Hello, Spongey here.
It’s time for this month’s Stine review, although in this case it’s only kind of one as we’re back to to the ghostwritten realm of Ghosts of Fear Street. We’re gonna get heavy on the main series this Summer so I wanted to slip in at least one from this series beforehand.
I took to the randomizer and got this. I figured we’re due for a random entry given the other two so far were more notable ones. That’s not to say this doesn’t have notable traits of its own but we’re not getting climate change mentions this time. This is one I read at least once back in school but haven’t comeback to it since. I know the basics of what to expect so at least it should be fun to revisit.
While Ghosts is basically just Goosebumps, the stories tend at least try to be their own and not just this certain book but not. There are some notable exceptions though and this is one of them and it’ll be clear how once we get into it.
The only other thing to mention is our ghostwriter Nina Kirki Hoffman. Yep, the same one behind I Was a 6th Grade Zombie. I didn’t do that on purpose. I wanted to talk about a different writer but that would be a lame reason for rejecting this book so here we go. I mentioned before that she is usually a Sci-Fi writer and this is a bigger example of that.
Oh and recently I found out that she did stories for Bruce Coville’s “Book of __” short story collections, one of which I read recently. The about the authors section of the last one she joined in for mentions this book, which is neat.
Anyway, I quite liked Zombie and the third one she did that I’ll say the title of later. Can she pull a hat trick?
This is, Body Switchers from Outer Space
This cover is decent. The shocked kid face isn’t too bad and and the alien design is a bit generic but decently drawn. Background is done well too. Decently eye catching and just a perfectly fine cover for what we got.
The book begins with our protagonist Will Kennedy falling into his spaghetti during school lunch. A moment that sets the stage if I ever saw one. He’s known for being a big klutz, to the point of getting the nickname Will the Spill. If only cruel kids in real life were as creative with their name calling.
This time someone tripped Will on purpose but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is the local popular kid Chad Miller coming up to him. Because of course his name is Chad. Will is surprised by this but tells us Chad has been slowly interacting with him more lately and this is the culmination of that.
Chad has Will sit with him and asks if he ever wanted to be someone else. Will of course yes, as he’d give anything to not be his clumsy self.
“Listen. My dad’s a scientist. He has a machine that can switch people’s bodies. Let’s do it! Let’s switch bodies!”
Damn, that was fast. Not even trying to build it up, huh? I like it. Chad swears he’s telling the truth, and they can test the machine out for an hour. Will does consider that this could be a prank but says yes as even if it is, it’s not like falling for this stuff would be new. Yeesh, we’re not quite to Gary Lutz levels but comments like this get us close to it.
Speaking of which, you likely already guessed that Why I’m Afraid of Bees is the book I was referring to. Picked on wimpy kid getting switch bodies with someone better only for it to (spoilers) go wrong later? I rest my case. Heck, Will the Spill is kinda like Lutz the Klutz.
Anyway, after school they go to Chad’s house, which is naturally on Fear Street. Totally not telling. They go inside a shed in the backgrounds which has all sorts of machines, including their body switching machine. They get in and some description later, the switch works and we really are getting started that quickly.
This one is like 107 pages (shorter than the shortest Goosebumps book) so hopefully there’s no room for filler later on. Will gets used to his literal Chad body and plays around outside with the cool kids. They only have an hour though or they will be stuck forever, and that hour goes by in the span of like two pages so now they gotta get back.
They switch back and Will is the spill again. Well, that was a short story, wasn’t it? Nah, of course there’s more to it. I just figured once the switch started, we’d stay in until the end but instead we get a test drive.
Will goes home but he finds himself missing Chad’s body. Also, his dad works on a cartoon called “Judo Jabbing Adolescent Muted Coyotes”. Yes. Will tells us there’s a character in the show who is always tripping over things and he suspects it is inspired by him. Dad’s reaction to Will tripping is even to go to his legal pad where he puts down ideas.
Eh, I’m just surprised it took us until now for this series to give us crappy parents.
The next day during gym, Will gets distracted by thinking about Chad’s body and almost gets hit by a basketball. Chad initially doesn’t want to do the switch again since Will cut the time close last time but after seeing how Will keeps thinking about it, he agrees to do it again.
