Tuesday, March 07, 2006

#15 You Can't Scare Me!

#15 You Can't Scare Me!

Front Tagline: They're coming for you....
Back Tagline: It's Gonna Be A Scream!

Official Book Description:
Courtney is a total show-off. She thinks she's so brave and she's always making Eddie and his friends look like wimps.
But now Eddie's decided he's had enough. He's going to scare Courtney once and for all. And he's come up with the perfect plan.
He's going to lure Courtney down to Muddy Creek. Because Eddie knows Courtney believes in that silly rumor about the monsters. Mud Monsters that live in the creek.
Too bad Eddie doesn't believe the rumor.
Because it just might be true....

Brief Synopsis:
Eddie is on a class field trip out in the woods with many of his classmates. Among his friends are Hat, which is the nickname of a boy who never takes off his--you guessed it, his socks; Molly and Charlene, two girls who are described as interchangeable and indeed, they are. All four of these kids loathe the class show-off, Courtney. On the field trip, which consists of two teachers leading 40 kids into the woods to identify plants and animals, Eddie is embarrassed or one-upped by Courtney several times. First she spots a deer, which is I guess something to envy. Then she teases Eddie for being scared of a garden snake. Then, in what has to be the most inexplicable scene in any Goosebumps book, the class crowds around Courtney as she lets two bumblebees walk across her palm. She then takes the bees and throws them at Eddie. She throws the bees.
Read that again, she throws the bees at him.

The teachers who are supervising this trip think this is all so quaint, either because they're really lousy supervisors who are enamored with Courtney, or because what is the proper reaction to a person throwing bees at someone.

On the bus ride back, the quartet of friends discuss how Courtney and her best friend Denise never seem to be afraid of anything. As the bus drives past the muddy woods, Eddie wonders if she'd even be scared of the fabled Mud Monsters that supposedly live in the woods. His older brother Kevin is making a movie about the legend of the mud monsters in his spare time starring his friends. Based on the descriptions of the film we are given throughout the novel, his brother is working with a budget of approximately thirteen million dollars.

After the field trip, Eddie begins a slow descent into obsession, eventually dragging all his friends with him as he becomes infatuated with the idea of getting Courtney back for... well, she didn't really do anything, which is sort of what makes the whole plot so appealing in the first place. Eddie is completely unjustified in his actions, and Courtney's inevitably unflappable response to every incident only makes the comic novel more pertinent.

First Eddie and his friends come up with placing a rubber snake in Courtney's lunch bag. This would have worked except their schoolteacher Mr. Melvin forgot his lunch that day, and Courtney being the nice person she is, kindly offered to share her lunch with him. The teacher reaches into the bag, freaks out at the snake, and Courtney heroically stomps on the snake until she's torn the head clear off.

On the way home after that failure, Eddie and his friends are approached by a neighborlady. Her cat is stuck in a tree and she needs help rescuing it. Eddie contemplates climbing the tree but decides he's not comfortable with the safety issues. At that moment, Courtney rides by on her bike, sees the situation, shimmies up the tree and rescues the cat for the neighbor. The neighbor then rubs it in by chastising Eddie for not being brave enough to climb the tree. Needless to say, this does little to quell Eddie's feelings of inferiority.

As they leave the neighbor, the group comes up with another plan to scare Courtney. They'll drop a tarantula down her back! Apparently the science room at their middle school has several tarantulas just hanging around. Eddie and Hat will sneak in, steal a tarantula, then race up to the rafters of the gym. Down below, Molly and Charlene will get Courtney to stand directly below the balcony, and Eddie will drop the tarantula into her hair. This plan was described as simple by Eddie, which is interesting given that it is the least simple plan that ever existed.

