Posts Tagged ‘humor’

The Low-Rent House of Horror (part two)

Last time around, we freaked you out with scary (and just plain disturbing) books that our LRL staff trudged up during their nightly break-ins at abandoned bookstores in order to provide for our barren shelves. This week, we continue sharing our spoils with you, the LRL readers:

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The Low-Rent Library’s Fall Book Fair

In elementary school days (at least for me; your mileage may vary), a week or two in October or November was set aside for book fairs.

What’s a book fair? It’s basically Barnes and Noble if they did business out of a trailer, selling books that wouldn’t move off the shelves of their actual store unless a tornado came a-blowin’ through (thank the good Lord I don’t live in Ternader Alley). If one place knows anything about keeping unsellable books, it’s The Low-Rent Library. That’s why this year, The Low-Rent Library is having a book fair. Well, that and we lost most of the library budget betting on Celebrity Quarters (how was I supposed to know Morgan Freeman wouldn’t win? He was the one who had a drinking problem when he was on The Electric Company).

Anyway, here are some of this month’s hottest picks:

Crime Is a Drag

Our first pick is So You Committed a Crime While in Drag, a guide book for men on what to do when you break the laws of the land and the laws of good fashion. You’ll find chapters on how to make perfume in the toilet, how to fend off the unwanted advances of your cellmate, how to find a lawyer who won’t laugh at you, and how to rebuild your damaged reputation should you be found innocent.

Retail price: $6.95

Non-Union Romance

Our next book is When Romance Novel Covers Go On Strike: The Case for Turning a Profit and Violating Child Labor Laws. Much like actors, writers, and directors, romance novel cover models belong to a union, and when the time comes for the union to negotiate new contract terms and the higher-ups don’t agree, the models will go on strike. Unlike the writers, actors, and directors, the art department for a romance novel publishing company isn’t allowed to just stop production until the strike ends. So what do they do? They pick scabs (non-union replacements, not those grody natural bandages that you just have to pick because they’re an eyesore [Shit, did I say that out loud?]).

Retail price: $10.95

Wasted

Next, we have Wasted Away Again in Nairobi, a drama with morbidly comedic elements about a suicidal great white hunter with a drinking problem who befriends a Kenyan servant girl at a topless bar. Can she show him that life is worth living or will this great white hunter finally shoot something that can’t be made into a moosehead or a rug? (SPOILER ALERT: the Kenyan servant girl ends up turning her depressed lover into a skin cape for hunting)

Retail price: $7.95 (preorder now and get a imitation skin cape of your very own)

20 Years

From the desk of Ann M. Martin comes Stacey Sees Her Life in About 20 Years. While at a carnival, Stacey McGill flirts with a carny, who sips from a magical flask that can make people see their futures in 20 years’ time. Naturally, Stacey downs a swig and sees herself as the simpering, groveling housewife and mother to an abusive clod and two kids whose adorable pranks on Mommy are actually plots to have her dead. Can Stacey change the present so her future won’t be so bleak? We hope not!

Retail price: $12.95

If those books aren’t your thing, we have plenty of great titles in our clearance bin (including the ones I just described):

Lowered Expectations Book Reviews #1: “The Boy Who Ate Fear Street”

Forgive the blurry picture. It was the only one I could find that was big enough.

To break from the monotony of posting amateurishly PhotoShopped young adult book covers, I’ve decided to do what most people have done or are already doing on blogs that review childhood books, and that’s…review childhood books.

The way I do it, however, is not just your typical book summary with the occasional snarky remarks thrown in (no offense to the people who do use that formula) to keep it fresh. I’m going to go back to the way I used to do essays in college: start off with an opinion, and try to support that opinion with facts from the book (and yes, I will cite my sources). Yes, there will be snarky remarks and the occasional allusions to pop culture (since bloggers seem to love that), but they will be used generously, like a fine spice, not slathered on liberally like suntan lotion or lard (and if you can’t tell the difference between either, don’t invite me to any beach picnics ever).

Now, the first book to be reviewed is an R.L. Stine book, but it’s not Goosebumps or any of its ilk (Goosebumps 2000, the Tales to Give You Goosebumps anthologies, the Give Yourself Goosebumps Choose Your Own Adventure books, etc). Instead, I’m going to take on Ghost of Fear Street.

