Hello from Charleston, SC! I came down for a four-day vacation. We’ve been visiting Civil War sites, seeing some beautiful views, and spending some time relaxing on the beach. I’ll make a post about our vacation when I get back! In the midst of all the excitement, I somehow found time to finish another Goosebumps book, and here I am with some surprising downtime to put together this recap, so here we go!
I have been pretty pumped to get to Let’s Get Invisible! I have vivid memories of watching the episode of the television series based on this book as a kid, and although I didn’t remember much from the book–I’m not even sure if I ever got around to finishing this book as a kid–, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it this weekend. I can see why I probably put the book down as a kid; this book is slow. Having said that, its atmosphere is thrilling and engaging. It’s a lot like Night of the Living Dummy in that way. It deals subtle scares, and leaves you wanting more. Like Night of the Living Dummy, the book doesn’t outright hit you with the book’s evil until the end. Up until that point you’re left wondering, is Max imagining these things? Is the mirror evil? What is it doing? Much like the mirror pulled Max into it, this book pulled me into Max’s world. Not many Goosebumps books are able to do that, so these good books are worth calling out.
The story behind this cover is incredibly interesting. Tim Jacobus, the cover artist, created a painting with subtle details. Max on the cover is slowly disappearing (or perhaps reappearing), and is invisible from the waste down. The expression on his face, seen in his reflection on the mirror, draws viewers in. There is bewilderment, uncertainty, and shock in his eyes.
For some reason, Scholastic executives felt Jacobus’ painting wasn’t scary enough, but they didn’t have time to send it back, so they had another artist draw a spider and spider web onto Jacobus’ painting. Ridiculous, huh?
Funny enough, the spider web has never caught my eye or been of interest to me. My eyes have always gravitated to Max’s reflection in the mirror. If anything, I feel like the spider web takes away from the painting and cheapens the “scariness” of the cover.
Tagline: Now you see him. Now you don’t.
Is Max the great Amaz-O?
The cover for the 2015 re-release seems cartoony and less scary than the original cover, but I’m not hating it. This artist went the opposite direction of Jacobus, making Max’s head invisible rather than his lower half. It’s an interesting creative decision, but I think it takes away what was the best part of the original cover to me, Max’s facial expression in his reflection.
Also funny, this new cover doesn’t have the spider webs on it. Does that make it less scary?
After a pretty lame birthday party, Max Thompson, our protagonist, goes up to his attic with his friends Erin, who has no memorable physical or personality trains, and April, who is a scaredy-cat, but also the only sane person in the book, and his little brother Noah, who is called Lefty. Noah goes by Lefty because he’s left-handed. I’m serious. Does he not have any other discernible traits? This is clearly a cheap effort on Stine to emphasize Noah’s left-handedness, so he can slap us in the face with Noah being right-handed later in the book. It’s okay. I forgive him because this book is good.
Max had other friends at his party who didn’t stay to explore the attic because their parents showed up to pick them up on time. The only kid with a responsible parent that you need to know about is Zack, who completely buzzed one side of head, so he only has hair on his right side. Again, this is so we can play with the idea of reflections later on in the book.
The kids stumble upon a secret room in the attic with an antique mirror. The mirror has a light attached above it. When Max pulls the string to turn on the light, he becomes invisible. He pulls the string again and reappears. Max doesn’t believe his friends when they say he went invisible, but he sees for himself when he and Lefty investigate the mirror alone after the girls have left.
Lefty becomes obsessed with becoming invisible and pulls pranks on Max with his newfound invisibility. Max becomes invisible a few times more, to learn more about the mirror, to show off for his friend Zack, and then a few times out of good ol’ peer pressure. Once Zack sees Max become invisible, he wants to become invisible himself, and does so without Max’s permission while Max is distracted by Erin and April who arrive again. Zack stays invisible the longest at five minutes, a feat of which he is proud, and determines to turn becoming invisible into a competition, a challenge of which Lefty is all about. These kids must have hella boring lives.
This is the core of the book. The kids start to feel weird, faint, and light the longer they stay invisible. Max describes it as feeling like he’s drifting away. The longer they are invisible, the longer it takes for them to reappear. Max is concerned they may become invisible and never come back. Despite his worry, the kids continue becoming invisible for longer and longer amounts of time, all for the sake of their competition.
Lefty is determined to beat everyone’s record for some reason, and becomes invisible when only Max is there even though the kids planned the competition for Wednesday. Lefty visits Max in his room to pull some stupid prank, and suddenly stops responding to Max at around 15 minutes. When Max sees Lefty again, he notices that there is something off about Lefty, but he can’t put his finger on it. Their mom asks Lefty if he did something different with his hair. I suspect Lefty has his hair parted on the opposite side or something. Max is too daft to make a connection between the changes in Lefty and the mirror. Max is convinced the mirror is evil, however, and calls his friends to tell them they will not be getting invisible anymore.
