I am sick as a dog. I’ve been sick for about two weeks, actually, but I thought I was getting better. I didn’t show any symptoms Monday through Wednesday at school. Thursday, it’s like I hit a wall. Everything I had that I thought I was over came back at full force, and then some. I had a fever, cold chills, hot spells, a sore and itchy throat, and body aches. I was miserable during my classes Thursday, but since it didn’t hit until I was already at school, I toughed it out. I went to the doctor yesterday and got tested positive for the flu. Now I’m on Tamiflu, Gatorade, and lots of bed rest. At least I have Goosebumps.
I slept a ton yesterday and it really messed with my sleep schedule. While Josh was sleeping last night at midnight, I was reading Monster Blood. While I remember having read it as a kid, I didn’t remember much of it, so I might as well have been experiencing this book for the first time. It is my favorite entry in the series so far by a mile. It was well-written, it was engaging, the characters were multi-dimensional, the plot had substance (and twists!), and the ending was satisfactory. I read it one sitting; I kept saying, “one more chapter,” and before I knew it, I had finished the book.
Like all of my book reviews, spoilers are scattered throughout. If this is a book you intend to read later, you might want to skip this entry.
This book was brought back for the Classic series, so it has two covers. To be honest, I’m not really a fan of either. In the first, I get what Tim Jacobus was trying to do. It looks like the Monster Blood is alive, making its way downstairs. The glasses are kind of random, as no character is described with glasses. Was Harry Potter here? MONSTER BLOOD, WHAT DID YOU DO TO POTTER? There’s not that much Monster Blood, considering the plot of the story, either.
Of course this evil, nasty stuff is green, but that was Stine’s decision, not Jacobus’.
Tagline: It’s a monster blood drive!
Ha. Ha. …
Ugh, that tagline is bad.
Here is the new cover. I see a green blob with eyes rolling down a street! I see a bicycle, a baseball bat, a golf club, a basketball… This Monster Blood apparently enjoys sports. Maybe he’s in the wrong book.
This cover is more direct and less subtle than the original. It’s also more true to the book, despite all the sports equipment. I like how the Monster Blood maybe has eyes. The cover artist didn’t paint an obvious face on the Monster Blood. The face blends into the picture just enough where the Monster Blood may be alive, or it may not be.
I guess my issue with these covers is that there were some great things from the book that would have made an excellent, scary cover. Trigger, Evan’s dog grew huge after eating some Monster Blood. The Monster Blood outgrows every container it’s kept in. The Monster Blood actually sucks people into it. Maybe for the first time since I’ve been reading this series, the cover doesn’t match or exceed the quality of the book. Maybe that’s why I’m having a problem with these covers.
Let’s just move on to the book.
The book begins with Evan being dropped off at his great-aunt Kathryn’s home for a couple weeks while his parents search for a new house in Georgia. Kathryn is eighty-years-old and deaf. Evan’s parents are pretty sure their son will be okay in her care. Evan recalls eavesdropping on an argument his parents had about where to leave him while they house hunt; I guess Kathryn was the only option available to them. His mom feels bad and decides to buy Evan’s love with $10, telling him to buy himself something nice. Big spender.
Evan insists Kathryn is as weird as the day is long. She makes jokes that no one laughs out, not even the reader. Wait, Kathryn laughs at her jokes. She finds herself hilarious. Hey Kathryn, if a joke is funny, we should all be laughing. She spends her days walking around with a butcher knife, chopping meat, arguing with her black cat, Sarabeth, and working on jigsaw puzzles. Sounds like a typical old lady to me.
Evan’s parents decide to leave the family dog, Trigger, with Evan so Evan won’t be lonely. Trigger gets all of two minutes in the house. When Kathryn’s cat, Sarabeth, jumps on Evan’s face and Trigger goes all The Barking Ghost up on the cat, Kathryn banishes Trigger to a fence she prepared in the yard. They tie a string to Trigger and just leave him out there alone. I expected scary things in this horror book, but not that. People, please don’t put house dogs outside. Don’t tie them to posts. Here are some cute pictures of my dog to offset this cruelty:
Just look at his little face. Aw.
Okay, back to the book. Evan decides to take Trigger for a walk in hopes of finding other kids his age. He meets a girl named Andrea who thinks her name is stupid. She insists on being called Andy. Evan, too, thinks his name is stupid. They both think Trigger’s name is stupid. They bond over all the stupid.
