Monday, June 02, 2008

#57 My Best Friend Is Invisible

#57 My Best Friend Is Invisible

Front Tagline: Not seeing is believing!
Back Tagline: He's Outta Sight...For Real!

Official Book Description:
Sammy Jacobs is into ghosts and science fiction. Not exactly the smartest hobby--at least not if you ask Sammy's parents. They're research scientists and they only believe in real science.
But now Sammy's met someone who's totally unreal. He's hanging out in Sammy's room. And eating his cereal at breakfast. Sammy's got to find a way to get rid of his new "friend." Only problem is...Sammy's new "friend" is invisible!

Brief Synopsis:
You might think that a Goosebumps book that fulfills its scientist quota so excessively would have a lot going for it. Protagonist Sammy Jacobs has two scientist parents and a scientist-in-training younger brother, Simon. But all the bunsen burners in the world can't ignite a single spark of interest in this book. See, Sammy's the black sheep of the family because he doesn't care about science, he cares about science fiction. He busies himself reading books about ghosts and aliens while his brother, who apparently caught Porky's on USA Up All Night, is fast at work measuring the growth of his body every day. C'mon, every single day?

Sammy's parents can't deal with the fact that the son of two losers is somehow an even bigger loser than they are, so they spend their time at home ignoring him, opting to pour over Science Reports instead of parenting. Sammy's so unpopular lately that even the family cat, Brutus is ignoring him, a situation to which he wittily quotes Shakespeare, "Now is the winter of our discontent."

Luckily for Sammy, he does have his friend Roxanne, who comes over to berate Sammy for being such a poor athlete. Apparently Sammy lost a track meet earlier in the day and Roxanne wants to make sure he does a better job at the mini-Olympics later in the week. Sammy says he merely let her win and assures Roxanne that he will both run faster and put on the red light.

With that settled, Roxanne and Sammy get to work brainstorming about their English term project. Sammy suggests studying the life cycle of a moth or charting the growth of plants. Roxanne wants to film a haunted house over the weekend. At no point do either of them consider any project related to English for their English project.

Their wild speculation is interrupted by a mysterious light that appears in Sammy's room. The source of this light is revealed to be a special magic flashlight belonging to Sammy's dad that allows invisible organisms to be made visible. For some reason this light scared Sammy and Roxanne, perhaps because they have a phobia about telegraphed twist endings.

Roxanne resumes trying to sell Sammy on the haunted house idea by quoting a bunch of "facts" from books about hauntings. The haunted house is called the Hedge House because there are hedges in front of the house. Expectant mothers, I think you can cross any paranormal investigators off your list of people to ask for baby name suggestions. Instead of visiting a haunted house, Sammy would much rather spend his Saturday watching the new horror movie School Spirit. His father overhears and confuses this with his son actually having school spirit. Wow, a father who only cares about sports, really knocking those cliches out of the park with this one, Stine. Get it, more sports

After Roxanne leaves, Sammy becomes convinced that someone's messing with him, as his window is open and his papers scattered around the room. He's sure that a ghost is responsible, but maybe he just lives in the Watergate apartments. The next morning he discovers that Brutus opted not to sleep in his room as per usual, as though a cat doing whatever it wants was in any way news. He sits down for a nice bowl of cereal, only to discover that while his head was turned away from the bowl, the ghost has eaten all of his cereal. The ghost ate his cereal.

At school, Sammy is called to the front of the class to solve a math problem. The polynomial equation takes a quadrastic turn though as an invisible clammy hand grasps Sammy's and he runs from the room in hysterics.

Back at home, Sammy witnesses the scene depicted on the cover of the book. The cover art really captures how totally lame a ghost eating pizza is, though to Stine's credit he didn't include the pictured church-key soda can. Sammy's mother takes a pause from not paying attention to him to scold him for eating pizza. She then tells him to clean up his room. When he heads upstairs to do as instructed, he discovers that someone has strewn cereal and lunchmeat and other foodstuffs all over his floor. After checking in the hallway for precocious youngsters or feuding heterosexual couples who don't realize their feelings for each other, he comes to the conclusion that only a ghost could have caused this food fight. Then the ghost speaks up and confirms this.