The book sort of turns into an Abbot and Costello movie for a few pages as Eddie and Hat sneak into the science lab to steal the tarantula. They place the creature in to a cottage cheese container, but as soon as they close the lid, they hear the science teacher entering the lab. They both hide inside a storage locker as they hear the teacher milling about in the room. It's at this point that Eddie notices the lid of the container is open and the tarantula is climbing up his leg. He and Hat both freak out and as soon as the teacher leaves, they discover the locker is locked. Eddie bursts out of the locker and the tarantula goes flying across the room, and there's a mad dash race by Hat to capture it back into the container. This sequence, like the rest of the book, is written with genuine wit and sparkle and other words I don't normally lavish on RL Stine.

From the rafters, they see Courtney is finally in place below them. Hat opens the container and drops the tarantula... into Molly's hair. She freaks out and tears at her head, finally removing the spider and tossing it into the air, where it lands in Charlene's hands and she bats it about like a hot potato. Finally, Courtney calmly takes the creature in her hands and pets it, telling the bystanders that tarantulas aren't all that scary. Eddie and Hat are caught and sentenced to detention, where they are forced to write a 1,000 word essay on why "It's wrong to steal living things and drop them on people's heads." That's not my joke, that's Stine's. Like I said, this book is actually clever.

Eddie's fiery desire to see Courtney get scared continues to eat away at him. He asks his filmmaking brother for tips on how to scare her. He points out that a snake and a spider are too small, Eddie needs something big. Like a ferocious, angry dog.

Eddie runs this idea past his friends the next Saturday afternoon. Charlene suggests that Buttercup, her cuddly St. Bernard, could do the trick. The others are less than convinced, and the name does nothing to help her argument, so Charlene shows them a trick that involves whistling until the dog snarls and bares it's teeth and looks very menacing. When Charlene stops whistling, the dog returns to normal. Eddie is floored and wants to put the idea into motion immediately. He knows that Courtney and Denise had a treehouse built near the creek and that if they were out relaxing in the woods and suddenly a wild dog attacked, they would surely be scared.

But how to get Courtney into the woods? Molly surprises her friends by changing her voice and pulling off a perfect impression of Denise. She'll call Courtney up and pretend to be her and arrange for the two to meet at the tree house. This plan doesn't work so well, as when Molly calls pretending to be Denise, Denise is already standing next to Courtney.

A week goes by before the weather allows for them to try to catch Courtney off-guard in the woods. The gang treks out into the woods, merely hoping that Courtney and Denise will be at their treehouse, and as luck should have it, they sure are. Eddie takes some shaving cream out and smears it on the dog's maw to make it look rabid. Charlene is about to whistle when Buttercup sees a squirrel and goes running off into the thicket after the animal. The group of friends splits up to search for the dog and then we get another inexplicable but amazing scene. Eddie hears a dog growl and turns around to see a giant, pony-sized black dog with coal-burning eyes. Hat shows up and scares the giant beast away. As the four exit the clearing, they spot Courtney calmly playing with both Buttercup and the mysterious beast dog, who is licking her hand. Courtney gives them a lecture about letting their pet go wild in the woods.

The following week, Eddie and his friends lie to their parents and claim to be studying, but instead sit around and think of ways to scare Courtney. No decent ideas come to fruition, but on the way home Eddie gets spooked by the wind and realizes that the reason Courtney wasn't getting scared was because they kept attempting to scare her during the day. They need to scare her at night! See, I thought the reason she wasn't getting scared was because nothing the quartet was doing was scary, but what do I know guys huh nothing that's what.

At school the next day, Courtney tells her teacher that she believes in monsters. She gives proof, such as the photographs of the Loch Ness Monster and the footprints of Bigfoot. Instead of taking these comments and at least feeling superior to her intellectually, Eddie uses them to give himself the most obvious idea of all time that we've been waiting 100 pages for him to think up. Eddie agrees to be his older brother's slave for one month (what is this, My Brother And Me?) if Kevin and his friends will dress up in their mud people costumes and scare Courtney in the woods. He agrees and Eddie tells him to go out into the woods. Now all Eddie and the gang need to figure out is how to get Courtney into the woods. Molly calls her and challenges her to meet them in the woods to see the mud monsters. Molly tells Courtney that she heard on the radio that they'd be rising up from their muddy graves tonite. Again, Courtney is simply retarded, as she takes this as truth and agrees to be in the woods in 10 minutes to prove she's not afraid.

