The book series that we love as children shape the rest of our lives. If you spent countless hours with the “Little House” books, you are probably upbeat, resourceful, and able to make venison jerky with great ease. If you gave your heart to the “Anne of Green Gables” series, you’re most likely an expert in hair braids, being awkwardly charming, and begging your parents to take you on vacation to rural Canada. If you soul-bonded with “Sweet Valley High,” well, you may have an awful personality, but I bet you know what the hell a “lavalier” is.
But to me, no children’s book series sets you up to understand the problems and predicaments of adult life quite like the works of R. L. Stine. All of Stine’s books have a very simple premise: life is a terrifying shit-show, and eventually, you will be thoughtlessly betrayed by those closest to you. It was a winning formula then, the basis for Stine’s countless book series and TV shows–and I think his books still offers a lot of guidance and wisdom for us as adults.
So please, come along with me, and let’s finally learn all the hidden lessons from R.L. Stine books that you missed the first time around, probably because you were too busy eating Shark Bites to concentrate.
1. Fear Street #1: The New Girl
Synopsis: Sometimes you meet a girl who you think really likes you, and it seems like everything is going great. But then it almost always turns out that she’s just a homicidal maniac from a homicidal maniac family, and she murdered her own sister (who I guess wasn’t a homicidal maniac? Who even knows). Ugh. Modern love is impossible, am I right??
Lesson: Don’t ever trust anyone who seems like decent relationship material, because they probably murdered their sister or their mom or the guy who works at the Au Bon Pain at the mall. They probably literally just got finished murdering someone on the way to your date. Just trust me—if you ever go out with someone new, and they’re really nice, and it seems to be going well, and the two of you are really getting along, that person is a murderer and you need to get out of there NOW.
Also, try to stay away from buying real estate in places with names like “Fear Street” or “Murder Avenue” or “Lower Bludgeoningsville.” Ha ha ha, just kidding, none of us are ever going to be able to afford to buy any real estate.
2. Goosebumps #14: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp
Synopsis: A pair of negligent scientist-parents would rather that their children wander aimlessly around a bayou, playing with some sort of “swamp hermit,” than interrupt their precious studies. Oh, also, the kids’ shitty new best friend was actually the evil werewolf the entire time.
Lesson: Your parents cannot be trusted. They are fools at best, and werewolf-enablers at worst. They are also looking for any excuse to take your beloved dog to the pound. You must “get” them before they “get” you. Also, your best friend is not really your friend, and has a terrible secret. Also, you are almost definitely going to get turned into a werewolf some time soon. There’s really no getting around this last one. Sorry!
3. Fear Street #37: The Perfect Date
Synopsis: If your girlfriend dies in a horrible sledding accident, BECAUSE YOU MADE HER GO SLEDDING (because you are apparently both a wholesome teen who loves sledding AND a complete dick), you could probably stand to spend at least a year or so mourning her death. I mean, why are you even bothering to get a new girlfriend now? You’re totally just going to break up as soon as you leave for college!
Anyway, this dickhead guy named Brady accidentally made his girlfriend die while sledding, and his mysterious new girlfriend, who attends a private school across town, is actually his dead girlfriend come back to life—she took over a hot chick’s body so that she could execute her plan of revenge against him, because that’s how you do.
Lesson: Never trust people who claim to attend a “private school across town.” There are no actual private schools in existence; they are just a made-up concept used by murderers to cover up their evil schemes. That’s why they all have such absurd names, like “St. Ann’s” or “Nightoak Academy” and “Lady P. L. R. Turfington’s Country Day OH MY GOD LOOK BEHIND YOU NOOOO IT’S TOOOOO LATE!!!”
Also, how long a street *is* Fear Street? Are only a small handful of its residents tormented/ tormenting psychos, and everyone else who lives there is just a regular person who works as an account manager or something, and is angry about these supernatural doofs who keep bringing down property values?
4. Goosebumps 2000 #6: I Am Your Evil Twin
Synopsis: If you think you keep seeing your exact double around town, it’s probably because your evil scientist uncle cloned you without your knowledge. Also, your cousin is probably actually your twin sister. God, your family is awful! Also, okay, the evil uncle who cloned you is actually the clone of your good uncle, who has been locked in a closet this whole time and didn’t cause any of this trouble. But I doubt that will provide you with any comfort now, especially since your evil twin has sentenced you to death.
Lesson: Do not trust science. Science just wants to clone you to get at your sweet, tender innard-meats. If at all possible, dig a deep, wide hole, and bring a lot of canned beans and jugs of water as you climb inside of it. If you can’t dig a hole, just find a port-a-potty located in a safe place, and crouch inside. Get comfy in your hole/ port-a-potty, and wait as long as you need to for this science thing to blow over, so that you can finally be safe.
5a. Goosebumps #9: Welcome to Camp Nightmare
5b. Goosebumps #33: The Horror at Camp Jellyjam
5c. Goosebumps #45: Ghost Camp
5d. Goosebumps #56: The Curse of Camp Cold Lake
Synopsis: The only beings who attend sleep-away camp are ghosts, ghouls, witches, Druids, leprechauns, ghosts who are different from that first group of ghosts, ogres, ooze-monsters, zombies, werewolves, and you—a tragic child whose family wishes to send you away for the summer. Alas, you are the most pitiful beast of them all!
Lesson: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER GO TO CAMP. And, I don’t know, maybe try to find some better parents? Ha ha ha, just kidding, there are no better parents. You’re stuck in this nightmare for the rest of your life!!
Also, it’s helpful to get lifeguard certified when you have the opportunity. It’s just good sense.