Now, most Goosebumps books start with something rather mundane, something to draw the reader into a “typical kid scenario.” In the last, it was a family vacation complete with a natural history museum. In the first, it was sneaking into a carnival. In this one, it’s being The New Kid. This is something that Goosebumps uses fairly often (see Welcome To Dead House and numerous others) and it works rather well because it sets up loneliness and fear and being the outcast pretty much immediately. You want to fit in and have friends, but this new school and new situation are proving to be tricky. That is, until your neighbor (who has been on vacation) shows up and the two of you hit it off. Nick. Readers, I will admit that younger-Me would have been immediately drawn to Nick. Likes comic books and scary stories and, well, of course you agree to meet him at an abandoned house in town for Horror Club. He’s the rope thrown to your socially-drowning self and you clutch at him, not caring that Horror Club sounds about as cool as anything that carries the “Club” suffix. Glee Club. Chess Club. These are kryptonite to cool, but hey, it does mean having friends and spending more time with Nick. Of course, they might all turn out to be monsters bent on your assimilation...
But yeah, so you go to Horror Club and, well, it turns out that it’s more popular than you expected—it has six members already, and it turns out the night you show up is a special one, the night of The Hunt. Yeah, no, that sounds completely legit. I mean, what could go wrong? Teams are picked and then you are left to decide which one to join. Nick is captain of Red Team, which means that’s the team I really wanted to join, but as I play my choose your own adventures a bit like I played let’s eat dinner growing up (namely, save the best for last), I went with Blue Team first, which consisted of super-buff Martin, kinda-bossy Marcie, and apparently-attractive Lara. On Blue Team, The Hunt means running around trying to find “the scariest thing” and Blue Team is sent to search outside of the house.
A moment to talk about this house: Bat Wing Hall. First, why is it named that? I have no idea. At no point is the house itself a focus of bat activity. As it is abandoned now, it’s probable that it has many bats, but never in the book is this made explicit. The previous owner, who died...somehow...was a professor (Professor Krupnik, to be formal and shit), and now the house is maybe-haunted. Great story, right? Well, thanks to Blue Team we get a bit more information about the whole situation, but it’s only because there’s a convenient graveyard right across the street from Bat Wing Hall and inside the graveyard is the crypt of Professor Krupnik, which DOES have bats in it. And, in fact, a lot of storyline for Blue Team is about the fact that the crypt seems to have the magical ability to TURN YOU INTO A FUCKING BAT. Which seems a bit like a design flaw. Also, it sounds like this guy was only dead for a few years (maybe a decade), so how the fuck is there some ancient curse on his tomb? What was he even a professor of? Dear readers, I have no fucking clue. This book never really delves into the mysteries of Bat Wing Hall or Professor Krupnik except to say that he is dead and rather pissed about all the damn kids these days using his old house for their stupid club.
Anyway, so of course you end up making your way to the tomb and getting all bat-cursed which is interesting I guess. As a werebat you blister in the sun, you transform into a bat when it’s too dark (not when it’s night or a full moon but just if the room you’re in isn’t brightly lit enough), and you love eating bugs. I do appreciate the glee with which the book describes the bug eating, because this would obviously be the best part of flying around as a bat. Really, I would have been happy if the book just decided you were completely content as a bat and went off to eat beetles and mosquitoes forever THE END. Alas, you want to fix yourself, which means apparently going around to everyone on Blue Team’s houses and watching them sleep or undress or whatever it kids do. NOT CREEPY. And this all leads to various scenarios that eventually lead you back to the tomb to try and undo what’s been done.
Except wait. In one of these delightful little paths the book sneaks in someone who would be perfect for explaining what the fuck is going on—the ghost of Professor Krupnik! I think my favorite ending in this Blue Team half of the book has got to be when you discover that Professor Krupnik’s ghost is just lonely like everyone else and he joins the Horror Club too and everyone is super cool about it and it just melted my heart a bit. Of course, there’s also that path where he sends you DOWN TO HELL ITSELF where there are monsters and bog creatures and a library with a really annoying monster-librarian. Which is decidedly less cool than everyone just becoming friends. Which is all to say, Blue Team is all right and all, but the book is called Trapped in Bat Wing Hall and not HELP! I’M A SHITTY WEREBAT! (which might have been a catchier name, I will admit). There’s almost no actual being trapped in Bat Wing Hall and while flapping around as a bat is fun I WANT MORE NICK, OKAY?!
So it’s time to talk Red Team. And...well, prepare yourself now. Because their The Hunt is completely different from The Hunt that the Blue Team had. On Red Team, it’s a scavenger hunt, and the items on the list are...interesting—some werewolf fur, a witch’s broom, a human bone, and a mummy bandage. Which is all fun and games until Nick and the rest of Red Team reveal that they are, in fact, wretched monsters who want to turn you into a monster as well, and will unless you can complete the scavenger hunt before midnight. And okay, this broke my heart just a little bit, because I thought me and Nick had something special there, but when life gives you monsters forcing you to play a game for your very life, you make lemonade, dammit!
