Front Tagline: He's one deadly double!
Narrator Montgomery Adams seems to have it all: A scientist uncle who lives in Pittsburgh and a mother who must leave her son to go to South-east Asia for a couple months. You know, the average life of an American Preteen. Montgomery doesn't mind being dropped off at his Uncle's though, because he understands why his mother couldn't take him with her:
Mom can't take me with her, because there are no good schools in the jungles of Borneo.
Which is hard to argue with.
Luckily for Montgomery, his cousin Nan is the same age as him and the two get along swimmingly. With all this going right for him, you'd think Montgomery wouldn't be complaining, but he openly hates his name and also whines about his red hair. You know kid, some redheaded Adamses do alright for themselves
Uncle Leo spends most of the time in his basement laboratory, but he does stop to smell the roses by taking time out of his busy schedule to greet Montgomery by pricking him with a pin and poisoning him with donuts. Monty (as he prefers to be called) is allergic to peanuts, and the donuts from the bakery were fried in peanut oil. This naturally results in anotherSeries 2000 scene involving vomit. Uncle Leo suggests washing the whole experience away with a jug of cider. A jug of cider? Is the twist that they're living at Silver Dollar City?
Monty has to transfer to the new school mid-semester, but luckily he knows a few of Nan's friends already. He's sweet on one in particular, Ashley, and she helpfully reminds the reader that the novel is set in Pennsylvania by wearing a "Penn State" shirt. Strangely, his teacher gets miffed when Monty asks which desk is his, as she claims she already told him last week. Except, Monty was still in another state until a few days ago. Ashley helpfully points out his desk for him, and though the seat is not wearing a Pirates jersey, it too is probably also located in Pennsylvania.
After school, Monty kills time around the mansion while his cousin takes a piano lesson. It turns out he and his cousin both really good at it and they decide to do a duet for the school talent show. Well, that's fitting, because after all they are living in Dutch country.
While waiting for his cousin to wrap up, Monty opens the door to Uncle Leo's Forbidden Basement Laboratory, where someone with a high-pitched voice yells out for him to get out. Uncle Leo surfaces a few moments later and apologizes for snapping, but his basement laboratory is just too dangerous for non-scientists. As for his high-pitched voice, well, maybe his dangerous experiment is sucking the air out of helium balloons. I mean, they do that at Discovery Zone but those kids are tuff.
Around this point, the novel takes an unusual turn and becomes... well, really good actually. And thank God for that, because after the last quintet of books in this series, I really needed a book that flirted with competency. At school the next day, Monty and Ashley are in art class and there's interplay between them and other classmates that is both interesting and resembles actual human interaction. This was about the time in the novel when I realized Scholastic finally sent for a competent ghostwriter.
While the two are flirting and goofing around in the art room, Monty accidentally spills paint all over a rough classmate's volcano problem, and both he and Ashley are punished with after-school detention. Ashley spends the rest of the day ignoring him, though she does finally acknowledge him after school lets out. See, she caught him trashing the art room and then sneaking out the window. Monty surveys the art room, which looks like a non-cat tornado hit it. He questions how she could think he did it, as he was in science class. But she insists that she saw it happen and then tattles on him to the principal.
While cleaning up the art room solo, he spies his reflection in the mirror-- only he realizes the reflection is of someone behind him. Monty tries to chase after the figure but he's stopped by the art teacher who chastises him some more and explains how mirrors work. After school, things aren't much better as he gets beat up by the volcano sons. The next day, Monty spies his double again, this time looking into his classroom from the window. Monty runs across the room and jumps out the window to chase after his double, which does little to endear him to his teacher.
Once safely back at home, he says hello to Uncle Leo and then asks if he has a twin. Surprisingly, Uncle Leo admits that he does. He quietly tells Monty that when his mother was pregnant, his father died a month before she was due with twins. Because she couldn't afford to raise two children, she had to give up one. She held on to Monty simply because he was born first. Monty has a lot of questions, but before he can ask about the twin tormenting him at school, Uncle Leo drops a shocker: Nan is his fraternal twin, who Uncle Leo has raised as his own daughter.
This all leads to one of the most "real" and well-written segments inGoosebumps history, as Nan and her brother talk about her feelings of abandonment and how to deal with this new information about their relationship. In other words, they act like human beings and not plot devices. The story is silly, but the way it's told is so far beyond what I've seen from this series that it's nothing short of a minor miracle.
Nan and Monty share a story about how one Christmas, they both stole part of one of their cousin's model trains, and how they should have known they were siblings then. Unfortunately, they can't keep being interesting for the entire book and this nice stretch is interrupted by a phone call from the plot, warning Monty that things are about to get worse for him and for that poor Prince Albert stuck in a can.