We're given a brief history of the legend of the mud people. Once upon a time there were two neighboring villages, one in the woods and one in the city. The city village hated the woods village and treated the villagers poorly. One stormy night, a rainstorm caused the creek in the woods to overflow and flash flood, burying the entire village in a mudslide, killing all the villagers. Local legend claims that once a year, the townspeople return to form, covered in mud, and go to find innocent victims to drag back with them into the mud.

We all know where this is going, but we're almost there so let's wrap it up. The four friends hide about 100 yards behind Courtney's treehouse and they see her looking out into the creek with binoculars. Suddenly, behind her, three shadowy figures emerge. Eddie's brother and friends came thru, their plan worked! Eddie hears rustling behind him and the friends turn to see three more mud monsters! Eddie's brother apologizes for being late. Wah-wah.

The group turns back towards the treehouse and sees dozens of mud creatures emerging from the ground, all advancing on Courtney and the treehouse. They scream and yell until she notices and all of them make a mad dash run out of the woods, escaping the mud creatures. The next day at school, Courtney is given proof that she was right, monsters do exist. Eddie and his friends are still bitter about not being able to scare Courtney, and they'd love to come up with another way to scare her, but the only problem is they're too scared to try anything else. Wah-wah.

But the Twist is:
No twist, just a satisfying ending, which really is a twist with this series.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Eddie and Hat and Molly and Charlene, who's dog disappears half-way thru the novel.

Questionable Teaching:
When he forgets his lunch, Mr. Melvin almost breaks down in the lunchroom until one of his students shares their lunch with him.

Cry For Help Alert
After one of his scares fails, Eddie tells the reader "I felt so bad. I wanted to sink into the ground with the worms. I wanted to disappear and never be seen again."

R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Eddie and his friends spend a relaxing Saturday afternoon playing croquet in the backyard. Are these kids staging an impromptu production of the Great Gatsby?

Foreshadowing Alert:
Turns out they really couldn't scare me.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Though I'm tempted to give this award to the bee throwing scene:
Ch. 12/13:
Eddie looks up to see a horrible monster in his room with dripping blood running down its face. Oh wait, it's just his brother in movie makeup.

Great Prose Alert:
"He giggled his high-pitched giggle and grinned at me."

You Can't Scare Me! is a well-crafted, very clever and often laugh out loud funny (intentionally!) entry in the series. Highly recommended. And also:


Anonymous said...

nice work. seems like the first twenty or so (maybe?) are all of a similar quality... it'll be interesting to see how the series plays out, in terms of where the "good books" (bible lol) are and where the crappy ones are. yeah. keep up the good work, troy steele.

mehan said...

i remember when this one first came out, i stayed up all night and read it in one sitting with a flashlight. 0_0

also, that my brother and me reference was aces. :troyup:

Anonymous said...

Whoa whoa whoa! A satisfying ending? No twist?

Get. this. entry. out of here.

- Kev Mac

mooch said...

oh man that was so great

Anonymous said...

lolz throwing bees. i'm gonna do that. no i'm not wtf.


Anonymous said...

Looking back at the points you made (like how the protagonists of the book were NOT heros), this story wasn't so bad. I remember being disappointed with it, hoping it would be all about the Mud Monsters. Still, what else do you show on the cover of the book? Bee-throwing?

Anonymous said...

This is one of those rare Goosebumps that actually improves with age. It's one that was hated when it was released due to the "Monsters" being only in the last three chapters while most of the book spent on the four mains attempt to scare the popular girl. Also that the main characters were less likable then their nemesis is also a twist. It was a GB book that was too different when it first came out, and now it's one of my favorites.

Jacquie said...

BEE THROWING...and just two books later RL Stein regales us with Why I'm Afraid of Bees...coincidence?

Anonymous said...