Don’t know what that series was? That’s okay — I barely know it too.

Ghosts of Fear Street (according to the Almighty Wikipedia) is basically the kiddie version of R.L. Stine’s more teen-oriented Fear Street series. While Fear Street dealt with murderous boyfriends, psycho bitch girlfriends, pranks that always ended in death and the living victims taking an oath to keep the death a secret, revenge wet dreams against teachers and other authority figures, and the occasional evil spirit from the past come to haunt someone in the present, Ghosts of Fear Street dealt with what the Goosebumps books (and their ilk) dealt with: ghosts, witches, twisted science experiments gone awry, vampires, space aliens, creepy adults with strange powers, and disgusting creatures that only exist in the fevered dreams of a demented writer such as Mr. Stine.

Ghosts of Fear Street came around the time that I started to read novels more grounded in reality (or not as ineptly plotted out as Stine’s works are sometimes), so I didn’t read much of Ghosts of Fear Street (though I did read some Fear Street books for inspiration on how to do murder mysteries, especially the Super Chillers, like Bad Moonlight, Silent Night 3 [in my opinion, the best of the Silent Night series], The Dead Lifeguard [even though that one sucked], and The New Year’s Party [which was more of a ghost story, but was liked by me because it was the first time I read a book that had its story rooted in both the past and the present, which would later open the door for a lot of Jackie Collins novels that did the same]). The Ghosts of Fear Street books I did read, however, you could probably count on one hand and maybe half of the other.

How many is that? Well, let’s see:

1) The first one I read was Fright Knight (about a museum curator and his kids who get a suit of armor that’s haunted by a knight who was cursed to die in his suit of armor). That was a good one because it didn’t have a lame-o Goosebumps-style twist ending and I liked how it was revealed that the knight wasn’t evil.

2) Then there was The Ooze (about a middle school genius who inadvertently creates a neon orange slime from his chemistry kit that makes people stupid). That, like some of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps oeuvre (such as How I Learned to Fly and You Can’t Scare Me) was more funny than scary, and like, How I Learned to Fly, does contain some satire about American parents forcing their kids to succeed (only The Ooze brushed past it, while How I Learned to Fly made it the reason why the story can be considered “scary”).

3) Then there was The Bugman Lives (about a girl who knocks over the tombstone that reads “The Bugman Lives,” is haunted by bugs, and discovers a secret about her new best friend). Don’t really remember much about this one, except that there was supposed to be a Ghosts of Fear Street TV series and the pilot episode had plot elements from The Bugman Lives. Unfortunately, the pilot episode was all that aired of the series.

4) Following that was How to Be a Vampire (about a boy named Andrew who finds a guide book under his bed on how to be a vampire — along with two fang marks on his neck, an aversion to garlic and sunlight, and a vampire in his closet ready to show him the ropes). Like The Ooze, this was more funny than scary and should have been adapted into a kids’ horror movie (a live-action one. No animation unless it’s Tim Burton-style or in 2D with digital ink and paint, since the traditional way isn’t really done much anymore. I’ve have all I can take with 3D/CGI). In fact, I might just do that…

5) Next up was Fright Christmas (a scary version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol about a bully who gets locked in a mall on Christmas Eve and visited by three ghosts who, not only scare him into being happy about Christmas, but scare him out of being a bully). This one was sort of up and down for me, since parodies of A Christmas Carol have been done to death, and, as far as I remember, there really wasn’t anything that made it stand out from the rest (unless you count the hideous lizard/zombie creatures that threaten to turn the bully protagonist into one of them if he doesn’t shape up), but it was an okay read.

6) Then there was Nightmare in 3D (about a boy named Wesley who gets one of those “Magic Eye” posters [the posters that if you stare at them long enough with your eyes crossed, you see an image. Those were the shit in the mid-to-late 1990s] and is haunted by a praying mantis only he can see). It was one of the early ones and was well-written enough to be one of the better Goosebumps books.

7) Stay Away from the Treehouse (about two boys who investigate an abandoned treehouse in Fear Street’s forest). The end with the ghost boy in one of those early 20th century sailor suits on a swing, crying out to the boys to play with him is genuinely terrifying, something that comes and goes with most of Stine’s works.

