Where evil twins and friends come together to lovingly snark Point Horror and other teen genre fiction
 

Recap #121: Goosebumps #45: Ghost Camp by R.L. Stine, a.k.a. “When Harry Met Lucy”

Title: Goosebumps #45 – Ghost Camp

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: Be all that you can’t see!

Summary: The Joke’s On Them!

Harry and his brother, Alex, are dying to fit in at Camp Spirit Moon. But the camp has so many weird traditions. Like the goofy camp salute. The odd camp greeting. And the way the old campers love to play jokes on the new campers.

Then the jokes get really serious. Really creepy. Really scary.

First a girl sticks her arm in the campfire. Then a boy jams a pole through his foot.

Still, they’re just jokes… right?

Initial Thoughts

This has been my all time favorite Goosebumps book since, like forever. I adore everything about it. I love the characters. I love the villains. I love the setting. I love the cover and that one single human girl who has got no idea what the fuck she’s gotten herself into. This is one of those rare books where you like the main character on purpose AND you manage to feel bad for the villains even though you know they can’t win. It’s also one of the more truly fucked up entries in the original series, and I wrote about it for “Endangered Bodies” via discussing the surprising sexual assault undertones.

I still have a completed jigsaw puzzle of the cover downstairs in my basement, and I remember when I was younger how I wanted the sneakers that had the girl ghost and camper on them. Of course, since those were the “Girl” sneakers, my parents sure as hell weren’t letting that happen. At the very least, I was lucky to get my copy autographed by Stine AND Tim Jacobus.

The reason I didn’t begin my Goosebumps recaps with this book right off is because I was waiting on a commission of the main characters, Harry and Alex Altman, from a dear friend who is also one of my absolute favorite artists. I refused to begin this recap until I was able to include the commission in this post, alongside another awesome piece I won in a tumblr art giveaway.

 

And now, that time has come.

[Wing: When I saw the cover, I could have sworn I’d read this one before, but the summary doesn’t sound familiar at all. We’ll see how this goes.]

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Recap #117: Graveyard School #27: Here Comes Santa Claws by Tom B. Stone, A.K.A. “Krampus 0”

Title: Graveyard School #27 – Here Comes Santa Claws

Author: Tom B. Stone/Nola Thacker/D.E. Athkins

Cover Artist: Mark Nagata

Tagline: N/A

Summary: This Year, Santa Doesn’t Care If You’ve Been Naughty Or Nice!

If Kyle knows what’s good for him, he’ll block up the chimney and lock all the doors. He’ll close all the windows and turn on all the lights. He won’t go to sleep and enjoy happy dreams. And he won’t hang up his stocking. Because this year…

Santa Claws is coming to town. [Wing: So many “claws” references in Christmas books, so few damn werewolves.]

Initial Thoughts

I got this book for Christmas in 2004, and it was the only enjoyable part of my 14th birthday. No, that holiday season. Things started off poorly the last day of school before break, when I had to leave early because I was sick. I wasn’t able to stop shivering, I’d never felt like that before. I thought I was going to die. On Christmas Day/my birthday I was still sick, and for dinner I ended up eating McDonalds in front of my Grandpa’s TV, alone, while my family ate dinner upstairs. For the next few days I was not only sick, but miserable and depressed. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I was getting older and how much I hated that. I was terrified. But I still read this book every holiday season because it’s one of my favorites in the series.

The reason I referred to this as “Krampus 0” because if you read this book before you saw the horror flick “Krampus,” you’d feel yourself wondering if the director read this book before the movie was conceptualized. [Wing: I watched Krampus for the first time earlier this year, and now I get a book version (ish) too? This is delightful.] I’m not going to lie, Kyle, the main character in this book, is a little shit. He acts like a brat and it’s easy to see he brings this on himself. But you’ll be surprised when the big showdown occurs at the end, and Kyle shows a lot of backbone. The real draw to this is Kyle’s slick aunt Mab, who just happens to share her name with a Shakespearean fairy queen. Gee I wonder why that could be? Oh also the giant mutant rats on the cover.

