Jan 29, 2024 | Goosebumps

Goosebumps #51:
Beware, the Snowman

© 1997 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.


Spoiler-Free Review

Beware, the Snowman wasn’t a bad book. It also wasn’t very good. If it were the first Goosebumps book I ever read, I might feel a little more generous in my take. Stinene did a great job establishing an isolated and foreboding atmosphere. I enjoyed the idea of this tiny mountain town filled with angry snowman effigies everywhere. I thought the plot moved along at a good pace. Jaclyn was fine as a main character; what she lacked in survival skills she made up for with unearned confidence. I can’t say the same for the adults in this story. They were a mess of confusing motives and terrible decisions. I’m not saying they’re the worst examples of parenting I have seen Stine portray, but what qualifies as good parenting in a Goosebumps book is a pretty low bar. My favorite character in the book didn’t even show up until the last 20 pages. While I was initially intrigued by the mystery of Jaclyn’s family history, I was underwhelmed by the big reveals at the end. There was some weird stuff going on in this book, and it’s to our collective detriment that the story didn’t lean into those elements. The biggest flaw of Beware, the Snowman is that, in the end, it just wasn’t that memorable. 

Score: 2


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ERMAHGERD #51: Beware, the Snowman.
© 2024 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photography and editing by Daniel Stalter.
Background photo by New Africa; Standard Adobe Stock License.


Observations & Spoilers

Beware, the Snowman opens with Jaclyn DeForest moving from Chicago to a small rural town near the Arctic Circle. Her Aunt Greta just up and decided it was time for a drastic life-changing move. Jaclyn isn’t thrilled about it, but she does her best to make due. The first thing she notices about the town is all the weird angry snowmen displayed everywhere. It reminds her of a rhyme her Mom used to sing: “When the snows blow wild and the day grows old. Beware, the snowman, my child…” She can only remember the first verse and it starts to bother her that she can’t remember the rest. Aunt Greta just feigns ignorance when Jaclyn tries to bring it up. Right from the jump, communication does not appear to be one of Aunt Greta’s strengths. 


Jaclyn meets some new kids in town, a sister and brother named Rolanda and Eli. Jaclyn tells them she’s planning to walk to the top of the mountain. They tell her she better not, but she decides not to listen to them. No one expresses any fears of the very real threat of exposure. Jaclyn stumbles across a log cabin toward the top of the mountain where she meets an angry man named Conrad and his giant dog Wolfbane. He tells her the top of the mountain is too dangerous and she has to “beware the snowman.” Jaclyn runs away from him, Wolfbane follows her but she loses him in the snow. Later that night she tries to ask Aunt Greta about the snowman and Aunt Greta gives a dismissive non answer. 


That night Jaclyn sneaks out when she can’t sleep. There are lots of howling sounds and she gets the sense that she’s not alone out there. When she comes back she hears a whispered warning in her bedroom to “beware the snowman.” She tries to tell Aunt Greta about it in the morning, but in typical Goosebumps parent fashion, she insists that Jaclyn must have been dreaming. Jaclyn goes outside to find Rolanda and Eli, who insist on building a snowman in Jaclyn’s yard for protection. Jaclyn agrees to help only them, but only if Rolanda agrees to tell her what the fuck is going on with this town and its weird snowman effigies. Rolanda agrees. They meet at the village church and Rolanda spills the tea.


It turns out that many years ago, two sorcerers created a snowman monster. They quickly lost control of it but managed to trap it on top of the mountain. There was more to it, but my memory is blurring between Rolanda’s version and the final “true” version we get at the end. After Rolanda’s story, Eli confides in Jaclyn that he saw the snowman and it terrified him. Jaclyn takes in the dire warnings of her new friends and decides: she needs to see this shit for herself. The next day, she strongarms Rolanda and Eli into helping her sneak passed Conrad’s cabin. They agree to help her when they realize she won’t be deterred. 


Jacklyn’s plan is to have Rolanda and Eli distract Conrad so that she can sneak around. This works perfectly. Jacklyn gets to the cave and sees the giant snowman lumber out. Then she slips, falls, and slides do the hill to land right in front of him. The snowman speaks and demands to know who she is in an all-caps booming voice. Jaclyn tells him her full name. The snowman’s demeanor changes when he recognizes her last name. The snowman then claims to be Jaclyn’s father trapped in the snowman’s body. He says her Aunt Greta is evil and locked him away. Jaclyn is the only one who can free him; she just needs to recite the snowman spell. I’ve gotta say, this whole little twist had Star Wars meets Kate Bush vibe going for it, and I was not mad about it.


