Book Review: 'Goosebumps,' a series retrospective

In this photo provided by Columbia Pictures, Jack Black who stars as R.L. Stine, Slappy, and Invisible Boy, appears in a scene in Columbia Pictures' "Goosebumps

Most of us remember when we were younger at school, walking through that one part of the library that had all the “Goosebumps” books stacked along the children’s fiction section. We loved the fact that there were horror books created for kids throughout the 90s and that they were actually popular amongst our demographic.

Although we were supposed to spend time reading educational books for our classes, we would often sit and read “Goosebumps” for the sake of pleasure - or better yet, for the horror. R.L. Stine, the author of the series, is a writer, similar to J.K. Rowling, who shaped our childhoods through his creepy story-telling.

Now let’s be honest, one of the primary reasons we would read one book in the series over the other was because of the book cover illustrations. Each cover was colorful and extremely creepy, but we thoroughly enjoyed looking through them. “The Night of the Living Dummy” and its sequels were one of the most popular stories written. I’m sure many of us probably still have an illogical fear or suspicion around dolls and, well, you know, psychopathic ventriloquist dummies.

The stories were not only scary and creepy, but they were also very funny. They were not meant to be taken too seriously because these eerie tales were there to entertain us. Humor is a way to find a connection between characters that R.L. Stine balanced really well in stories like “Say Cheese and Die,” where a kid finds a family of skeletons doing mundane, every day activities. It was quite appealing and easy for us to imagine ourselves in these characters’ places and wonder what we would do if we were surrounded by ghosts at camp or there was a monster living in the basement.

All of these tales involved children and teenagers as the main characters, with every horrifying situation they went through described from their perspectives. “Goosebumps” did not focus on adults finding ways to survive or have them fighting off monsters to save their friends and family - it was the kids who were the main focus and heroes in these tales. Sometimes they were even the villains. Either way, it’s what kept us reading these scary stories throughout our early school years.

The most interesting things that R.L. Stine wrote about were not just the scary monsters and crazy ghouls, but the fact that his stories usually taught a lesson, albeit indirectly. Being honest and standing up for what’s right against your fears are great morals and values to learn at a young age. It seemed like a weird way to learn some valuable lessons because we were so entertained by the freakish things, but stories like “Be Careful What You Wish For…” emphasized not taking our lives for granted, as well as appreciating the flaws we have and the mistakes we’ve made. These lessons are an important part of growing up.

Ewelina Bucior, a first-semester chemistry major said, “I would read them as a kid, especially in the Halloween season because they were spooky but very creative tales that would actually scare me.” So this Halloween, while you’re munching on all the candy, scaring your neighbors or watching great Halloween episodes on TV, maybe pick up your favorite “Goosebumps” book and revisit some childhood horrors.


Priyanka Valand is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus.