The Big Goosebumps Re-read #8: The Girl Who Cried Monster (R.L. Stine, 1993)

GB-Girl-1In a previous post entitled “My Reading Journey“, I mentioned my complete set of the original Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. Well, when taking them all out for a quick photograph for that post, I decided it might be fun to re-visit them all with adult eyes. There’s only 62 to get through…

When I’m reviewing these Goosebumps books, I seem to frequently be reminding you guys about one of the series’ central themes: the fact that the parents of the stories’ never ever believe their kids when they try to explain that something creepy is afoot. Ironically, The Girl Who Cried Monster is an entire book based on this (sometimes dangerous) parenting error that plagues the adolescents of Stine’s fictional universe. Lucy is adamant that she has seen a REAL monster but of course, her parents don’t have time for her ‘stories’…

The Blurb

Lucy’s always telling stories and scaring her little brother, Randy, with her “monster” tales – what a laugh!

But now Lucy’s seen a real monster – it’s the librarian, Mr Mortman. Lucy’s actually seen him tyrn into a monster, and it’s not funny, it’s horrible! But when Lucy tries telling her parents about it, they don’t believe her. Big surprise!

Can Lucy convince them she’s telling the truth this time…before it’s too late?

I’m going to have stick up for the adults in a Goosebumps book for the first time here because their twelve year-old daughter, Lucy Dark (great surname for a pale-skinned girl with black hair btw), is always making up tall tales about monsters to scare her little bro, Randy, who is six and easily convinced by her stories of foul monsters out to eat kids. I mean, you can hardly expect the parents in Goosebumps stories to believe in the likes of killer cameras and living dummies anyway because I’m fairly certain that no sensible adult in the real world would do so. But when Lucy is always flexing her overactive imagination, it’s understandable that Mr and Mrs Dark would call BS.

I guess that’s why the title of this book is a play on the saying, “the boy who cried wolf”. That’s pretty much a given. Perhaps Stine was poking fun at the oblivious nature of the adults in his books too?

Anyway, Lucy lives in the small town of Timberland Falls and has to attend a summer reading course at the library called ‘Reading Rangers’ (so edgy, right?). But one day, after returning Huckleberry Finn and collecting Frankenstein from the librarian, Mr Mortman, Lucy forgets to pick up her rollerskates. She heads back to library and while the front door is still open, nobody else is inside other than Mr Mortman. The librarian doesn’t realise that he is being watched and so Lucy witnesses something horrifying.

As he struggled to unscrew the jar lid, Mr Mortman’s face began to change. His head floated up from his poloneck and started to expand, like a balloon being inflated.

I uttered a silent gasp as I saw his tiny eyes poke out of his head. The eyes bulged bigger and bigger, until they were as big as doorknobs.

The light from the window grew even dimmer. The entire room was cast in heavy shadows. The shadows swung and shifted. I couldn’t see well at all. It was as if I was watching everything through a dark fog.

Mr Mortman continued to hum, even as his head bobbed and throbbed above his shoulders and his eyes bulged out as if on stems, poking straight up like insect antennae.

And then his mouth began to twist and grow. It opened wide, like a gaping black hole on the enormous, bobbing head.

If The Girl Who Cried Monster more than follows series tradition by featuring a supernatural monster that only the children seem to be able to see, it then completely dispenses with tradition by introducing the monster early on…and not have it be a false scare as is usually the case. Lucy manages to escape without Mr Mortman realising that his transformation has been witnessed but – as expected – her parents won’t believe her breathless tale when she bursts back into the house. The rest of the book is about Lucy setting out to prove that Mr Mortman is a monster; not because he needs to be outed in the interests of public safety but for the selfish desire to show her parents that she is right and that they are wrong to not believe her.

I imagined both my parents apologising to me, promising they’d never doubt me again.

“I feel so bad,” I imagined my dad saying, “I’m going to buy you that computer you’ve been asking for.”

“And a new bike,” I imagined Mum saying. “Please forgive us for doubting you.”

“And I’m sorry, too,” I imagined Randy saying. “I know I’ve been a real jerk.”

“And you can stay up till midnight every night from now on, even on school nights,” I imagined Dad saying.

Isn’t amazing how Lucy can see something so shocking and unbelievable and soon be thinking about all of the riches and rewards that she could potentially gain from proving her parents wrong? It’s also amusing to be reminded of the things we so badly wanted as kids! A computer, a bike…and staying up until midnight!

Forward-thinking Lucy might be, but she certainly isn’t realistic. Her outrage and self-victimisation at not having her monster story believed is one thing but her irrational disbelief at THEIR disbelief is another.

So, once again my wonderful parents refused to believe me.

I tried to describe what I had seen from hiding place in the library. But Mum just shook her head. Dad said I had a great imagination. Even Randy refused to be scared. He told Mum and Dad how he had scared me with his stupid papier-mache monster head.

I practically begged them to believe me.

But Mum said I was just lazy. She said I was making up the story about Mr Mortman so I could get out of the Reading Rangers course and wouldn’t have to read any more books this summer.

When she said that, I got really insulted, of course. I shouted something back. And it ended up with all of us growling and snapping at each other, followed by me storming up to my room.

Perhaps it’s redundant to tip-toe around spoilers for a twenty-six year-old children’s horror story but even so, I won’t give away the book’s conclusion because there is a pretty smart twist right at the end. Even I didn’t see it coming but then again, I don’t remember actually reading The Girl Who Cried Monster when I was younger. This must have been one of the handful of Goosebumps books that I somehow missed then added to my collection at a later date. Unfortunately, it’s a twist that Stine used several more times throughout the series and so it would eventually lose its creativity factor. Here however, it was a very cool way to end the eighth book in the original series and a twist that could only really be possible in a book.

There’s nothing complex or crazy about The Girl Who Cried Monster. It’s a straightforward monster story that plays on childish fears and the curse of having an active imagination as a youngster. As an adult, it’s all a bit silly, but I think most of us can recall the irrational fears of monsters that we had as children and so I imagine that this must have been a pretty relatable tale when read through adolescent eyes.

The Girl Who Cried Monster was quite a fun re-read and one of my favourites thus far in The Big Goosebumps Re-read.

The Cover

I think has to be one of my favourite covers so far. The picture of Lucy screaming in terror, surrounded by dusty old library books, is incredibly detailed and realistic. In particular, I love the detailing of her messed-up hair. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the name of the artist behind the UK Goosebumps covers (our books didn’t adopt the original Tim Jacobus’ artworks until book #33)

The incredibly dated bit

A lot of this book is dated. From Lucy’s brand-new rollerblades (SO 90’s…) to the very concept of a summer reading club at a local library. If you’re American and can confirm whether such programmes still exist then feel free to object! Of course, there is also the obligatory Nintendo reference. Are we sure Stine wasn’t sponsored?

I passed by Randy’s room. He was in there in the dark, no lights, the blinds pulled down. Playing Super Nintendo, as usual.

The nostalgia factor

As I already said, I don’t actually remember reading this book as a child. However, the general ‘feel’ of the story was quite nostalgic.

Up Next: Welcome to Camp Nightmare