Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Series 2000 #09 Are You Terrified Yet?

Series 2000 09 Are You Terrified Yet?

Front Tagline: Along came a spider...

Brief Synopsis:
Most Goosebumps books feature improbable scenes, but I'd be hard pressed to come up with anything less plausible than the brakes of a car with a baby in the passenger seat accidentally giving way without the driver inside, and the careening car being stopped by a twelve-year-old boy who dives in from the street to rescue the child and stop the car. No, this isn't a scene from Agent Cody Banks (I assume), it's the opening of Are You Terrified Yet? The hero here, Craig, started the book by being scared of a leaf, so there was nowhere to go but up. His reputation for being a scaredy cat is so well-known that his classmates called him C-C-C-Craig, which unfortunately means they could never use that excellent "Did I stutter?" retort. But things are looking up for Craig, as he's just moved to a new town, a new town with abandoned babies in speeding cars.

The joke of the novel, and it's a good one, is that by consistently being cowardly, Craig is widely perceived as being brave by everyone he encounters. He fell off his bike and nearly got hit by the careening car but more or less accidentally found his way inside the car (don't ask) to stop it. The car slows to a stop in front of his new school on his first day of classes, branding him a hero to the entire student body, save a few skeptical students. The mother of the baby, who's a total MILRNLHBUIC (Mother I'd Like to Remind Not to Leave Her Baby Unattended In The Car) rushes over to thank him, revealing that while having your mom drop you off at school is embarrassing, having someone else's mom there makes you the coolest.

Craig's good fortune continues to accrue. He befriends the cutest girl in school, Amy, who is beyond impressed with his feats of bravery. Unfortunately, her best friends, Travis and Brad, are Craig's harshest critics. The boys refuse to be won over by his charms, even though he later rescues a bird's nest-- and man, if rescuing a bird's nest doesn't impress preteens, nothing will.

And so it goes, as Craig is built up to ridiculous levels of bravery by his peers. My personal favorite misunderstanding finds Craig screaming in horror at a scary movie, to which Amy agrees, it is fun to scream along with the characters in the film! Jealous of the attention being lavished on the new kid, Travis becomes obsessed with proving Craig is a scaredy cat. And Travis' cause gains traction after he talks to a distant cousin, who previously went to school with C-C-C-Craig. So Travis shows up with a jar full of spiders and dares Craig to stick his hand in the jar for five minutes. Craig is goaded on by Amy and does so, only to be bitten so many times that he can't even remove his swollen hand after five minutes are up. So Amy talks Travis into going double-or-nothing and Craig has to keep his hand submerged twice as long. Once they leave, Craig comes clean but Amy thinks that too was brave. He then washes his hands, an action which I'm sure she also found brave.

Travis pledges to go double or nothing again the following day. The bravery challenge this time will be to kiss a poisonous snake on the lips, which sounds more like a test for stupidity to me. Only the snake thing was misdirection for one of the boys plucking out their eyeball and shoving it in Craig's mouth. Craig comes out of this one looking brave by spitting out the eyeball, as though the cowardly thing to do was to swallow it? To the surprise of no one, the eyeball was a fake gag and also there was never any snake. But this too is not enough to prove Craig's bravery. And while I agree, I don't necessarily sign on for more tests either.

Travis' dad works at a funeral parlor. So now the newest bravery test involves Craig sneaking into the funeral home and sitting in a coffin. But unfortunately for him, the coffin he chooses is occupied. His "friends" egg him on anyways, as a truly brave person would sit in a corpse-filled coffin no problem. Just like all those other military generals, firefighters, and action heroes who hang around in coffins during their off hours.

But wouldn't you know it, the corpse comes to life and tries to choke Craig. It is of course Travis in disguise, and somehow Craig allowing himself to be choked proves his bravery, and Travis is shocked at how brave he really is. But then Amy challenges Travis to let Craig repeat the challenge again the next day for no reason other than that Craig is her prized pig and she keeps setting up things for him to jump over.

At some point Craig comes clean with Amy, but Amy just thinks he's not only brave but sweet to not want to take Travis' money by pretending to be afraid. Also Craig accidentally beats up Brad's older brother, and boy as much as I like this book, there's probably one too many of these kinds of scenes. But subtlety has had a restraining order out against Stine for the length of the series, so I can't say I'm real surprised.

