The Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
Halloween is a favorite holiday around our house. It runs a very close second to Christmas. We all get excited about decorating the house with creepy, spidery stuff and our kids take every opportunity to wear as many different costumes as possible. This past Halloween, Oct. of 2015, we kicked it up a notch with a special event - The Goosebumps Movie!

We all went, on October 31st, with myself and our 5 y/o IN costumes. And the movie was excellent, everyone liked it.

So for Christmas a few months later, we bought each of our kids a Goosebumps book. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena for our 9.5 yr old girl and Zombie Halloween for our 5.5 yr old boy. Because he’s all about zombies and fun scary stuff like graveyards and monsters. Since then, we've also checked out from the library these titles: Why I Quit Zombie School, Welcome to Dead House, and most recently, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp.

It is from reading those five stories that I formulate my opinion on Goosebumps. Honestly, regrettably, and unfortunately, I didn’t like the books. Our son was pretty indifferent on them too. His absolute favorite thing became simply looking at the back pages of each one to see the covers and titles of all the other books. And these promotional pages are certainly cool, since the titles are fun to say, the creatures are intriguing to think about, and the artwork on each cover is properly Goosebumpery. However, the stories themselves, just didn’t do it for either of us.

Now, I must say I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Stine. From a quick browse through Wikipedia, I estimate approx 200 Goosebumps titles, and his sales are said to be over 400 million books since the first one came out in 1992. Obviously, just to turn out that much quantity, and have that level of success, is quite impressive. But still, we didn’t enjoy them.

One thing which frustrated me over and over because it seemed so unnecessary was all the story time spent on kids being mean to each other, and the mundane arguments between brothers and sisters, and the kids and moms and dads bickering. These bits were not creepy, spooky or Goosebumpery and they always distracted from the monster parts--when they finally showed up.

For example, in “Snowman” almost the whole book is spent in Alaska just walking in the snow and the brother and sister argue. There’s only a small amount of time at the very end spent in Pasadena. When there, most of the action is kids being terribly rude to one another. I think I liked this one the least, since the overall story really made little sense.

And believe me, I get it, this shouldn’t matter that much because the point of the book is to be cool, creepy, and monstery. I don’t think Mr. Stine was ever intending to go for award-winning deep stories. Unfortunately, the creature parts never outshine the annoying arguing parts.

Zombie Halloween was pretty good. This was by far and away the best of the bunch we read. It featured a good amount of spookiness with solidly suspenseful sections and very little time spent on kids bullying and being mean to one another. Also it had a nice twist ending. If you are looking for a small taste of Goosebumps and your kids like zombies, get them, and aren’t truly scared of them, I can recommend Zombie Halloween.

We didn’t finish “Dead House” because it got a little intense for our 5.5 yr old. There are a lot of 10-12 yr old ghosts in the story and they invade the home (which is the Dead House in the title) of the two living kids who are the main characters, and things got pretty scary. So we stopped it and I cut to the end to make sure all was OK. It was.

“Zombie School” we quit reading because I didn’t want to tell our youngest what was happening, I didn’t care for the story at all, and I just couldn’t find any reason to gut it out and finish it. For me, it wasn’t fun/spooky/monster stuff. It was gross-out weirdness. The “undead” kids in the “Zombie School” barf, grunt and groan in the lunchroom and do strange things with food all the time. Worse, they leap from this really high balcony in the school commons area and splat to the ground while others look on, laugh, and cheer. Call me what you will, I simply didn’t want to have anything to do with all that nonsense.

Lastly, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp was the book our son was REALLY excited about because the werewolf scene is a super cool part of the Goosebumps movie. We made it all the way through this book but again, the story didn’t do anything for us. It’s all about the swamp, this weird hermit, and a stray dog. This sounds like the makings of a good mystery, yet it’s not there. SPOILER ALERT - the werewolf shows up about 5 pages before the end of the book. And this fearsome, furry, highly-anticipated, super-star of the book . . . is only casually mentioned in a quick, confusing scene that’s over in a few paragraphs.

Again, I realize these Goosebumps books were likely banged out as quickly as possible and exist merely to spook kids and gross them out. But I have to say, I’m fairly shocked at the non-monster-focused writing and I’m truly surprised we didn’t enjoy the ones we read. I feel like the collective memories that people have about the Goosebumps books, and the nostalgic feelings these memories provoke, are far better than the actual books. Perhaps the other 195 titles that we didn’t read, are more focused on monsters and have plenty of fun, exciting creature creepiness--without page after page of no action and kids just being annoying. However, we won’t be finding out since there’s too many other fabulous, wonderfully-crafted things out there to read.

All this being said - I do HIGHLY recommend the movie. I’m sure watching it will be a Halloween tradition for us for many years and I hope some sequels come out. Also, the movie related books are terrific. We have a Goosebumps Monster Survival Guide that is clever and enjoyable with awesome artwork. I expect we will be getting the Goosebumps Movie Activity Book as a birthday present for our youngest this summer, and maybe some book or movie themed puzzles as well because they look very cool. I bet the movie novel is a lot of fun too.

In conclusion, I say focus on the new movie stuff and let the actual Goosebumps books live on as creepy memories and fun feelings. Perhaps they are better that way!

Happy Reading!

P.S. I have a feeling our 5.5 y/o son won’t soon be giving up on the lure of these frightful tales. If, in the future, I concede and read some more with him, I’ll surely return here and let you all know how it goes!