#06 Let's Get Invisible!
Front Tagline: Now you see him. Now you don't.
Back Tagline: Disappearances Can Be Deadly.
Official Book Description:
On Max's birthday, he finds a sort of magic mirror in the attic. It can make him become invisible.
So Max and his friends start playing now you see me, now you don't. Until Max realizes that he's losing control. Staying invisible a little too long. Having a harder time coming back.
Getting invisible is turning into a very dangerous game.
The next time Max gets invisible,
will it be...
Before I realized RL Stine was the Tommy Wiseau of children's literature, Let's Get Invisible! was my favorite Goosebumps book. Looking back on it now, I can see why it appealed to me as a child. Certainly it's the most leisurely-paced book in the series, but it's also well-written and somewhat suspenseful. However, it contains no out-of-town scientist werewolves, so how good could it really be?
The simple story starts with our protagonist Max combing his hair in a mirror. Oh Foreshadowing Alert, how I've missed you. Max combs his hair a lot, as he wants to make sure he looks good for his birthday party. Unfortunately his kid brother Lefty keeps making fun of him with really scorching zingers like "You're stupid." The creativity of that burn shows that clearly Lefty has received his nickname not just from his writing-hand but also his use of the left-side of his brain.
Max's best friend Zack shows up armed with a lousy present (some used X-Force comics, which apparently did exist) and an even lousier haircut: buzzed on one side and combed straight on the other. I couldn't find a picture of Ellen Page in Mouth to Mouth but if I had, it would have gone here. Oh, how those of you who have seen that movie would have... well, maybe not laughed, but nodded and said "That's a reference to something and I get it."
Also at the party are two girls. Erin, whose voice sounds like a mouse, and April, whose voice presumably does not. Max excitedly tells his guests that they're gonna "barbecue"-up some hot dogs. Mm-Mmm, the delicious taste of wasted effort! What kind of marinade do you use for barbecued hot dogs, boiled water?
As if that wasn't enough to get that party started in there, Max tries to get everyone to watch "the Terminator movie" he rented. Not The Terminator, but "the Terminator movie." And it's called that more than once. I guess the parenting skills in Max's house are also invisible, so as to allow for R-rated movies and unsupervised coed mingling.
After the party dies down, only April and Erin are left. The four kids decide that the only thing cooler than watching "the Terminator movie" is exploring a dusty old attic. Max's dog Whitey discovers a hidden room in the attic-- Oh no, don't tell the brownshirts! The room is empty except for a large antique mirror that takes up almost the entire wall. Max begins plotting how much he could make by renting the room to a ballet troupe. A slender light rests on top of the mirror and when Max pulls the light's chain, the light comes on but he disappears, along with my hopes of the book's title being metaphorical.
After getting one of the other kids to pull the chain and turn the light off, Max reappears. You might call it a chain reaction! But seriously folks, it's a terrifying novel. Max doesn't believe he really let's got invisible. Erin and April's ride arrives and Max tries to put the whole ordeal behind him. Yet that night he has trouble sleeping and sneaks up to the attic to investigate. Max slowly takes an inventory of the mirror's construction when he spies an ominous figure behind him. Mirror mirror on the wall, who's that staring from the hall? Why, it's just Lefty!
Lefty whines until Max agrees that he can go invisible only if they both go invisible at the same time. I think we all know what these two said before they pulled the chain:
LET'S GET INVISIBLE, INVISIBLE
I WANNA GET INVISIBLE
LET ME SEE MY BODY GONE,
MY BODY GONE
LET ME SEE MY BODY GONE
They both go invisible for a couple minutes, start to feel weak, then pull the switch again. This time however it takes longer to reappear. Max figures that it must have something to do with how they were invisible longer than Max was the first time.
The two brothers decide the best way to use this amazing new power of invisibility is to scare Zack, who wasn't there for the prior mirrorfest. And eventually they get him over to the house and they do scare him. Then they invisible him. Then amazingly April and Erin show up. Erin also wants to get invisible, but April remains hesitant and instead times everyone's excursions into invisibility. The kids will all attempt to stay invisible the longest. Before Lefty can take his turn though, his grandparents arrive for dinner and the other kids have to leave. But they agree to meet again later in the week to settle the contest.
This is followed in the book by an extended bizarre sequence involving Max's senile grandparents. The two old codgers trade marital insults, complain, and one of them laments that they don't have any strawberry soup to eat. Strawberry soup?
Max sees a spoon raise in the air and realizes that Uri Geller must be close by. Max wrestles with the invisible Lefty and drags him upstairs to the attic. Lefty brags as he comes back into sight that he stayed invisible for over ten minutes, so now he holds the record. Lefty promises not to use the mirror again but if these books have taught us nothing else, all children are liars.
