What? Another book recap already? I surprised myself with this one. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb took me three days to get through because I kept sitting it down; it just never caught my attention. I started this book after writing my review yesterday and finished it in one sitting. It is that good.
With a well-paced plot, a likable protagonist, and genuine suspense, it’s hard to imagine this book and the last one I reviewed were written by the same author. I have been noticing a lot of inconsistency with writing quality in this series. Some books are fantastic while others leave a lot to be desired. Stine insists he never employed ghostwriters for this series, however. This is one of the good books in the series. If you are interested in Goosebumps and are looking for a fun, quick read, this is a good one to grab.
The original cover art is fantastic. The colors are great and the image is suspenseful. I like all the little details. The shadows from the trees are nice. I even see what could be a snake inside the tent. Something with glowing eyes is reaching into the tent, and honestly, having read the book, I’m not sure what that is. Maybe it’s the thing that supposedly ripped Roger apart. It’s positioned weirdly, however. Its arm reaching into the tent doesn’t seem like a natural angle for the creature. Now that I just wrote about it, it’s all I can see.
The cover for the 2010 Classic Goosebumps re-release is interesting to me because it is so similar to the original. The other covers I’ve seen look a lot different from the original covers, sometimes painting different scenes. This one is a depiction of the exact same scene, and this scene did not even happen in the book.
I’m not as big of a fan of the colors in the new cover, and I feel like the title takes up too much space. It takes away from this particular image.
I do like the creature’s position better, though. It is reaching into the tent at a much more natural and realistic angle.
My biggest issue with both covers, I guess, is I just can’t figure out what the book is about from looking at the cover. Knowing this book’s surprise ending, I guess that’s a good thing.
Tagline: It’s the little camp of horrors!
I don’t feel like the tagline adds or takes away from the cover. It’s just okay.
Billy is on a bus to Camp Nightmoon, a sleepaway camp, with 21 other kids. Eighteen of the kids are boys and just four are girls. Why are there so many more boys than girls? It’s never explained and doesn’t really matter. Get used to that because unanswered questions are a common thing in this book.
The kids on the bus that we get to learn about are Billy’s seatmate, Mike, a chubby boy with black hair, Colin, a boy who wears shades and a red bandana, Jay, a boisterous redheaded bully, Dawn, a blonde girl Billy has a crush on, and Dori, Dawn’s redheaded friend.
The bus suddenly stops and the driver scares the kids with a mask. He yells for everyone to get out and pulls all of their luggage off the bus. The kids are confused because they are in an open piece of land that is definitely not their camp. They try to ask the bus driver why they are getting out there, but he doesn’t even dignify them with responses. He shuts the door in Billy’s face when Billy tries to figure out what is going on, and drives the bus off, leaving the kids. Why does he do this? Again, we don’t get an answer. It’s not important to the story. I guess it’s suspense for the sake of suspense.
Wild creatures approach the kids and surround them on the platform where their bags are kept. They look hungry and almost attack the kids, but are scared off by a gunfire from a rifle. Uncle Al, Camp Nightmoon’s camp director has arrived to save the day.
He has brought another bus, and the kids all climb aboard. They ride for less than five minutes before they arrive at Camp Nightmoon. This confuses Billy and the reader. Why didn’t the first bus just take them to camp since it was so close? Also, what were those creatures? More unanswered questions.
The girls are dropped off at the girls’ side of Camp Nightmoon, and then the boys are taken to their camp. They get off the bus and are assigned their bunks. Billy is assigned Bunk Four with Mike, Colin, and Jay, conveniently.
Once in their bunk, a counselor named Larry peeks in and introduces himself, kind of. He’s going to be staying with the boys in their bunk. He asks the boys to make their beds and gives them a bag of sheets and blankets.
As Billy starts to make his bed on a top bunk, Mike, who will be sleeping on the bunk under him screams out. Two snakes are in his bed. Jay comes over and decides to play, and pushes Mike into the snakes. Mike is bitten on the hand and leaves to find the camp nurse. There isn’t one. While he’s away looking, Billy and Jay use Mike’s sheet to release the snakes in the woods, and Larry, their counselor, comes back in and isn’t concerned at all about Mike’s snakebite. He gives him a bandage and tells him to go to the washroom and bandage it up.
