Goosebumps: Werewolf Skin (Book Review)

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Why is "werewolf" written upside down on the box top?

Front Tagline: All dressed up and no place to howl!
Back Tagline: It's A Full Moon...Do You Know Where Your Werewolf Is?

Official Book Description:
Picture this-- Alex Hunter, photography freak, hanging out in Wolf Creek. Who lives in Wolf Creek? Alex's uncle Colin and aunt Marta. They're professional photographers.
Uncle Colin and Aunt Marta are pretty cool. They only have two requests. Don't go into the woods late at night. And stay away from the creepy house next door.
Poor Alex. He just wanted to take a couple off pictures. But now he's about to find out the secret of Wolf Creek. Late one night. When the moon is full...

Brief Synopsis:
Alex Hunter has been sent to the small town of Wolf Creek the week before Halloween to live with his Aunt Marta and Uncle Colin while Alex's parents conduct business in Paris. Luckily for Alex, Marta and Colin share his love of photography. While driving home from the bus station, Alex tells his aunt and uncle that he would like to dress as a werewolf for Halloween. This news causes Uncle Colin to drive into the incoming lane of traffic and almost get hit by a truck.

When the family unit arrives at the house, Alex learns of the next door neighbors on either side: the Marlings, who are apparently not very friendly and Alex is warned to stay away from them, and Hannah, the young girl who lives in the other house and probably has a family although they are never mentioned or referred to in any way.

Hannah and Alex go exploring the vast series of woods behind all three neighboring houses. Hannah warns Alex that the woods are dangerous, and also gives another vague warning about the Marlings. While in the woods Hannah and Alex run into two teenage boys who have a dark and disheveled look to them. The boys swipe Alex's camera and Hannah engages in a fierce verbal defense of Alex that goes on for like five pages. By the end of reading all of Hannah's tenacious fighting of Alex's battle, even I felt emasculated.

Hannah and Alex return to the house and Hannah stays for dinner. After she leaves Alex goes back to his room and while daydreaming out the window spots an animal-like creature leaving the Marling's home. Reaching for his camera, he realizes he left it outside. With the night air threatening rain, Alex runs through the house getting ready to venture out into the woods to retrieve his camera. Along the way he runs into Hannah and Aunt Marta in the attic. In a turn of events that makes even less sense typed out, Hannah returned to the house and enlisted Marta's help in procuring a Halloween costume, all without Alex ever knowing she was there. Alex grabs a flashlite and safely retrieves his camera, but the downpour disorients him and he becomes lost in the woods. While stumbling about, he encounters some freshly slaughtered animals. He also sees animal footprints leading into the Marlings' backyard.

The next morning, the Marlings are calling Alex's relatives to complain about him snooping around their house. Apparently they saw Alex the night before outside their house. Uncle Colin explains that the neighbors are very unfriendly and also that they have two giant german shepards. Alex makes the connection and feels a lot better about the whole thing, at least until he tells Hannah about it on the way to school. Yes on the way to school. Even though he's only living with his Uncle and Aunt for two weeks, he still transfers schools. What. Anyways, Hannah informs Alex that the Marlings don't have any german shepards. Also they're werewolves.

In a refreshing change of pace, Alex our narrator doesn't buy into the ridiculous theory. He even makes fun of Hannah, which is always the way into a girl's heart. At school Hannah and Alex's teacher, reading from the lesson plan entitled "Plot Extrapolation,"conveniently talks at length about Lycanthropy. According to Mr. Shein, a werewolf has an actual coat-like "skin" of fur that they wear when hunting and during the day they shed the skin and keep it in a safe place. To kill a werewolf, one must find the skin and burn it. When the teacher asks the class who among them believes in werewolves, every hand but Alex's goes up. After class, the two troublemaking teens from earlier stop Alex and tell him that since his hand didn't go up, maybe he'd like to see a real werewolf? The two tell Alex to meet them in the woods at midnight and to bring his camera to take lots of pictures of the werewolf that is always spotted in the woods.

Later that nite, Alex readies himself to go out and snap pics of the werewolf. He's nervous but also quite excited, and also locked in his room he discovers. Not only did his Aunt and Uncle lock his door from the outside, but they also installed metal bars outside his window. He's trapped in his room and unable to escape to capture pics of the werewolf with the two boys from class.

The next morning his aunt and uncle apologize for locking him in but they explain that the Marlings threatened to call the police, so they wanted to make sure he didn't get into more trouble. Later at school, the two kids tease Alex about going to see the werewolf, as they were only joking and assumed he had actually gone to the woods last nite. He tells them he did and that he saw the werewolf and snapped off a whole roll of pics. That night, Hannah reveals her new Halloween costume to Alex: A Rag Doll. In the single scariest moment of the book, Aunt Marta sings a song about a rag doll while Hannah dances an impromptu jig.

Later that nite, after jamming some bubblegum in the doorjam to ensure it doesn't lock correctly, Alex sneaks out with his camera. He stops by Hannah's window, the location of which he knows despite having never been to her house, and attempts to get her to accompany him on his werewolf photo shoot. She tells him that she really believes in what she said and that it's too dangerous to go out into the woods. Dejected, Alex heads out into the woods on his own and spots a couple exiting the Marling's house wearing wolf capes. As he watches he can just barely make out the human forms slowly morphing into the wolf forms, the cape growing over their entire body until the two are fully werewolves. Alex attempts to take their picture when he accidently drops his camera, alerting the two werewolves. This leads to an extended sequence in the novel that is actually quite tense and suspenseful as Alex and the werewolves play cat and mouse in the woods. At one point the wolves grab a bunny and one snaps its neck and the other rips out the rabbit's belly with its jaws. Later the wolves snatch a baby deer and are about to feast on it when Alex distracts them with a wolf call of his own and startled, the two wolves let the deer go. Once Alex is fairly sure he's safe (apparently a rabbit being slaughtered infront of you isn't a good enough motivator-- between this and the Hannah thing, this kid is hopeless), Alex indeed takes a full roll of photos of the wolves.