Aunt Greta finally shows up with the spell books that Jaclyn had been looking for, only Jaclyn didn’t know it was a spell book. Aunt Greta tells Jaclyn that the snowman is lying. Her parents created him by mistake, and when they couldn’t get rid of him, they had him trapped as a snowman in the mountain cave. Aunt Greta made the call to come back because it had been twn years and the spell needed to be renewed. Jaclyn doesn’t know if Aunt Greta is telling the truth, and for good reason. Maybe Aunt Greta could have tried being forthcoming with her niece instead of whispering ominous warnings into her bedroom late at night? At this point, I wanted Aunt Greta to be evil, because at least then she wouldn’t be stupid. I also kept thinking to myself: “Attention: the spell on your snowman monster is about to expire. Would you like to renew it?”


Jocelyn snatches the book away from Aunt Greta, which has the second verse of the tune Jaclyn couldn’t remember. She reads it aloud and the snowman melts to reveal… a hideous monster. Aunt Greta was telling the truth and therefore could have prevented this whole situation from the jump by simply being honest with her niece. I laughed out loud when Jaclyn, realizing she fucked up, demanded to know how the monster could do this when she saved him. “Is this my reward? To be thrown over the side of a mountain?” The monster didn’t miss a beat. “Yes, that is your reward.” Things seem pretty dire, and then an army of angry snowmen from town come into view Marching (gliding?) up the mountain. Jaclyn assumes that they are there to serve the monster and that all hope is lost.


Once again, Jaclyn is wrong. The snowmen overtake the monster and encase him in ice. Maybe they could have done that years ago and saved us from the plot? Anyway, Rolanda and Eli ended up telling Conrad what Jaclyn’s plans were. He went to town and summoned an army of snowmen to save her. When Conrad sees Aunt Greta, they recognize each other. It turns out that Conrad is Jaclyn’s father. He apparently missed her entire life in order to live on top of a mountain and essentially yell “get off my lawn!” at anyone who got too close to the snowman monster he accidentally created. Seems like a legitimate reason to not even bother trying to stay in touch with your only child. These are some of the many mysteries we may never know.


Then the snowmen complain that it’s cold on top of the mountain and ask if they can return to town. The End.


So let’s dive into some Aunt Greta logic. Being honest with her niece or telling her anything useful about the snowman monster: terrible idea. But whispering ominous warnings about said snowman into her niece’s bedroom at night and then denying it later: yeah, let’s go with that. The fact that keeping the truth from Jaclyn didn’t protect her in any way, and actively put her in danger, only compounds how dumb this was. And without Aunt Greta being an idiot, we would have had no mystery to drive the plot forward. That’s a very weak through-line for the plot of the book to be resting on. She might not top the list of worst parents, because the grandparents in How to Kill a Monster ran away with that title, but she’s gonna make the list. I’m almost done with this series, and I can assure you that there will be a list.


This is now the second book that RL Stine has set very fart north during winter. This town is specifically stated to be near the Arctic Circle. This means their daylight hours would be almost nonexistent during the winter months. There doesn’t seem to be any specific mention of how short the days are in the book, so this wasn’t as bad as the blatant disregard for planetary tilt we saw in The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. It’s a shame, however, that this wasn’t a prominent feature of the story. I think it would have added to the foreboding atmosphere that Stine did a really good job at building up. I love it when horror makes use of its surroundings to amplify its creepiness.


I will close this review with a thought on the Goosebumps series in general. It has been said that the Goosebumps books depreciated in quality as Stine increased his output in the mid-90s. I think that may be partially true, but I also think that the later books have some significant overall improvements. Where a lot of the early books were plagued with endless fake scares, I’m noticing overall much better pacing in the later books. It doesn’t always result in a better book, but it does make them less tedious to read. As I’m nearing the end of the series, I’ll take the wins where I can get them.


I also say this knowing full well that one of the worst-rated books in the series is just around the corner. 


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: 1/2
The small town with a local snowman legend was a fun premise and held some promise, but it didn’t turn out to be all that interesting or logical once the story was revealed. 

Execution: 1/2
The plot moved along well enough. It did a good job of building an ominous atmosphere and kept me interested. Its biggest weakness was that it was a tad climatic.

Character: 1/2
I supposed Jaclyn was OK. Aunt Greta was frustrating, as her actions didn’t make a whole lot of sense for someone who knew what was going on. The same goes for Conrad. The snowman monster was the most interesting character in the book, and he didn’t show up until the last twenty pages.

Intent: 1/2
It succeeded in being both creepy and fun, just not in being particularly unique or memorable.

Originality: 0/2
There wasn’t anything here that has been done before and done better within the series.


Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Beware, the Snowman is:
Ranked 39th of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.


TV Adaptation – Bullet Review

There is no TV adaptation of this book.



Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #52: How I Learned to Fly


Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Fear Street blog series:
Fear Street Super Chiller #9: The New Years Party


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