Except the voice is not a ghost at all, but an invisible boy named Brent Green. He's twelve too and wants very badly to be Sammy's best friend. He explains that he doesn't know how he got to Sammy's house or who his parents are, but he's hungry and wants to be Sammy's friend. Sammy tries to get his family to come see his invisible friend, but you can imagine how well that goes. Not even Roxanne believes him, though she does tell the entire student body about it so they can mock him properly at school the next day.

Things get so bad for Sammy that he has to eat lunch alone in the library. That doesn't work out so well, as Brent followed him to school and starts eating his sandwich. Sammy begs him to go away but Brent insists that he's just trying to be his friend. Brent proves his friendship by ruining Sammy's turn in the relay race, costing his team the game. With friends like this, who needs visibilities amirite

To make it up losing the race to Roxanne, Sammy is forced to agree to accompany her to the haunted house that weekend. Beforehand though, Sammy tries every trick in the book to convince Brent to leave. He tries to get him to live with Roxanne because she has better food but Brent doesn't want to be friends with a girl. Ruh roh, no one tell Jessica Valenti about this book!

Brent sees that Sammy's trying to get rid of him and attempts to throw him out the window. He stops himself before he actually murders Sammy though and explains that he was just goofing around in a familial way, which makes perfect sense only if you're a cast member of Dallas. Brent finally leaves after Sammy turns up the radiator high enough to produce steam in his room, proving the old adage true: if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the house of the boy you're bothering.

Anyways, Roxanne and Sammy are at the Hedge House, ready to bust some ghosts. And whadaya know, a ghost does show up. Upstairs in the spooky house, the ghost angrily picks up Roxanne and starts throwing her around the room. Then the ghost picks up a pillow and tries to smother her. Oh my God, the ghost is Albert Finney!

Roxanne and Sammy flee from the house, having learned an important lesson about just writing five paragraphs on Of Mice And Men instead of getting murdered by ghosts for their English project. Back at home, Brent reveals that he was behind the whole charade. Shocker. The invisibully refuses to leave.

Sammy's parents announce that his erratic behavior has caused them to set up an appointment with a mental institution for their son. Before he can be taken away though, Sammy breaks free and runs down to his parents' basement to grab the magic flashlight. He forces the rest of the family and Roxanne to follow him to his room, where he shines the light on Brent, revealing...

But the Twist is:
A HIDEOUS MONSTER. Brent reveals that his mother made him invisible so it would be easier for him to make friends.

Okay, there's more. Take a deep breath.

Sammy and his family can't figure out how Brent can survive with only one head, two eyes, and two short arms that aren't even long enough to wrap around his body. They can't stop being disgusted at how he has hair on top of his head instead of suction-cupped tentacles. Sammy's father explains that this creature is a human and its their duty to call the zoo, as humans are an endangered species. What.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Sammy and his "pal" Roxanne, who doesn't buy that Sammy has a disappearing friend halfway through the book, primarily because it would involve assuming someone would want to befriend Sammy.

Questionable Parenting:
Simon quips that they can use the magic flashlight to search for Sammy's missing brain, causing the entire family to burst into laughter. I'm not upset about the parents mocking their son, I'm upset that the joke wasn't funny.

Questionable Teaching:
Even Sammy's teacher mocks him by pretending to call on an invisible student. That's going to really blow her credibility concerning attendance sheets.

R.L. Stine Shows He Is Down With the Kids:
No one has an ear for the natural dialog of children like Stine:
"How could you -- you stupid clumsy cretin!" she shrieked.

Out of Context Text Alert:
"I bet we hear moaning soon. Make sure your camcorder is ready."

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 3/4
There's nothing on the floor. Nothing except... nothing.