So the big climax finds everyone back at the funeral home, where surprise surprise the corpses really do come alive. Everyone runs off while Craig bravely defends those who abandoned him, proving once and for all that he actually is brave. Also one of the attacking coffin corpses is wearing a hat, which begs one final question: Why would you bury someone wearing a hat?

But the Twist is:
It turns out the corpses were set up by Craig with help from Brad, who felt bad about how devoted Travis was to proving Craig's bravery. The zombies were actually Brad's older brother (the one Craig "beat up") and his friends. And if you thought this book already seemed a little like You Can't Scare Me!, you'll be happy to know that it proceeds to being exactly like You Can't Scare Me! Brad's brother walks in and apologizes for his friends not being able to make it to the cemetery. This causes Brad to race away from the room so he can vomit in horror. I was getting worried that the book was so far along without a vomit scene, but there it is.

But Then the Better Twist is:
It turns out Brad's brother just said that to get back at Brad for... well, I guess if these books have taught us anything, it's that older brothers don't really need an excuse to torment their siblings. Craig walks home and remarks to the reader on how it turns out he really is brave... even if he's still afraid of the dark. Which is to say, a protagonist in one of these books doesn't get screwed and the novel keeps its charming tone. Man, based on that cover, who knew

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Craig and his new best friend Amy, whose big mouth causes Craig's attraction to her to disappear about halfway through the book.

the RAND Corporation, In Conjunction With the Saucer People, Under the Supervision of the Reverse Vampires Alert :
Outside of the distraught mother who opens the book, there's not a single other adult in the novel. Finally, a Lord of the Flies for our generation.

RB Farraday Alert:
Some of the horror movies Craig browses in Amy's collection: Killer Daycamp, Killer Daycamp II, Killer Daycamp III: the Revenge.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 6/7:
Craig's life is ruined-- and by ruined, he means greatly improved.

Great Prose Alert:
I gazed down at the box. It showed two teenage boys and two teenage girls screaming in horror.

No, but that's okay.


Groggy Dundee said...

So, you enjoyed it? Good show.

Zak said...

In case anyone's wondering, the thing I was talking about is that it's the only Goosebumps set in the real world. As in, nothing supernatural happens.

Whether the non-supernatural events are REALISTIC, that's another matter.

Anyway, great entry.

troy steele said...

Ah, good catch Zak!

Anonymous said...

So did you like it or not?
I could not tell
As for me I hated it. Nothing happened the baby thing in the begging was badass though

Anonymous said...

Was there bee-throwing? Oh please tell me there was bee-throwing.

Anonymous said...

As usual, a good recap is all I need to remember the book. I don't remember if I liked it or not when I first read it, but certainly it seems like a nice change now.

So it's Headless Halloween next? If I recall correctly - well, I won't spoil it, but it's a strange one. 2000 often is.

Anonymous said...

Wait, what supernatural happenings are in Shocker on Shock Street or Fright Camp? Robots and unrealistic experiments could happen.

troy steele said...

Ah, good catch Anonymous Number Two!

Anonymous said...

As of this month, I'll have owned this book for a full decade. And I've only read it once. Now I remember why.

I remember Headless Halloween being sort of lame. Something about a party, and then the book ends. Pretty sure there's puke, though. So at least we have that to look forward to.

I must say, though. #11, Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls is one of my favorites, and it has one of the most gruesome covers I've ever seen on a children's book.
Plus, the twist ending is that the main character accidentally turns into a girl, or something.
What's not to love about THAT?


Anonymous said...

The horrifying onset of puberty?

Anonymous said...

great simpsons reference!

Anonymous said...

Wow you're giving these 2000 books more credit than I remember them deserving. Except for Horrors of the Black Ring. I distinctly remember loving that one.

Anonymous said...

What in blazes was this book?! You mean to tell me this is exactly how the book turns out? Wow...mad props to troy for never giving up on the entry.
"Did I stutter?" "Yeah...ya kinda did..."

Anonymous said...

OMG troy Wikipedia plagiarized you!

