Apr 27, 2023 | Goosebumps

Goosebumps #41:
Bad Hare Day

© 1996 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.



Spoiler-Free Review

I went into Bad Hare Day with an open mind. For the first half of the book, I thought that maybe this one didn’t deserve its reputation as one of the absolute worst Goosebumps books. That hope unraveled quickly in the second half. It committed the ultimate crime that a Goosebumps book can commit: it got boring. The plot was paced well enough, but it ultimately didn’t go anywhere. More than any other Goosebumps book I’ve read so far, it just felt phoned-in. This was definitely written and edited under the crunch of a tight deadline. There were some strong story elements that could have been used more effectively. I liked how the two rival siblings were forced to work together in order to sneak out to Amaze-O’s magic show. Tim taking part in the final act and then being forgotten about in the locked basement was genuinely creepy. There was even a fun underlying message about how meeting your idols can be a real disappointment. But after the magic show, the book just spun its wheels. There was a dark twist at the end, which I am usually a huge fan of. But this one was just plain incoherent. It went weird, but it did so in a very half-assed manner. I suppose the ending could have been enjoyable if it made even a marginal degree of sense, but it wasn’t even trying to do that. Overall, Bad Hare Day was not only bad, but it was also forgettable.

Score: 1


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ERMAHGERD #41: Bad Hare Day. (An homage to Donnie Darko).
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo and editing by Daniel Stalter. Photo collaboration with Lindsay Pacelli.
Background photo by ApiFoto; Standard Adobe Stock License.


Observations & Spoilers

Tim Swanson’s really into magic. He wants to be just like his idol Amaz-O. Unfortunately, he has a bratty sister name Ginny whose primary interests are karate and spoiling all of his tricks. Tim can’t afford to get fancy things from the magic shop, he hasn’t yet decided on a stage name, and he doesn’t come across as the creative type. None of this stops him from constantly trying to put on magic shows for his friends. He even talks his buddy Foz into borrowing his sister’s rabbit so he can do the tried and true disappearing rabbit trick. Only it gets away and they have to chase it around the neighborhood. Tim can’t seem to catch a break. It was hard not to feel bad for him. He was giving me Gob Bluth vibes, only with significantly less confidence.


Tim’s luck seems to change when he scores two free tickets to see Amaz-O at the Midnight Mansion in town. It’s a school night so Tim’s parents won’t let him go. I enjoyed how Tim and Ginny’s parents seemed to have no personalities beyond hating their respective jobs. So of course Tim tries to sneak out. He almost makes it but Ginny catches him. He has to take her with him or she’s gonna tell. I liked this a little bit. Rival siblings forced to work together in order to sneak out could have set things up for a nice narrative where they grew closer together. But that’s not the kind of book we got. The kids get into the club. Amaz-O is every bit as awesome as Tim had hoped. He even invites Tim on stage to take part in his final act of the night! He’s going to make Tim disappear by sending him to another dimension.


Tim crawls into the contraption on stage. It spins, then a trap door opens up and he falls through onto a mattress in the basement. He hears the crowd cheer up above. Then, nothing. No one comes to check on him or see if he’s OK. The door to the basement is locked. There are rats. This part was genuinely spooky and could have been the catalyst for a solid second half of the book. But that’s not what happened. Tim forces his way out of the locked door and finds Amaz-O’s dressing room. He knocks and announces himself, hoping for a chance to meet his idol still in spite of the fact that the dude just forgot about him in a locked basement. He’s met with a mean, gravely voice telling him to go away. It turns out that Amaz-O is quite a dick. 


When turning to leave, Tim stumbles over Amaz-O’s box of tricks. It’s not clear if if this is Amaz-O’s only box of tricks, or just one of many. But Tim decides to steal it, and honestly, I don’t blame him. Tim meets Ginny in the parking lot. She makes him promise to share the box of tricks or else she’ll get them both in trouble. They agree to not open the box until Saturday when their parents will be out. Tim sneaks a peak anyway and things go wrong, but only in the most boring way possible. The tricks don’t work right. The attic gets full of snakes. Saturday rolls around and Ginny eats a carrot from the box that promptly turns her into a rabbit. Tim and Foz spend no small amount of time chasing some paper directions around in the wind hoping to turn Ginny back.


The rabbit version of Ginny just seems angry at Tim for what was very clearly her own terrible decision to eat the carrot for no reason. Word to the wise: if you find a random loose carrot in a suitcase you stole from a stranger, maybe don’t eat it? Especially when every other thing in that suitcase has not been what it appeared to be. You reap what you sow, Ginny. The boys decide they need to return to Midnight Mansion and return Amaz-O’s box to him, grovel and beg forgiveness, and hope he has the ability to turn Ginny back into a human. Foz is present and technically helping, but he’s more interested in finding food than solving their very boring problem. I honestly related to him in this moment more than anyone else in this entire book. But wait, there’s a twist coming. When they find Amaz-O in his dressing room, he’s dead!