Will getting distracted by how he was thinking about Chad’s body too much and not being fine with that one taste actually helps with the theme but we’ll see if I’ll get to say more about that at the end, depending on how this ends.
Chad even offers to let the switch last for the whole weekend. I guess that limit wasn’t forced on them by the machine like he implied before. They switch and Will notice Chad in his body’s smile looks almost mean but writes it off. I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything.
Will goes to Chad’s house and discovers a kid that looks exactly like Chad, then Chad’s mom comes in and calls Will Chad-One. Either something clone-y is going on are these just the least creative twin names are. Dad comes in and both parents look like rejects from 50’s sitcoms.
A bit later, dinner is served and it’s some weird tentacle creature. Will is grossed out but come on, it’s not like some countries don’t eat weirder on a regular biases. He excuses himself but finds the house is weirdly design. It’s hard to describe but it’s some somewhat creative Sci-Fi type stuff.
Will runs over to his house to tell Chad they gotta switch back. He says no and when Will asks about all the weird stuff, he just says it’s just all New Age stuff. …Eh, that tracks, still doesn’t explain the Chad One and Two stuff though, he just dodges it and tells Will to buzz off now.
Will goes back to Chad’s house, where the family is pissed that he left. They suspect that his socializing with the humans has gone too far, as he just supposed to study them. Yeah, turns out this is a family of aliens . So far only one is a body switcher though, the title should be singular. Actually, why does dad even have a body switching machine to begin with?
Things calm down and soon it’s time for bed in some weird sleep chamber. Also, Will tells chad-Two he’s been acting weird due to being sick and possibly caught something but he says that’s not possible since they were all vaccinated before they left. No comment.
One bit lets slip that both Chads take turns going to school and thankfully neither has acted differently enough to rip anyone off. He warns Will to calm down on the human stuff or they’ll have to blank out his mind. It happened to someone back on whatever their home planet is and now he sits in his pod with a blank look on his face. That’s actually a creepy image right there.
The next morning, Will has had enough and runs away, but Chad 2 quickly catches up to him. Also, Will tries to eat human food but finds his alien body hates it. But that alien food was bad to him too so I guess they just can’t eat anything. Nah, Chad-2 gives him some alien snack that Will ends up liking. Guess aliens have preferences like all of us.
Chad-2 brings Will home and we just cut to the next morning, as Chad-2 needs his help in testing something. He gets out some device and uses it to shrink a rat to pea size, saying this is what they plan to do to any human that finds out about us. Come on, didn’t we get enough shrunk humans last month?
That night, Will tries to sneak out and fails but makes a good enough excuse to not get punished. This scene works for the situation that has been created but for a snarky recap it gives me nothing to work with, except that we get more made up alien words that are fun. Also, mom gives him a drink that helps him fall asleep easily.Hey, can I have one of those?
The next morning, Will finds time to call home and gets his annoying younger sister Pepper. I haven’t mention her yet since she wasn’t important until now. He gets her to realize this is actually Will by saying things only he would know. …But one of them is something that pisses her off so she hangs up. Okay, that was funny.
He calls again and gets Chad. However, now Chad says Will is never getting his body back. Well, this makes more sense than it did Bees at least. At long as we got the explanation behind him escaping his alien family that I’m expecting. The alien parents call Will and Chad 2 over to the garage.
In it is their spaceship and they say that in a few hours, they are going back to their home planet. Note, they die on their way back to their home planet. Also, Chad 2 says “Thank Sprog!” and now I must know what alien religion is like.
Will runs to his house and now has to find a way to drag Chad over to switch back. His first plan is give him alien food since his human body would get sick and he could easily take care of him. Will gets Pepper to sign on to all this and helps out. Bonus points for making the sibling useful.
He slips some alien powder into Chad’s lemonade and eventually it works in slowing him down. I honestly thought this would fail so p0ints for being smart. It works a bit too well though as Chad collapses to the ground, and Pepper says he’s dying. So if this move were to kill Chad in Will’s body, would it be murder or suicide?
Chad Two suddenly drops in, as he put a tracker somewhere on Chad’s body. They explain what is going on and Chad says he took Will’s body as he wants to stay on Earth. Chad Two calls him a “fleeflaw” and “groober” which I like to think are alien swears. This means he’s willing to help switch things back to normal.