That night, Max stays up late because of the weekend and hopes that his parents will let him stay up and watch Saturday Night Live. If this book were written now, he's be hoping they wouldn't let him. Erin calls and tries to convince Max that if they brought the mirror to school for the science fair, they'd be sure to get first prize and appear in People. So that's why Brad Pitt was on the cover of People, he grew some peapods! Max tells her that it's a bad idea because the wrong people could find out about the mirror, like the military. Ruh-roh sounds like Max's brother isn't the only lefty!
After five minutes of "No you hang up"-ing, Max sneaks off to the attic again. He sits against the wall opposite the mirror and stares at his reflection. As he starts to doze off, he's startled to hear a voice in the mirror, asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer: If Max wants to make the world a better place, he better get the hell out of the attic. Max runs down to his bedroom and hides underneath the sheets 'til morning.
When Max awakens, he soon discovers that Lefty is invisible again and this time using invisibility to float a shirt in Max's room. Granted, it's better he's doing this rather than molesting Kim Dickens, but it still seems like no character in this book is using this amazing discovery for anything worthwhile.
Max makes his brother go upstairs and change. When he comes back down, Max and his mother notice he's acting a little strange and there's something not quite right about him. There's really no way to talk about this part of the book without giving the twist away.
Max tells Lefty that he's decided getting invisible is too dangerous and calls his friends to cancel the invisibility championship. However, when the day of the championship arrives, Zack and the two girls show up at Max's house anyways. Turns out Lefty, who is currently hanging out at the park with his friends, called them up and un-canceled the championship. Max decides that as long as they're all there, they might as well go up to the attic.
If this book serves no other purpose, it continuously answers in the affirmative the eternal dramatic question we all ask of anything we read, "Will there be more things floating?" April finally gets to disappear but since Max's dog accidently gets invisible'd with her, he brings her back early. She's pissed but is again relegated to taking the time for the others. Erin goes next and for the first twelve minutes or so she's up to her regular hovering objects shenanigans. However, for several minutes they can't get her to respond to their questions. Eventually they spy a floating Coke can and Max brings her back by turning on the light. After she comes back into focus, she claims she just got thirsty and went downstairs and that's why she didn't reply. However, Max notices something odd about her appearance too.
Zack decides he's going to smother the record and doesn't want to be pulled back into reality until after fifteen minutes have passed. He then takes off outside and pulls a hilarious prank on an older neighbor. See, Invisible Zack picks up these tomatoes, right? And well he makes them hover in the air! Ha, objects hovering in the air, what a fresh, novel idea! However, once his friends stop splitting their sides in laughter at his riotous object floating, they notice that he too does not reply to their calls. Against Erin's objections, Max races upstairs and turns the light off.
Zack reappears and Max can't help but notice that his haircut has now been reversed. Max tries to say something but Erin and Zack push him under the light of the mirror and turn it on. He decides to not go anywhere and simply wait out his turn. As the time presses on, he begins to feel weaker and a white haze begins to envelop him. No matter how hard he cries, they won't pull the switch.
Now fully surrounded by white light, he sees an object floating towards him: his living reflection! (Cross-posted under Jacques Lacan Alert) The Reflection Max tells Actual Max that the reflections have already taken over Erin and Zack and now it's Max's turn. Max doesn't think living for eternity in a mirror sounds so hot, so he escapes. Somehow he manages to outrun white space and appears in the flesh once Erin and Zack pull the cord. They ask him if he's made the switch and he says no. Max, when someone asks you if you're a reflection, you say 'YES.'
Erin tells Actual Max no problem and pulls the cord again. Actual Max tries running out of the attic but Erin and Zack block his way. He yells to April to go get help but she tells him the only thing she can bring are May flowers. Just when all hope is lost, Lefty appears in the attic, sees the reflection of the invisible Max in the mirror and tosses him the ball. The ball shatters the mirror, sucking Max's reflection into the shards. Lefty holds onto the door frame while Erin and Zack also get sucked into the mirror and then spit back out again. April ends the book as she began it: doing nothing.
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Well, Max likes Erin, so that's not too platonic, but she like everyone else in this book does disappear at some point in the novel.
Max's mom tells him he can forget about his chores and go play with his friends instead.
"Sometimes nonviolence can be real frustrating."
Early 90s Cultural References:
SNL, "the Terminator movie," mirrors
R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
Kids love lifting objects.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Max expects his father to ask him why his brother is invisible, only he doesn't seem to notice. I can't really fault someone for not seeing an invisible person though.
Great Prose Alert:
But when he finally saw the three tomatoes spinning around in midair a few feet in front of him, his eyes bugged out and his face turned as red as the tomatoes!
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that "the Let's Get Invisible! book" still held up. Not the best in the series, but its low-key charms are undeniable. PS: When I was a kid, this was the first and last Goosebumps book I spoiled for myself by reading the ending first.