It turns out he was just a dummy. The real Amaz-O was the rabbit. Amaz-O the rabbit explains to the boys that he got turned into a bunny by an actual wizard long ago. Because the wizard was jealous, obviously. He’s only a magician and doesn’t deal in real magic, so he can’t change himself back. Fuckin wizards, man. Turning people into rabbits and shit. Ginny’s fine though because it’ll wear off in a couple of hours. That’s because the rules of magic here are really consistent. Anyway, Amaz-O explains that he had a puppet of himself constructed which he now controls each night at his shows. But he’s also over the whole thing and looking to retire. Tim sees this as an excellent opportunity. We cut ahead to some time later. Tim is now a rabbit as well. He lives in a cage that only gets cleaned most of the time, it’s not clear by whom. But each night he gets to go on stage and control the human puppet of Amaz-O. He’s living his dream. 


That took a really dark turn for an incredibly boring book. And absolutely none of it holds up under mild scrutiny. Is there a reason the Amaz-O dummy can only be controlled by a rabbit? Why could Tim remain a human and do the same job? Also, does Tim end up on a missing person list, or are his parents just A-OK with this arrangement? Why was Ginny able to turn back, but Amaz-O and Tim are stuck in rabbit form? Did Amaz-O take Tim to the wizard in order to pass on the curse? Is Amaz-O a human again, or is he a retired rabbit? How long is the retirement for a species that typically only live for 5 to 8 years? I have lots of questions that I don’t think were ever asked during the writing or editing process


One interesting turn the book could have taken would have been for Tim to have actually been transported to a different dimension during Amaz-O’s final trick. There are a lot of different ways this could have played out, all of them more entertaining than stealing a box of tricks and chasing paper in the wind. Maybe no one could see Tim, as though he were a ghost stuck in between dimensions. Or Maybe the world outside of Magic Mansion had changed completely and Tim is all alone in a strange new place. It even could have tied back to Amaz-O being a rabbit. It still might have been ridiculous but it would have been way less boring. If you’re gonna go weird, you gotta go all the way. 


In closing, I am going to do my best to explain this plot badly. Because it’s already so bad, maybe this will count as a double negative and make it good. Is that how math works? Whatever.


A famous magician gets turned into a rabbit by a jealous wizard, so he creates a lifelike puppet of his former human self in order to continue his career as a magician, but now he wants to retire. For this to happen, he will need to turn a twelve-year-old boy into a rabbit, because his magic show must go on and that money’s not gonna make itself, but also because apparently his puppet can only be controlled by rabbits that used to be human. The boy’s parents are fine with this arrangement because they hate their jobs.


Thank the gods of capitalism that there was no sequel for this one.


Score Card

For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes


Concept: 0/2
There wasn’t much of a concept, at least not one that made any sort of sense. Lots of getting turned into rabbits without much rhyme or reason.

Execution: 1/2
The pacing of the book was fine, even if it was well-paced and heading nowhere. The twist ending could have been good but it just didn’t make any sense. 

Character: 1/2
Most annoying little sister since Tara in Cuckoo Clock of Doom. I did like the dynamic of them sneaking out together. There could have been a better story in them learning to get along.

Intent: 0/2
The only kinda scary part was when he got stuck in the basement. It was all downhill after that. There could have been a good boy horror bit, but the book never went there.

Originality: 0/2
I guess the idea of being a rabbit puppeteer for a magician is almost original, but I think that would be giving too much credit. I don’t want to conflate “originality”l with “convoluted.”


Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Bad Hare Day is:
Ranked 59th of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.


TV Adaptation – Bullet Review

For every book that was adapted for the Goosebumps TV series, I will watch and do a bullet review.
Bad Hare Day” is Episodes 2×4.


• They did a good job casting Tim. He definitely comes across as a dweeb.

•  It’s a shame they cut Foz down so much, but I was grateful for this version having significantly fewer moments of Ginny’s karate. 

•  The way this show cuts things to the essentials really shows how much filler these books can have sometimes. 

•  Tim getting stuck in the basement for the entire show made Amaz-O out to be even more of a dick than in the book.

•  I appreciated the changes made to the third act. Ginny disappearing instead of turning into a rabbit worked way better, and I enjoyed seeing the hapless Tim getting help from a curmudgeonly rabbit who used to be a wizard.

• There was a nice Elmer Fudd reference in there. Stupid Wabbits.

•  Ginny re-appearing and immediately announces that she’s telling Mom and Dad was true to the character.

• The evil wizard turns out to be a sparkly gay pirate. For real.

 • The third act changes made Tim seem like less of an idiot, but only a little bit.

• And now for my final act of the night, I’m going to behead these rabbits in front of you. 

• I like how no one was laughing at El Sydney’s jokes except for himself. 

• Tim still thinks he’s living the show biz dream even though he’s an animal slave. There’s a deeper philosophical critique on toxic celebrity culture to make here, but I’m too tired and a bullet review of a Goosebumps episode is not the place to do it.


Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #42: Egg Monsters from Mars


Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Pulp Horror blog series:
Christopher Pike’s Witch


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