8 ) Finally, there was Don’t Ever Get Sick at Granny’s (about a boy who catches a cold at his grandmother’s house and finds himself at the butt end of Granny’s disgusting, experimental remedies). This one…was just a total letdown. I’m sorry if you liked it, but between the painful sequence of Granny loading the protagonist with so much fluids that his bladder is crying for relief, the writer (or ghostwriter) never explaining why Granny is so obsessed with her insane remedies [there was a partial explanation that she used to be an Army nurse, but was kicked out for doing something unspeakable to the troops], and the out-of-left field twist ending that made no sense whatsoever, it was reason enough never to reread that book ever again. The whole thing was a huge mindfuck. I would have tolerated it if Granny was revealed to be a witch doctor or a former med student who went too far in trying to heal sick patients and has gone “mad scientist,” or even an alien doctor who does sadistic tests on Earthlings so she could have something to report to the people on her home planet, but NOOOOOOOOOO! Stine (or the ghostwriter) had to insult my intelligence by making the entire thing the dream of a frickin’ dog (I don’t care if I spoiled the ending; the book isn’t really worth reading), and for what? A royalty check? I don’t know how Stine could either write or have someone else write this and not feel a shred of guilt for the minds he’s fucked. If I were him (and Lord knowing, I will be once I get published), I’d try to do some good for the bad book I wrote by donating to charity, personally offering refunds to those who said it sucked, or write a sincere apology to readers either on a blog or on the front page of my next book. Material things and monetary gain mean nothing to me if I screwed over someone naive and trusting to get it (if that person was a prick, then that’s a different story)…

…which nicely segues to today’s installment: The Boy Who Ate Fear Street, number 11 of the Ghost of Fear Street books, and one that I have heard about, but never read until now.

Book Summary: Thanks to a weird woman’s black spice, picky eater Sam Kinny develops a taste for the disgusting (sponges, liquid soap, paste, dog food, worms) and worries that the curse will make him hunger for other things (like people).

What I Expected from the Book: Exactly what it says on the back-of-the-book summary: a kid who’s a picky eater is cursed to go on a “see-food” diet that leads to many disgusting (and TV-Y7-rated) attempts at consuming animals not fit for regular consumption and human flesh. When the kid’s appetite turns cannibalistic, his buddies confront the witch who cast the spell and destroy her. The kid is cured, but in a twist ending, Sam’s appetite is completely gone and he begins to waste away (or he still occasionally snacks on gross things).

What I Got After I Read the Book: The same thing, minus the cannibalism and animal eating, plus the mother of all R.L. Stine inane plot twists/cop-out endings.

Chapter Summaries

Chapter One: We’re introduced to Sam Kinny, a blond, chubby-cheeked boy who’s getting ready to go over his friend’s, Kevin’s, house for dinner. Sam’s mom makes dolls of all shapes and sizes while his father is a handyman. We’re also introduced to Sam’s friends, Kevin and Lissa (a brother/sister duo who have a weird aunt named Sylvie, who travels the world, speaks to dead spirits, and collects strange cures, potions, crystals, and spices from tribes and witch doctors) and the fact that Sam is a picky eater. How picky? He only eats white food (rice pudding, marshmallows, white raisins[?!], and Sprite). Yeah, I know, but I can’t think of a racial joke that goes with it, so you’re gonna have to come up with your own. Anyway, Sam’s friends chide him about that, despite that Lissa only eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Kevin eats potato chips.

Sam meets Aunt Sylvie (a white-haired woman who wears the worst in 1980s-1990s fashion, such as neon-colored tops, spandex leggings, and Converse high-tops) who offers him a taste of the squid soup she’s cooking — despite that the squid isn’t dead yet.

Chapter Two: Sam declines and races for the hall, only to be stopped by Kevin. Kevin tells his Aunt Sylvie about Sam’s eating habits and Sylvie immediately disapproves of Sam’s discriminating palate. Kevin, Lissa, and Sam check out Aunt Sylvie’s room, which has wooden masks on the walls, a straw mat on the floor, and enough tribal artifacts and creepy jungle memorabilia to make Pottery Barn and Pier One blush. Aunt Sylvie calls the kids for dinner, and, as Sam and his friends leave the room, Sam freaks out over a snake wrapped around his leg.