Now, I should mention Kyle first appeared in the ninth book, “The Abominable Snow Monster,” and that was his only appearance before this entry. For some reason, the summaries on Amazon and other book sites make it sound like this is a sequel to the “Snow Monster” book when it is not.

[Wing: God, I love this series so damn much. Enough that I was filled with joy over a bonus recap this month.]

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Recap #112: Nightmare Hall #7: Pretty Please by Diane Hoh

Title: Nightmare Hall #7: Pretty Please by Diane Hoh

Summary: Johanna Dunn is strikingly beautiful, just like all her friends. Until the accident. Now her perfect face is scarred and bandaged. She’s embarrassed by the strange looks she gets on campus – even from her closest friends. A pretty face isn’t everything, is it? Somebody thinks it is. Some thinks she’s plain old ugly now. Too ugly to live…. [Wing: Well damn, that escalated quickly.]

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Love the cover of this one, with the bandaged face looking back out of the mirror. Once again, I remember the identity of the Muffin Man all these years later. The concept of a killer going after a person they consider “ugly” may sound thin, but I think it’s quite unique, living as we do in a very looks obsessed society. Diane Hoh usually delves deeper into hot button issues than other YA thriller writers did at the time, so I’m hoping she finds some time for some light social commentary in amongst the thrills.

[Wing: I’ve never read this one before, but I like the idea that Hoh is going to take on the power of beauty in our society. I hope this goes well. And I don’t think it’s too far fetched for a killer to go after someone they consider ugly; just look at how fat people, for example, are treated. People casually call for their deaths all the time.]

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Recap #106: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Title: Fear Street #14: The Knife by R. L. Stine

Summary: Welcome to Fear Street

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself…and see if its dark terrors and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Quiet — hospital!

Sshh. There are a lot of things they want to keep quiet at Shadyside Hospital. In fact, just about every private room holds a private secret of its own. Poor Laurie Masters. The student volunteer innocently happened to stumble onto the hospital’s sickest secret of all. Laurie has seen too much — and now the doctors and nurses are taking a close look at Laurie. What they come up with is a deadly diagnosis. Laurie may not be sick, but she’s getting a prescription anyway — a prescription for horror!

[Wing: Oh god, that summary. That last line. I am dying. This is terrible.]

Tagline: In this hospital people are dying — to get out.

Initial Thoughts

I’ve never read this one before, and thank god I wrote this recap before I read that summary, or might have never read it at all. The book is a billion times better than that summary.

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Recap #103: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

book cover with window looking into white girl in blue bathing suit drowning in waterTitle: Nightmare Hall #6: Guilty by Diane Hoh

Summary: Katie Sullivan has everything – nice roommate, cool friends, and a great guy. Until the day she and her boyfriend are out on the river and their canoe overturns. She survives. He doesn’t. Katie can’t stop thinking about the accident, weighing the evidence, wondering if it was her fault. But someone else has already reached a decision about Katie. The verdict is guilty. The punishment is death.

Tagline: None.

Notes: I will now refer to the bad guy as “Muffin Man” because of The Mall.

Initial Thoughts

Thankfully, we’re back once again to a Nightmare Hall book actually written by Diane Hoh. Though none of the books so far have been as good as I remember, once again, I have distant memories of liking this one back when I first read it, especially the climax. [Wing: I love the window book covers for Nightmare Hall, but this one cracks me up. Is she drowning inside a room at Nightmare Hall? How is that even possible? If an actual pool, why does the pool have a window? Oh, cover designers. So delightfully ridiculous.]

