Review: A Midsummer Night's Scream - R. L. Stine
A Midsummer Night's Scream by R. L. Stine
Genre: YA, classic retelling, horror
Published on June 2, 2013
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Read From: 10. 9.13 - 10.11.13
It was a horror movie that turned into real horror. Three young actors lost their lives while the cameras rolled. Production stopped, and people proclaimed the movie was cursed.
Now, sixty years later, new actors are venturing onto the haunted set. In a desperate attempt to revive their failing studio, Claire's dad has green-lit a remake of Mayhem Manor, and Claire and her friends are dying to be involved.
At first, Claire laughs at Jake's talk of ghosts and curses. He's been to busy crushing on her best friend, Delia, or making out with that slut, Annalee, to notice that she's practically been throwing herself at him. What does he know anyway? This is her big chance to be a star!
But then, Claire runs into a creepy little man named Benny Puckerman, and gets her hands on a real love potion! Unfortunately, the course of true love never did run smooth. . . .
Characters: What characters? If Claire and Jake and Delia and the others were supposed to be "characters," I'm going to laugh. Seriously; a piece of balsa wood would make for a better cast than this lot. The daring needle in Hans Christian Anderson's fairytale was much more of a protagonist than Claire ever was. Talk about the dullest, most cliche group of Beverly Hills teens on Earth! The clicheness was so glaring that it was painful. And it wasn't even a cliche that I could like. Claire went around accusing other girls of being "desperate sluts," and yet she's the one who resorts to a love potion to make Jake notice her. If that's not desperate, what is? Her accusation of so-and-so being a bitch was the pot calling the kettle black, because that's all Claire ever did was behave like an over-pampered little princess. Delia was no better, and Jake and Sean were two twin surf boards with the world's blandest personalities. Oh, and let's not forget the villain - Mr. Puckerman. Okay, the name itself is awful. And his appearance was so overly creepy that he wasn't intimidating at all. And let's not even get into his horrible tendency to monologue.
The Romance: I've read a lot of two-dimensional love triangles, but this one didn't even have a second dimension. I had no idea emotions could be so 1D - I didn't even know 1D existed up until now! It was flatter than flat. I wasn't emotionally invested, I didn't care about anyone, and it was just silly. A poor attempt to make the book resemble A Midsummer Night's Dream, because without the love triangle and potion, it wouldn't have resembled Shakespeare's play at all.
Plot: Claire has always wanted to be in a movie, and when her parents' studio decides to redo an old horror film from the 1960s, Claire and her friend Delia signed up. The movie - Mayhem Manor - was never finished in the '60s because the original cast suffered terrible deaths on set. It was deemed cursed and no one has dared even venture into the manor since. But Claire's parents' studio needs publicity, otherwise it'll go under, and so they're willing to risk the supposed curse. However, potentially being sawed in half isn't Claire's only worries. She has a major crush on her childhood friend Jake, but Jake is too busy oodling her best friend Delia to notice. Meanwhile, Delia desperately wants to date Jake's friend Sean, but Sean is only interested in Claire. When Claire meets a creepy, hairy little man in a trailer onset, he offers her a love potion. Common sense tells Claire she shouldn't take it, but she isn't a very sensible girl. However, Mr. Puckerman isn't about to just give it to her, and Claire finds herself with the wrong potion several times. Added to these romantic complications is the fact that the curse of Mayhem Manor may in fact be real after all . . . . This is supposed to be a retelling of A Midsummer Night's Dream. However, the only resemblance to the play is 1) the love potion and the whole love triangle mix-up, and 2) Puckerman's name that is supposed to echo Puck, but I think we can all agree that Puckerman is nothing like Puck. That is where the "retelling" part ends, because everything else about this atrocious book is entirely different. I don't know if the Author was trying to make this story so unbelievably "bad horror flick" cliche, and if it was supposed to be funny. If it was supposed to be funny, it fell totally flat. If it was supposed to be genuinely scary . . . . Um, I'm embarrassed for the Author. Because I don't think this would have scared me even at the age of five. The "horrifying deaths" were absolutely comical, the suspenseful cliffhangers were utterly predictable, and moments of romantic comedy were annoying and ridiculous. I honestly had no idea a horror story could be this bad. In terms of the plot pacing, it's not a long book, but there's a remarkable amount of sitting around. Something bad happens on set, and the Reader is treated to several chapters of Claire and Delia recouping from the shock by treating themselves to cheesecake or hamburgers, while they talk about how much in shock they are. And by the way, their devastation is never convincing.
Believability: Not applicable.
Writing Style: First person, past tense. Claire is a very annoying narrator; I hated being locked inside her head. Setting that aside, lets just talk about the writing style itself. I can't believe this was a Young Adult book, because the style was kiddish at best. Content-wise, it was teen, but it read like a beginning readers' book. There was no real attempt at creepy imagery or disturbing violence. And while I'm not a fan of disturbing violence, it is something that is expected in a horror story, and in many ways essential. The Author didn't even try. And the dialogue - oh my gosh, the dialogue was horrendous!
Content: Drinking, yucky kissing, violence - but violence that is so B-movie that it was comical.
Conclusion: The final showdown between Puckerman and Claire was ridiculous. And his defeat was downright embarrassing. And I don't believe for one minute that the studio would have been allowed to release the film of everyone dying. I have read some R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books before, and they were actually very creepy. So when I found out that he wrote a YA horror book - and one based off of A Midsummer Night's Dream - I figured that it would be good. This book did not do R. L. Stine justice; I can't even believe that he wrote it, quite honestly. It was just so bad! The characters, the plot, the writing - it was just awful. So please, Readers; don't judge his writing based on this book, because he usually is a much better writer.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, sixteen-and-up. Quite honestly, I don't know what kind of Readers this would appeal to. Horror Readers would find it ridiculous and R. L. Stine fans will be disappointed.