July 27, 2012

#12 Be Careful What You Wish For...

Judging a Book by its Cover:

Be Careful What You Wish For... and if you wished for good cover art you probably didn't get your wish in the early 90's. We have a snow globe seeping fumes and a generic girl looking bored. Really makes me want to read this book. The tagline of "it might come true" is a bit boring and predictable but at least it fits and isn't a huge stretch.

Now here is something a little different than usual. Generally I take a picture of the actual copy of the book I own but my digital camera is broken. I had to google for the cover art to this book, and then found out there are not 1, not 2, but 3 different covers. The original books all had a second run in the early 2000's. Usually they had the exact same cover art, except for a moderately different ooze border. Apparently, this cover was so lame they got a different picture to plop on it. I have to admit this generic mystic lady surrounded by second hand smoke is slightly better but still not amazing. I prefer the original purple border to the bright orange as well.

The third version is much more recent I gather. My understanding is that Stine is currently releasing brand new Goosebumps books and with each one he is also re-releasing a repackaged edition of one of the originals. This cover looks much hipper, more colorful and in my opinion a far superior illustration. It's pretty eye catching and appealing to kids. It almost looks like a still from a cartoon or something.

Of course no matter the cover the same book is still inside. Lets take a look, shall we?

Getting Goosebumps

Samantha Byrd is the star of this book. She's a lanky 12 year old that has some coordination problems with her long limbs. Because she's tall the basketball coach convinced her to play for the team but she has almost no skill. Even off the court she has trouble with clumsiness, often tripping and making mistakes. Because of this the popular (bitchy) girls in school constantly make fun of her. Most often the taunts are "why don't you just fly away Byrd," from extra bitchy Judith and Anna who are of course stars of the basketball team. Samantha dislikes Judith so much, one time she even strangled her in school after being picked on long enough. Being as these were the days before zero tolerance policies, she got off by simply apologizing. Luckily not everyone dislikes Samantha. Her best friend is Cory who she eats lunch with. He always gets a cold grilled cheese sandwich made by his dad, much to his dismay. Unfortunately for Cory, he barely even factors into the story. I think he only exists to prove that Samantha has friends.

Anyway, after practice one rainy day Samantha came across a creepy old lady named Clarissa who couldn't find her way home. Samantha helped her, and instead of explaining it all, Clarissa pulled out a glass ball and assured her that she would grant her three wishes. Needless to say, Samantha was skeptical but to humor the weird lady she wishes to be the strongest player on her basketball team, because fuck world peace.

Well the next day they had a basketball game, so it was time to see if her wish came true. As she played, she realized she was just as terrible as ever. Unfortunately, everyone on the team started to play even worse than her. It seemed they were all coming down with an illness that made them slow and tired. Her wish HAD come true, and in pretty much just the way you'd expect in a book such as this. Bummer for Byrd! None of the rest of the basketball team show up for school the next day, and Samantha is overwhelmed by guilt. She even goes so far as to call, and visit her arch nemesis Judith. Instead of being thankful for the concern, Judith does the only rational thing she can. She accuses Byrd of witchcraft. Now of course it is true but honestly who jumps to that conclusion? The startlingly accurate accusation pisses off Samantha so much that she hastily wishes that Judith would just disappear. Clarissa pops by to let her know that the first wish is canceled, and her second wish is granted. 

Time for a "It's a Wonderful Life" type of plot? Nope, that would be too complicated. Instead of just Judith disappearing, everyone disappeared. Not quite what Samantha was aiming for, she became a bit worried. After searching around a bit trying to find any sign of life she eventually comes across Clarissa again. The weird old lady lets her know that she tried to fulfill her wish as best she could, and getting rid of everyone was the only way she knew how. Doesn't make much sense, but a little lazy story telling never hurt anyone I suppose. Now Samantha has one wish left to go, surely she has learned her lesson about wishes never turning out how you want and will fix everything... Or she will almost do that, but then add on the last part that Judith will think she is the greatest person ever. Great idea, wishes never backfire. She clearly realizes that by now!

So now Judith thinks Byrd is great. She goes so far as to dress like her, follow her around, and carry her backpack. During the basketball game she screws up like Samantha on purpose just to be more like her. She even sneaks into her house during the night. In a desperate attempt to get away from her the next morning, Samantha crashes her back into Clarissa. The old woman feels bad that the wishes didn't turn out how she wanted so she offers her 1 final irreversible wish. Samantha wishes that she had never met Clarissa. Sensible. And that Judith had met Clarissa instead. Oops.
The book concludes with Judith and Clarissa talking. Samantha thinks she overhears Judith saying, "Byrd, why don't you fly away!." Samantha Byrd proceeds to eat an earthworm and flap her wings. The end. Cue the song Free Bird over the credits.

What I Thought

This was a pretty average entry into the Goosebumps theory. I didn't remember much of it, and it's no wonder why. It's really not that memorable. Magic wish stories are pretty common and predictable. There were really only 2 ways that first wish could have gone. Either exactly the way it did, or instead that she would have actually become a stronger basketball player. Then she would have gotten popular, turning into a huge bitch like Judith and then come to regret her transformation. The first is easier and less preachy. 

Her second wish turned out pretty darn lazy. It didn't backfire in a way that made sense. It wasn't particularly clever or enlightening. If Stine wanted to put forth actual effort he would have tried to show that Judith actually contributes some good to the world, despite being a bitch. Or perhaps without Judith another bitch would take her place and make Samantha's life hell. Maybe she could have disappeared in a way that everyone knew she was missing and then was concerned. Then Samantha could feel genuine remorse. Making everyone disappear was just simplistic and unimaginative.

Wish three was perhaps the most interesting of all of them. I wish these books were a little longer though, so the wish could have seemed to be good at first. Then slowly Judith would have gotten more and more obsessed. Having these books be so short does give things limited time to play out. Still, I have to remind myself that they are for kids.

One thing that struck me as interesting in this book is that only 3 characters mattered. This was probably true in other books, but for some reason stuck out for me in this one. Samantha, Judith, and Clarissa are the only ones that mattered. Samantha had a brother that I didn't even mention because he had no purpose. The only things he did was 1) Disbelieve Samantha's assertion that a magic wish came true and 2) Disappear. Basically the same for Cory. Her parents existed only because they had to exist. They didn't do anything.

So there you go. Not one of the most interesting Goosebumps, but it wasn't terrible. The ending was a bit silly but at least the twist sort of made sense. It didn't turn out that Judith was a werewolf, or that Clarissa was a robot or something stupid. It worked, mostly.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Crystal Balls

Up Next!

Piano Lessons Can Be...MURDER! That was my choice of punctuation. Pretty good title for a Goosebumps book. I do not, however, remember anything about the book. That seems to be happening too often. I suppose with a series this long read so long ago there is bound to be a lot of stuff that just isn't that memorable. Check back in a while for my next read! And thanks for checking out my blog.