Andy needs to buy her cousin a birthday present and invites Evan to town with her. They visit an old toy store where Evan finds a tin can labeled “MONSTER BLOOD: SURPRISING MIRACLE SUBSTANCE.” He purchases it for two bucks, against the owner’s wishes. The owner tells the kids the can is old, and not to return it if it doesn’t work. Andy really wants the Monster Blood, but Evan got to it first and there was only one can.
The kids go back to Kathryn’s house to play with the Monster Blood. Kathryn meets them at the door, grabs the can, mutters something, hands the can back to Evan, and tells him to be careful. Cause that’s not suspect at all.
Evan and Andy run upstairs to Evan’s makeshift bedroom (full of spell books and a cot), and open the can of Monster Blood. The unsurprising miracle about the substance is it stretches and bounces. So it’s basically Gak.
I had this stuff as a kid.
Evan and Andy discover that the Monster Blood stains the floors and walls, so they take it outside and throw it around. They drop some near Trigger’s pen, and being the disobedient dog Trigger is, he ate some, despite Evan’s best efforts to tell him to drop it.
The next morning, Evan finds Trigger sleeping and doesn’t want to disturb him, so he ventures off in the neighborhood to Andy’s house alone. He runs into and is harassed by fifteen-year-old twin brothers Rick and Tony Beymer. Andy shows up just before the twins can steal the $8 Evan has left and saves the day. By save the day, she is pushed off her bike, gets her bike stolen, and has to return home to clean her cuts and scratches. I always hate the bullies in these books. I mean seriously, who steals a bicycle from a twelve-year-old girl?
Evan returns home and checks on Trigger. He finds Trigger wheezing and struggling to breathe. Evan does not make the connection between his dog growing and his dog eating Monster Blood the previous night. He assumes the collar shrunk, despite it being leather. He takes the collar off of Trigger, and Trigger licks his face appreciatively. He leaves the dog outside in his pen. My question here is how is Trigger tied up if his collar is off? How does Trigger not escape? Why am I asking questions?
Evan notices that Trigger doubles in size each day. He also notices that the Monster Blood has changed from cold to warm and is growing as well, overflowing each container Evan puts it in. Evan still does not make a connection between his dog growing and his dog eating the Monster Blood. I hypothesize it’s because Evan is a natural college student and has learned at an early age that correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
For example, did you know crime goes up as ice cream sales go up? Does ice cream motivate people to commit more crime? This is a conversation for a Stats class, so I’ll leave it here.
But for real, Evan, the Monster Blood is making Trigger grow. It’s obvious.
Evan and Andy take Trigger to a vet to have his growth spurt examined. The vet says that Trigger seems perfectly healthy, but runs some blood and hormonal tests anyway. Evan only had $8 to his name after purchasing the Monster Blood. I want to know what vet Evan went to, especially since tests were ran. When my dog needs a test ran, I can easily expect to pay $100. Maybe the vet took Trigger on pro bono. Had Evan made the connection between Tigger’s growth spurt and his eating of Monster Blood, the vet could have done another expensive procedure: a stomach pump. Alas.
After the vet, Andy has to rush off to her piano lesson(s Can Be Murder?) and Evan decides to get himself an ice cream bar. I guess he has money after the vet after all! This $10 is lasting forever. Let’s see: $2 for Monster Blood, $1-2 for ice cream… $6 for vet?
Evan ties Trigger to a fire hydrant. I knew this was a recipe for disaster. I expected Evan to come out of the ice cream store and find that Trigger had pulled the hydrant from the ground with brute strength given to him by the Monster Blood-induced growth spell. That’s not what happened, though. Evan comes out of the ice cream store and finds the Beymer twins untying Trigger’s leash. They say something to Evan about “finders keepers,” and try to steal the dog, but Trigger goes crazy on them. He chases the twins for blocks.
Evan had a dream the night before that I didn’t go into here because dream sequences generally annoy me. “It was just a dream!” cheapens any scares presented in the dream and make me feel like I just wasted my time reading. I guess this dream is a little important, however, because Evan dreamed Trigger was chasing the twins and when Evan caught up with him, Trigger turned into a monster. Since Trigger was chasing the twins in real life, Evan was scared Trigger would turn into a monster. When he catches up with Trigger, he finds that Trigger is fine, however. He just has a Cocker Spaniel the size of a pony. It’s cool.
Evan pleads with Andy to take some of the Monster Blood. I’m not sure how he thinks that will help since the Monster Blood keeps growing, but he’s twelve-years-old, so I’m not judging him for his plan. It makes me think of sixth grade Math, actually:
Evan has a bucket and Andy has a coffee can of Monster Blood. If Andy’s coffee can is 1/3 of the size of Evan’s bucket, and if the Monster Blood doubles in size each night, how much Monster Blood will the two have in a week? For extra credit, would there be more or less Monster Blood at the end of the week if Evan didn’t give Andy some? My head hurts.
