Sunday, January 29, 2006

#25 Attack of the Mutant



#25 Attack of the Mutant

Front Tagline: He's no superhero. He's a supervillain!
Back Tagline: Read At Your Own Risk....

Official Book Description:
Skipper Matthews has an awesome comic book collection. His favorite one is called The Masked Mutant. It's about an evil supervillain who's out to rule the universe!
Skipper can't get enough of The Mutant. Until one day he gets lost in a strange part of town. And finds a building that looks exactly like The Mutant's secret headquarters. A building that appears and disappears.
Has Skipper read one too many comic books? Or does The Masked Mutant really live in Riverview Falls?

Brief Synopsis:
Skipper Matthews is an overweight comic-book collector who loves collecting many comics yet only reads one, the Masked Mutant. The Masked Mutant is an evil supervillain who can change his molecular form into any solid material. He is constantly opposed by a league of superheroes lead by the Galloping Gazelle, the world's fastest man. Skipper has a friend named Wilson who is into collecting rubber stamps and attempts at various times throughout the novel to share his passion with Skipper to no avail.

One day while riding the bus to the dentist he meets a pretty redhead girl named Libby who strikes up a conversation with him about comic books. He gets so caught up talking to her that he gets off on the wrong stop and spots a building that looks exactly like the Masked Mutant's headquarters! He almost goes inside the building but he is late for his dentist appointment and decides to come back. The next day he comes back to see the building but it has disappeared! Later that night he goes home and reads the newest issue of the Masked Mutant that has arrived in the mail for him and sees that in the comic book the Masked Mutant has put an invisibility cloak on the building.

Going back the next day, Skipper runs into Libby for a third time and the two decide to see if they can access the invisible building and sure enough they enter successfully. When they arrive a yellow light ray scans over Skipper's body but has no apparent effect on him. The two venture into one of the building's elevators and are whisked down to the basement of the building. The two get seperated and while alone Skipper finds a large printing press and layouts for the last issue of the Masked Mutant. Skipper concludes that the building is likely the headquarters for the comic book publisher, completely ignoring the fact that most comic book publishers do not employ invisibility cloaks around their buildings. While leafing through the layouts Skipper notices a series of panels for the next issue, and the new character drawn within looks exactly like Skipper! At this point Libby reappears and makes Skipper leave with her.

That night Skipper gets home and there's another new issue of the comic waiting for him. Inside the issue Skipper spies drawings of himself walking around the headquarters with the words "A NEW FOE" written about him. Skipper also finds out that the Galloping Gazelle has been held hostage in the Mutant's headquarters and that only "the Boy" can save him!

So Skipper returns again to the headquarters, alone as he doesn't run into Libby, and makes his way up the elevator to rescue the Galloping Gazelle! He finds the bound superhero tied to a chair in an unlocked room, unties him, and the two leave the room to confront the Masked Mutant. The Galloping Gazelle is convinced that Skipper is a superhero and keeps drilling him for his secret power as they make their way to the Mutant's private offices. The Galloping Gazelle informs Skipper that his plan is to run around and around the Mutant at such a fast speed that he becomes a cyclone and sucks the Mutant into submission. Suddenly the Mutant morphs out of hiding (he was disguised as office furniture) and the Gazelle makes good on his plan. However the Mutant outsmarts him and sticks his foot out, tripping the Gazelle. The Mutant then transforms into the form of a Leopard and tries to eat the Gazelle (get it?).

The Galloping Gazelle escapes the Mutant's leopard clutches and abandons Skipper with the Mutant as he makes his escape. The Mutant returns to his normal form and he too starts to drill Skipper about his secret mutant-power. The Mutant lifts Skipper all the way up to the ceiling of his private office and is about to drop him to his death when Libby appears in the doorway!

The Mutant safely sets Skipper down as he goes to confront Libby. Libby removes a yellow toy gun from her satchel and tells Skipper that if this is really a comic book then anything can happen, so she tells the Mutant that the toy gun is a Molecule-Melter. The Mutant doubts her and he advances as she pulls the trigger. The gun fires at the Mutant and the Mutant melts down into nothing! Skipper is overjoyed, it worked! Libby tells him of course it worked, after all, it is a Molecule-Melter, and Skipper is next!

