NIGHT OF THE LIVING DUMMY Review

Night of the Living Dummy  - R.L. Stine

Synopsis: Lindy names the ventriloquist's dummy she finds Slappy. Slappy is kind of ugly, but he's a lot of fun. Lindy's having a great time learning to make Slappy move and talk. But Kris is jealous of all the attention her sister is getting. It's no fair. Why does Lindy have all the luck? Kris decides to get a dummy of her own. She'll show Lindy. Then weird things begin to happen. Nasty things. Evil things. No way a dummy can be causing all the trouble. Or is there?

 

*****

 

Like a couple of other books in my Goosebumps reread so far, I went into this with almost no memory of what it was about or my younger self's general impression of it. I knew Night of the Living Dummy was about two sisters and... that was it. In a way, that was a blessing. I didn't know what was coming next, and it was nice sitting back and taking in the action of this short children's book like it was the first time I was reading it. I felt like I was in elementary school all over again!

 

However, if I could have remembered how bad this one is, I might have just skipped it altogether. 

 

Okay, first off, the cover. This book's cover is among the better Goosebumps artwork (which was and is, in all honesty, the best thing about this series), but it really misleads the reader. Slappy, the dummy portrayed on the front of the book, is introduced about fifteen pages into the story and makes almost no appearance again until the last page. He isn't alive, and he isn't the cause of the mayhem that goes on. In actuality, it is Mr. Wood, the dummy brought in after Slappy, that is alive (although he doesn't gain life until the last 30 pages). I had completely forgotten about Mr. Wood because the second and third Dummy books focus on Slappy and his hi-jinks. So the cover is really, really misleading. 

 

So, what happens in the story? you may ask. If Mr. Wood doesn't come alive until page 100 -- which is what this book is about, given the title and all -- what happens until then? Well... a whole lotta nothing, honestly. The book revolves around Kris and Lindy, two twin sisters who do nothing but argue and belittle one another. Seriously... that is their entire personalities. It gets old reading their constant snide comments and bickering after about ten pages in. Their parents, in Goosebumps tradition, are there to do nothing more than react to whatever their kids get up to and say "It's just the wind!" and "Wait until tomorrow when we punish you." Seriously, Stine. I get it that this book series is written for kids and that's why the books focus on the kids... but can't you at least try to make your adult characters seem not so apathetic? 

 

So the book's plot mostly revolves around the sisters arguing over any and every thing and, eventually, trying to outdo each other with their dummy routines. Okay, so... am I the only person who thinks it's weird that two twelve year old kids have such fascinations with dummies, anyway? That's something that strikes me as odd about all three Dummy books. Stine writes his kid characters as absolutely obsessed with dummies and not creeped out by them whatsoever. They tend to carry them around with them everywhere they go... eat with them... sleep with them... yeah, I dunno. It's just always struck me as odd. 

 

And finally, the climax. The moment the book is leading up to. Mr. Wood, by way of one of the girl's stupidity (I honestly cannot remember which girl it is because they each have the personality of a stale graham cracker) -- i.e. chanting some weird, foreign words that somehow bring Mr. Wood to life??? okay???? -- draws breath and tries "enslaving" the family. He doesn't actually do anything... he just runs around and yells "You'll be my slaves!" until the girls eventually defeat him, and rather easily at that. Seriously. Yawn. The whole thing just feels so anti-climatic and boring and rushed, especially after having to read through a hundred pages of mindless taunting and one-upping between the two sisters. 

 

This book is easily the worst Goosebumps book I've read thus far, but I have a feeling it won't keep that distinction too long. Filled to the brim with cardboard characters (and that's really saying something for this book series), boring and unrealistic dialogue, and a climax that is disappointing by any standard whatsoever, this is a book from my childhood I'll definitely never read again.