As we near closer to Halloween we shall be reading the story "Perfect School." School as we all know is a great source of terror to most kids out there, so it seems fitting. Let's see what horrors await in "Perfect School."
Brian O'Connor is a pretty average kid. A bit too average for his parents' liking so they decided to send him away for a two week course at the Perfect Boarding School. A perfect school makes for the perfect kid.
On the way he meets a fellow student there named C.J who shared the same apprehensions. Once there they notice things are pretty strict. Everyone is in uniforms. Their instructors are called "guardians" Each kid is assigned a number and is known by that number instead of their name. There is to be no talking. They must answer many questions about themselves. It's all a bit strange.
Brian pretty quickly screws up and gets sent to the pattern room for "special training." He hears voices from the vents, and not for the first time. They warn him to get away but there is really nothing he can do. Inside that room he gets weighed, measured, and otherwise inspected closely. Peculiar.
Afterwards Brian managed to find an empty room with a phone. He tries to alert his parents to the strangeness happening but a guardian catches him and puts an end to it. Locked away in his room, he hears the vent voices again. They inform him that the school makes a robot replica of kids to send home, and hides away the children where they'll never be found again. It would really make more sense to kill the children, but I suppose that is too scary...
Brian asks to go to the bathroom and uses some paper to keep the door from locking. He sneaks away and finds C.J. Whew. A friendly face. C.J. leads him to his safety. Wait no, he leads him to his doom. C.J. was an agent for the guardians, and locks him away with the other children. Betrayal.
Flash forward a bit. Brian is delivered to his parents a perfect specimen. Perfectly uniformed, perfectly behaved. But is he a robot? NO! Brian managed miraculously to switch places with his robot double. All he has to do now is act completely perfectly and no one will be any the wiser. It's not so hard to be perfect is it? I mean... he's only made a COUPLE mistakes so far...
As Goosebumps is a series for kids, it makes sense that they would play to fears specific to kids. This story does so mostly successfully. In tone it comes across as sort of a... Twilight Zone Junior? The robots definitely give it a sci-fi vibe. Sometimes you gotta remember that a trope that may seem worn out to an adult, may be viewed for the first time by a youngster reading this book... so it could be fresh to them.
So as far as specific fears for kids... Kids frequently worry about the expectations of their parents and teachers. Are they living up to what is expected of them? But what if what is expected of them is too much. WAY too much. What if parents really would be happier with a mindless automaton that would just do everything expected of them? What is a simple story for me, could feel a lot deeper and connect a lot more with a kid.
The robot/sci-fi aspects aren't necessarily my favorite type of Goosebumps tale. I mean, there is nothing wrong with them and I do generally like sci-fi out of Goosebumps... It just that when it comes to 'bumps I kinda like monsters more. Monsters, and magic, and curses. It's more a matter of personal taste.
As for the twist, that I've always gotta talk about... I guess the twist was that he escaped after all. The reality is that they just sort of rushed into this ending. It was basically like "You thought I was locked away BUT NOT REALLY." I just could have been much better thought out and executed. A more interesting but perhaps less funny ending would be if the reader didn't know if Brian became a robot or not. Would that be a bit too "mind fuck"y for a kid? Maybe. Woulda been cooler though.
Ultimately, this was the 27th Goosebumps short story I've read this month and I wasn't bored to death so I guess that merits some appreciation. It's interesting enough even if I don't adore it. Not too shabby I guess.
Rating: 3 out of 5 perfect robots
Only 3 more stories left until the book is over and it's Halloween. Hopefully I still got some readers with me at this point. Check back tomorrow for "For the Birds."