Front Tagline: Tennis...Ping-Pong...Monsters, anyone?
Back Tagline: It's Not Whether you Win Or Lose -- It's How You Stay Alive!
Official Book Description:
Swimming, basketball, archery. King Jellyjame's sports camp has it all. Too bad Wendy isn't a total sports freak like her brother, Elliot. But how excited can you get over a game of softball. It's just a game, right?
Because Camp Jellyjam is no ordinary sports camp. And Wendy's about to find out why. Why the counselors seem a little too happy. A little tooobsessed with winning. And why the ground is always rumbling late at night...
The Horror at Camp Jellyjam takes a long, long time to approach any event or scenario that could be skewed even slightly towards "horror." It does however immediately capture the excitement of a four hour drive through farmlands. Wendy and her younger brother Elliot are en route to a family vacation with their parents. The Wyoming countryside does very little to excite the two kids, so Wendy suggests that maybe they could ride in the trailer hitched behind to their car. Because what's boring in a car becomes thrilling in a smaller car? Once inside the trailer, the two kids merrily pass the time as the trailer accelerates down the highway. Wendy thinks they're going awfully fast but then figures that maybe her mom is driving. Wow, sticking it to women drivers? Cross your fingers that before the book's over, we'll hear Stine's take on how the red man likes to drink.
The trailer races off the road and finally tumbles to a stop on the outskirts of a campground. The two kids are unscathed, and Elliot cheerfully declares that the experience was "better than Space Mountain!" Granted, even walking through a sliding glass door is more fun than Space Mountain, but there's a little blurb in the book that came with theGoosebumps pogs wherein Stine reveals that his favorite place on Earth is Disney World. Can you imagine how upset Stine was when he read the dig the ghostwriter included-- Assuming of course that the trivia from the pog book wasn't also ghostwritten.
They hear a knock at the door of the trailer and assume it's their parents. However, upon opening the door, they are greeted by a smiling blonde man dressed all in white. His t-shirt is tucked into his shorts, so already there's trouble here. He introduces himself as Buddy and directs their attention to the camp banner above their heads: King Jellyjam's Sports Camp. He cheerfully tells the kids that they can wait for their parents in the camp! This works out perfect for the kids because they've always wanted to be murdered by a stranger.
Buddy informs the kids that he's Head Counselor of the camp. Wendy asks what the little cartoon purple glob on the banner is supposed to be and Buddy tells her that's the mascot, King Jellyjam. You can tell he's the king because he's wearing a crown and is purple. Buddy shows them the campgrounds. There are two long, two-story white dorms on either side. In between are various courts and sports diamonds and two swimming pools. Wendy and Elliot are excited about the prospect of playing sports, killing the last chance any kid reading this book had of relating to the characters. As Buddy leads the way through the camp, a little redhead girl pops out from behind a treetrunk and tells Wendy to run away, then disappears.
The camp's slogan, "Only The Best," is slapped everywhere around the grounds, appearing right below the blobby face of King Jellyjam. Numerous cheerful counselors roam the grounds, including one named Scooter, who welcomes Elliot to the boys dorm. No, I'm not entirely sure that this isn't slash fiction.
Wendy makes small talk with Buddy on the way to the girls dorm, casually asking him where he's from. Buddy can't remember. Don't worry, as they walk, they pass a lot of kids playing a lot of sports. There are so many sports in this book. There are kids bowling in outdoor bowling lanes and marble tournaments and gymnastics and croquet. We get it. But just in case, there's also chess and baseball and biking and swimming. Sports, sports, sports.
Wendy's new female counselor, Holly, greets her. Sporting purple lipstick and fingernails, she asks if Wendy's ready for to play some sports. Wendy says she is and Holly shows her to her room, which might be a sport. The room is decorated with nothing but some bunk-beds and a framed photo of King Jellyjam. Holly tells her that her new roommate, Deirdre, is busy playing sports. Holly leaves Wendy by herself in the room. Wendy wonders where she's supposed to go next (I have a guess: To go play sports?). Before she can give it too much thought, she hears several hushed voices outside her door. The voices cry out, "Let's get her!" Three preteen girls bust into the room giggling. They were just joking. I guess it's one of those "You had to be there" jokes. Wendy is a good sport however and doesn't just roll her eyes like I did while reading that particular chapter break.