Chapter Three: Normally, this is where R.L. would fake the reader out and reveal that the snake was a cord or one of Sam’s friends grabbing his leg in a childish prank. However, there really is a snake around Sam’s leg. It’s Aunt Sylvie’s pet named Shirley.

Over dinner, Aunt Sylvie explains that she’s moved to Fear Street because it’s part of her stop on the “Finding Crazy Shit from Around the World” tour. Aunt Sylvie has heard of Fear Street’s many ghostly encounters and supernatural phenomena (read: past books), such as the haunted treehouse from “Stay Away from the Tree House” (book #5) and the cave where shadow people live as seen in “Revenge of the Shadow People” (book #9). The Ghosts of Fear Street books from books #3 to the last book (“The Funhouse of Dr. Freek,” book #36) did shoehorn in references to past GoFS books, particularly “Hide and Shriek” (book #1) and “Who’s Been Sleeping in My Grave?” (book #2), so get used to it.

Sylvie then tells the story of a boy in a Middle Eastern village who, along with two other boys, finds a strange berry bush and eat the fruit from it. The berries’ sweetness soon lowers their standards of eating and they go on eating binges that ends with the boys’ stomachs exploding like a cherry bomb in a toilet. And you wonder why Middle Easterners hate Americans…

The story sickens Sam, but what sickens him even more is the sudden fiery burst of flavor from his rice pudding during the dessert course, making it the first time ever that rice pudding was described as having a fiery burst of flavor.

Chapter Four: Sam is still freaking out over his off-tasting rice pudding. In his spoonful, Sam finds a black flake (which is how I was described as a teenager. Hi-yo!). Aunt Sylvie shows off a bottle of a black, peppery powder that she claims is a spice her Uncle Henry left her. Sam urges Sylvie to taste the powder to prove that it’s spicy, but Sylvie refuses.

Chapter Five: Sam demands to know why Sylvie won’t taste her strange spice, but Sylvie empties the bottle in the sink. She personally doesn’t like tangy foods (which is what the spice was supposed to taste like, so Sam is either a pain wimp when it comes to food that isn’t white and bland or someone’s lying) and Kevin’s family plus Sam (despite losing his appetite) have ice cream instead.

Sam comes home and goes immediately to bed with an upset stomach. Hours later, Sam goes into the kitchen for a mayonnaise sandwich (but not before going on about how much he loves mayo and eats it by the jar. Great way to get high cholesterol and/or food poisoning). He snacks on his mayo sandwich before going to the fridge for a Sprite — and that’s when it hits him.

Chapter Six: Sam’s precious mayo sandwich is actually two sponges sandwiched together with lemony-fresh dish soap (and bitten into). Apparently suffering no ill effects, but still freaked out that he’d do such a thing, Sam goes back to bed and falls asleep.

The next morning, Sam has a glass of milk and reacts violently to it, complaining of its disgusting taste despite looking fresh. Sam’s mother blames it on picking up a carton that went past its expiration date (it’s happened to me a couple times) and finds the bitten sponge and dish soap sandwich in the trash. Sam distracts her by asking what’s for breakfast. Lucky for Sam, it’s the same thing every morning: Cream of Wheat. Unfortunately, the Cream of Wheat tastes like cream of white, gritty crap and the chapter ends with Sam once again freaking out, this time over his father eating the Cream of Wheat.

Chapter Seven: Psyche! The Cream of Wheat tastes great, but Sam still doesn’t think so. Before Sam leaves for school, he begins getting that annoying and (sometimes) painful electric shocks that come with static electricity. Sam meets up with Lissa and Kevin. His static electric shocks are starting to get stronger, but Lissa and Kevin think Sam is making a big deal over nothing (like many R.L. Stine kid characters). Kevin then suggests that if Sam’s electric shocks are getting stronger, then he should test it out — on a dork with braces in their class named Lucas. Sam does just that and ends up electrocuting Lucas…or does he?

