Well, looks like my prayers were not only unanswered but completely unheard, as Don Wulfson does not write another Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs book ever. Instead, I get to read Craig Strickland. Well, let's dive in, shall we? Who among us isn't eager to find out why that yeti looks stoned?
The story begins when Kativa wakes up and realizes that she has a large spider bite on her leg. She immediately starts yelling and waking up her parents and six-year-old sister, Natasha. They turn out to be the nicest family ever, as they spend the morning searching and cleaning Kativa's room. They find nothing, but realize that family love triumphs over all arachnids. Unfortunately, this is false, as Natasha reveals that she too got bit by a spider, during a family vacation, no less. Kativa interrupts her, though, because their conversation goes a little something like this:
"Hey Kativa, have you ever been bitten by a spider before?"
"No. Have you?"
"Yeah. In that hotel we stayed at, this spider came and–"
"Wait, Natasha, I see a serious problem with your story."
"It's not about me."
The following night, Kativa gets bitten yet again. When Natasha hears, she claims she can relate because she was also bitten multiple times, but Kativa decides not to care. These siblings remind me of Axl and Brick Heck. That night, she sleeps in the guest room, but gets bitten yet again. Jeez, this spider must have some kind of grudge. That being said, it has good taste in victims. Later that day, Kativa's mom takes her to see an entomologist, appropriately named "Professor Weber." I can already tell I'll love this Craig guy. The professor can't tell what spider it is, but helpfully scares Kativa by telling her that there's a myth where if you get bitten by a spider four times, you become one. I wonder if he has a PhD.
Kativa has a very one-sided conversation about her predicament with her sister, probably because she's busy blogging on Tumblr that she's always been a spider in a girl's body. She sleeps in her parents' room that night, but wakes up to see a very large spider with Natasha's head biting her neck. What a gross image. Natasha reasons that Kativa will finally have time to play with her now that they're both becoming spiders, and then proceeds to become exactly like a spider. While that does sound pretty scary, I feel like this problem could easily be solved with a really large shoe.
Joe and Vince are twins, out camping with their family. While playing frisbee with his brother, Joe stumbles upon a creepy, weird-smelling RV. Not much happens after that. Vince's family goes hiking and has a picnic, which was probably boring in the moment and is even less exciting to read about. I think they play more frisbee. Uh... I've been watching The Wire. That's been fun. Oh, and then Joe and Vince discover that the people in the RV are vampires. They actually tilt a mirror towards them and see that they have no reflection. However, their clothes are still visible, which is a nice touch because I always wondered how people's clothes became vampires too. The two of them decide to laze around and sleep, because vampires camping a few hundred feet away is not a pressing issue. They hear the door open but once again, they would rather play frisbee. The next day, the twins break into the vampire RV and find a couple coffins.
The two preteens rip off the curtains and incinerate the vampires. But on the way home after a deceptively easy victory, the twins notice that their parents have no reflection. I liked this story, but it could have used a little less frisbee.
3. "Bone Girl"
Robin is walking home from school when, yet again, a kid yells taunts at her. She is bullied in an extremely uncreative way, yet she somehow still feels inferior to her tormentors. They call her "Bone Girl," not because she's skinny or looks like Dr. Temperance Brennan, but because her dad collects tons of skeletons. Then, a bunch of kids run away from a nearby fence giggling, though I'm not sure what the joke of yelling "Why don't you get some flesh to cover those bones of yours," was. I don't know, maybe you had to be there. Anyway, Robin walks in to her bone-filled house (with animal, bird, and people skeletons), and makes herself a sandwich. Her dad, Dr. Tim Meza, walks in with the skeleton of a bobcat for no other reasons than, "Oh, spooky, skeletons!"
Robin tells her father about her bullying problem and he suggests that Robin educate her friends on skeletons. Yeah, I also find that the best way to stop a bully is by giving them more ammunition. Robin considers this, but finds that the next day, in a rare instance, preteens drew something other than penises in somebody else's notebook. They drew Robin as a skeleton, as if that would be her Halloween costume. Once again, you probably have to be there. Robin had nearly given up until her father tells her that he'll be at a convention on Halloween. She takes the chance to invite a bunch of bullies over and show them her father's collection of skeletons. They play games including "shake the skeleton's hand," and "pin the tail on the timber wolf." Yes, it's just as exciting to read about as you might imagine. Luckily, though, it leads to this little gem:
"'Wow!' Monica said a second later, 'Bones really do feel like cold wood!'"
Everybody has fun for some reason, but when they leave, the skeletons disappear. Then, angry at being moved and used as party decorations, they kill Robin and make her into a skeleton. I just have one small comment– well, more of a question, really– who thought this story was a good idea?