I forgot to mention something about Erin here. Before Max decides to ban his friends from getting invisible, Erin calls Max and tries to convince him to enter their school’s science fair with her. With the mirror and invisibility, she is convinced they will win first prize, a prize that for some reason is a silver trophy instead of a gold one, and a gift certificate to a pizza joint in town. Those prizes seriously blow. At any rate, Max doesn’t want anyone to know about the mirror and turns her down.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall in these kids’ Science class to see what they learn about. A science fair isn’t Show-and-Tell. You can’t simply take something cool to one and expect to win. You need to have something scientific like an experiment of some sort. You need a hypothesis, trials, data… Erin and Max don’t know enough about the mirror for them to show it off scientifically. I don’t know what Erin was thinking, but hey, she’s 12, so I can forgive her. Who I can’t forgive is her Science teacher for doing her a disservice. I also can’t forgive whoever created the lame prizes for the science fair.
Max is surprised to see his friends show up Wednesday for the competition after he called them and canceled it. Apparently Lefty called them and told them the invisibility contest is back on. Even April, who has been completely against invisibility up until this point, wants to get invisible, although she has no interest in the contest. She gets a turn, but her turn is cut short because Max’s black dog Whitey (seriously) accidentally becomes invisible with her in a scene that adds literally nothing of substance to the book.
Erin is up first in the competition. She gets invisible and plays around in the attic in what has to be the most boring fifteen minutes of my life, not hers. Around the fifteen minute mark, like Lefty, she stops responding. Max pulls the string and she reappears shortly after, but Max notices she is different somehow. Like Lefty, Max can’t put his finger on what is different about Erin.
Zack goes next. He is a little more exciting. He goes outside and juggles tomatoes to freak out Max’s next door neighbor. Around the fifteen-minute mark, well, rinse, repeat. When Zack reappears in the attic, Max notices Zack’s hair is different. The buzzed side is on the opposite side of his head. This scene is why Zack had that horrible haircut the entire book.
Max decides to just declare Zack the winner because he doesn’t want to become invisible anymore, but Zack and Erin pressure him into competing. He stands in front of the mirror and turns on the light. At close to fifteen minutes, Max starts to feel light like before, but this time he is sucked into the mirror!
In the mirror, he encounters his reflection, who informs him that they will be switching places. His reflection lets him know that Zack and Erin have already switched places with their reflections. Max runs away and somehow escapes the mirror. Zack and Erin’s reflections ask if the switch was successful, and Max’s reflection in the mirror informs them that it was not, that Max got away. This confuses April who does absolutely nothing but ask, “What’s going on?” over and over. She is a completely useless friend that Max needs to ditch when this book ends. He needs to get some friends who will actually come to his aid and at least try to save his life.
Zack and Erin manhandle Max and force him to become invisible again. Just when Max is about to lose hope and resign to his fate, Lefty, for whatever reason, comes into the room and throws a softball into the mirror, smashing it into pieces. Max instantly reappears, and Zack and Erin’s reflections are sucked back into the shards of glass as the real Zack and Erin return from the mirror. Lefty begins to be sucked into the mirror as well, but he holds on to the door frame and doesn’t get sucked in.
Later on, Max is outside playing catch with his brother, Lefty, when he notices Lefty is pitching with his right hand! And this scene, ladies and gentlemen, is why Lefty had that dumb nickname the entire book.
Although the book’s elements were a little too in our face (Noah’s nickname, Zack’s haircut…), I can appreciate Stine’s effort. Stine even made Max obsessed with his hair and had him fix it in front of a mirror for some foreshadowing which tickled the English Major within me. More foreshadowing was given through Noah, who threw his softball and broke a vase at the beginning of the book. Noah is the reason the Thompsons can’t have nice things!
The book was on the slow side, which I can see possibly hindering or failing to motivate a new reader, but I’m not a new reader, so it didn’t bother me. I was able to enjoy other aspects of the book like its atmosphere and the subtle creepiness of the mirror (rather than an overt, outright scary mirror). Like I wrote above, I like that Max wasn’t sure if the mirror was sinister, or if it was all in his head.
To top it all off, this book is really well written. Way to go, Stine.
Lame Family Alert
Sometimes I just wish I could pound him. But we live in a nonviolent family. That’s what Mom and Dad say every time Lefty and I get in a fight. “Break it up, you two. We live in a nonviolent family.”
Looking back at my clipping, I am tempted to go back up and delete my “well written” remark. That’s okay. This book is awesome.
I Crack Myself Up
Jonathan Schwartz, who played Max Thompson in the TV episode based on this book, left acting and took on positions behind the scenes in TV and film as a director and producer after this role. I guess you can say he got invisible!
You guys chose Egg Monsters From Mars for me to do next. It’s actually one I have never read, so I’m pretty excited. I have finals Tuesday and Wednesday, so I won’t be starting it until after then.