Author: RL Stine
Genre: Retellings, Horror, YA contemporary
Publication Date: July 2, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Everyone knows that Mayhem Manor is cursed. After production on the horror film was stopped due to a series of mysterious deaths, it became a Hollywood legend–which makes it perfect for Claire and her family. If they can successfully finish the film, it should be enough to save their ailing movie studio.
Sure, the old haunted house is creepy, and strange stuff has been happening, but this is Claire’s chance. Her chance to become the movie star she’s always dreamed and her chance to finally convince her friend Jake that she is girlfriend material. Of course, the fact that Jake thinks he’s in love with her best friend, Delia, who is crushing hard on Jake’s friend Shawn, who insists on following Claire around, could be a problem, but Claire is sure she can figure it out. After all, the course of true love never did run smooth.
But once shooting starts, “creepy and strange” morph into “bloody and deadly,” as the lines between film and reality begin to blur…
☆: 1/5 stars – great idea, but fails to deliver.
Review: Oh boy. Where to start with this one? When I heard that RL Stine was returning to YA, I was really excited. I loved “Goosebumps” as a kid growing up in the 90s (which 90s kid didn’t?) so I was hoping for the same quality with this horror/retelling of “Midsummer’s Night Dream”. Alas, it was not to be had. Where did everything go so hideously wrong? I just…I can’t even really see where it’s a retelling with the horror element so heavy within it. Maybe if it’d been written differently, or had Stine chosen to tell his story with different words, or different characters, or anything like that, I might have been able to see the retelling of Shakespeare’s classic tale. All I can say is that I was looking forward to this one, and Stine let me down. I wish I could say that I recommend “A Midsummer Night’s Scream”, but I just can’t.
What bothered me the most: the slut-shaming. It starts on ARC page 29, and just goes on from there. It felt as if Stine was trying to embody the “Hollywood” dynamic with mean girls and sluts everywhere as antagonists, and I just don’t see that working. I mean, of course there are mean girls and those that sleep around a little too often in Hollywood, but they’re not the vast majority Stine makes them out to be. Not that I’d know – I’m not in the business, but friends who do work in the lower tiers of the business confirm that yes, there are nice and awesome people and no, they’re not all sluts. I’ll chalk this up to Stine wanting for teenage girls to relate and his lack of research/reliance on an old stereotype.
There’s also the general poor quality of cross-gender narration. While I’ll give Stine the benefit of the doubt that cross-gender narration is hard to nail, this was…well, to be frank, one of the worst examples I’ve seen of it so far. It felt like an older guy trying to narrate a typical, hopefully popular YA book through a dated version of a teenage girl, not to mention a general stereotype of what typical teenage girls are made of: obsessions with clothes, slang, and clique-y friends. While there’s always a tiny grain of truth within stereotypes, Stine really took it to the next level with exaggeration. At times I was infuriated and then wanted to laugh because I was so incensed.
The world: while there is a good feeling of the Hollywood world through the wild pool parties (that part hasn’t changed since the 1920s, always good to know), the rest of it feels barely there. I’m talking 1D, paper-thin, and is constantly being propped up by characters that are also of the same quality. However, I will say that the creepy atmosphere the opening chapters had with the teenagers in the house in the woods was really good (stick to what you know – “Goosebumps” worthy horror), it got a little cheesy after awhile to the point of me saying to myself “saw that coming”. The action and tension are good, but the stakes are just not high enough for the MC and main cast we’re supposed to care about, and thus, I just had to DNF it after a third of the way in.
And I know my Shakespeare well enough to say – where was the retelling? I seriously for the life of me could not find it. And if I couldn’t find it a third of the way in, that spells trouble for the book in general. I should be able to figure it out within a few chapters. I wasn’t able to. And that was aggravating. The concept was fantastic, but the execution in pretty much all technical areas was exceedingly poor.
Final verdict? Stine, stick to what you’re best at – “Goosebumps”. I’m completely serious – I’d love it if more of the series came out. I’d definitely read them. But “A Midsummer’s Night Scream”? Nope. Can’t recommend it. If you’re looking for a better retelling, definitely search elsewhere. But that’s just how I feel about it. “A Midsummer’s Night Scream” is out July 2, 2013 in North America from Macmillan, so be sure to check it out then and come to your own conclusion about this book.