Chapter Eight: No, he doesn’t. Apparently, Lucas already knew about Sam’s electrical problem and faked the whole thing. Being the humorless prick that he is, Sam doesn’t admit that the practical joke was funny…at least, not at first. He does manage to lighten up before lunch.

As Sam heads to lunch, the art teacher, Ms. Munson (a former preschool teacher now teaching art to junior high school kids) recruits Sam’s help in pasting some leaves on Shadyside Middle School’s autumn banner. As Sam pastes the leaves on the banner, his spice-induced pica sets in again and begins eating the paste as if it was sour cream — until someone shouts, “Sam! WHAT ARE YOU EATING?”

Chapter Nine: ‘Twas Kevin who catches Sam regressing back to the depraved eating habits of kindergarteners by eating paste. Still no ill effects from eating the stuff. I’m beginning to feel really bad for Sam’s digestive tract, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t R.L. Stine’s (or the ghostwriter’s) intention in writing this. Sam tries to lie his way out of it, but Kevin only semi-believes him.

We then cut to gym class, where the lesson of the day is to run bleachers to work off that summer flab. I’m beginning to think R.L. Stine (or the ghostwriter he hired) doesn’t like fat kids. First the appetite for anything and everything inedible (eating “junk,” if you will), then Sam reacting with disgust to real food that actually has some semblance of nutrition to it (milk, Cream of Wheat), now this.

Sam, of course, loves running the bleachers because he’s the fastest boy in his class. Today, however, not so much. A couple of kids pass him during the bleacher run and Sam gets that sideache associated with the out of shape trying to run (believe me, I’ve been there). This ends with Sam taking a spinning fall down the bleachers. The gym teacher, Mr. Sirk, is amazed that his top runner is now like every other loser kid he’s ever had the displeasure of whipping into shape.

Chapter Ten: Sam comes home from his miserable day at school and does his homework on the book Johnny Deformed Tremaine. He gets distracted by his dog sloppily eating from his bowl…and is himself almost pushed to eating the dog…

…food himself. His mind yells at him to stop and he does, but not before returning to his room and eating the mysterious chocolate sprinkles all over his fingers, which turn out to be fleas (Sam’s dog likes to go out to Fear Woods and come back with fleas all over him. Since it isn’t specified how they got on Sam’s hand, I’m going to assume that Sam either petted his dog and the fleas jumped on there or they were crawling all over the dog food bowl).

Chapter Eleven: Sam tries (and successfully) pukes out the flea that stings him in the throat as he swallows it. And I thought choking on a nacho cheese Dorito was bad (which really did happen to me, which is why I prefer Cool Ranch or those newer, fancy flavors, so long as it’s not habanero or jalapeno) — Sam’s got me beat at this point. The most disgusting thing I’ve eaten was anchovies…on a pizza, no less. And you know what? I liked it.

Sam frantically calls Kevin about the curse Aunt Sylvie put on him, but Sam suddenly has a case of verbal diarrhea and that volume control problem that one of Will Ferrell’s characters (Weekend Update commentator Jacob Silj) from Saturday Night Live had. The rest of the chapter is centered on Sam trying to control his sudden speech problem. Yawn!

Chapter Twelve: Sam’s mother comes home, and Sam tells his mom that he’s been feeling weird lately (but mentions nothing of ingesting gross nonfoods and not suffering ill effects from it). It then dawns on him — maybe the strange behavior and sudden pica have to do with Aunt Sylvie’s strange spice. Hey, Algernon, I figured that out chapters ago. Get with the program!

At school, Sam tries to tell Kevin and Lissa what’s happening to him, but Aunt Sylvie (dressed in a figure skater’s leotard, as she has figure skating lessons soon) stops by on her way to the ice-skating rink and drops off a bag of blue human eyes.

Chapter Thirteen: Psyche again! They’re just blue gemstones that Sam’s mom (the dollmaker) wants to use for her latest doll. Sam tells Aunt Sylvie that he hasn’t been feeling well since the rice pudding incident (which, unlike a Noodle Incident, has some semblance of a full story behind it). The chapter ends with Aunt Sylvie, in cold seriousness, whispering, “Ah-ha, there it is. I knew it would be!”