Great Prose Alert:
A regular flashlight didn't shine with a shimmery, white, blinding light.

An extraordinarily obnoxious book where nothing happens, every character is grating, and the final twist makes absolutely no sense, My Best Friend Is Invisible is reference-level terrible.


Anonymous said...

Out of Context Text Alert:
"I bet we hear moaning soon. Make sure your camcorder is ready."

Funniest thing to ever be written. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your site, but I got to say I like it.
I just finished reading all the entry. I have to say, I doubt I could come up with material as consistently as you do.

That being said, I have to suggest that you try more variations of your format. When almost all of the entries are the same, even the good stuff starts to feel tedious.
For example, the one you did like a test was probably the best one you have done so far.

Anyways, great job and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Out of context alert!


troy steele said...

Not that you don't have a valid point vandjack, but the site's entries obviously follow a formula and I'm very skeptical about straying too far from it except on rare occasion. The blog has a finite lifetime and a more or less fixed amount of entries, and there's very little reason to stray from the proven format.

Anything that's more or less the same (as these entries essentially are) gets tedious if you read it all at once instead of pacing yourself on a weekly basis! It's like how the Law and Order marathon is exciting for the first couple hours, but then by the end of the day it's like, "What else is on?"

Anonymous said...

I do remember the twist ending of this book, but not much else, and I repeatedly confused this for I Live in Your Basement until I found this blog. Still, lame book.

Vandjack said...

You have a good point troy.

I have one more thing to say then I'll drop it. Since the site's life span is finite as you say, what would it matter if you throw a few Hail Mary's at the end?

I'm really looking forward to seeing the Choose your own adventure part.

It makes me laugh now, but I use to be a Goosebumps fanatic as a kid. As bad as the book are, I have to credit them with sparking my desire to become an author.

PS. Something else that is kind of, sort of in the spirit of your blog is "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"
Might be worth looking into when you're done here. I'm pretty sure all of them are on Youtube.

Brodie said...

RL Stine has issues with being a man. He wants to be something more. Werewolf. Vampire. Alien. Woman. Just something more than he is. Even with his yacht.

I was hoping for the dual update, but oh well.

Chad Walters said...

My favorite cliffhanger was 24/25:

"I'm...not...Jeffrey," I choked out.
My last words.


I thought they were my last words.

Anonymous said...

You watch Law & Order...?

Anonymous said...

This blog is tedious...

Tediously awesome.

But vand is right in the fact that you should try new things. I mean, it's not like you're bring graded here. This is your blog. Feel free to experiment. Troy, think of yourself as the Beatles of blogging.

troy steele said...

I've always thought of myself more as the Beetle Bailey of blogging.

Ryan Ferneau said...

I assumed this would somehow be the sequel to Let's Get Invisible.

Anonymous said...

Apparently mirrors are forbidden in HorrorLand, so maybe there'll be a sequel to Let's Get Invisible there. Prediction: That little building in Map 12 is a House of Mirrors.

And I think you should largely stick to the formula in order to do each book justice, unless they're so similar that there's really no point - e.g. the Monster Blood series, did not need four books, especially when the last one didn't really have any Monster Blood. I too keep mixing this book up with I Live In Your Basement, though; they're not far apart, and they have a few similar concepts.

It'd be harder to blog Are You Afraid Of The Dark as it's a TV show, but there's no doubting that it suffered from some of the same problems as Goosebumps - wild variations in tone and quality. The goofy ones always disappoint. A comparison of an episode of AYAotD? and an episode of the Goosebumps TV show with a similar plot might be enlightening, though.

So will it be Terror Tower next week, then?

retro_kitchen_kitten said...

I wouldn't bother changing the blog. It's great the way you write it, easy to read and I enjoy the weekly updates.

And this book is horrible. That ending makes no sense!

Anonymous said...

That cover is truly horrifying, what's wrong with that cat?
Now I appreciate the wait, this book sounds ghastly. I stopped reading the series before I got to this gem.

Vandjack said...

Brodie has a good point.