Several weeks pass though before anything gets worse, proving the mystery caller unreliable at best. However, on the day of the Big Piano Rehearsal in front of the school, things do get, well, ridiculously worse. Before Monty can go onstage with Nan for their duet, he realizes he left his sheet music in his locker. Along the way, someone shoves him into a supply closet. He escapes the rising fumes of some carefully spilled chemicals and races to the auditorium, only to discover when he returns backstage that Nan went out and started without him. Only, wait for it, she is with him. Only the "him" onstage is not really him at all! The Real Monty yells out to the Fake Monty, who cuts the recital short by pushing the piano across the stage in an attempt to kill the Real Monty. There's probably a Full Monty joke somewhere in all of this, but I'm not making it. This is a Family Blog.
Monty chases his twin into the halls and the twin confronts him, tells him he's taking over his life, and then punches him in the stomach. He then nonchalantly walks out of the school. The Real Monty gives chase and sees the Fake Monty calmly walking past cars in the parking lot and along the street holding a spray can. He stops to spray-paint a heart around "MONTY LUVES ASHLEY 4EVER" on the door to a car he knows Ashley will pass on her way home. I mean, c'mon, that's so great.
Monty follows himself home and spies the twin slipping into one of the mansion's open window-- man, has this dude never heard of a door? Monty races inside to get his uncle, but then remembers he isn't home. Nan however shows up and angrily asks why he shoved a piano offstage. His answer doesn't do much to quell her anger. However, during this argument, Monty and his sister make their way over to the family's computer and discover a scholarly paper authored by their uncle resting in the printer that explains everything. Its title? "THE FUTURE OF CLONING." You would think that a scientist smart enough to perfect cloning would be smart enough not to leave a paper like that just hanging around.
Monty picks up on the subtle clues and realizes his uncle must have cloned him, with the pinprick earlier in the book an excuse to get a blood sample. Nan insists he would never have done such a terrible thing. Uncle Leo exhibits some excellent timing by interrupting her to confirm that he indeed would do such a terrible thing. His defense of his actions is the single greatest thing I've ever read in a Goosebumps book:
"I am a scientist," he declared.
Instead of seeking to understand himself, Uncle Leo summons four cloned Monties, who line up behind him in an excellently choreographed moment. They're all dressed identically, which begs the scientific question: Is that how cloning works? Because I'm like pretty sure you can't clone someone's clothes from their blood.
The Monties attack. The kids panic and begin throwing glass beakers at them in a futile attempt to escape. Uncle Leo cries out for them to stop breaking all his expensive equipment. Dude must have blown all his money on cloning clothes if he's concerned that a few busted $2 beakers are going to break him.
The escape is quickly thwarted when the Real Monty misjudges and knocks himself out when trying to duck under a steel table. He comes to in a supply closet-- what is it with these clones and supply closets? He spies Nan and the real Uncle Leo, who are also being held captive in the dark dank room. Uncle Leo explains what might have already been suspected: The other Uncle Leo is just his own clone. Even though he'd never clone another human being, Uncle Leo had no problems cloning himself. Unfortunately he discovered the one downside to clones: They are all evil. But what about their cloned clothes? Are all cloned clothes evil?
It turns out Monty was cloned last year by Leo Two and the whole pinprick thing was just a coincidence. Uncle Leo didn't know about the Monty clones until a few days prior, and it turns out they had been sleeping in some of the extra bedrooms in the mansion. When he tried to confront Leo Two about the squatters, he got locked in a supply closet.
Then Uncle Leo shows what a scientist brings to the table by revealing that all the clones have a small blue dot on their right thumb, so that they're easily identifiable against the original. Again proving that all clones are both evil and possess excellent timing, Leo Two chooses this moment to drag the Real Monty out of the supply closet. While his Monty minions hold him down, Leo Two tattoos a blue dot on the Real Monty's thumb. Thankfully, before Leo Two can give Nan a butterfly tattoo in the small of her back, the Real Monty creates a diversion and she escapes to go get help.
The four Monties don't much like the original and decide to show why they're superior. They walk him over to a bunsen burner and force his hand into the flame. Guys I've heard of Monty Burns but this is ridiculous amirite. It turns out that in addition to being evil and possessing excellent timing, clones also can't feel pain. Couldn't they have just told him that?
Monty tries to sleep through the pain of his badly blistered hand but he has difficulty and tries a meek escape. Of course the clones are not only evil, possess excellent timing, and can't feel pain, but they also are light sleepers. In the house that Jack built. They thwart any attempts at leaving, but they also get surprised by the lab door being kicked in.
