Goosebumps #21: Go Eat Worms
I realize that I have 41 more Goosebumps books to go, but I think Go Eat Worms might be the worst of them. The main character is the most horrifying part of the story. He’s awful to his sister and his best friend. He doesn’t face any significant consequences for his pranks. He’s a selfish budding serial killer with no redeeming qualities. He collects and kills worms now; it’s only a matter of time before he graduates up to mammals. Aside from Todd being the real monster, worms appearing in random places isn’t that scary. It’s not even all that interesting. The story was boring and anti-climatic. The only thing I liked was the use of the giant paper mache robin. I could say that the plot was well organized, too. It just didn’t really go anywhere memorable. Go Eat Worms was essentially just a series of random things that happen to a character I actively hated. I genuinely hope this is the worst one.
ERMAHGERD #20: The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight. Photo by Dierre Taylor.
Observations & Spoilers
Todd collects worms. He collects them and terrorizes his sister with them. He bullies his best friend Danny. He thinks he wants to be a scientist. There’s a big science fair coming up, and he plans to win the grand prize computer with his “worm house.” He believes in himself so much that he won’t let his best friend Danny be his partner because he doesn’t want to share the computer he knows he’s going to win. He even sabotages his sister’s science project, a giant anatomically correct paper mache robin that he (you might have already guessed) fills with worms. That’s right, Todd is only twelve but he’s well on his way to becoming a mediocre middle manager who fails upwards for the rest of his life.
Things start to go wrong for Todd when the playground shakes while he’s digging up worms in his favorite spot. He and Danny think there was an earthquake but no one else noticed. Then the worms seem to start following him, appearing in his hat, his books, and his sandwiches. He’s being haunted by worms. He even thinks they’re watching him everywhere he goes. He gets upstaged by a new kid at school that builds a worm hotel, dwarfing his pitiful worm house. To top it all off, his friend Danny who he didn’t want to partner with wins the grand prize with a foam ball replica of the solar system. Watching Todd fail was maybe the only satisfying thing about this book.
The climax ends up being Todd getting attacked by a giant worm that is then scared away by his sister’s giant paper mache robin. I appreciated the robin coming back to save Todd after he mocked and attempted to sabotage it. But that was the climax. Maybe my expectations were set too high after reading about the sandworms in Dune, but that was still a yawn of an ending no matter how you cut it. In the end, Todd “learns his lesson” by getting rid of all his worms and moves on to chloroforming butterflies. Because he’s a budding serial killer. And maybe after he survives the giant angry butterfly leader that he faces on the last page, he will move on to killing squirrels and eventually people. It’s only a matter of time.
I don’t think it was Stine’s intent to make Todd a likable character. That still does not make this a better book. A higher-stakes climax followed by a truly abysmal ending for Todd would have been a significant improvement. Todd deserved the truly dismal ending that Samantha got (and didn’t deserve) at the end of Be Careful What You Wish For… In fact, I wish he had been turned into the worm that Samantha ate on her last page (after being turned into a bird). Now that would have been some true karma and it would have helped establish an inter-connected Goosebumps universe. I would call that a win-win.
I genuinely hope this is the actual worst Goosebumps book. It is ranked the second-worst book in the series according to the GoodReads aggregate, placing it only above Why I’m Afraid of Bees (which I liked better). Maybe it’s all uphill from here. As much fun as it can be to write some of the negative reviews, I respect the grind of churning out books on a deadline. It’s not like I knock it out of the park on every blog post. So here is something we can all take away from this: may we all do better next time.
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 overall idea), Execution (the mechanics of storytelling), Character (the protagonists, antagonists, and villains), Scare Factor (from a childhood standpoint), and Originality (subversion and reliance on genre tropes). Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Go Eat Worms is ranked 61st of 62, placing it in the bottom tier of the series.
This is barely a concept unless you want to treat it as a prologue for a child who grows up to become a serial killer.
So far as the plot goes, it was well organized even if it didn’t really go anywhere. So that’s literally the one point I’m giving it.
Todd is a budding serial killer, I felt bad for his sister. But he was so insufferable it was hard to care about anything that happened. Maybe if Todd met a truly grim demise the way Stine has done to some of his other less deserving characters.
Scare Factor: 0/2
The ground shakes and there’s a giant worm. Worms appear in places they’re not supposed to. I think that’s about it in terms of things that are supposed to be scary. None of them actually were.
Dune had giant worms first, and they were actually scary. Nothing felt unique about this one.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
• I realized recently why this show falls short of its contemporary Are You Afraid of the Dark. Just compare the opening credits of the two. What Goosebumps is lacking is the critical horror element of the atmosphere.
• Todd is less of a dick already. He’s working with Danny on the science project.
• We have wormvision. Worm POV.
• Danny thinks Todd pranked him into eating the worms in his spaghetti.
• Doesn’t waste time on the worms showing up everywhere, including his bed.
• Still more gross than scary.
• Danny had more of a backbone. Rare casting of a person of color as well.
• Secret worm cave! Headquarters of the worm leader.
• Better than the book, but that’s a very low bar. Todd had fewer opportunities to be awful.
• Moral of the story: WORMS and MINNOWS have FEELINGS.
• Todd still sucks but in a different way. He’s gonna grow up to be an insufferable douchebag.
• The fish use a sandwich as bait to hook Todd and pull him into the water. Of course• this is all done in voiceover over shots of the water because this show has a budget.
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #22: Ghost Beach
Coming in December 2020.