The three girls are Ivy, Jan, and Deirdre. One of the girls massages her calf muscles while Deirdre gives Wendy one of her swimsuits so she can participate in the four-lap race. When Wendy tells the girls that she's not interested in competing, they get very irate and repeat the camp slogan, "Only The Best."
Wendy and about a dozen other girls stand on the cusp of the Olympic-size swimming pool. Deirdre tells Wendy that she should have tied her hair back so it won't slow her down in the water. Once the race begins, Wendy is actually on her way to winning when she sees Deirdre working really hard to come in first. Since Wendy doesn't care, she lets her win. Deirdre is awarded a gold King Coin for coming in first. Apparently when a camper accumulates six King Coins, they get to walk in the Winners Walk. Deirdre is very excited, as she only needs one more King Coin to achieve this goal.
Holly runs up to Wendy and scolds her for not following the camp slogan. Wendy pretends she didn't throw the race but Holly knows better and tells her that the slogan is a threat, not a promise, and warns her against doing it again. Looks like Holly just won a King Coin for the sport of Threatening Children!
Elliot shows up and invites Wendy to watch him play ping pong in a ping pong tournament. Now, ping pong is boring to play. It's boring to watch. And yes, you'd better believe it's boring to read about. Elliot really wants to win and gets very worked up. In the past when he gets overexcited, Wendy performs a special whistle to alert him to calm down. She is forced to use the whistle on Elliot during the tournament. He gives her a big thumbs up. Elliot wins the ping pong tournament and hopes to win another King Coin before the night's over.
The ground starts to shake and Wendy freaks out, thinking it's an earthquake. But no one else in the camp even seems to notice. Buddy tells her that the ground shakes so often that everyone just gets used to it and to not worry.
Wendy is getting concerned that her parents might be worried about her and her brother. She decides to call their home answering machine and leave a message for them. Before she does though, Deirdre shows up with her sixth King Coin: She'll be in the Winners Walk that night! Wendy gets very excited about Deirdre's excitement and decides she is going to try to win a King Coin of her own. She gets so excited that she forgets to make the phone call. Everything is so exciting!
That night, Wendy, Ivy, and Jan watch the Winners Walk ceremony outside in the dimly lit evening. The counselors really go all out for this ceremony, and Wendy is told it is a big deal. Two counselors come out holding torches and the kids who won their sixth coin follow them single file into the darkness as marching band music plays from the loudspeaker. Well, now I can see why everyone is so motivated to be a part of the Winners Walk.
The girls scrounge up some snacks for Deirdre's celebration party back in their dorm room. Ivy and Jan and Wendy pass around a bag of tortilla chips and share a can of Diet Coke while they wait for Deirdre to show up to her own party. When she never arrives, the girls decide to break the camp's curfew and go out looking for her.
The three girls wander around in the dark for a while. Some bats show up to drink from the swimming pools and pad the page count. Suddenly, the girls hear a cry for help-- it's the little redhead girl from earlier. She tells the girls that her name is Alicia and she followed the counselors to see where they go. What she saw was so horrible that she insists they all must to leave the camp while they still can. Then the little girl disappears again.
Safely back inside the dormitory, the girls discover all of Deirdre's belongings have been removed. The next morning at breakfast, Wendy accosts Buddy, who tells her that Deirdre left, as did Alicia. She tries to tell Jan and Ivy, but they're rushing off to play more sports. Thank God the book has returned to the promise of more scenes of sports! Wendy reattempts her foiled phone call to her parents, but is shocked to discover that the pay phones are not functional. Readers of the blog however are not, because they've already read the classic entry on Welcome to Camp Nightmare. Buddy watches her from afar and then approaches to tell her that she must find a sport to participate in. Since she's not a self-starter he's lined up an itinerary for her. First tennis, then softball.
Scholastic: Write us a book with some sports in it.
RL Stine: What kind of sport?
Scholastic: Every sport!
