of, say, a remix of Freddy Kreuger by way of Return to Oz, turns out to be the “Reality Police.” The series has had bad entries, but few have been as off from start to finish, playing more like a six-year old’s attempt at sci-fi than the suspense-thriller it could have been.

 

9. Cuckoo Clock of Doom

 

 

A boy named Michael suffers a one-sided beat-down passing for a prank war at the hands of his little sister, whom his parents always side with. But when he attempts to even the score by framing her for touching their dad’s new cuckoo clock, time starts running backwards. This means we get to see him relive the Problem Child rehash that his life became thanks to his sister, before the obligatory “how to get to the clock and fix the damage before it’s too late” conflict. It’s most impressive achievement is making you hate pretty much everyone in it. The only exception is the one character we’re supposed to be laughing at (sadistically loving his suffering, maybe?), which is Michael, who’s pretty much a blank slate.

 

I hated this book when I first read it, more than any other in the series. Not only are the side characters insufferable, gullible idiots, the little sister is perhaps the most obnoxious character in the series. But though this is one of the few subjects on which my middle school-self might actually be the appropriate judge, I’m inclined to rein it in a little now. It’s a basic, solid story, even if it manages to cram in a lot more annoying material than most, and it has decent pacing on its cuckoo clock conflict. It even solves the main character’s sister problem at the end, which I suppose I should’ve appreciated. But the fact that it made me feel more deprived of the harsh, untempered revenge I’d been hoping to see is a probably a sign that 9th on the “worst” list is still warranted.

 

8. My Best Friend is Invisible

 

 

Sammy is the family black sheep for preferring sci-fi over actual science, and has only one friend, a girl named Roxanne. He finds himself stalked by some kind of ghost, who turns out to be an invisible boy named Brent. Brent wants to be Sammy’s friend, but his attempts to be friendly are everything from the opposite of help to potentially dangerous. I never had much investment in this one, probably because it’s not one I read when I was younger, so I’ll make this quick. Early on, it demonstrates what turns out to be about its standard for good storytelling by “casually” showing us the only invention we see from the parents: A flashlight that makes invisible organisms visible.

 

7. Say Cheese and Die–Again!

 

 

Greg, from the first book, includes the evil camera in his essay on what he did over the summer and gets an “F” from his grumpy teacher, Mr. Saur. (The book’s idea of “grumpy,” by the by, is a bastard who gets off on bullying children.) Greg then retrieves the camera from the abandoned house the gang returned it to, in attempt to prove his claim is true. But a few accidental pictures later, Greg can’t stop getting fatter, and his friend can’t stop getting thinner. (That, and a kid from the first few chapters gets a nail through the foot.)

 

The problem here is that’s pretty much it. Half of the first story was composed of the mystery behind the camera, and now that the characters know how it works, it should be pretty clear to everyone that they shouldn’t take any pictures. That aside, making people fatter and thinner is the least-interesting thing the camera has ever done. The series was suffering from a trend at this point of thinking that a supernatural menace amounting to nothing more than being a pain in the neck was satisfactory horror material. This book is the unfortunate epitome of that trend.

 

6. Deep Trouble 2

 

 

Billy and Sheena are once again traveling at sea with their uncle, Dr. Deep, and they’re keeping busy trying to scare each other. They come across a new brand of plankton that’s making all the animals eating it grow to enormous sizes. Then their ship is overtaken by Dr. Ritter and his thugs, who try to off the protagonists and use the plankton for their own needs.

 

It sounds like a standard episode of several generic adventure shows at once, right? This book, however, is the series’ crowning achievement in stupidity. Would you believe Billy trying to scare his sister into thinking he’s a shark by holding a gray pillow above water? Would you believe both of them are then actually chased by a shark, which is never mentioned again? Would you believe the three heroes escape Dr. Ritter in a lifeboat and spend a few days eating cocoanuts on a deserted island? Would you believe they escape by roping a friendly pair of dolphins? Would you believe the first thing they find is the boat again, picking up the exact same scenario they jumped out of a few pointless chapters ago? Would you believe that a character decides, instead of continuing the climactic struggle to prevent his opponent from calling the police, to turn himself into a fish forever and swim away? Would you believe I’m still not sure if I’ve conveyed the full amount of stupidity contained in this book? Yes, this one is a dud. But it’s so crazy that it might still be possible to be entertained by it, unlike…

 

5. Be Careful What You Wish For

 

 

Samantha Byrd is a klutz tormented by Judith Bellwood, the best basketball player on the team. She gets her chance to make it all better when she’s granted 3 wishes, all of which backfire through the most annoying, contrived technicalities imaginable. This makes the whole book a long beat down on the protagonist, whose helplessness and propensity for screwing up becomes downright pitiful. And it considers going out on simply the harshest blow yet an ending. I really don’t like this book.

