Series 2000 14 Jekyll and Heidi
Front Tagline: Half human. Half beast.
(That tagline is Half-assed)
As if going Greyhound wasn't horrible enough, poor protagonist Heidi is riding the bus to Vermont because her parents recently died in a car accident. Given the immediately somber details, perhaps you've scrolled back up to the awful cover just to make sure this is the right book. Well, it is and it's a good one at that. Until one of Stine's patented witticisms popped up (Someone saying "Thrills," which no ghostwriter would knowingly reuse), I was convinced this was the product of farming the series out to someone who hated the series but still wanted to show how it could be done right. The book has the triumvirate of Goosebumps cliches-- staying with distant relatives, a scientist, and a werewolf-- and somehow still makes these tired elements work.
Heidi gets off alone at the tiny village bus station and finds herself without an escort. Her Uncle, the scientist Dr. Jekyll, was supposed to pick her up, but he's nowhere to be found. While waiting, Heidi gets spooked by some cawing birds outside the station. Um, wrong Jeckle:
While she waits for her uncle, Heidi chats up a cute boy hanging around the empty seats, Aaron. His mother works in the bus stop's cafe and he's killing time until she gets off work by providing valuable background material to girls who get off busses. It seems a horrible beast is stalking the village at night, and the townspeople know her uncle is to blame-- though their evidence seems at best to be that they know his last name. I mean, that's pretty damning stuff, but somehow Heidi isn't convinced.
Tired of waiting, Heidi trudges up the snowy hill to her uncle's ominous-looking mansion. She's greeted at the door by her grumpy cousin Marianne, who tries to get Heidi to leave at once. And go where exactly, her parents are dead and she's alone in Vermont. "Leave at once-- and go tour the Ben and Jerry's factory!" Heidi's Uncle Jekyll however is pleased to see her, and apologizes for getting so caught up in his lab experiments that he forgot to pick her up. Now, guess which one is the werewolf and which one is the scientist.
And then most of the book becomes about the tension of escalating attacks in the village and whether her Uncle is living up to his namesake. In one of the book's great visuals, Heidi's bedroom overlooks the entire village and she sees the beast wreak a path of destruction from a bird's eye view, ending with the lights of the patrol cars shining through the night. Heidi then feels her suspicions growing when shortly thereafter, Dr. Jekyll returns from "a walk" covered in dirt. Maybe he was doing something even more horrifying than werewolfing.
Heidi decides to spy on her Uncle and witnesses him downing several concoctions in the lab. I guess that settles it: either he's a werewolf or thirsty. When she tries to escape, she's confronted by Dr. Jekyll, who locks her in her room for her own good. She shimmies down a drain pipe and goes out to stop the beast's destruction. While she witnesses the general destruction of the village, she sees something far worse: the beast. Aaron shows up and foolishly attempts to protect his friend. The beast merely throws the boy into a fire. He survives, but that doesn't change the amazing fact that this is a book where a werewolf throws a boy into a fire.
Heidi discovers that the entire village is fed up with being terrorized by a werewolf, as if they had anything else to do. A string of angry villagers descends (ascends?) on her uncle's mansion, just as she learns the secret: Marianne was bitten by a werewolf on vacation several years ago and ever since, Dr. Jekyll has been working on a cure. As the villagers arrive, Dr. Jekyll leads Marianne and Heidi down below into the basement, where there is a secret tunnel leading away from town. The three get halfway down when Heidi remembers an old diary she'd found in her room. She insists that the old artifact is worth saving and abandons her family to go brave the kill-crazy bunch and retrieve it. Upstairs, she sneaks past the vigilantes, who luckily are too busy setting fire to curtains and breaking things to bother killing monsters. The bedroom furniture had it coming though. I mean, just look at the way it was dresser.
Heidi retrieves the book. Unfortunately, the angry townspeople have run out of things to destroy and finally notice her. There hasn't been a mob this angry at Heidi since the Raiders/Jets game of '68. Luckily, a remarkably well-healed Aaron shows up to rescue her (this time without being thrown into a fire in the process) and the two escape downstairs. Tragically, her uncle and cousin have already left, never to be seen again.
But the Twist is:
Well, I guess if it's a werewolf book, someone who wasn't a werewolf has to turn into a werewolf. Safe at Aaron's house, Heidi begins reading from the old journal, only to discover it contains modern writing. Apparently Marianne liked the vintage journal and began charting her transformations within it. Heidi reads through the pages until she reaches the end and reads the entry about how one night Marianne bit her while she slept. Is it possible Heidi grabbed the wrong book?
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Heidi and her friend Aaron, who gets burns halfway through his body.
I know it's sad when someone's parents die, but maybe you don't invite orphan girl to live with werewolf girl, huh?
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
The door to Heidi's room swings open, revealing: a draft.
Great Prose Alert:
"I don't know what I'm doing," she mumbled into her tuna casserole.
Turns out you really can't judge a book by its cover. Except for Chicken Chicken of course.
Come back Friday for the traditional Halloween update. If you know your Goosebumps, you can probably guess what it'll be.