Sunday, June 04, 2006

#50 Calling All Creeps!


#50 Calling All Creeps!Front Tagline: Just Dial 5-5-5-C-R-E-E-P!
Back Tagline: Reach Out and Scare Someone...

Official Book Description:
Ricky Beamer is furious when he gets kicked off the school paper. So he decides to play a joke on Tasha, the bossy editor in chief. Just a little joke. Harmless, really.
After school one day he sticks a message in the paper. If you're a creep, call Tasha after midnight, it reads.
But somehow Ricky's message gets messed up. And now he's getting calls. Strange calls from kids who say they are creeps. Creeps with scaly purple skin. And long sharp fangs...

Brief Synopsis:
As the book starts out, Ricky is recounting for the reader why he has snuck out of his house to play a trick on the school newspaper editor, Tasha. Whoa whoa whoa there Charles Dickens, starting a book with a flashback? Woooooo, check out RL Stine! Someone has a new bag of tricks up his sleeve and it isn't that asshole Christopher Pike. Ricky has snuck out of his house at 8pm while his parents are busy watching the Weather Channel to plant a "hilarious" item in the forthcoming school newspaper, calling on all creeps (oh I see) to call Tasha after midnight. Ricky has planted this item in the paper Mission: Impossible-style by having himself lowered into the top-secret school newspaper room via an elaborate system of pulleys and technological gadgetry. And by that, I mean he waits until Tasha leaves to go to the juice machine (the what?) and merely types it on the front page of the next day's paper.

Ricky's reason for doing this is because he's a nerd. As a nerd, he is picked on a lot in school. The editor of the school paper, Tasha, does little to quell these occurrences, as when Ricky accidentally throws a can of Pepsi all over her computer, she calls him a "creep" and kicks him off the newspaper staff. I'm not sure that students can fire other students from school, but in Goosebumps World they can, and then in a twist they're also dogs or something.

Since Ricky is our hero, there's usually a reason as to why he's not really at fault, and mainly it's because of the actions of a quartet or Ricky's enemies, helpfully identified numerous times as "My Enemies" by Ricky. These four, Jared, David, Brenda, and Wart, basically make sure Ricky is receiving 100% of the entire student body's allotted bullying. For instance, it was Wart's fault that Ricky threw a can of soda. Later, when Ricky is given a second chance to get back on the paper, it's Wart and his friends who spray the camera Ricky was using to photograph a school car wash, ruining it. But the school car wash was charging $5 a car, so the way I look at it, if I'm paying that much, they better be ruining cameras for every patron to observe and laugh at to justify that kind of price. I mean, five dollars, what the heck are they thinking? In 1996 money, that is like one and a half George magazines. Allow me to continue dwelling on how expensive a student car wash that is. Five dollars for some stupid punk kids to spray my undercarriage with a garden hose. I could do that for free and spend that money on those popsicles that come in a plastic tube. Five dollars. There's your twist right there folks, And then the car wash cost five dollars.

Anyways, Ricky is taunted by everyone in school at some point with either "Sicky Ricky" or "Ricky Rodent." If you were picked on in middle school, this book will bring up a lot of fond memories of the hell of being different. For those of you who were the ones who picked on kids in middle school, give me a high five and then get back to work fixing my car. All this is even worse than normal for Ricky thanks to the new girl at school, Iris, who likes him for some reason, and who he is continuously embarrassed in front of. At one point Wart makes him sing the Star-Spangled Banner. At least he's a patriotic bully.

So Ricky's gotten back at Tasha, and he calls Iris to gloat, but she's a total buzzkill and suggests that maybe things will turn out badly for Ricky with this prank. Women, amirite? But then things do turn out bad, because Tasha caught Ricky's addition and changed it to "Call Ricky After Midnight if You're a Creep." I don't blame Ricky for assuming that a school newspaper's editor wouldn't proofread, though.

Ricky starts to get calls after midnight from breathy-voices identifying themselves as Creeps, asking when they can meet to discuss "the planting of seeds." Such antiquated language from these perverts.