Mike’s hand gets worse and worse as the book goes on, and eventually Billy discovers that Mike has disappeared. His belongings are all gone and has his drawer has been emptied. Billy asks Larry where Mike has gone, but Larry doesn’t know or care.
Sometime early in camp, Uncle Al tells the boys there are three rules at Camp Nightmoon: lights-out is at nine-o-clock, the boys are not allowed to swim or canoe over to the girls’ side of camp, and no one is allowed near the forbidden bunk, a cabin Uncle Al points out to the kids. A couple of the kids naturally decide they will sneak to the cabin when given an opportunity. Larry overhears their plans and tells them about Sabre, an unknown monster who will get them if they go to the Forbidden Bunk. We don’t hear about Sabre after that.
The boys play a game of Scratchball, which is basically baseball without a bat or pitcher. The boys stand at the home plate and just toss a ball as high and as far as they can, and then run bases before the ball is caught and they are tagged out. Larry and Colin get in an argument during the game, and Larry gets irrationally angry and throws the ball hard into the back of Colin’s head. Billy hears a crack as the ball connects. Larry insists he didn’t mean to do it and that the ball slipped, but Billy swears he did it on purpose.
The camp has a tent night, and the boys are reluctantly sleeping in tents. Jay and a boy we have not met yet named Roger make plans to explore the Forbidden Bunk. They try to get Billy and Colin to go, but neither boy takes the bait. Billy does, however, decide to go back to his bunk to sleep, as the tent is too cold and uncomfortable. Colin goes with him.
From their bunk, Billy and Colin begin to hear howls, and then screams from Jay and Roger. Billy runs outside and Jay runs up to him saying a creature got Roger and is coming for him. Billy, Colin, and Jay all go back inside their bunk and try to sleep.
The next morning, Billy tries to ask Larry about Roger, but Larry says he would have heard screams if a camper was attacked. He agrees to ask Uncle Al about it. Larry gets back to Billy and says that he and Uncle Al searched the Forbidden Bunk for signs of Roger and found none. Furthermore, he states Al checked records in the office and there is no boy named Roger registered for the camp this year.
Billy is getting ready for a swim when he is pulled into bushes by Dawn and Dori. They tell him that girls have been disappearing from their camp, and that something weird is going on. Billy relays that the same thing has been happening at the boys’ camp. Billy has to leave, but the girls vow to meet him again in two days.
Colin and Jay tell Billy they are going on a three-mile hike, and that he should check with the counselors to see if he is supposed to be going. It turns out he’s not. The boys leave with a counselor on their hike and never come back.
Billy goes back to his bunk and finds two new kids named Tommy and Chris. They don’t know Colin and Jay, and say they were told the bunk was mostly empty. All the drawers were empty except for Billy’s drawers.
Somewhere around this time, Billy finds out the one pay phone at the camp is fake, and he discovers a large bag of all the letters he and the other campers have been writing their parents. He realizes that he can’t call home and that he can’t call home. He’s on his own.
The next day, Billy is sent on a canoe trip with Larry, Tommy, and Chris. Out on the canoe, Larry stands up and falls into the rapids. Billy jumps into the water and searches for Larry. Tommy and Chris float on in the canoe because they don’t know to stop it. Billy finds Larry floating in the water face down. He pulls Larry onto land and is about to administer CPR when Larry opens his eyes. Billy saved his life.
The two walk back to camp and run into Uncle Al. Larry tells Uncle Al what happened and that Billy saved his life, and Uncle Al asks about the canoe. He says it was the camp’s best canoe. All he cares about is the canoe. Tommy and Chris never make it back to camp.
Billy and Larry go back to their bunk and go to sleep. In the middle of the night, Billy is shaken by Larry and told to get up. He says Uncle Al has organized a special hike. Billy doesn’t understand why he isn’t allowed to rest since the two had an ordeal the day before, but nonetheless, he gets dressed and meets everyone outside.
The whole camp is taking part in this special hike. Larry and another counselor carry bags that turn out to be filled with rifles. On the hike, the rifles are dispersed among the boys. Uncle Al tells the boys that two girls, Dawn and Dori, escaped from the girl’s camp, and that they are to find the girls and ensure they don’t escape.