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Recap #100: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

cover of Halloween Night II by R L Stine, has three figures dressed in skeleton outfits and black cloaks in front of a Halloween night backgroundTitle: Halloween Night 2 by R. L. Stine

Summary: Brenda isn’t really looking forward to Halloween this year. After all, it was only twelve months age that her best friend tried to kill her at a Halloween party and she’d rather not be reminded of that. [Wing: I’d rather not be reminded of that recap either.]

But her friends persuade her to take part in a Halloween revenge prank, guaranteed to scare the victim to death. And soon Brenda realises that she is never going to leave the terror of Halloween night behind…..

Tagline: Trick, treats and…death

Initial Thoughts

Hey guys, how’ve you been? I’m good thank you, a little under the weather-sore throat, headachy that sort of thing but nothing too serious just a typical change of weather cold. Speaking of, the weather has been great here, perfect Autumn weather very mild and breezy, some rain, the type were you can throw on a lovely warm jumper and go for a walk around the Common drinking a hot chocolate or snuggle up in bed with a good book and light rain tapping on the window. Work? Yeah work is going well thanks, except for the ridiculous amounts of stairs I have to walk up and down but at least my ass and legs will get toned-Amirite?

Huh? What’s that? Am I mindlessly rambling on about my daily schedule in order to avoid recapping this book? Now why would you suggest such a thing!? Questioning my work ethic and dedication? Well, yes you’re right I’m doing exactly that. This. Book. Gah. I only vaguely remembered this book before I read it. I don’t know what I was expecting but in retrospect I should have reread Wing’s awesome review of Halloween Night BEFORE I read Halloween Night 2: The EXACT Same Story But Suckier. Everyone in this book is insufferable and Stine has never met a cliff hanger he didn’t want to take behind a shed and get pregnant. That being said, lets all work together and power through. [Wing: NO. I refuse. I did my time. (Seriously, I’m grateful that Tuesday took this one on, because I could not do a repeat of the first book.)]

[Wing: Happy 100 recaps! You, our readers and podcast listeners, are the best part of recapping. You’re smart and funny and engaged, and we appreciate you so much! I’m thrilled we’ve made it this far, and I look forward to 100 more.]

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Recap #99: Fear Street: Halloween Party by R. L. Stine, A.K.A. “Niki Meyer Is Stunning And Brave”

Title: Fear Street – Halloween Party

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt

Tagline: There is going to be an uninvited guest at this Halloween party on Fear Street…

Summary: WELCOME TO FEAR STREET

Don’t listen to the stories they tell you about Fear Street. Wouldn’t you rather explore it yourself… and see if its dark terror and unexplained mysteries are true? You’re not afraid, are you?

Invitation To Terror

The invitation arrived in a black-boarded envelope. Inside, the card showed a coffin with the inscription “Reserved For You.” It was perfectly fiittng for an all-night Halloween party on Fear Street. But Terry and his girlfriend Niki wondered why they had been invited. They barely knew Justine Cameron, the mysterious transfer student who was throwing the party.

The party was well under way when the lights went out. That’s to be expected at a spooky Halloween party. But when the lights came back on, there was that boy on the floor with the knife in his back. Just a Halloween prank? Maybe. Maybe not.

For Terry and Niki the trick-or-treating has turned to terror. To their horror, they realize that someone at the costume party is dressed to kill!

[Wing: That is a very dramatic blurb.]

Initial Thoughts

This is by far one of the best Fear Street books, if not THE best. The cover artwork alone is stunning (despite floating pumpkin skulls aren’t actually involved in the book itself), and even with my love of holiday-themed horror, I’ve read enough reviews to indicate this is an Ensemble Darkhorse in the original series. The atmosphere and locations are vivid, and its heroine, Niki, is genuinely one of the best main characters Stine’s created in a sea of unlikable whiny, shallow, self-centered, hypocritical assholes. And not just because she’s “Special.” I even got my copy, which thankfully had the original artwork and not the dull reprint version, autographed by R.L. Stine. Seriously, this book is so good I never want it adapted into a movie or TV episode because I don’t think any other format could do it appropriate justice.