Wendy loses her tennis game to a girl who wins her sixth King Coin. After tennis she is hustled down to the softball diamond. She practices her swings with the bat and accidentally slams the bat right into Buddy's chest. The bat hit has no effect on him, despite it making a sound "like eggs breaking." Buddy cheerfully recommends she try another, lighter bat.
That night, another Winners Circle ceremony. The next morning, another revelation that the winners have disappeared. Wendy tells her brother that they have to run away from the camp that night, but Elliot's in no rush: he's won his fifth King Coin and wants to acquire the sixth so he can march in line behind a torch.
Wendy covertly follows the counselors after nightfall after she notices all of them heading towards the woods. In the woods, positioned in a clearing, she finds a small white domed building. She enters the igloo-like structure.
Inside the building she finds a small theatre. Wendy ducks into a broom closet and watches as Buddy hypnotizes the rest of the counselors and himself. He tells the counselors that they must always serve The Master.
Wendy uses the brief pause in Buddy's ceremony to sneeze loudly twice. Panic-stricken, she discovers that she's not hiding in a broom closet but a passageway and escapes. She hoofs her way downstairs, noticing a foul stench rising up the stairwell.
Well, once below the ground, Wendy sees dozens of kids working hard. All of the Winner Circle champions and Alicia are moving furiously with mops and hoses around an enormous purple gelatinous creature. Wendy spots Deirdre and runs over to her. Deirdre explains that only the best workers get to be King Jellyjam's slaves. The creature can't stand his own stench so he makes the kids constantly rinse and mop him clean. Small things fall from the heights of his being onto the kids: snails. The creature sweats snails. The creatures face is covered in snot and its wearing a gold crown. When it belches, the ground shakes. This is disgusting beyond all redemption.
Deirdre tries to get Wendy to flee, because King Jellyjam had already eaten three kids that day. Wait, three kids really got murdered in aGoosebumps book? By purple snot?
Wendy runs out of the igloo and sneaks into the woods, where she falls asleep. When she wakes up she hears the sound of the track meet. Elliot was going for his sixth King Coin! Wendy has to stop him so she tries the whistle, but he ignores her. So she simply tackles him to the ground just as he approaches the finish line. He grasps that she's desperate and agrees to follow her down to see the horrible creature. Once beneath the ground again, Wendy reveals that she has a plan. She tells all of the slaves to get down on the floor. Wendy watches as the creature flails and tries to pick up the children to eat them. Her "plan" is working, except that from her position on the stairwell, she isn't laying flat on the ground. The creature picks her up and lowers her towards its gaping maw. However, the monster quickly begins to melt. Wendy's plan was to stop washing the creature, making it choke on its own stench. The creature melts down to purple goo.
The kids rush out of the igloo and face a group of the counselors, who are about to attack when-- the police show up. Apparently the stench was so bad that the cops came to investigate.
But the Twist is:
Wendy and Elliot are reunited with their parents. Two weeks after the events of the camp, Buddy knocks on their door. He gives Elliot his sixth King Coin, telling him he earned it. Wendy is nervous about Elliot accepting his sixth coin. Suddenly, a foul odor fills the room-- but it's not a monster but mom's terrible cooking. Haha women can't drive or cook! Take that, Diane Fuss!
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Wendy and the recreational activity of sports, which never ever disappears from this godawful novel.
Wendy's parents took at least a week to make a connection between the trailer in front of the camp and the camp itself in the search for their missing children.
Wendy plays tennis against Rose, an African-American girl. Rose has a deep guttural laugh and wears a single hoop earring. You can't see me but I'm shaking my head in mortified disbelief.
I'd like to make a public wager for readers of the blog. If RL Stine ever presents a black character who is not reducible to a stereotype, I will donate $100 to the NAACP in Stine's name.
Early 90s Cultural References:
Denim short-shorts, Slurm, sports.
R.L. Stine Shows He is Down With the Kids:
California Elementary School Student's Full Report On the Book, With Illustration:
Horror at Camp JellyJam is the story of summer camp horrors.
If you like a scary story, this is a good book for you.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
'"What could happen?"
I didn't know it. But the answer to the question was: A LOT!'
Great Prose Alert:
I've got a real good imagination when it comes to bats.
More like The Horrible of Camp Jellyjam.