Who has come to the rescue? Why, it's Nan and she's brought more scientists! Leo Two expresses outrage at the strangers bursting into "his" lab. Unfortunately, he fell into a trap, as the scientists Nan brought were old college roommates of Uncle Leo. The scientists manhandle Leo Two out of the lab and into a waiting truck. Strangely, the Monty clones stand idly by and do not attempt to help their creator. Wait, evil clones aren't loyal? So many life lessons learned.
The scientists liberate several mops and the real Uncle Leo from the closet. They explain that the truck they're loading up with clones is headed down to South America, where they've set up a lab to do testing on the duplicates. The Real Monty tries to embrace Nan in gratitude, but she shuns him due to his tattoo. Things aren't helped much by the other clones all claiming they're the real Monty too. Unfortunately, one of the Monty clones steps forward and proves he's the Real Monty by reciting the Christmas anecdote about the trains. That's good enough for Nan, and the Real Monty gets shipped away with the rest of the clones into the back of the truck.
This is probably where any other Goosebumps book would end, but like I said, this is a better book than most. The Real Monty realizes that his clones don't know he's not one of them-- they think the clone who stepped forward was the Real Monty. As the truck arrives at a loading dock, the clones discuss how they're probably being held until morning when they can be loaded onto a ship bound for South America. The Real Monty spies an armed guard standing watch outside the back door to the truck's compartment.
Monty spies an emergency hatch on the roof of the truck compartment and whips the clones into a revolutionary frenzy by rallying against himself. He inspires the clones to work as one and escape, so that they can reclaim "their" life from the original who is living it. The Monties begin standing on each other's shoulders, with the Real Monty planning to climb out the top. He tells them he'll come back with a rope to get them, and they buy that. So clones are evil, possess excellent timing, can't feel pain, are light sleepers, aren't loyal and are really really dumb.
But not as dumb as humans. Monty gets to the escape hatch but accidentally hurts his burnt hand in the process of climbing out. He cries out in pain and the clones all realize he's not one of them. They pull the wriggling boy back down into the truck.
The clones descend on the Real Monty. He thinks quick and asks for one final request before they kill him. He'd like to pick another name, as he still hates Montgomery. He proposes Paul. One of the other clones likes Paul and decides he might like to be called Paul too. Another clone comes up with his own name he'd like to be called. Before long there's a brawl among the clones over who gets to be named what. While his copies are distracted, Monty alerts the guard to the fracas and slips out unnoticed while he breaks it up.
Monty walks all night until he finally arrives at the mansion. Unfortunately, the book makes a drastic shift at this point that demotes it from probably the best Goosebumps book I've read to merely one of the best. Not because of the plot, but because the previously excellent prose takes a nosedive. See, the novel up to this point has been in first person from Monty's POV. However, at this point, and with no warning, the perspective changes to first person from Nan's POV and remains with her until the end of the book. Aspiring writers take note: You. Can. Not. Do. That.
Nan is confronted with two Monties, both who claim to be the real deal. She decides to test them by giving them half a donut fried in peanut oil. Uncle Leo warns that they don't really know how allergies work and the clone might also possess the allergy. But no one has time to hear another item added to the list of things clones are, so they proceed with the experiment regardless. In the exciting climax of the book, one of the Monties vomits.
But the Twist is:
To the surprise of exactly no one, it's revealed that the Monty who threw-up faked it. He practiced vomiting the day before so he could pass such a test, should it ever come up. Add "overly prepared" to the clone list. He also only knew the "stupid" story about the trains because he overheard them talking about it. Clone Monty shows no remorse for sending the original to his doom. He then utters the book's titular line, "I am your evil twin!"
About That Twist:
Ha, I bet you thought I was going to say the title of another book and not the actual titular line REGULAR READER, THE TWIST IS ON YOU
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Nan and her cousin/brother Monty, who disappears forever into the back of a truck at the end of the novel.
Cloning humans is one thing, but cloning clothes is just going too far.
Yet again, another middle school class is presented with an elementary problem (What is a proper noun?), and what's worse, is stumped by it.
I've read Stay Out of the Basement, Let's Get Invisible, and Mirror, Mirror On the Wall too. And alternately: I've seen Solaris, Multiplicity, and Solaris too.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
I think this is only the second time this has happened, but there aren't any worth mocking.
Great Prose Alert:
"Hi-ya!" I karate chopped the clone's wrist
A++++++++++++++ WOULD READ AGAIN