[Wing: I’m thrilled for this recap. All the Halloween recaps this year. All of them. Such a great time.]

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Recap #83: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps by R. L. Stine

Title: Even More Tales To Give You Goosebumps

Author: R.L. Stine

Cover Artist: Tim Jacobus

Tagline: N/A

Summary:  Reader Beware– You’re In For Ten More Scares!

Can Jeff convince his parents there’s a live mummy in the basement? Will Adam escape from a monstrous flying gargoyle? Is Brian’s boarding school turning kids into robots? Find out in these ten creepy Goosebumps short stories guaranteed to make you shiver!

[Wing: Stine is making a lot of guarantees with these books!]

Initial Thoughts

I’m not really sure what to say the theme for this collection is. The cover would have you think it’s summer related, but not really. It feels like some sort of middle ground between the first collection and the fifth, which was also the strangest. I think I can safely say you don’t really know what to expect from some of these titles, and they certainly are a bit more imaginative.

One story was adapted for the French novella line, and three of them got turned into TV episodes (one was a two-parter!). I think my favorite would have to be the last because it’s got a twist ending that’s definitely a lot of fun and won’t have you screaming in frustration.

Oh, and apparently this book came with a pair of actual boxers! [Wing: … what.]

For these subtitles I’ll be doing riffs on stereotypical anime and manga episode titles, like from Sailor Moon.

Oh and, Wing, hon, you’re really not gonna like the second story. [Wing: Greaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.]

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Recap #77: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

cover of The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson, has a figure in a black coat with its hood up carrying an ax, with the title and author information printed over itTitle: The Reading Buddy by Bryce Gibson

Summary: A SET OF keys jangled in my hand. The keys were my lifeline. One of them would be what saved the day. I held onto them as tightly as I could.

I was being followed. The man running behind me was my stepdad, Morris Heyward. He was holding an axe.

AFTER THE DEATHS of his best friend and stepdad, seventeen-year-old Blake Thomas can’t escape the memories of that night…the screams…the blood…the axe.

Now, Blake suffers from social anxiety and making friends at his new home seems impossible. With his therapist’s suggestion, Blake joins a social media site called The Reading Buddy. It is supposed to be a way for him to slowly step back into social relationships, and it doesn’t take long for him to become online friends with someone known as Charley17.

Recovery seems to be within reach, but once the school year starts, three local teens quickly pull Blake into their own circle, and soon it appears that Charley17 doesn’t want to share his new friend with anybody else.

The Reading Buddy is a Southern-set throwback to the teen horror and thriller novels from the 1990s and will keep you guessing until the very end!

[Wing: Oh dear. We’re kicking this off with yet another summary that is not so much with the accuracy, and is trying too hard to be Point Horror-esque for a book that really isn’t.]

Tagline: None

Initial Thoughts

Disclosure: A copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for an unbiased review. Or a lovingly snarky recap that may not be quite so loving, depending on how the story goes. Congratulations on book release day, Gibson!

This is the first time an author has reached out to us to have their book recapped, and I am both charmed and delighted by the opportunity and a little surprised. The author and publisher call it a book that will appeal to readers of retro teen horror from the 90s, which, you know, is pretty much our jam around here. I love a good southern horror, and I have high hopes for this one. I do worry that the marketing push to compare it to Point Horror and similar books is going to be a detriment; I’m going in with some solid expectations because I obviously know very well what teen horror and thrillers were like in the 90s. It’s kind of a specialty of mine. The summary and the marketing plan have driven home that this book will be that, and if it’s not, well … we’ll see.

Spoiler-Free Review

Because this is a new book, and you may want to read it without the spoilers of the recap, I’m going to start with a brief, spoiler-free review.