Ricky tells Iris about the troubles he's having and she suggests disconnecting his phone. Ricky tells her in all seriousness that he never would have come up with that. Iris asks if Ricky would help her go shopping for baking supplies, as the school bakesale is coming up and she wants to make something really nice to make her mark on the school. I understand, because at my school, popularity was bought and sold in those Saran-Wrapped bundles of Chips Ahoy!

Ricky intends to meet her after school to go grocery shopping, which by the way he is wayyyyyy too excited about, but he gets sidetracked by monsters who kidnap him. Oh.

His four enemies grab Ricky and drag him into the woods. They identify themselves as Creeps and call Ricky their Commander. They apologize for having teased and bullied him earlier, for they did not know until they saw the announcement in the paper that he was the Commander of the Creeps. Then the four kids change into the reptilian creatures on the book cover. They tell Ricky that their mission must come to fruition soon, their mission of changing all the kids in the school into Creeps by having them ingest "Identity Seeds." For whatever reason, there's a hard deadline of less than a week for this to occur. The Creeps insist that they are superior to humans, which the Creep-Wart proves by swallowing a squirrel whole. Well, I'm sold.

One of the Creeps holds up a bag of Identity Seeds, which look like chocolate chips. Another of the Creeps tells Ricky that they have a plan and with the Commander's approval they will implement it. The plan is to stir the seeds into the food in the lunchroom. That superior to humans argument is looking a little more specious but Ricky tentatively agrees to it, mainly because they're, you know, monsters, and they think he's in charge.

Ricky arrives at school early the next day, after his attempts at eliciting help from his principal and parents fail. He tells the Creeps not to go through with it, but they insist. They give Ricky the bag of seeds and he first pretends to trip and spill all of the seeds everywhere in the cafeteria kitchen. One of the Creeps tells him not to worry, they always keep a spare bag of Identity Seeds around. Ricky gets an idea and stirs the seeds into the macaroni and cheese, a dish he knows no one on the school eats. After no one changes into Creeps, Ricky apologizes for the plan's failure.

That's okay, the Creeps have another plan. They'll bake the seeds into chocolate chip cookies and give them out for free at the school bake sale. Since it only takes eating one seed to make a human a Creep, and no one can resist free cookies, everyone'll be a Creep they reason. Ricky tries to backpedal out of agreeing to the plan, and the Creeps turn on him, doubting he is their commander. This is when Iris barges in, announces herself as the Commander's Sergeant, and tells the Creeps that they will go ahead with the bake sale idea.

Once the Creeps have left, Iris tells Ricky she's not really a Creep, but that she had followed them the afternoon that Ricky didn't show up to go shopping and had seen/overheard the whole exchange. And she waited until the next day to talk about seeing the boy she liked surrounded by villainous monsters.

At the bake sale, Ricky tries to think of a way to stop people from eating the cookies. His solution: grab a megaphone and tell everyone not to eat the cookies or they'll turn into monsters. Somehow this plan doesn't work, and the student body throws food at him, taunting him, mocking him. Tasha shows up to make fun of him personally. The Creeps corner Ricky, ask why he isn't handing out the cookies. They tell him that once they all turn into Creeps, they'll become his slaves. Ricky considers this, and then personally hands a cookie to Tasha, followed by the rest of the student body.

But the Twist is:
And then the car wash cost five dollars.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Ricky Beamer and his gal pal Iris, who disappears halfway thru the book, and then reappears to at the end to tell Ricky she saw him with monsters, how are things with you

Questionable Parenting:
When Ricky tries to tell his parents about the Creeps, they laugh so hard they cry and mock him relentlessly. At one point his father announces he's not only a Creep, but a Martian Werewolf.

Questionable Teaching:
Even the teachers in Ricky's school laugh at him.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Computer word processors with the blue screen, watching the Weather Channel

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 19/20:
Ricky realizes he has to work fast to stop the Creeps.... But first, it's time to eat some KFC!

Great Prose Alert:
I call them my four enemies because they're my four enemies.

Conclusions:
Saw it coming a mile away, but still, what a satisfying ending. Fun Fact: Calling All Creeps! is Lars von Trier's favorite Goosebumps book.