Fits of Nostalgia: Goosebumps #6
My favorite Goosebumps books were the ones with really unsettling endings. Those were the ones that kept me thinking long after the book was finished. I don’t remember ever reading this one as a kid, but the ending easily ranks among the creepiest. It was a bit slow to build to its climax, especially considering the age of the intended audience. I wish more time had been spent on the events in the last third of the book; the first two thirds could have been more condensed to make room. Max and Lefty were solid main characters. They were typical siblings who got irritated with one another, but not obnoxiously so. Overall, this was one of the better entries in the series.
Observations & Spoilers
By nick-naming Max’s brother Lefty, you knew that his left-handedness was going to become important. Which it did. It could have been more subtle and didn’t need to rely on othering Noah’s character to the extent that his real name is easily forgotten. All that being said, it was a great setup for one of Stine’s best twist endings. One could even argue this book is really a metaphor for how our world is made for right-handed people.
I wish we spent less time seeing how long the kids could stay invisible. Then we could have spent more time in the word on the other side of the mirror, or more time with the mirror people who started taking the kids places. I wanted more time with the reflections strangely interacting with their new world. Maybe Lefty could have started insisting they call him Noah. Maybe Zack could have been changed earlier and started hanging out with Lefty instead of his best friend Max. Maybe they could have started bullying Max and playing on his insecurities in order to get him in front of the mirror again. Stine could have really played up one fear that a lot of kids (and adults) struggle with: the fear of missing out.
The ending was extremely unsettling, and I loved it. The idea that your own sibling is an imposter from some other dimension is creepy. The idea that the real Max is still trapped inside the mirror with no way to get out is dark as fuck. The implications of this ending are heavy, especially compared to the other books in this series so far. I might need to do a ranking list of Best Endings once I finally read all of these.
These are a lot more fun to write up when they’re either bad or really weird. Let’s Get Invisible was neither, which makes it a bit tricky to find good gifs and memes to make fun with. It’s a genuinely creepy entry from a series that is frequently more bizarre and fantastical than it is truly creepy.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 point 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, Let’s Get Invisible is ranked 51st of 62, placing it in the Bottom tier of the series.
I liked the concept of the kids being replaced by their reflections and being trapped on the other side of the mirror. I just wish elements of it found their way into the story earlier. I wanted more creepy reflection people trying to interact in Max’s world, and I wanted more time on the other side of the mirror. It seemed incredibly creepy the way it was described, but Max doesn’t spend very long there.
Here’s where I take one point and could possibly take 2; the pacing. The book is a slow build, which adult me did not mind but I could see it being frustrating and dull for a kid. It’s ending is frightening on a unique level and is easily my favorite twist ending in the series so far. But it felt rushed. At almost 140 pages, it’s already one of the longer books in the series. One option would be to bring the mirror world into the story earlier, but I think that would have killed the suspense that I enjoyed in the first two acts. What really would have been better would have been to make it 50 pages longer so that we could get more time in the creepy mirror world and exploring the implications of being “replaced.”
The characters are all pretty solid. Max is a nice thoughtful protagonist. Lefty is a believable little brother. The sibling rivalry isn’t overdone. Zack’s role as the competitive best friend is believable, and helps push the story along. Erin is the more level headed friend, yet she’s still curious about the mirror. April is the voice of reason they should have all been listening to from the beginning.
Scare Factor: 2/2
The ending alone scores this one a 2 out of 2. What’s interesting is that the invisible part isn’t what’s scary; it’s what happens if they stay that way too long. Getting trapped in that creepy bizarre mirror world is an unsettling thought, but it becomes twofold when you realize no one will come looking for you because a doppelganger is going to take over your life on the other side. Max escapes only to find out his real brother is still trapped on the other side of the now-broken mirror. There’s a lot of creepy stuff packed in that idea alone.
It’s got some derivative elements but I think the way it’s presented is unique.
TV Adaptation - Bullet Review
• The half hour episodes of this show almost always feel cheap. There’s no time to establish the characters, hit all of the plot points, and explore the lingering implications after the climax.
• They did a good job condensing characters and saving time on the kids finding the mirror.
• Not a bad job on diversifying the other characters, though the main’s do always seem to be white.
• I remember when I wanted to be a 90's badass and get one earing but my parents were mean and wouldn’t let me. This was a good minor improvement on Zach’s character from the book.
• The production design for the other side of the mirror seemed to be inspired by an early Windows screen saver.
• With everything so rushed, the ending didn’t have nearly the same impact.
• Maybe I’m a hater, but the show just really wasn’t very good and has not aged well.