In short, I loved the first ¾ of the book, but found the ending badly paced, with whiplash characterisation. The book itself is very slowly paced, which is something I actually love, particularly in horror stories where the writing establishes the characters very well. That doesn’t not really happen here, but I still enjoyed the slow pace for a long time, until it finally because too slow, with too little happening. Spent a great deal of time adoring the main character and at least one of the side characters. Mostly handles mental health very well, until it veers sharply off track.

I think it’s a fun, entertaining read, but it makes a lot of style choices that I think you’ll either love or loathe, with very little in between. Like I said, it is slow, and at times almost seems to be leaning heavily into southern Gothic, but it never quite makes it. In the end, I think that’s my biggest problem with the book (except for the moment where Wing Goes Boom finally over mental illness); it starts to be a lot of things, and starts to have a lot of things, like strong characters and great relationships, but it never quite gets there. There’s a lot of build up for very little payoff (and I don’t mean in the plot, necessarily, but more in the writing style itself); it feels very surface level at times, when it was leading into a deep, profound setting and character-driven story.

I wanted more from it, and though I really did enjoy reading it, I’m also left unsatisfied and wanting more depth, more description, more characterization, more transitions — just more.

Per the marketing campaign from the publisher, it is being targeted to readers of retro teen horror — so, you know, us — and I can see why. It doesn’t quite feel the same as Point Horror or Fear Street or Nightmare Hall or Christopher Pike, etc. In some ways, it’s better. In some ways, though, it feels even more surface-level than they do. It certainly did invoke a ton of nostalgia in me, but not a lot related to the 80s and 90s teen horror. Mostly, small towns and high school football and marching band and werewolves. (You’ll see.)

I liked it. I’m glad I read it. I’ll reread it. But I am left not quite satisfied, and since the early part of the book was great enough it set my expectations high, that is even more frustrating than if it had been bad from the beginning.

Let’s do this.

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Recap #64: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Title: Identity Theft by Anna Davies

Summary: Hayley is going to have the best year ever. After years of careful planning, she’s ready to serve as student council president AND editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Ivy League, here she comes!

However, just before student council elections, someone creates a fake facebook profile for Hayley and starts posting inappropriate photos and incriminating updates. It must be the work of a highly skilled Photoshopper, but the attention to detail is scary. The embarrassing photos of “Hayley” in her bathing suit reveal a birthmark on her back–a birth mark Hayley has never shown in public. . .

The situation escalates until Hayley’s mother reveals some shocking information. Hayley isn’t an only child: She has a twin sister who was adopted by a different family. And that’s not all. Soon, Hayley discovers that her long-lost sister isn’t just playing a prank–she’s plotting to take over Hayley’s life . . . by any means necessary. [Wing: Note: NO STUDENT COUNCIL ELECTIONS. No fucking birthmark. And if I’d read the summary before the book, it would have given away the big twist. What the fuck, publisher?]

Tagline: Some friend requests refuse to be ignored… [Wing: Note: NO FUCKING FRIEND REQUESTS ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO HAYLEY.]

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:

The dedication reads: To the NYC crew: For always keeping me on the right side of sanity

Unsurprisingly, I am not looking forward to reading this book. I know I’ve read it before (and it’s the book that made Dove quit all new Point Horror until we recapped them), but I don’t remember a damn thing about it except that Dove hates it. I’m hoping for lots of Dove Goes Boom moments to get me through.

[Dove: Yep, I haven’t read this from beginning to end. I actually refused to finish it because it was so awful, so… I guess my feelings about this pointless waste of my time can be inferred from that. Also this will mean my comments are largely useless. I’m actually very much looking forward to Wing’s recap of this, because it means I’ll get to find out exactly how it happens without having to revisit the book itself.]

[Wing: YOU DIDN’T EVEN FUCKING READ IT THIS TIME?! DO YOU KNOW THE TERRIBLE BOOKS I’VE READ SO I CAN PROPERLY COMMENT ON YOUR RECAPS?! YOU LEFT ME TO DEAL WITH THIS ALONE?! WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, DOVE.]

(Here’s the podcast episode for this book.)

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