 

There’s not much more to say. I kept waiting for this one to do something different, some form of back and forth with the conflict to make it engaging. But no, the entire book is just the story of how Samantha screwed up and the latest wish made things worse. This is quite possibly the most annoying of all the Goosebumps books. And yet, I never considered it for much higher than 5th, because with a complete beginning, middle and end, it at least qualifies as a story. Brace yourselves…

 

4. Chicken Chicken

 

 

Two kids accidentally knock over the town spinster, and she places a curse on them, whispering “Chicken chicken.” They spend the rest of the book slowly turning into chickens, pulling feathers out of their arms and leaving bloody holes in their place. Ew.

 

Arguably worse than annoying, this book is unpleasant. It’s not scary, and it’s not much of a story, but it’s definitely unpleasant. We simply watch them turn into chickens and try to hide it, suffering day by day, until they decide to confront the witch. I hope you weren’t hoping for a climax, because it turns out she cursed them to fulfull her obsession with teaching manners to rude little boys and girls. I don’t know if the most groan-inducing moment of the book is this revelation, the way they convince her to change them back, or what happens directly after this.

 

3. The Barking Ghost

 

 

Being menaced by “ghost dogs” is a more entertaining horror story than being turned into chickens, true enough. So, for that matter, is being turned into ghost dogs. But there’s one thing Chicken Chicken does that The Barking Ghost doesn’t do, and that’s at least wait until it’s almost over to let any story it was building come to a lame, screeching halt.

 

Two kids hear dogs constantly barking at them from the woods, until the investigate and are dragged by the dogs into the “changing room.” The dogs trade bodies with the kids, leaving them with the curse, and the rest of the book, spent with them trying to change back, seems to be under the impression that it’s giving us entertaining hijinks. I’m not entirely sure though, since it’s definitely not funny. Not only is the last portion pretty much useless, after a buildup that was nothing special in the first place, but the twist ending is one of the lamest in the entire series, as it’s really not an ending. This is one of the least-satisfying reads in the entire series.

 

2. Monster Blood 3

 

 

This was one of the first Goosebumps books I read, when I was about 10 years old. I knew nothing about the earlier books in the series. And yet, I was sure I’d like them better when I was done. Because even then, I could tell that I was reading an annoying story scrapped together from the others’ leftovers.

 

Evan and his friend Andy are tormented by annoying grade school prankster #???, Evan’s cousin, until they try to use their new can of Monster Blood to make the kid’s latest chemistry set experiment do something other than he intended. It accidentally shoots some Monster Blood down Evan’s throat, and he grows to an enormous size, just like he did in the last book. There’s not much more to summarize, but I do have a question:

 

How bored do you have to be with the concept of a living slime called “Monster Blood” to make even the characters treat it like a standard MacGuffin? There is no attempt at suspense or intrigue here. Evan grows, the other characters wonder how they’re going to set him right, and then they remember that the cousin invented a shrinking potion. You may also ask if the book attempts to do anything other than rehash what we’ve already seen, and I must admit, it does: It spends plenty of time on Stine’s two favorite obnoxious plot devices in the form of the mean prankster cousin and the loathsome bully from down the road. As per usual, neither are obstacles meant to be overcome. It’s just so much fun to see people making other people’s lives miserable.

 

1. Bad Hare Day

 

 

I read this back in the day, and I was disappointed. I reflected a little on how the annoying sister in it still wasn’t as bad as the one in The Cuckoo Clock of Doom and threw it over my shoulder. When I re-read it for this, speeding through the series, I considered how its stupidity stacked up to the rest and got caught up in comparing titles like I Live in Your Basement and Deep Trouble 2. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it would have to place first. Bad Hare Day wins out as the worst Goosebumps book for proving that sometimes, it’s not what you do wrong. It’s what you don’t do right.

 

This book loses whatever vague ambitions for a plot it had amidst all the worst tendencies of the series playing at once. It offers you nothing. It just takes. It’s annoying, via the standard mean sister who gets away with what she pleases. It rattles off magic tricks in attempt to create a story about a kid who wants to be a magician, sloppily covering that it doesn’t know anything about the subject. And it’s boring, telling us a tale with no arcs, no conflict, certainly no horrors, and three actual significant events; the first is that the hero steals a magic kit from a rude magician, which happens in the first act. The second is that the sister turns into a rabbit, which happens within the last 20 pages. (This turns out to be a temporary transformation with no detriments, but I’ll count it anyway.) The third is that they return to ask the magician they stole the magic case from for his help, discovering that he is a magic rabbit who now wants to hire the protagonist to join his act. There’s really nothing else. The kid tries to do magic tricks, and they don’t work, for one reason or another, padding out the entire story. Never was the series so fresh out of inspiration as it was in Bad Hare Day, and that is why it’s the last book in the Goosebumps series you should read.

 

And now, for one last trivia question: How many spinoff horror series did Stine get to follow up the original Goosebumps books with to date?

 

If you think 3, click here

 

If you think 5, click here

 

If you think 6, click here 

 

‘Till next time everyone.

 

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