Morning breaks and apparently eight hours of werewolf watching have passed and Alex hides behind another in the long line of Hiding Trees in the book and watches as the Marlings return home and transform back into their human shape. They look awfully familar. Turns out Aunt Marta and Uncle Cecil are the werewolves! The two bring their werewolf cloaks inside and then exit through the front of the Marlings' house, running across the lawn back into their house. Alex is worried about what they might have done to the Marlings so he goes into the Marling House to investigate. Once inside he is shocked to find the house is abandoned save for two neatly folded werwolf cloaks in the living room closet. Realizing that there never was a Marling family, he decides to warn Hannah and her family so they can escape before his Aunt and Uncle try to harm them.

Alex explains everything to Hannah and she comes up with a plan. Since they don't want to kill his aunt and uncle, they can't burn the werewolf skins. However, if they hide the skins where the two can't find them and the full moon passes without them being able to transform, the curse will be lifted. The curse will be lifted just because she said so, I guess. Hannah decides that the best way to keep the skins hidden from the aunt and uncle is for Hannah and Alex to wear the cloaks themselves. They'll leave in their planned costumes and then go next door, change into the werewolf costumes, then go out trick or treating where they can't find them. Alex agrees to this, probably more because he's in love with Hannah than because it makes sense, as the plan of course makes less sense than anything ever has.

Halloween nite, Hannah goes next door to get into the werewolf skin and Alex soon follows. She hands him a skin and they both exit the Marling home in werewolf skins. As they're walking down the street, they hear the loud scream of Alex's aunt and uncle yelling after them "GIVE US OUR SKINS!" The two give chase after the kids and eventually collapse on the ground in agony. After some anguish, the aunt and uncle burst into joy as they inform Hannah and Alex that they've successfully lifted the curse! The two kids remove their skins and all four head back home to celebrate.

But the Twist is:
On the way home, Alex tells Hannah that they should both drop the skins back off at the Marling house. She seems hesitant to go back so Alex goes alone. Once inside he sees that there's an extra werewolf skin on the floor near the closet. He turns around to see Hannah in the werewolf skin. She explains that there's an extra because she didn't use the skin from the Marling house, she brought her own. Hannah attacks and presumably kills and eats Alex.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Alex Hunter, amateur photographer, and Hannah, a young girl without a last name, who's family disappears throughout the entire novel.
Just a note here, this is one of the few Goosebumps books where the boy-girl relationship is not entirely asexual, as Alex clearly lusts after Hannah and spends copious amounts of time describing how much he loves her deep smoky voice. Yeah, Alex might be gay.

Minority Alert
In a rare non-caucasian showing, Arjun, half of the dubious schoolmate twosome is Native American for no reason.

Creepy Crush Alert
Alex sneaks a few photos of Hannah, who clearly doesn't want him photographing her.

Questionable Parenting:
Alex's parents are in Paris on "Business," yet apparently they don't have phones in Paris because Alex is forced to communicate with his parents via letter-writing.

Questionable Teaching:
For some reason, Hannah and Alex's teacher Mr. Shein spends an entire day-long class period talking about Lycanthropy. This would be bad enough but he also doesn't even get the made-up facts right.

Confusing Chronology Alert:
Sometime between when he got home from school and when he went to bed, Alex's Aunt and Uncle somehow constucted an entire set of metal barring over his window.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 11/12
Lost in the woods, strange animals chasing after him, something horrible drops on Alex's head. What is it, what is it, what is it... it's a bird's nest.

Great Prose Alert:
"You guys are about as funny as dog puke," Hannah sneered.
"You ought to know, you eat it for breakfast!" Sean replied.
He and Arjun laughed and slapped each other a high five.
Hannah sighed. "Remind me to laugh later," she muttered, rolling her eyes.

Conclusions:
Werewolf Skin reads like a reaction to Goosebumps rather than an actual book in the series. It takes every boring, predictable convention of the series and completely messes with it. The chapter endings where a character jumps to a conclusion and there's something horrible happening, in this book the horrible things are happening. The main character is a little slow but he also doesn't immediately start irrationally assuming that something supernatural is going on. The novel is also filled with numerous misdirections, as with the two kids in the woods, who are repeatedly set up to be the werewolves. The most important aspect of the book is the Hannah-Alex relationship and the English major in me recognizes the quite genius sexual undercurrent to the book, which is a really clever statement about the dangers of prepubescent idolization and sexual romanticization. But let's leave deconstructing the book to a community college term paper.
This is one of the last books in the series and I have two theories:
One, RL Stine was nearing the homestretch of the series and his enthusiasm for the project shines through in the text.
Two, it's a fairly well-accepted suspicion that many of these books were ghostwritten. This is probably one of them. If more of these books were as well-crafted as Werewolf Skin, this blog wouldn't exist.



About the author

Meenmeen

I'm currently studying in a prestigious school, which is Ateneo, taking up Accountancy, and in God's will, I will pass. I am also an amateur Writer and Photographer.

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