Skipper then watches as Libby transforms into the Masked Mutant. Turns out that the previous Masked Mutant was actually the Magnificent Molecule Man, who worked for the Masked Mutant. Besides being a pretty shitty boss, the Masked Mutant also informs Skipper of another dasterdly deed: He has turned Skipper into a comic book character. The mysterious yellow ray when he first entered the building was a scanner and it scanned him into the comic book! With no hope of escape the Masked Mutant prepares to destroy Skipper until Skipper stops him by announcing that he's not actually Skipper! No, he's THE COLOSSAL ELASTIC BOY in disguise! The Masked Mutant shakes his head and goes "I knew it!" During the course of a couple lines of dialog, Skipper accidently reveals that nothing can harm him but sulfuric acid. The Masked Mutant sees his window and transforms himself into a wave of acid. Skipper barely misses the wave and the acid eats into the carpet.

Skipper made up the whole thing about being the Elastic Boy. Since the Masked Mutant could only transform himself into solids, Skipper had tricked him into transforming into a liquid and thus the Masked Mutant was unable to return to his original form. Skipper returns home and, having had enough adventure for one day, decides not to read the new comic that has arrived for him in the mail. He celebrates later that nite by having some chocolate cake with his little sister.

But the Twist is:
As Skipper is cutting the cake, he cuts his hand and discovers he bleeds ink.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Skipper Matthews, the comic-collecting narrator, befriends Libby, the cute redhead girl on the bus who disappears inside a Supervillain Fortress halfway though the novel.

Confusing Chronology Alert:
At least four new issues of the same comic book title arrive at Skipper's house within a five day period.

Questionable Parenting:
Skipper's father threatens to throw away his son's comics yet never actually does. That's poor parenting, Skipper's Father. If you don't follow through on a threat of punishment, your child is never going to listen to you.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Todd McFarlane's Spawn, shoes with pumps, shoes with lights.

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Libby asks Skipper if he sees "a shrink."

Foreshadowing Alert:
An attractive young girl befriends an unpleasant overweight comic book collector. Bells should be ringing.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 2/3:
Skipper is reading about an octopus in a comic when suddenly something wet and cold grasps his neck! Oh wait, it's just his little sister who put her hands in the freezer to make them cold. Wait, what.

Great Prose Alert:
My head was spinning faster than The Amazing Tornado-Man!

Conclusions:
Before he wrote "scary" books for children, RL Stine was a comedy writer and this entry in the Goosebumps catalog is a return to his "funny" ways as the book is not a scary story or even an attempt at a scary story but an out-and-out comedic novel. Some of the jokes work, a lot don't, but advertising this book to kids as a scary book is ridiculous and no wonder I was disappointed in it as a child.

Friday, January 27, 2006

#10 the Ghost Next Door


#10 the Ghost Next Door

Front Tagline: There's a strange new kid on the block...
Back Tagline: "How Come I've Never Seen You Before?"

Official Book Description:
Hannah's neighborhood has just gotten a little--weird. Ever since that new boy moved in next door.
But when did he move in? Wasn't the house empty when Hannah went to sleep the night before? Why does it still look deserted?
She's not getting any answers from her new neighbor. He just keeps disappearing in the oddest ways. And he's so pale...
Is Hannah being haunted by...
...the ghost next door???

Brief Synopsis:
Hannah Fairchild is having a boring summer at home after all her friends leave town for the break. She tries writing to them but they don't ever seem to write back. She spends some time with her little brothers, even making a campfire in the backyard and telling ghost stories one night, but it doesn't really seem like enough. However, the day after having a horrifying dream about her room being on fire, she meets her new next door neighbor, Danny. She doesn't remember Danny moving in and he claims he goes to her school and though they are supposedly in the same grade they don't any of the same people. Hannah begins to suspect that Danny is not all he seems, as he keeps disappearing into thin air everytime she turns around. It is then that she makes the logical conclusion that this boy is a ghost.

After she spies Danny downtown with a pair of trouble-making kids, Alan and Fred, she is persued by a shadowy figure. This same shadowy figure will persue her more and more as the novel progresses, even slipping out of the bushes in front of her house and threatening her to stay away from Danny! All the while Danny is getting into worse and worse trouble with his excursions with Alan and Fred. The two dare him to steal ice cream cones and destroy mailboxes. After they are caught trying to break the Postmaster's mailbox and Danny gets treated in a less than Fragile manner by the man, Alan and Fred tell Danny that they have to get back at the Postmaster! Naturally, Hannah has been following the three around town the entire time and has spied the whole ordeal! She tries to warn Danny but he is less than responsive to her pleas, especailly when she accuses him of being a ghost. This is immediately followed by Danny accidently putting his entire hand through Hannah's chest and running off in hysterics.