Now, let me get to some of my complaints about this book. Though it is the third in the series, it’s very different in some important ways from the first two books. First, it has many less actual choices to make. The text just stretches on over many pages, so that there are numerous times that you will turn to a page only to be pointed to a new page and even another new page before you get another choice. Which is slightly disappointing, because it makes the book as a whole a bit less random and fun. It’s a bit more coherent as a story, but the story makes no real sense so that’s not a huge plus. What it does is take away a lot of random deaths which IS LIKE THE BEST PART OF CYOA BOOKS! Which is complaint two, that there really aren’t many deaths in the book, especially down certain paths. A lot of the THE ENDs are just...dull. Which is frustrating, because there are so many ways to die as a bat, or while dealing with monsters. But no, instead you’re just transformed or you invent bug-flavored ice cream or some shit. And finally, complaint three is that the book drops some of the hallmarks of Give Yourself Goosebumps. There are no Goosebumps trivia questions you need to answer in order to continue. There is no flip a coin or close your eyes and point at the page or if it’s a Monday or Thursday or any of that. There is one instance where you cannot be wearing a sweater in order to continue (WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST SWEATERS, STINE?!), but that’s it. So...while there’s still a rather fun experience buried in this book, it’s a step down even from the last installment and a BIG step down from the first Give Yourself Goosebumps.
Anyway, back to Red Team. This part of the book actually moves very linearly, with a progression of what piece of the scavenger hunt you get next pretty much set. First it’s the human bone, then it’s the mummy bandage (which involves being transported to ancient Egypt maybe?), then the witch’s broom, and finally the werewolf fur. It’s all fairly tense and reads well and there are some nice moments of what the fuck just happened. The best part about this path is the ending, though, where you get to free Red Team from their curse of being monsters and you and Nick live happily ever after. It’s THE SWEETEST THING! This is definitely the “true” good ending, though as I’ve said the book is in no shortage of non-death endings. I love the way that this ties the story into the idea of storytelling, though, and how it leaves you with friends who are not monsters and a brighter future.
Okay but you knew it was coming CONSPIRACY TIME! Because I guess the book can’t be assed to come up with a decent backstory to Bat Wing Hall it falls to me, gentle readers, to figure out from context clues. Which is to say, the house is located on the actual ENTRANCE TO HELL. As such, it’s absolutely bustling with demons moving in and out on their general hellish business. This would explain why there’s constantly fucked up shit happening in the house (from mummies to werewolves to the actual boat of the dead). It also explains a few other things, because owning a house on the entrance to hell probably does you no favors. Unless you’re a professor of hellish lore who has been routinely mocked and laughed out of academia in general. Enter Professor Krupnik. I imagine he went out of his way to find Bat Wing Hall and bought it to try and not only prove his theories but BECOME ONE WITH THE MONSTERS SO THAT HE COULD EXACT SWEET REVENGE ON HIS ENEMIES. Why? Because he was never popular. There was no Horror Club when he was in school and so he tried to fill the emptiness and defeat his loneliness by falling in with demons. Only...they can’t stand him. They shunned him until he died of natural causes and then they continued to shun him when he became a ghost. Enraged and hurt, he was further hurt when a group of friends started hanging out in the house and the demons transformed THEM into monsters and not HIM. Hence why he’s such a jerk and why the best paths lead to an end to not only your loneliness but his as well, everyone finding strength in friendship and acceptance. It’s a sweet conspiracy for a rather heart-warming read.
But what do the numbers say?!
On the "Would I write fanfiction scale of greatness": 4/5 (have you not seen that I already have the Spider-man wedding all planned out? If you missed it, there is my whole live-tweet drunken reading of the book to check out. And this book just lends itself quite well to further exploration and further adventures. What other mischief can the Horror Club get up to once their curse is broken and they’ve welcomed a ghost into the group? I want to know, especially if it means going toe-to-toe with evil monster-librarians for the fate of the world. Sign me up!)
On the "Is this actually good scale of more trying to be objective": 2/5 (despite being a fairly decent story when you look at it, it’s a pretty bad choose your own adventure book, and I have to judge it based on that because, well, it’s a fucking choose your own adventure book. It’s fun, yes, and it tells a decent story I guess, but the plot holes are huge and they are not made up for by the random violence that I’ve come to desire in a Give Yourself Goosebumps book. Also, the title is some blatant false advertising because you’re NOT trapped in Bat Wing Hall for over half of the book. So yeah, moving on.)
On the "Yeah but this is Goosebumps scale of relative wonderment": 3/5 (again, I was very let down by the way that this book diverged from the previous entries in the Give Yourself Goosebumps series. No trivia? No random punishments because you can’t flip a coin properly? WTF? It’s not the worst book ever, and not even the worst Goosebumps ever, but it’s the worst Give Yourself Goosebumps so far, which is rather disappointing.)
Thank you all for your support and look forward to the next regularly scheduled Liver Beware review to drop in early June for Goosebumps #8: THE GIRL WHO CRIED MONSTER.