Billy is confused. He doesn’t want to kill Dawn and Dori. Uncle Al explains that the rifles are loaded with tranquilizers, but Billy still does not want to shoot the girls. He aims his rifle at Uncle Al and says he won’t do it. Uncle Al challenges Billy until Billy pulls the trigger, and there’s a soft pop.
About now, we’re more than 90% into the book and there are just a few pages left. Billy is in a world of trouble, and there are so many questions unanswered. What is Stine going to do?
Uncle Al laughs at Billy, and then says,
Congratulations, Billy. You passed.
He wasn’t shot. The gun wasn’t loaded.
One by one all of the people that had disappeared come walking out of the woods: Dawn and Dori, Jay, Colin, Roger, Tommy and Chris, Mike… Finally, his parents come out.
Uncle Al tells Billy that Camp Nightmoon is not really a summer camp, but a government testing lab. Billy’s parents, scientists, are about to leave on an important expedition, and they want to take Billy with them.
Billy had to be tested first. Billy’s three tests were, could he obey orders, could he be brave, and would he know when not to obey orders? He passed the first test when he turned Jay and Roger down and didn’t go with them to the Forbidden Bunk. He passed the second when he saved Larry in the rapids. He passed the third when he refused to shoot Dawn and Dori, but still shot Uncle Al, but whatever.
Billy was told that everyone was in on his tests. They all work at the testing lab.
Uncle Al tells Billy that he is going to the most dangerous place in the known universe, and now everyone knows he can handle it.
Billy asks his parents where they are going.
They answer: “Earth.”
So, Billy is an alien.
While on the bus at the beginning of the novel, Billy has a flashback to his parents sending him off. He recalls that his mom hugged him harder than normal and said,
Do your best.
Billy finds this strange and says so to the reader.
What a weird thing to say. Why didn’t she say, “Have a good time?” Why did she say “Do your best?”
The reader should know something is amiss right away, and that his parents are in on it. This is easily missed because the book is so action-packed.
Something I also noticed reading the book for a second time is the description of Billy’s world is off. The book begins,
I stared out the dusty window as the camp bus bounced over the narrow, winding road. I could see sloping red hills in the distance beneath a bright yellow sky.
I take red hills to mean a muddy desert and a yellow sky to mean the sun is bright. However, next, Billy narrates,
Stumpy white trees lined the road like fence posts.
I can’t be for sure, but I don’t think trees are white in the desert. When I imagine white trees, I think of trees in winter, covered in snow, or trees in spring covered in flowers. If anyone has any knowledge on this and can comment, I’d love to hear about the likelihood of white trees in a desert climate.
I would like to think that Stine is creating an alien world here and is keeping the colors different, but just subtly different where they are still possibly colors on Earth.
I realize this is a stretch, but it’s something fun and interesting to think about.
One of my biggest pet peeves about this book are the plot holes. We are given a crazy ending that only answers a few questions. There are still some questions raised in the book that are left without answers.
Why did Larry angrily throw the ball at the back of Colin’s head? When I was reading it, it felt like something sinister took over Larry, and after he threw the ball at Colin, he came back to his senses and apologized.
Why were the kids asked to write home if the letters were never going to be mailed, or even opened and read?
Why did the first bus driver drop them off just a few minutes from the camp?
What were the strange animals that almost attacked the kids before they were rescued by Uncle Al?
I’m not going to lie; I really really enjoyed this book. It had what seemed like non-stop action, and it was truly suspenseful and scary. I could not put the book down.
I can’t tell if I am impressed or annoyed with the ending, however. I remember reading the book the first time, and thinking, “Oh wow, this needs to wrap up,” when I realized how little book was left and how many questions were sitting unanswered. As I mentioned above, the ending does not answer all of the questions the book raises, but it’s unique, and it’s interesting.
My guess is that readers are going to either feel awed or cheated by the ending. I don’t think there is a clear consensus.
Like I wrote at the beginning of this review, this book felt like a literal opposite of the last book I read. While it was slow, this book was fast-paced. While its protagonist was unlikable, Billy commanded a lot of respect with his reasoning and with his actions. Where they are similar is they both ended cheaply. I think with this one, however, that is the point.
This is a book to enjoy for the ride, not the destination.