A Midsummer Night's Scream

By R.L. Stine
Published on July 2nd 2013
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Source: ARC from publisher
The master of horror takes on the master of theater!

Get ready for laughter to turn into screams in R.L. Stine's re-imagining of Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Everyone knows that Mayhem Manor is cursed. After production on the horror film was stopped due to a series of mysterious deaths, it became a Hollywood legend--which makes it perfect for Claire and her family. If they can successfully finish the film, it should be enough to save their ailing movie studio.

Sure, the old haunted house is creepy, and strange stuff has been happening, but this is Claire's chance. Her chance to become the movie star she's always dreamed and her chance to finally convince her friend Jake that she is girlfriend material. Of course, the fact that Jake thinks he's in love with her best friend, Delia, who is crushing hard on Jake's friend Shawn, who insists on following Claire around, could be a problem, but Claire is sure she can figure it out. After all, the course of true love never did run smooth.

But once shooting starts, "creepy and strange" morph into "bloody and deadly," as the lines between film and reality begin to blur...
Y'all, the only way I'm going to get through this review is with the help of Lucille Bluth. Because only she has the annoyed facial expressions that sum up my feelings after finishing this book. 

Yeah, that's right. I should have just DNFed this book but you know how you reach that point where a book's like a train wreck that you can't look away from, and also you're not really reading anything else at the moment so you might as well push through?  That was me.  

But, let's back up for a minute.

Readers of a certain age (coughcough) will remember author R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series from back in the day.  I was addicted to these books, and later, the TV series.  I don't remember them being particularly well-written, but I was a kid and I found them to be creepy and so I devoured them relentlessly.

When I saw that Stine had a new YA book coming out, I was intrigued.  The cover art was creepy, the merging of Shakespeare with a modern day movie studio setting seemed interesting, and darn it if I'm not a sucker for a good horror story.  

This was not a good horror story.  Not even close.  

Here, in list form, are the things that drove me absolutely up a wall with this book.  
  • Have you ever read a horror story where you're kind of willing the main characters to die?  Yeah.  That's how this book is.  I hated all of them and their stupid boy problems and their stupid nonsense decisions.
  • Look, I'm not super familiar with A Midsummer Night's Dream but I know that this is not a retelling; the only thing it has in common is a subplot involving love potions and a character named Puckerman, who I guess is supposed to correlate to Puck in the source text, only he doesn't at all and instead is intended to be super creepy, and, spoiler, the villain. (A reviewer on Goodreads called him "a particularly lecherous version of Danny DeVito", which is so on the nose that I can't even try to top it.)
  • Claire, our main character and narrator, breaks the fourth wall the entire time! Her narration constantly addresses questions and comments to the reader. This would make sense if the book was positioned as a diary or report, but it isn't.
  • Claire and Delia, her best friend, are tooootally in looooove with their guy friends but surprise the guys don't like them back and instead of accepting this and just being friends with them, they instead decide to go the creepy non-consensual route and dose them with love potions, because that has proven to work over time and I know I'd totally feel good about myself if I knew deep down the guy I was with only loved me because I drugged him; tl;dr I am 1000000% over love potion/spell plots because they're gross.
  • After seeing numerous traumatic events, Claire and Delia cope by eating.  Which is fine.  I cope with a lot of crap by feeding my face.  Sort of.  Except that they're seeing people murdered in front of them and their reaction is "meh" and "but what about the moooovie we're in" and "CUPCAKES" and then they move on to worrying about their boy problems.  People deal with trauma in different ways but this just felt inappropriate.
  • Also, the amount of shaming of characters was unreal. Any scene of Claire and Delia eating is accompanied by a lot of body shaming.  The girls also relentlessly shame another character for being a "slut", which we are to guess is true by the fact that she wears skimpy clothes and flirts with boys a lot?  Despite the fact that our main characters basically do the same thing? But they're our main characters so we should like them?
  • The movie studio is allegedly in trouble but they keep emphasizing time and time again that there's another presumably successful comedy film being shot at the same time as Stupid Murder Mansion 2000 or whatever it's called.  Either your horror movie is the studio's last gasp, or it isn't.  Also, no one involved in this book seems to have any idea what it's like to work on a movie set.  Neither do I, but I'm pretty sure they film for more than like five minutes at a time.  There's no mention of any filming except for when they're filming scenes that, spoiler, results in deaths.  You don't need to show them, that would be boring, but no one even acknowledges that there's anything else to film.
  • There's just no consistency or follow-up.  Claire is excited about being on the movie.  Claire has some kind of paranormal sensing abilities. Claire doesn't feel like there's anything janky going on.  Claire is terrified of the movie set.  Claire isn't terrified of the movie set.  This wasn't a realistic "teenager changing her mind" thing, this was just bad writing.
  • To add insult to injury, it wasn't scary.  It was predictable and laughable and I think even as a middle grade reader I would not have found this scary one bit.  Stine's simplistic, formulaic writing might work for younger readers, but YA has gotten progressively more sophisticated over the years, and Stine's style hasn't grown with it.

I don't like to tell people not to bother with books.  I generally think that most books have merits, and can recognize that a book just wasn't for me.  But there's always an exception to the rule, and I think this book is it.

If any of the things I mentioned above bother you, then just don't bother with this book.

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