4. "Things from the Jungle"
Benjamin lives with his mom in what I assume is a large urban setting. Together, they own and operate a shop called "Things from the Jungle," which sells plants imported from Africa. But Ben always hears rustling and feels staring eyes from "the green shadows." I don't think that's how shadows work, Strickland. Anyway, one day, the store gets a new shipment of plants, so Ben and his mom show customers the newest vegetation. But after they close
Benjamin shows around other customers the following day, including a family with three misbehaving children (redheads, of course). That night, he learns that they too disappeared. When he and his mom hear rustling in the leaves overhead, they call the police. Now I've seen The Wire, as I mentioned earlier, so I pretty much know everything about big city police and just crime in general. I seriously doubt they would take the time to check out a flower shop for African animals. I wouldn't. But they do, and they find nothing. So, of course, Benjamin believes that the best course of action is to visit the store the following night, where he sees an old homeless man sneak in and get snatched by a bunch of vines. Just to get across the point that this was an amazing occurrence, he italicizes the text. So, annoying. Benjamin escapes from the killer plant and returns to his home, where the plants that his mom planted start strangling him. I used the word "plant" far too many times in this story, so I'll say it's bad. Also it's bad.
5. "The Black Balloon"
This story is first person, and it never says the protagonist's name, so we'll call him Jimmy. Anyway, Jimmy wasn't invited to his neighbor Oscar's birthday, because Oscar is kind of a jerk and Jimmy calls him out on it. Jimmy decides to watch Oscar's birthday party and look bored, as if the joke's on Oscar. After a while, a hired magician shows up. He calls himself Zatlin and proceeds to pull off "amazing" tricks, such as separating rings and levitating a birthday cake, while being berated by Oscar. If I wanted to see an old man attempt magic, I would have made myself finish The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. And to finish the act, he pulls out inflated balloons from his robe and gives each kid one of his/her favorite color. Then, as he's leaving, he approaches Jimmy about why he's not at the party. Jimmy tells him, and Zatlin gives him a black balloon. If only he had gotten The Black Balloon, because even that would have been less painful than what happens next.
Jimmy discovers that the balloon serves as a voodoo balloon, as whatever he does to it affects Oscar's head. Every time Oscar insults a birthday guest, Jimmy does increasingly cruel things to the balloon. He goes from flicking it to misshaping it, transforming Oscar's head, to just hitting it. I mean, Oscar does kind of deserve it; he acts like a little shit to everybody. No guest is safe. He insults everyone, either because of their body weight, body shape, or face. How does this kid have friends to go to his party? But anyway, it ends, and Jimmy decides to give the balloon to Oscar's family. He ties it to the fence, where it gets pierced by a hook hanging from a tree and the story ends with Oscar and his mom screaming. Whoops.
6. "Sleep-Over at Annette's"
Annette's a pretty shy girl. So naturally, she gets picked on. Now, I know I said the last story was painful, but this one makes "The Black Balloon" seem like an angel's kiss. Three stuck up, high-as-cliffs popular girls are invited to Annette's house for a sleepover, so naturally they go to insult her. Her parents awkwardly greet them, and then leave. First, the girls insult Annette's pizza, then her games, then her personality, social life, physical appearance, etc. This story is sadism, and these girls are animal...s. And Annette just takes it; she just twists and turns like a skeleton key. They don't even talk in code, they just straight up abuse her. If only her mother was a vampire, then she could protect her. But no; it takes two hours of insults before Annette reveals that she only invited them over because her parents are hungry, because surprise, they're werewolves. Then they eat them.
P.S. If you caught the Margot and the Nuclear So and So's references, congrats, you're musically enlightened. If you didn't, however, please check them out; I've been listening to them for a while and I definitely think they deserve more recognition, because they're heavenly. So if you're a fan of calm, soulful music, or even if you're not, just listen to a song or two. "Broadripple is Burning" and "Skeleton Key" are my personal favorites, but they have quite a few good ones. I'm not even getting paid for this (not that anyone would sponsor a children's horror review blog. I mean, come on people), I just love the band. So check them out.
7. "Christmas at Mountain Hollow"
I don't even know. This family stays at this remote cabin for Christmas when this eight-foot-tall snow beast, which I'm guessing is the guy from the cover, attacks. They have the most human reactions, it's surreal. The parents get involved, so that's refreshing, and it's just so unexpectedly realistic and gripping I was caught off guard. Then they escape and stay in a hotel for Christmas instead. Eh, better than hanging with extended family.
Conclusion: These stories were mostly unremarkable, which is both good and bad. There's a common presence of karma and popular monsters, and I don't think any of these were extremely great or godawful. So, in conclusion, I can confidently say that this is one of the OK-est books in the series.