When Andy reaches into Evan’s bucket with a coffee can, she finds that the Monster Blood tries to pull her in. She eventually gets the coffee can out of the bucket.
I’m going to speed this up a little bit: Evan is jumped by the twins when he leaves Andy’s house and arrives home with a black eye and a swollen cheek. The Monster Blood continues to grow, and Evan sneaks into Kathryn’s basement at night to find a place to store it. He pours it into an old bathtub. Kathryn’s cat, Sarabeth, leaps at Evan from behind, causing him to fall into the tub of Monster Blood. The Monster Blood sucks him in, making it difficult for him to escape. Evan finally frees himself. He decides to tell Kathryn about the Monster Blood by writing her a note, but she just laughs at him, and then whispers, “I told you to be careful.” Highly suspect. Andy and Evan decide to try to return the Monster Blood, but the store they bought it from has gone out of business. They take the Monster Blood back to Kathryn’s and put it in a latching garbage can. Kathryn runs outside to deliver good news to Evan: his mom is coming to pick him up that afternoon! Evan is so excited and runs to his dog, who is in the pen. He sees that Trigger has doubled in size once again. Trigger rushes from the pen and runs away. Evan tries to run after him, but trips over Andy’s bicycle, causing the can of Monster Blood to fall over.
Alright, I’ll stop fast-forwarding now.
The Monster Blood pours out of the can and rises up like a wave. Evan and Andy realize the Monster Blood intends to crash down on them, so they run away. The Monster Blood gives chase, rolling down the street. Along the way, it picks up a robin and the Beymer twins (yay!); they float lifelessly inside. Evan and Andy lead the Monster Blood back to Kathryn’s house. Kathryn comes outside to see what all the commotion is about (despite not being able to hear, but let’s not talk about that), sees the Monster Blood, and goes inside her house. The Monster Blood hesitates, but then goes in after Kathryn. Kathryn lets out a horrible scream. Evan and Andy run in the house and find Kathryn backed against the fire place, the Monster Blood right in front of her. She tells Evan that she created the Monster Blood, and she deserves to die for it.
Evan remembers back to when he brought the Monster Blood home, how Kathryn took it from him, and uttered something over it. He accuses her of putting a spell on it to kill him. She reads his lips and cries saying it wasn’t her, but her and points to Andy. Now that would have been a great plot twist. Alas, Kathryn is pointing behind Andy at Sarabeth, her black cat.
Sarabeth, the cat, stands on her hind legs and transforms into a woman. Kathryn explains that Sarabeth made her put a spell on the Monster Blood because she didn’t want Kathryn to have visitors. Sarabeth had cursed Kathryn long ago, taking away her hearing and requiring her to be her slave. Here we go with slaves again. Slavery is horrific, but Stine needs to branch out more.
Kathryn says she will let the Monster Blood swallow her, ending Sarabeth’s hold on her. Sarabeth says the children will die regardless, because they know too much. Sarabeth commands the Monster Blood to kill Evan and Andy. Before the Monster Blood can get to them, Trigger runs through the door and pounces on Sarabeth, knocking her into the Monster Blood. Immediately after, for some unknown reason, Trigger shrinks back down to his normal size, and the Monster Blood shrinks down to a drop.
The Beymer twins and the robin are freed, and all scurry outside. Sarabeth is nowhere to be seen. Evan’s mother rushes in, wanting to know why the twins ran out in fright. Kathryn, who has regained her hearing, takes Evan’s mother to the kitchen (against Evan’s mother’s better judgment and wishes) to tell her the whole story. Andy and Evan exchange sentiments about keeping in touch, and Andy asks if it’d be okay for her to keep the last drop of Monster Blood. When she goes to reach for it, it’s gone.
What I liked most about this book, I think, is how well laid-out it is. Kathryn tells Evan that Sarabeth is evil at the very beginning of the book, but thinking she’s just a crazy lady, Evan (and the reader!) brush it off. The cat pounced on Evan when he arrived at Kathryn’s house, and again a little later, pushing him into the tub of Monster Blood. When reading those parts, admittedly, I thought, “stupid cat.” Now it all makes sense.
What’s cool about that is R. L. Stine told us everything we need to know at the very beginning of the book; I just didn’t realize it. It’s kind of genius, and it made for a very satisfying conclusion.
Cool Quote Alert
“It’s alive!” Andy screamed, her hands pressed against her cheeks. “Oh my God — it’s alive!”