Plot: Okay, let’s get this out of the way; at no point in the book does anyone “Escape” from a house. This is mentioned on both normal Wikipedia, and the Goosebumps version, and is probably mentioned elsewhere too. What actually happens in this book is that you are in serious trouble with your parents, because someone has been putting handprints on the walls, overturning chairs, turning pictures upside down, and other annoying things, but it’s not you who’s doing it – it’s a ghost! The book switches to a flashback and you learn from your friend Bobby that the only explanation is that a poltergeist is haunting your house. R.L tries to characterize Bobby as the kind of kid who uses words that no one else knows because he’s a genius – which fails because R.L seems to think that “poltergeist” is a word no one knows.
Back in the present, your mother punishes you by forbidding you from anything you like and ordering you to clean up the mess that she thinks you made... and then leaves you home alone. Yes, I know this isn’t as bad as the previous book where your parents left you on an entire boat, but would any parent actually trust their kid, especially one as troublesome as how the poltergeist is making him/her look to his/her mother to actually obey her while she’s gone? Parents in the Goosebumps world... they just don’t care do they? Anyway, once your mother has gone you shout to the poltergeist, angrily asking if it has finished haunting you, now that it’s finally gotten you in trouble. The poltergeist tells you it’s nowhere near finished and that its ultimate goal is to take over your body, by writing a message on the wall.
You answer a knock at the door, and find a woman standing outside who says that she can help you. I was on Page 3 when I read the message, and was told to turn to Page 104 to answer the door, and now R.L tells me to turn all the way back to Page 5! For some reason that seems like bad placing for the book, but I may just be looking at it the wrong way. Either way, the woman at the door is named Madame Matilda, and she is here to help you get rid of your poltergeist problem. However, you’re not sure if you trust her or not...
Story A: You decide to trust Matilda, and let her in to your house. She invites you to join her in a séance and together you summon the poltergeist, who for reasons that I doubt even R.L himself can explain, the poltergeist isn’t the ghost of a human kid, but the ghost of a... “something”. He is described as a boy with pointed ears, and three fingers on each hand. The poltergeist leaves the room, and Matilda just randomly falls asleep here, making it doubtful she’s be any help to you at all. You have a short choice of attempting to deal with the poltergeist on your own, but the story moves on properly if you try (and fail) to wake her up, and then another ghost hunter appears at your door. The ghost hunter, a man named Marvin, barely has time to hand you his business card before Matilda wakes up to accuse him of being a fraud, and predictably he accuses her of the same thing. After choosing which one to side with (you can even try to get both to work together if you like) the story is about trying to exorcise the poltergeist with whoever you’ve chosen to work with.
Story B: Funny how I complained about the placing of the pages being too far away earlier – for now, I am already on the page I’m supposed to be on! Anyway, you shut and lock the door before Matilda can get in, and then wonder what you’re going to do next, as there’s no way you’re going to face a haunted house on your own. You decide that you should call in Bobby for help, as well as another friend named Lisa, who is described as being tough and not scared of anything. I’m kind of disappointed in R.L. for simply coming right out and telling me who my character is going to call in for back up – this is a book about ghostbusting, and R.L. has just passed up the perfect opportunity to end a page with the sentence “Who you gonna call?”
Choosing to go down to the dark basement to send an email (yes, there is a choice to use the phone instead) because your mother has locked your computer (you’re grounded, remember?) you fumble around in the dark looking for a lamp, as the main light hasn’t been fitted with a new bulb yet, and after falling, fumbling, and (of course!) feeling something brush up against you, you finally find a lamp to turn on, but when you do you scream because you see ghostly faces in the walls of your basement, and run back out, but then force yourself back to send the email – hoping the faces won’t see you send the email. However, you have no idea when your friends will get the message, and now the basement door is locked (the book mentions this a bit too suddenly) and if you choose to breakout you manage to succeed a little too easily.
You turn to see that faces on the walls have returned – and these faces, are no false alarms, for they are all stuck in a facial position of agony and pain. The faces plead with you to help them, and if you listen to them you find that they are all former humans – and victims of the poltergeists (yes, that’s plural this time); apparently, taking over a body eventually burns out the body, and then it becomes one of the faces you are now face to face with. The only way to stop the poltergeists, the faces tell you is to make sure that no one in your house exhibits fear or anger, as they are the two emotions that poltergeists thrive on.
Side Story C: Exists within Story B. Instead of trying to break out of the basement, you convince the poltergeists that human bodies get sick, and break very easily, and are therefore not ideal bodies for them to take over. They let you out of the basement when you promise to find a better body for them. Bobby and Lisa arrive, and you subtly clue them in on your plan, and together you find new non-human bodies for the poltergeists.
Opinions: There’s something about this book, which gives it somewhat more... “Horror” aspect, than the other books in the series, even though Give Yourself Goosebumps is billed as Horror throughout. For some reason, the deaths are a little more graphic than they usually are – even when you take in to account the fact that R.L. can’t mention everything that’s happening, due to the target audience, and even then he still describes a lot more in detail than I expected him too. Take the ending when your head explodes for example; R.L. could have easily have just left it at your head exploding, but no, he had to write about the skin melting off of your face before your head explodes, didn’t he? In fact “melting faces” seems to be the favorite bad ending of this book, and just in case you ever asked yourself “If my face was to melt off, would it be painful?” R.L. has to decided to attempt to answer that question, and according to this book, yes, it is painful – the book clearly describes you screaming in agony due to a “searing pain”, so now you can put your mind at rest with this one.
The book manages to describe the bad endings in a way that makes you understand what’s happening (very much so, in some endings, as I just touched upon) in order to make you feel inferior for making the wrong choice, and make you empathize with your character, and it is very easy to imagine what is happening to him/her/you. The choices in this book are all just choices, there are no alternative methods such as coin flips, days of the week, or even item checks, but the book still provides interactive entertainment for the reader, albeit in the simplest form, and sometimes that can be all that is needed for a Choose Your Own Adventure book, at the end of the day – it’s just nice to do things a little differently for at least one choice.
However, if I’m really honest the one thing this book lacks is the traditional Goosebumps humor. Aside from one “Should you stay or should you go?” choice (I included the same joke in one of my Choose Your Own Adventures, and assumed it to be original...) the only example of humor I could find was when Marvin and Matilda were too busy arguing to notice your character being eaten, and even that wasn’t as comedic as it could have been. For a Give Yourself Goosebumps book, giggling at ghosties is thin on the ground, but this is still a decent, albeit somewhat graphic book in the franchise.
♪When I started reading stories, on one thing I could depend.♪
♪That all books have beginnings, and they only have one end.♪
♪I’d read all of the pages, in sequence then be done.♪
♪Then R.L. Stine showed, that there was a way that books could be more fun.♪
♪So now, Reader, you’re going to choose the scare, but you must beware.♪
♪You’ll see that making choices, brings out the fun in having fear.♪
♪So... Give yourself some Goosebumps.♪
♪...Whatever rhymes with Goosebumps.♪
♪Feel your fear extending♪
♪Checking out every ending♪
♪Find the most deserving♪
♪Of the Most Disturbing; ♪
The Cover: A “monster house” with two windows being the eyes, and the door being the mouth. This is about as relevant to the story as the “escape” part in the title.
Lazy Prologue: For some time now, Give Yourself Goosebumps has copy ‘n’ pasted the same paragraph at the end of the prologue (the one that starts with “This scary adventure is all about you.”) In the past they’d be altered at least slightly to go with the story, but then suddenly they just stopped caring. This is pretty bad for this book because the paragraph always contains the line; “If you choose well, you’ll make it home again.” The problem? You’re already home during this book!