I don't think Stine ever go over being the weird kid when he was young (and to be perfectly frank, pretty ugly).
He does seem to use the books as escapism, and in instances like Chicken, Chicken, it's basicly fan-fic for his childhood were he gets back at those that picked on him.

Werewolf=he's hairy as hell. He probably feels kinship with them.

Patrick said...

Haha, this one sounds terrible. Especially coming right from Let's Get Invisible, which it's just like, except without the plot.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This book sounds horrible, and I could tell you had trouble even getting good material out of it to taunt. I don't envy your job, Troy.

Brent Waggoner said...

My name is Brent, and I bear a striking resemblance to the monster.

Also, the title is kind of strange, although I guess it's technically true that Roxanne is a monster.

Vandjack said...

I found something awesome.

In the TV version of "Night of the Living Dummy", guess who plays Zane?
Answer: Hayden Christenson.
It's creepy how young he looks.

Also, I have a copy of some old "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" episodes, and I realized that one of the new groups that tells stories has a young Elisha Cuthbert.
I can never watch "The Girl Next Door" again without feeling like a pedophile.

Big Bob said...

How does an invisible boy hold up two slices of pizza AND a can of soda? They said at the end that he didn't have three arms, and he wouldn't be able to hold a full can like that with his teeth unless he had jaws of steel.

The Guindo said...

"The polynomial equation takes a quadrastic turn"

I love you.

Brodie said...

"In the TV version of "Night of the Living Dummy", guess who plays Zane?
Answer: Hayden Christenson.
It's creepy how young he looks."

I mentioned this in the comments for that back.

Anonymous said...

You'll get a whole pinata full of credit if you that's what you want, brodie. TAKE IT, TAKE IT FROM MY HANDS.

Brodie said...

I will take it, NOW GIVE IT TO ME NOW

Anonymous said...

I see Hayden still possesses the same thespian talent he had when he was a wee lad.

Anonymous said...

I remember starting this, but getting bored and not finishing. The ending's terrible, anyway. I love this blog.

Stanko said...

Great post. I'm particularly fond of the "Out of Context Alert." I vaguely remember reading this one as a kid. I truly hope I didn't enjoy it.

Doctor Foci Whom said...

I'm also new to your blog (my friend showed it to me) and I'm instantly hooked. You are so hilarious. Your format is also ingenious. Keep up the very good work you started.

"I bet we hear moaning soon. Make sure your camcorder is ready."


Zak said...

I fell out of my chair at the OoC alert. What was the whole sentence? That book's missing in my collection.

Have you seen the TV episode of this? You'd think that the twist would make this unadaptable, but they did an alright job "hiding" it.

troy steele said...

"Oh," she said. "Well we just got here. I bet we hear moaning soon. Make sure your camcorder is ready."

The intended idea is they're waiting for a spirit. The out of context suggestion is that they're waiting for someone to spear it.

Anonymous said...

This blog is so awesome. Did you read these books as a kid, Troy? What sparked this interest in reviewing masterpieces like Chicken, Chicken?

troy steele said...

When I started this blog, there was no place on the internet that revealed the twist endings to the Goosebumps books, and I realized there was this huge untapped market of nostalgic 20-somethings like me who vaguely remembered loving the books as a kid and would want to relive that, or at least be reminded which book was the one where they all turned out to be dogs or something.

Anonymous said...

"and he assured Roxanne that he would run faster and also turn on the red light."

I laughed out loud at that one. Apparently I'm old enough to get a Police reference but young enough to have read Goosebumps. Is that possible?

I suppose it is for you as well, though. Keep up the good work Troy, you bring the goods every time

Ryan Ferneau said...

How does an invisible boy hold up two slices of pizza AND a can of soda?

I don't think that's two slices. I think that's one slice with a bite taken out of it, and you can see the bite still hanging in his invisible mouth. Eww. Also, the perspective is so out of whack that I can't imagine what sort of awkward position he must be standing in for that to work.