Turns out that Hannah is the ghost. Approximately two minutes after she figures this out, a realtor shows up at her house and explains in the most expository passage in Goosebumps history that Hannah's entire family died five years ago when their house caught fire. As if that wasn't bad enough, turns out the fire was started when Hannah didn't extinguish the campfire in the backyard. If you hadn't figured out already, this is by far the most depressing and guilt-inducing novel of the series.

Hannah sort of experiences weird black outs of time and when she wakes up she attempts to stop Danny from getting into perilous danger but she scares the hell out of him again and he takes off on his bike. Luckily in RL Stine World, ghosts can ride bikes so Hannah gets on her bike and rides to catch up with him. No I don't know if the bike died and that's why she could ride it, but thanks for asking.

Hannah catches up with the three as they break into the Postmaster's house and set it on fire while still inside. Alan and Fred manage to escape but they leave Danny in the burning house: it's up to Hannah to save him! But who should appear but the shadowy figure! Okay, bear with me, because I know this is confusing, but it makes exactly as much sense in this synopsis as it does in the book: Hannah pulls down the shadowy figure's hood to reveal Danny's face. The Shadow-Danny tells Hannah that Danny must die in the fire so that he, the Shadow Danny, can live and the real Danny can take his place in Shadow World. What.

Hannah escapes Shadow-Danny's grasp and rescues Actual-Danny, leaving Shadow-Danny to burn in the flames. In the ambulance Danny tells his mother that Hannah rescued him but she acts like he's crazy. After all, Hannah and her entire family died five years ago in a fire. Hannah realizes that in a case of celestial ineffeciency her entire family was put back on Earth in ghost form to make sure Danny didn't also die in a fire. What.

But the Twist is:
...there is no twist. The book ends with Hannah calling out to Danny as she goes to join her family in the afterlife.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Hannah Fairchild, the bored girl next door, and Danny Anderson, the mysterious boy next door whose hand disappears into Hannah's body half-way through the book.

Questionable Parenting:
When Hannah's younger brother throws a ball at the stovetop while her Mother is cooking breakfast, the mother threatens to cook and serve the ball. Now, I'm no gastrological science expert, but I'm pretty sure you shouldn't feed children balls.

Early 90s Cultrual References:
Hannah wears an outfit composed entirely of DayGlo neon colors.

Reinforcement of Negative Stereotypes Alert:
The city's Chief Postal Inspector threatens twelve-year old children repeatedly that he will go after them with his shotgun.

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Knocking over mailboxes, stealing ice cream cones from local parlours, these are some James Dean-level shenannigans.

Official Dream Sequence Tally:
3.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 16/17:
Hannah goes up to her room to go to sleep when suddenly the shadowy figure is by her bed! Oh, by shadowy figure she means her jacket. What a spooky jacket, Hannah!

Great Prose Alert:
Hannah writes a letter to her friend at camp:
"Things are definitely WEIRD around here. Do you remember I told you about that boy who moved in next door? His name is Danny Anderson and he's kind of cute. He has red hair and freckles and SERIOUS brown eyes."
Also every third word in this book is an adverb. Seriously.

Conclusions:
This predated the Sixth Sense by a few years, so it's important to realize that RL Stine should have been nominated for an Oscar. That said, this novel was incredibly sad and elegaic. Outside of the Shadow-Danny stuff, which really just feels tacked-on to make the novel "spooky," it didn't really feel like a Goosebumps book at all. In fact, it is the only book in the series I've read thus far (with the possible exception of the Horrorland one) that doesn't have a twist ending. The gravity given to the fact that the immensely likable narrator is the one responsible for the death of her family makes the book a heavier read than you'd expect.

Friday, January 20, 2006

#22 Ghost Beach


#22 Ghost Beach

Front Tagline: No swimming. No Surfing. No Haunting.
Back Tagline: Do You Believe In Ghosts?