Chapter Fourteen: Once again, Sam freaks out, but is told to sit down by Aunt Sylvie, who procedes to swirl a finger around his forehead and comment on his lack of a yang (get your mind out of the gutter; I’m talking about the Taoist belief of balance in human nature) before leaving. Sam tries to tell Kevin and Lissa that their Aunt Sylvie is a witch, but goes on another disgusting feeding frenzy when Sam licks spilled pepper off the cafeteria table. Man, Stine (or the ghostwriter) just isn’t trying. If Sam really is cursed into eating things that aren’t considered fit for human consumption (the sponges, the fleas, the Shadyside Middle School cafeteria food), wouldn’t the cafeteria table be on his menu? Or his own flesh or fingernails? Or any action figures or toy models Sam has in his room? Or the drywall on the house? I’m just not feeling the hype that the BOTBS (back of the book summary) promised. That Simpsons Halloween episode where Homer eats an alien goo that screws with his appetite (and turns him into a blob that eats people, like teenagers, Germans, and special guest star Dr. Phil McGraw. Yes, that Dr. Phil — the one who was portrayed as Oprah’s bootlicking bitch-boy on those MADtv sketches) was better done than this, and The Simpsons hasn’t really been worth watching in years (with a few exceptions, like the episode where Homer goes on a journey through his mind to find out why his wife and kids left him, or the episode where Bart makes friends with a Middle Eastern boy and Homer objects because, like most Americans in the post-9/11/01 world, he equates Islam with terrorism).

Anyway, Sam tries to explain himself yet again, but begins blurting out dog breeds like a veterenarian with Tourette Syndrome (the “blurting out obscene/nonsensical words” type of Tourette Syndrome that’s been mocked on an early episode of The Simpsons [which led to a minor controversy that resulted in said episode replacing “Tourette Syndrome” with “rabies” in all reruns — including the DVD version] and on South Park…I think).

Chapter Fifteen: Lissa snaps Sam out of his dog whispering by punching him in the arm. Relieved that it worked, Sam once again tries to convince Lissa and Kevin that Aunt Sylvie put a curse on him. Despite seeing Sam licking pepper off the cafeteria table and babbling about dogs, Lissa and Kevin aren’t convinced that this has anything to do with Aunt Sylvie’s secret herb and/or spice — until Sam starts spontaneously bleeding blue blood.

Chapter Sixteen: Now Lissa and Kevin are convinced that Aunt Sylvie has something to do with this. Sam runs home (thereby cutting school like so many R.L. Stine kid characters before and after him) and tries to find a doctor, but can only find his dog’s veterenarian. Before you go screaming, “Child neglect,” remember, this is one of many signs of a twist coming up, so brace yourself. Lissa and Kevin (who followed Sam to his house) are against Sam going to a vet and take him to Aunt Sylvie’s. If she placed the curse on him, then surely, she has a cure, right?

Sam, Kevin, and Lissa are standing outside Aunt Sylvie’s house, but before they can go in, Sam has another snack attack — this time, eating leaves from a tree that he never noticed was there.

Chapter Seventeen: Lissa wraps a jacket around Sam’s head blanket-party style to keep Sam from eating, even if it means suffocating him (Hey, whatever works). The trio head inside to Aunt Sylvie’s room, searching fruitlessly for a cure…while Sam eats Aunt Sylvie’s face cream said to have secret ingredients that guarantee long-lasting beauty. The three find Aunt Sylvie in her garden with her pet snakes around her body. Lissa fearfully asks Aunt Sylvie if she’s a witch doctor. Sylvie’s reply: Yes she is.

Chapter Eighteen: Sylvie demonstrates her powers by moaning and chanting as the snakes obediently curl around her body and introduces one of her fine, scaly friends to a frightened Sam. Sam asks again: “Are you a witch doctor?” Man, whatever happened to the days when a good water splashing or a stake burning solved that problem? Now everyone just wants to waste their energy talking.

