May 212016
 

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After watching the Goosebumps Movie earlier in the year, and enjoying the nostalgia kick, I had an urge to locate my entire childhood collection of Goosebumps books. After hours of searching my parents’ house I found 40 of the original 62 boxed up in their attic. I definitely owned more than this, but either they remain boxed up and undiscovered, or I sold them off to a second-hand bookshop. Whether the ones I held on to were credited as my ‘favourites’ I cannot recall.

So, with all of these in front of me, I decided to put adulthood on hold and take a trip back to simpler times – a childhood where saving my pocket money for the new Goosebumps book was what I cared most about. A few books in I was hooked, and vowed to re-read all 62. I tracked down ways to read the ones I was missing and now, 10 weeks later, I have finally done it. Each book took me about 50-60 minutes to read, and I was covering 5-8 per week.

Over the course of 1992-1997 Scholastic released a new Goosebumps book at a rate of close to one every month, so author R.L. Stine was churning them out pretty quickly. And he has continued to churn them out with the Give Yourself Goosebumps, Goosebumps Horrorland series and others. Now, whether they were written in order is a fascinating question, and the chaotic inconsistency in fresh ideas and writing quality is what has made this journey a strange one.

It is hard to gauge exactly how old I was when I was in peak Goosebumps obsession. I think it must have been 1996, when I was 8. I don’t think I read any after 1998 – I feel like I had moved onto The Hardy Boys and Harry Potter books by then – but I find it interesting that I read most of them when I was aged 7-9. By age 10 I suspect I had grown out of them. Almost all of Stine’s protagonists were aged 12, though I realise now that he wrote them younger than that. My memory of most of them in 2016 was next-to-none, so I felt like I was starting on a blank slate. Plenty offered surprises, while others that I recall enjoying ended up being amongst the most awful. Back then they would have all been awesome, but I am not sure how well they will go down with kids these days.

I will admit, I hit some hurdles. About two-thirds of the way through this project I started to lose sight of the light. It became a chore. As the quality took a nosedive, the recurring formulas became tiresome, Stine’s worst tendencies were less effectively hidden, and the ideas dried up, I struggled to digest them. For most of the #30+, there was nothing there, but I was becoming desperate to make it to the end and put this foolishness behind me. But, rarely one to leave things unfinished, I persevered. I am glad I did, because there are some late gems, but this is not a venture I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Before I get into the rankings I thought I would flag a few observations from the series:

Best stretch of Goosebumps – #1 – #11

Worst stretch of Goosebumps – #42 – #50

Weirdest and most wildly inconsistent stretch of Goosebumps – #52 – #62

Here are all 62 of the original Goosebumps series, definitively ranked from 62-1. The number in brackets refers to the number of the entry in the series. Warning, there are *spoilers*:

Continue reading »

Feb 072016
 

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R.L Stine’s contribution to the world of youth-friendly supernatural horror is unprecedented. His novels – 62 books from the original series were published between 1992 and 1997, and many more followed – were hugely successful, and reading them was like par the course of the journey through primary school. Stine’s extraordinary imagination led to all sorts of disturbing tales of ghosts, creatures, and uncanny phenomenon. Is there a child who didn’t have nightmares after reading The Barking Ghost (one of the scariest early-reading experiences of my life), or second-guessed going to a theme park after reading A Night in Horrorland, or attending a summer camp after reading Welcome to Camp Nightmare? While there was a long-running television series, which doesn’t hold up particularly well (trust me, I have tried), 2016 feels like the perfect time for Goosebumps to make a nostalgic return. Continue reading »