Goosebumps #17: Why I’m Afraid of Bees
Why I’m Afraid of Bees could have easily been told in one sentence: I’m allergic to bees and one sting could kill me. But that’s not what this story is. In fact, bees were probably the least interesting part of Why I’m Afraid of Bees. I mean, I could only deal with so much of Gary as a bee yelling and trying to get people to hear him over and over again. There were some excellent body horror moments inside the beehive, so props to that. The most interesting part of this story, however, was the existence of Person to Person Vacations. Their business model seems to be aimed at 12-year-olds and doesn’t require parental approval, so their motives and means of staying in business are extremely suspect. I also wanted to spend way more time with the bee stuck in Dirk’s body, and what the aftermath of that might have been. Goosebumps are at their best when Stine leans into his weird. This one had plenty of weird but focused on the least interesting things.
Ermahgerd #17: Why I’m Afraid of Bees.
Observations & Spoilers
Fan theory: Gary Lutz grows up to be Lutz on 30 Rock. It honestly fits really well. He’s known as Lutz the Klutz. He can’t seem to do anything right. Can this be canon? Please?
Gary’s a nerd who gets beat up all the time. When he discovers Person-to-Person Vacations, he immediately tracks down the totally not sketchy business so that he can take a vacation in another person’s body. My favorite part of Person-to-Person Vacations (or P2PV as I am now choosing to call them) is their entire existence makes no sense. They’re a business that is targeted at 12-year-olds, but they don’t require supervision or charge any money. The whole change over process had a strange adult come to his house while his parents weren’t home. Then they seemingly had no plan for someone who refused to give up their vacation body. It could have been that they were just looking for free experimentation subjects and chose insecure adolescents to try it out on, but we never found out for sure. Instead, it seems to just be a one-person operation run by Ms. Kearns. The whole thing reminded me of South Park’s underpants gnomes.
A significant portion of the book felt like Gary trying and failing to get people to hear him while he was a bee. This could have been easily cut down to one scene. What I wanted more of were creepy scenes like the one inside the hive. Bees are really gross up close. The body horror of being stuck in the middle of a hive with an insect body was very real. Unfortunately, we don’t get much more of that after Gary escapes the hive. If this book had come out in the last 10 years, I would say it was also a missed opportunity to exploit some trypophobia (the fear of small holes clustered together). It wasn’t popularized until some 10 years after this book came out, but it would have helped make this book less silly and more legitimately frightening. Can you imagine a Tim Jacobus rendition of something like this?
The other thing I would have liked would be more time spent with the bee trapped in Dirk’s body. Maybe Gary could have communicated with him, and the two could have worked together. That could have made for some very funny scenes, even if it was particularly scary. There was also so much more potential with Person-to-Person Vacations and their questionable ethics. I don’t think this book needs a sequel, but I wouldn’t mind it if they showed up again. What if Gary got stuck living with a family of vampires or werewolves? What if Dirk just wanted to be normal and escape his life as a monster?
In the end, Gary learned the right lessons about confidence and self-esteem, even if he picked up a few weird bee-like attributes along the way. He and Dirk end up becoming friends, even though Dirk was a real dick about giving Gary his body back. Not sure that was earned. Why I’m Afraid of Bees was far from the strongest in the series, but it delivered a solid message. I guess that counts for something.
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, Why I’m Afraid of Bees is ranked 62nd of 62, placing it in the bottom tier of the series.
There was a solid concept with Person to Person Vacations and getting stuck in the body of a bee, but it was half-baked.
Poorly executed. A lot of being stuck in places. It felt rushed and lacked depth and humor.
Lots of poorly considered character motives. Namely Ms. Karmen. Dirk really sucked. Gary was annoying, though he did learn the right lessons by the end so I guess I’ll give it a point for being dynamic.
Scare Factor: 1/2
Had it been executed better, there were some great moments of claustrophobia and body horror. But mostly it was Gary trying to yell at people who couldn’t hear him.
One point because I do like Person to Person Vacations and just wish that it had been fleshed out better. If only Stine had leaned into the weird a bit more.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #18: Monster Blood II