Anonymous said...

TROY!! A MAGIC BULLET REFERENCE?! WE WERE SO DESTINED TO BE BFFS, I CAN BARELY STAND IT!! I'm not going to lie, I bought a Magic Bullet because of the genius that is that infomercial.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the blog is great as-is, no need to mess with success :)

Anonymous said...

which IS the episode where they all turn out to be dogs or something? i can't remember and i've searched to no avail!

Zak said...

that's because it's one of the ones he has left to review ;)

Anonymous said...

The dog one is "My Hairiest Adventure."

Anonymous said...

Sucks how the Human species is endangered but cats are still thriving and seen as pets.

Anonymous said...

LOLcats, Greg.

Groggy Dundee said...

Troy, you're so wrong on the Great Prose Alert. How could you have missed this gem?

"Mom narrowed her eyes. She narrows her eyes when she gets mad. And now her eyes were really, really narrow."

Groggy Dundee said...

I should also add: The very simple reason why this book is so bad is because it displays utter contempt for its audience, to a degree extraordinary for even a Goosebumps book. The twist ending doesn't come out of left field, it comes from NOWHERE AT ALL. These are aliens who dress like humans, eat like humans (including the name-brand Frosted Flakes and Corn Pops cereals), keep cats as pets, have English first names, run track meets, have stuck-up librarians, and do Math in school. Hell, Sammy has a YANKEES jacket, for Christ's sake! (Insert Steinbrenner joke here.) This really is an insulting novel. I doubt I minded it as a kid (though this book was never high on my list to begin with), but re-reading it with my brother over the weekend I found it really insulting.

Jacquie said...

To go along with the actors bit...The episodes of Say Cheese and Die feature a young Ryan Goseling. FYI
These poor actors got their starts in Goosebumps. LOL

VNightmare said...

The only thing I liked about this book was the twist, jarring as it was, because I really did not see it coming.

The rest of it...I honestly forced myself through it. I had to make sure this was the only book I had on me while reading it because I kept trying to pick up something else.

And I thought Monster Blood III was bad.

Pirka said...

The TV episode of this is even worse when it comes to the twist ending. It's like the person directing the episode didn't even read the book and when he came across the twist, he was all "Oh shite, the twist is that they're all aliens who don't even look slightly human! We don't have the budget for that!" then, after an awkward pause, "Wait, WE HAVE GREENSCREENS IN THE BACK! THE PRODUCTION IS SAVED!"

...needless to say, instead of aliens with multiple heads and tentacles, we get...people with faces badly photoshopped on the back of their heads. Oh, and they made all the main characters evil for no reason, because I guess them being alien Rathergood cartoons wasn't scary enough.

By the way...I effing love your blog. You're smart, funny and have a huge tolerance to read these and then write about em'. We all love Goosebumps, though - they're just so corny you can't look away!

Heather Nicole said...

Everyone else has already said it, but the "out of context" alert was fucking hilarious.

Anonymous said...

The platonic boy-girl relationship:
"Sammy and his "pal" Roxanne" ...

What's with the "pal", Troy Steele? Are you trying to imply that Roxanne isn't a true friend to Sammy? Or that Roxanne may be more than a pal to Sammy?

Jazmin said...

I agree Chad Walters
It was a good book and now for school homework I have to do a review on it!!! (:

Anonymous said...

benny here. this one was good again. 7/10 good.

Anonymous said...

The little pizza piece is the bitten off segment, presumably in his invisible mouth.

Anonymous said...

when i got 2 the twist my jaw hit the center of the earth

Unknown said...

I think the twist ending where they're all monsters or aliens or something wasn't in the original draft. I'm pretty sure it was added as an afterthought because R.L. Stine felt he needed to end all his books with bullshit twists like he's M. Night Shyamalan. Twist endings don't work if you do them every single time.

Unknown said...

What's the author's message in "My Best Friend is Invisible"?

Automatistic said...

That he had a deadline to meet and a yacht to buy.