Also you didn't answer my question

Zak said...

Anonymous 2 - Shocker on Shock Street had a Ghost Tram. As in, they sit on it, but it goes through the wall.
Also, there was an area where when they ride in the tram, Erin thinks Marty disappeared, but really they're in an area where it makes them seem invisible. Too much of a stretch.
Also, humanesque-looking robots, which is what Erin and Marty were, are actually cyborgs. Too much Sci-fi.

As for Fright Camp, I haven't read the book in a while but I think were were some things that were over-the-top scifi.

On a side note, Groggy, are you gonna email me? Referring to the last entry...

Anonymous said...

what was the Simpson reference

Anonymous said...

simpsons reference was "the RAND Corporation, In Conjunction With the Saucer People, Under the Supervision of the Reverse Vampires Alert"

if i remember correctly, it was in the episode in which homer and grandpa made the love tonic. all the adults kept hurryin home to have sex, and the kids came up with a solution involvin saucer people and reverse vampires to explain the adults disappearance

Groggy Dundee said...

I don't know. I haven't read Graveyard Ghouls in ages and I barely remember it. Maybe Horrors of the Black Ring. I do remember it ended with Beth's sister getting a ring identical to her sister's, but I'm not sure I remember the exact line.

Zak said...

I meant to check, I didn't expect you to remember it off the bat. Well, when you have time. But I think I prefer you email me rather than say it here.

The Guindo said...

Also, humanesque-looking robots, which is what Erin and Marty were, are actually cyborgs.

Actually that would be Androids. Cyborgs are biological/mechanical hybrids.

Zak said...

Okay then, and as far as I know, Androids don't exist either.

Ryan Ferneau said...

In case anyone's wondering, the thing I was talking about is that it's the only Goosebumps set in the real world. As in, nothing supernatural happens.

Sounds like this book sure keeps you guessing about that at the end, though. "It's a zombie! Except it's a fake! But then there's a real zombie! Except it's also fake! No it's a zombie! No it's not! Yes it is!"

Anonymous said...

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. To this end, I hold M&M duels. Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round. I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theatre of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to:

M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc. Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A.

along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion. There can be only one.

Groggy Dundee said...

Now wait a moment good anonymous sir... are you spamming or does this have something do with something?

troy steele said...

It's just an internet meme, like the O RLY owl or Katy Perry

Boomtax said...

Damn, I thought this was the one where the spiders turn out to be dogs or something. Stine pulled a fast one on us by keeping this one in the realm of moderate believability.

Anonymous said...

Fright Camp vs. plausibility: It's a horror camp social experiment run by a possibly insane R.L. Stine stand-in. Child abuse is pretty consistent in Goosebumps, but I'm not sure I can let Fright Camp pass into the realms of believability. Not unless those cruise ship rides with R.L. Stine involved fake ghost possessions and shipwrecks and stuff. ...Which would actually be awesome.

Zak said...

Tuesday is here... bring on the update!

Though I wasn't too crazy about Headless Halloween, but anyway... also posting for the attention of someone that was supposed to email me.

Groggy Dundee said...

>also posting for the attention of someone that was supposed to email me.

I don't believe I was supposed to. In any case, I don't know. My books are at home and I'm at college.

Anonymous said...

you big baby maybe he just doesn't feel like emailing you

Anonymous said...

Realistic verse entertaining becomes the real question Zak

Rob A said...

that was epic anonymous, I laughed.
Good article btw, great as usual. I found this site a while ago, and I've been reading through them trying to catch up. Only ten more and I'll be right on track!!

Heather Nicole said...

And so it goes, as Craig is built up to ridiculous levels of bravery by his peers.

Intentional Kurt Vonnegut/Slaughterhouse 5 reference?

If so, I applaud you lol.

Anonymous said...

Killer Daycamp III: The Revenge?????????????

What next?

Killer Daycamp IV: Havana Nights?

Groggy Dundee said...

I read this one yesterday. I can't share Troy's enthusiasm - it's pretty boring, a lame rehash of You Can't Scare Me. If I read this as a kid I probably would have hated it. At my age it's just a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

The artwork is like Tim Jacobus' way of saying "screw you!" to arachnophobics.