Official Book Description:
Jerry can't wait to explore the dark, spooky old cave he found down by the beach.
Then the other kids tell him a story. A story about a ghost who lives deep inside a cave.
A ghost who is three hundred years old.
A ghost who comes out when the moon is full.
A ghost who is haunting the beach.
Just another stupid ghost story. Right?

Brief Synopsis:
Stay with me guys because this one is a little hard to follow since every character has the same name.

The novel starts out with our sibling heroes the Sadlers, Terri and narrator Jerry, investigating a graveyard. Terri, the younger sister, loves making etchings of tombstones. While in the process of etching a tombstone, Jerry notices a pair of zombie hands shooting out of the ground. Terri and Jerry try to escape but it's too late as the zombie hands are clutched tight to Terri's ankles. It's all over it's all over it's all a dream.
A DREAM.
R.L. STINE STARTED OUT A BOOK WITH A DREAM SEQUENCE.
A DREAM.
THE BOOK BEGINS WITH A DREAM SEQUENCE.

So, really, with nowhere to go but up from this 8th grade creative writing assignment-level of storytelling, we discover the real tale a foot here. Jerry and Terri have been sent by the parents to spend a month on the beachfront with their distant cousins Brad and Agatha Sadler, an elderly but lovable eccentric couple. In the course of fooling around on the beachfront the siblings meet a trio of young kids doing what all kids love to do, flying bat-shaped kites. This sibling group consists of two boys, oldest Sam and toddler Nate, and a young girl named Louisa, all three with the same last name as our heroes, Sadler, and all three possessing the same freckle-pattern as the other Sadlers. Hmmmmmmm. If this seems like a lot of characters (with no identifiable differentiating characteristics besides their respective ages) for our heroes to run into, you're right. And no there's no big reason to have them all, even after the big reveal, they're just there. Maybe R.L. Stine gets paid by the character.

The Sadler Trio tells the Sadler Duo about how in the cave above the beach there lives a deadly ghost who comes out when the moon is full. He's not a werewolf or anything, but I guess when you're a ghost and can't keep a calendar you've got to mark the passing of time somehow. After the group stumbles upon a dog skeleton that seems to affect the Sadler Trio a little too much, they explain that ghosts hate dogs because they can sense when they are around, so the dog was probably killed by the deadly ghost from the cave. The Sadler Trio also tells the siblings that sometimes you can see a spectre of light in the cave. Later in the book Brad attempts to convince the Sibling Duo that this glowing is merely the northern lights. In a cave. No really, that's his explanation.

Of course, the lure of a ghost leads the duo to go investigate the cave and while inside they find the source of the mystery light: the northern lights. It turns out Brad was right. Except no, it's actually being caused by the candles being lit by a creepy old man with long white hair and a thin gaunt body who lives in the cave. Jerry and Terri flee the cave and tell their new friends about the horrifying ghost they encountered. The Sibling Trio tells the Sibling Duo that they have a plan for stopping the horrible ghost from tormenting their beach towne any longer.

The plan involves the Sibling Duo knocking over a bunch of rocks at the front of the entrance to the cave, thus keeping the ghost inside forever. The trio explains that the cave serves as a sanctuary and a ghost can't escape from within if it should be trapped inside. As the Sibling Duo sets goes to try to trap the old man inside the cave, they are accosted by the ghost and dragged within his lair. He sets them down infront of his desk and tells him what the reader has already figured out fourty pages earlier: the old man isn't a ghost, he's their distant relative. The Sibling Trio are the ghosts. Even though Jerry and Terri had stumbled upon the graves of these three earlier in the book, somehow they have trouble believing this story. The old man tells them that he will let them go from the cave if they promise to go check the far right side of the cemetary. It is he hope that they will return and aid him in trapping the three (ghost?) siblings in the cave by the same methods they had earlier suggested for trapping the old man.

When the sibling duo escapes and goes to check the cemetary, they see two freshly dug graves with their names on the tombstone. And yet this too is not enough to convince these kids. Finally the whole gaggle of kids goes to trap the old man ghost once and for all, yet the old man tricks the sibling trio into resting in the cave, which they are then bound to because of the scientific rules of magic caves. Then, finally, to prove that the kids are ghosts to the other kids (gosh, this is all so confusing), the old man calls his trusty german shepard who has never even been referenced until the last ten pages of the book. The dog goes crazy on the children, establishing a literary beating of a dead horse as they are finally "revealed" to be ghosts to the surprise of exactly no one but our heroes.

