Reader Beware Month: Monster Blood

Today’s story is the first of what became the longest running “series” in the original Goosebumps line-up.  The Monster Blood series is one that I’ve been aware of for a while but never really picked it up.  Even when I received the first book as a gift in middle school, I never had any interest in reading it.  Guess I didn’t know quality when I saw it, because Monster Blood is definitely one of the better Goosebumps stories I’ve ever read.

The story follows Evan Ross, a kid who’s staying with his deaf aunt, Kathryn, for a few days as his parents try to find a new house in a different state.  Evan quickly meets a new friend, Andrea.  One day, to stave off boredom, the two go to an old toy store.  Evan ends up buying an old can labeled Monster Blood.  The stuff at first seems like harmless silly puddy.  Then things start to get weird as the substance starts growing.  And growing.  And growing…

My main problem with Welcome to Dead House was that it tried far too early to scare the reader with many “scares” that ultimately amounted into nothing.  Luckily, this book didn’t fall into the same trap.  Instead, it took the time to set itself up through the characters and the circumstances before anything creepy starts happening.  The atmosphere it builds up is also very good, getting more tense as Evan’s problem literally becomes bigger and bigger.  Admittedly, the climax of the piece does come a bit out of nowhere and felt a tad rushed.  However, unlike with Dead House, this book does its best to answer all questions that you could possibly have about what’s going on.

Evan, by the end of the book, is a very well rounded character.  He starts off a bit bratty, as children his age (I think around 11) tend to be.  But, by the end, he’s been smart about his problem, thinking up all possible solutions and trying just about everything to solve it.  He wasn’t the typical blank slate character of children’s books.  All the characters pretty much feel well rounded in the book, aside from the generic bullies.  Andrea, or Andy as she likes to be called, starts off annoying but she quickly became the familiar quirky friend.  Aunt Kathryn at first comes off crazy and bitchy, but you understand what her problem is by the end of the story.  This is what I like to call character development in a book done right.

The Monster Blood almost feels like a character itself in this story.  While it never really seemed to be sentient, it did have a presence in the story from the moment it appears.  As it kept growing, it became more menacing within the story.  While never seeming to actively do anything until the climax of the story, it still felt like a threat.  That’s how you know you have an effective monster:  It’s still a threat even when all it does is grow bigger.

I’ll admit, I’m a little disappointed in myself at having never read this book up until now.  It is definitely one of the more clever and creative Goosebumps books I’ve read.  I can also see why it became one of the longest running series within the series.  With likable characters and a well done monster, it’s definitely a creepy story that’s worth a look.  Just be aware that the ending is a bit over-the-top compared to the rest of the book.  As for me, I’m off to watch The Blob.  I have the strangest urge to watch it for some reason.

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