Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine
A lame party should be the least of Lu-Ann’s worries this Halloween. After all, she’s about to come across a mask that is legendary in the Goosebumps series. Then there’s Devin. The kid has to spend Halloween on a boring pumpkin farm. Only it’s not so boring when the pumpkins start to speak to him.
If you know R.L. Stine’s work like I do, then those plotlines don’t surprise you one bit. And to be honest, I did not pick up Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask with the thought that I was going to read something terribly original. After all, Stine has tackled this particular mask so many times that no surprises could be in store…right? Wrong.
The first pleasant surprise comes by way of a “Part One” that shows readers the origin of the fabled Haunted Mask over the course of around 30 pages. I was immediately engrossed in this book; the writing is good. Stine knows how to be creepy and milk the tension. While this sequence ends in a more graphic style than his traditional Goosebumps books, it really grabbed me.
The second part tells Lu-Ann’s story. She dreads going to a boring Halloween party. Then she and her friends find a trunk in the party hostess’ attic and Lu-Ann puts on the dreaded mask. When she can’t get it off, its anger takes over. She runs amok.
Stine uses the metaphor of the mask to illustrate how anger can possess a person, turning them into someone else entirely. This is a nuance I never picked up when I read Goosebumps #11: The Haunted Mask as a kid. This part ended with a cliffhanger that felt odd, but that was because I assumed the two stories were independent of each other.
In Devin’s story, Devin learns the pumpkin farm his dad bought may be home to more than just pumpkins. His story seems to drag a bit, but it is still highly inventive. Stine knows how to create red herrings and really seems to understand kids throughout. This was also a refreshing change from the first story, which was much more typical considering the title of this book.
I won’t spoil the ending to Devin’s story, but I was very impressed with a swerve I never saw coming, even though I am an adult!
The closing tag is typical of Stine. While it’s not that original (for him), I think I’d be disappointed without having such a trademark ending in place.
The points-of-view are as different as actual children tend to be. The dialogue sounds realistic. It’s also amazing what the origin of the mask does for this story, and Stine has created a brief but gripping backstory. Stine is a master of the “plant” and the “payoff.” I have read a few of the Goosebumps: Hall of Horrors books and this seems to outshine them by a good margin.
I recommend Goosebumps Wanted: The Haunted Mask to any kid looking to scare themselves on a foggy Halloween night, or to anyone who loved and misses the original Goosebumps series.
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