In the first and last "scary" moment in the book, the three prepubescent children stare at the two human siblings and suddenly their ghostly skin peels off and the horrible skeleton children are calling for the non-ghost brother and sister to stay in the cave with them. Not surprisingly, Jerry and Terri decline and the old man is trapped with the ghosts in the cave forever. The two human siblings go back to tell Brad and Agatha all about their adventure, and the elderly couple is very relieved that the children are safe.

But the Twist is:
Suddenly the old man's dog conveniently bursts into the beach-home and starts going crazy. Are the human siblings actually ghosts?!?! No, that's not nearly insulting enough. It's the elderly couple who are secretly ghosts. The novel ends on a high note with the elderly couple plotting the murder of the innocent children.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Brothery and Sisteri Jerry and Terri Sadler.

Questionable Parenting:
The parents of these two gave their kids rhyming names, then many years later they've sent them off to spend a month with ghosts who want to kill them. Now, I've never read any child-rearing books, but I'm pretty sure that's some real shitty parenting right there.

Foreshadowing Alert:
Brad and Agatha tell the two siblings that they'd find their names on a gravestone if they looked. Hey, way to cover your ass.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Did you read the beginning of the synopsis? Go read it again because Jesus Christ.

Great Prose Alert:
"I kept my mouth shut. I knew that ghosts weren't supposed to be real. But what if all the scientists were wrong?
There are so many ghost stories from all around the world, how can ghosts not be real?"

Conclusions:
Almost all plot (if you couldn't tell by the "brief" synopsis), Ghost Beach in the series takes itself a little seriously but because of the removed locale it doesn't fall into nearly as many missteps as some of the more contemporary titles. A solid but ultimately tedious entry. Also, I don't know if I mentioned this but R.L. STINE STARTS THE BOOK WITH A DREAM SEQUENCE.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

#12 Be Careful What You Wish For...


#12 Be Careful What You Wish For...

Front Tagline: It might come true.
Back Tagline: Make a Wish!

Official Book Description:
Samantha Byrd is a klutz. An accident waiting to happen. She's the laughingstock of the girls' basketball team. And that mean, rotten Judith Bellwood is making her life miserable on and off the court.
But everything's about to change.
Sam's met someone who can grant her three wishes. For real.
Too bad Sam wasn't careful what she wished for.
Because her wishes are coming true.
And they're turning her life into a living nightmare!

Brief Synopsis:
Samantha Byrd is a tall klutzy girl who is constantly being tormented by Judith, a moderatly popular girl who taunts her with biting material like "Fly away, Byrd." At one point in the book Samantha literally strangles Judith in rage, so there's an element of anger issues between these two. Samantha is a terrible basketball player and is forced to stay late from school for practice.

One rainy afternoon after practice she meets a lost old lady in the woods and in a smart move not only talks to this stranger but goes with her to another location. The old lost woman is so thankful for Samantha's kindness that she grants her three wishes. Samantha's first wish is the awkwardly phrased "I want to be the strongest player on the basketball team." This leads to all the other players on the team, including Judith, coming down with the flu. Judith accuses Samantha of being a witch, possibly from being stuck at home sick in a Bewitched-induced haze, and in anger Samantha responds that she wishes Judith would just disappear.

When Samantha wakes up the next morning, she's the only person left in the world. Samantha frets and also eats a peanut butter sandwich in what would prove to be the inspiration for that scene in Speilberg's War of the Worlds. After some aimless wandering the old woman appears and says that she's apparently not very good with magic so the only way she could make Judith disappear was to make everyone disappear. I don't think we can really blame Samantha for the failure of this wish though since it's not even what she sort of wished for. The old woman says she'll cancel the wish and give her the third wish. Samantha wishes everything was back to normal and that Judith would think she was the greatest person alive.

This wish is then granted in an extended finale that is actually pretty clever as Judith obsesses over every nuance of Samantha's being, carrying her books to class, sneaking into her bedroom at night, and waiting outside her house in the morning to walk to school with her. Finally after crashing her bike in an attempt to get away from Judith, Samantha runs into the old woman who gives her a fourth wish, which is totally cheating by the way. Samantha wishes that she had never met the old lady, that instead it was Judith who met her.