Questionable grammar: " ... when ONE of the students shares THEIR lunch with him." C'mon, people. I don't care if some say it's okay, it's just plain wrong.

'Stine said...

I don't like bees. One seriously sample a bit of my food and my 2 friends' food. Then it tried attacking us. But the bee throwing thing is HILARIOUS.

Unknown said...

This book scared the hell out of me when I was 6 or 7. Of course, I hadn't actually read it. It was the cover. THE FREAKING COVER!

All of these reviews are really great. Thanks for putting them up!
Are you doing reviews for the various crappy movie versions as well?

chicken lover said...

I hated this book and i still do. It's not so much that it only has the mud monsters at the end, but because it's boring,predicable and lacking plotlines.I prefer books that have different happenings in them, rather than the same thing repeated in different ways: e.g.Eddie and his friends failing to scare Courtney

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time there were two neighboring villages, one in the woods and one in the city.


"vil·lage (vlj)
n. - A small group of dwellings in a rural area, usually ranking in size between a hamlet and a town."



Was that seriously in the book? Really? How does that even work?

Arizona said...

So bizarre, one of my favourite books. And how odd - I went to middle school with a Troy Steele in Oklahoma. He and I used to goof about Wayside Stories together. I kinda loved that kid.

-- Kristene

troy steele said...

Yeah, that would have been me

Ryan Ferneau said...

Courtney must have inspired that new Postal game.

"I'm gonna try pursuing the guy in the white pajama and throw couple bees out there!"

Anonymous said...

i like courtney i have a crush on her

Anonymous said...

I remember making a board game of this one for an elementary school project. If I recall, I pasted paper on top of an old cardboard box, and made the pieces out of flat paper (wayyy too big for the spaces and consisting of other copywritten characters form other things I loved at the time, by the by) so that when players landed on spaces overlapping the lid slits, their pieces would be "sucked" down by the mud monsters and they'd lose.

I don't remember anything else about this book.

Anonymous said...

whoa coool and interesting book. it just took me like 8 hrs to finish. AND GUESS WHAT? i actually once went to a school with a courtney{TOTAL SHOWOFF!!!!!!!} Might be this one. good job R.L Stine for writing this book

briell said...

whoa coool and interesting book. it just took me like 8 hrs to finish. AND GUESS WHAT? i actually once went to a school with a courtney{TOTAL SHOWOFF!!!!!!!} Might be this one. good job R.L Stine for writing this book

Anonymous said...

benny here. this book i thought was okay and boring. 5/10 okay.

Anonymous said...

Man, why can't Courtney be the protagonist? She's easily the most logical person in Goosebumps history. Instead we get a whole cast of kids scared by stuff like pillows and their grandmother holding a broom.

Retro Oasis said...

Courtney? Most logical person in Goosebumps history? Clearly you have forgotten about Andy.

Anonymous said...

Bee Throwing made it into tvtropes. See the Literature folder in "Bee Bee Gun".

Anonymous said...

it would be better if Courtney was a witch who had an ability to tame monsters. and it would reveal that she had tamed dozens of monsters before. therefore, she is never afraid of anything.

Anonymous said...

No twist? In the last 2 chapters (4 pages total, lol), it is revealed that the mud monsters were real.... How is it not a twist when they plan for fake mud monsters to scare Courtney but then real mud monsters show up? Especially since after that happened it only gave Courtney more reason to gloat. The plan worked better than it could have but it still backfired in that it only severed to glamorize Courtney.

It turns out that she was right, she wasn't retarded for believing in monsters. So even anyone who would have otherwise had anything on her, for at least not believing in bigfoot, just looks like a jerk by the end of it. Because this is GB.

I felt trolled by RLS in this one. I would still argue that up to this point, all 15 books had twists at the end.

ESPECIALLY "The Ghost Next Door" and "Piano Lessons Can Be Murder."

Anonymous said...

NOT THE BEES!!!!!!!!!

Google said...

Tbh, Courtney sounds like a smug bitch that deserved to be scared.