They make it to the machine and manage to switch them back very easily. Oh and Chad 2 gives Will something some food that cures his sick-ness that the powder gave him. So I gotta say, Chad’s alien family must have been really bad if he wanted to just leave them like that. Honestly he’s not so evil but we’ll forget about that.
And while I’m questioning things, still got no full explanation as to why they have that body switching machine. Alien Mom said before they leave they must switch back to their alien bodies though. So are their current bodies on loan and some poor humans are in alien bodies somewhere? How does this all work anyway?
But before they can leave, Chad 2 announces that they know too much and can’t leave. Now they gotta shrink the humans. Their alien word for it is “shink” cuz Nina ran out of creative words. Will manages to take the machine away from them and ends up firing it on them. Soon the aliens start to shrink until they are super tiny.
And that’s the end of that I suppose. The next chapter tells us that Will shrinks all the alien gadgets and stows it in his room as a reminder this all really happened. As for the aliens, Pepper keeps them among her dolls. Truly a horrible punishment. Actually, it is kind of when you think about it.
(Chad 2 said Chad was gonna be punished with that alien lobotomy so maybe this was the better outcome so him)
Anyway, Will and Pepper start getting along better, which is nice. Less nice is how the reason is that Will now has the shrinking device he can use to shrink her whenever he wants.
“I guess you can say things are really looking up for Will the Spill”
The end. So Will has learned to be okay with his body and also threats are the best way to get what you want. This one was pretty educational. Jokes, that was okay for an abrupt ending although man we keep getting happy endings with these. Although the exact way we ended is is a bit iffy, wish we got nice sibling stuff to end on instead of that joke. Ah well.
This one was pretty good. In Hoffman’s lineup, it is her weakest but I chalk it up to being her first. The actual writing is not quite as good since it’s trying to more to be closer to Stine’s. Her other ones clearly gave her more freedom. But if you can get past a few weak writing moments, the story is mostly solid.
As far as comparing to Why I’m Afraid of Bees, it is better. The setup makes it so everything works better logically. Chad keeping Will’s body made a bit more sense than it did with Dirk. Although in both cases I wanted to explore the why more but Chad is clealy evil along with his family so I can forgive it a bit more.
Bees spent more time on the start but for this story, the quicker beginning mostly works fine. Maybe it would work less if you haven’t read as many of these that are about loser kids as I have but since I have, I didn’t need a ton of Will being a loser.
The moral element does work better for sure. Will had a chance to just use the body for a bit but he pushed to use it again and that got him in this mess. It makes the “be happy with what you have” lesson work better, especially Will’s life is not quite as awful as Gary’s. That all checks out.
The situation with Will being stuck with an evil family is solid, and there’s some decent tension they get out of it. There’s some fun Sci-Fi stuff and the writing works better when it leans into that. The pacing is fine and for how short it is, it didn’t get too rushed until maybe the very end.
It was also nice for the sister to be helpful…even if the very end joke ruins that. My problems mostly lie in be thinking a bit too hard about how some of this works. Were the aliens planning on a full invasion/what were they gonna use the info for? Why the body switch machine? Were their human bodies stolen from elsewhere? It can’t be that since that make the ending not fixing that worse.
It doesn’t hurt my enjoyment or the quality that much but it would have helped to fill in these gaps as I think there was room for it. It’s far from the worst at this kind of problem but still worth pointing out.
Overall, this was a solid one. Not a big favorite, and it is the author’s weakest but it takes the concept and it uses it pretty well. It has a decent plot, fun Sci Fi stuff and improves on the story that clearly inspired it. There’s not too much else to say for this one.
Well, except that Nina’s other entry I alluded to do is called Why I’m Not Afraid of Ghosts. …Yeah, I think I know what her favorite Goosebumps book was. I hope to do that one eventually, it’s very interesting.
Well, that was fun. It was also a nice simple one to deal with, even I had more to say thanks to Bees. As for next time, it’s time to revisit a special time from last year to cover even more of my favorite subjects.
Tune in May for Goosebumps Ripoff Month 2