But the Twist is:
As Samantha leaves the wooded area, she looks down at a smiling Judith, who has just said "Why don't you fly away, Byrd?" Samantha has been turned into a bird.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Samantha Byrd, our narrator and the tallest girl in school, is best friends with Cory Blinn, the tallest boy in school, who disappears about half-way thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Upon hearing voices from his teenage daughter's bedroom late at night, Samantha's father stays downstairs and tells her to get off the phone.

Questionable Teaching:
The book opens with Samantha getting mocked by her peers for not knowing that four plus two equals six. Now, putting aside that the girls were right to laugh at her because that's not a very hard equation, I think the real problem here is that the characters are being taught 4+2=6 in middle school.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Doc Martins, the Orlando Magic, Troll dolls

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Samantha's older brother suggests she might be better off playing tiddlywinks or Parchesi.

Foreshadowing Alert:
Number of times Samantha is told to "Fly away, Byrd" or some variation there-of: 13.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 3/4: Samantha thinks she's going to die, she's dead, she's... been knee'd in the chest by Judith.
Ch. 8/9: Samantha in a moment of thoughtlessness wishes her brother was one foot tall, because that's the sort of thing one says casually. She's shocked to see her brother coming across the lawn towards her, and he's only one foot tall... wait, no, that's not her brother, that's the family dog.
I think the main characters of these books need to quit being so melodramatic and stop jumping to conclusions.

Great Prose Alert:
"The rain pattered on the pavement, big cold drops."

Conclusions:
The last thirty pages or so of this early book in the series are so unflinchingly cruel and genuinely funny that it reminds me why these titles got so popular so quickly. The novel is still afflicted with a lot of the problems that these books suffer from, but regardless this is definitely a higher-tier Goosebumps entry.

#42 Egg Monsters From Mars


#42 Egg Monsters From Mars

Front Tagline: They're no yolk!
Back Tagline: Which Came First, the Monster or the Egg? (which makes no sense but let's be with them on the pun)

Official Book Description:
An egg hunt. That's what Dana Johnson's bratty little sister, Brandy, wants to have at her birthday party. And whatever Brandy wants, Brandy gets.
Dana's not big on egg hunts. But that was before he found The Egg. It's not like a normal egg. It's about the size of a softball. It's covered with ugly blue and purple veins.
And it's starting to hatch...

Brief Synopsis:
This kid finds an egg in his backyard. It hatches into a creature that resembles scrambled eggs. He goes to take the creature to a scientist to help identify the creature and the scientist informs him that it is a creature from Mars. The scientist has collected most of the alien egg creatures but appeciates the boy finding another. He has kept them in a freezer in his lab and when the boy decides to leave the scientist informs him that he can't leave, he might have caught a virus or mutation from the creatures. The scientist locks the boy in the freezer with the creatures. The boy thinks he's going to freeze to death until the creatures form a blanket to keep him warm. In the morning, the scientist sees this and tries to kill the boy. The egg creatures form a solid wall and smother the scientist. The boy escapes and gets his parents to drive back to the lab but the egg monsters and the scientist have disappeared. The boy seems to be doing well and feels fine.

But the Twist is
Fine until he stops and squats in the lawn and lays an egg.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Dana Johnson, the male narrator who's honestly a bit of a dick, and his best friend Anne Gravel, who's described as tall and funny, and also disappears half way thru the book.

Questionable Parenting:
When Dana goes missing, his father goes to look for him at the conveniently located science laboratory but somehow doesn't find the time call the police, not even by the time his son wanders back home the next day.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch 20-21:
"Ive got to find a way out of here," I said outloud, "I've got to!"
And then, I had an idea.
---
Sad to say, it was a bad idea.
The kind of idea you get when you're freezing to death in a total panic.
What was the idea? To call home and tell Mom and Dad to come get me.

Great Prose Alert:
About 40 pages in, the scientist, within two minutes of meeting the child narrator, with almost no provocation, tells Dana "There was a big storm on Mars. Two years ago. It set off something like a meteor shower. The storm sent these eggs hurtling through space."

Conclusions:
I never read this one when I was younger since I'd already abandoned the series, but if I hadn't already quit reading these books at this point, this likely would have done it.