Anyway, Aunt Sylvie reveals what Kevin and Lissa knew all along: Sylvie is NOT a witch doctor; just an eccentric relative who charms snakes in her spare time. The snake-charming bit did, however, make a native tribe in the Brazilian rainforest think she was a witch doctor. And the black spice put in? It’s not really explained, but I think it can be safely assumed that it was just black pepper. Sylvie advises Sam to see a doctor, but Sam is still convinced that Aunt Sylvie cursed him and runs back home. As he runs home, Sam begins to inflate like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon (but one of those ones that no one cares about; not the popular ones like Snoopy, Garfield, or even Bart Simpson).

Chapter Nineteen: Sam shambles home, getting fatter by the minute. He tries to tell his father what’s been happening, but his tongue swells in his mouth, making him unable to speak. Sam’s mother comes in and freaks out as well, but Dad has it under control. All he needs is to fix the glitch that caused Sam to go berserk in the past few chapters. Turns out that Sam is actually an animatronic doll created by his mother’s penchant for making large, lifelike dolls and his dad’s electronic know-how, but the doll began to malfunction when he ate a food that wasn’t white (in this case, the peppered rice pudding), which led to the nonfood feeding frenzies, the blue bleeding, the fact that Sam doesn’t have a doctor, and the erratic behavior all around. Dad tells Mom that, with a few tweaks and a total reconstruction of his digestive tract, Sam will be back to normal before bedtime.

Chapter Twenty: Sam’s feeling a lot better. He’s now thin and no more cravings for nonfoods (much like a pregnant woman). Best of all, he doesn’t eat white food anymore. He now eats food that have color to them (like the meatball and ketchup sandwiches).

And…scene!

I hate to trot out an Internet chestnut, but: Wow. Just…wow! I don’t know what to make of this story. I thought I could interpret it as an allegory of some sort, but it’s just too wacky and the end is too ridiculous to interpret it as anything but a screwed-up story penned by R.L. Stine (or a ghostwriter he hired).

On the plus side, the story actually did do a good job of foreshadowing Sam’s revelation without giving too much away, and as I read it, I thoroughly believed that Sam’s disgusting feeding frenzy was part of some curse. Hell, I thought it would go all “Chicken Chicken” and have Aunt Sylvie reveal that she worked her magic on Sam as a lesson in trying new things (like how Vanessa turned Crystal and Cole into chickens as a lesson in being polite to others). It wasn’t like “Don’t Get Sick at Granny’s” where the twist was just sprung on the reader without even so much as a clue that could be taken a lot of ways.

Verdict: Definitely one of the nuttier entries of the Ghosts of Fear Street series, like Don’t Ever Get Sick at Granny’s. Unlike Don’t Get Sick at Granny’s, I can tolerate how much of a mindscrew The Boy Who Ate Fear Street is, even if the ending wasn’t the best. My only regret is that R.L. (or the ghostwriter) should have put more effort into making Sam’s feeding frenzy scarier or more worthy of being disgusting, like on that Simpsons Treehouse of Horror story about Homer becoming a cannibalistic blob or the episode of the short-lived series, Extreme Ghostbusters, where a ghost possesses people into devouring everything that is (and isn’t) food.

And the revelation of Sam as a robot does raise a couple of questions:

1) If Sam’s a robot, why do people like to pinch his cheeks? Is his skin made of that cyber/future skin material that’s used in making realistic…”marital aids” (like these [NSFW…unless you work at a place that sells these things]) and feels real, but isn’t?

2) Wouldn’t Kevin and Lissa already know that Sam is a robot? The end makes it like they don’t know, and usually, kids’ shows and books that have a protagonist who possesses strange powers or is a strange creature (cf. Nickelodeon’s The Secret World of Alex Mack and The Journey of Allen Strange) have two very close friends of the protagonist who know that protagonist’s secret, but everyone else doesn’t (and the other people that do are usually the antagonist who wants to exploit or experiment on the protagonist).

3) Why is Sam a robot kid (and seemingly the only one in Shadyside)?

4) What would possess Sam’s parents into creating a robot child? Does ANY mom in the R.L. Stine books have a child through regular childbirth, or does R.L. Stine not believe in that?

 

Wretched Romance Novels (part one)

Romance novels — they’ve been snarked, they’ve been lampooned on and off the web, they’ve been PhotoShopped. Is there anything else I can do to them?

Oh, yeah. PhotoShop ’em some more!

Don’t worry. This is just the tip of the iceberg.