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Book Review: ‘Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever.’

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Everyone has that beloved series from their childhood that they look back fondly on. For some, it’s a series of films or a show that they tuned in every week for. For others, like me, it was an engaging book series from a beloved author that stand out as a testament to my childhood. During my younger years, one of those beloved authors was none other than R. L. Stine with his series Goosebumps.

Goosebumps was my first foray into the horror genre, with bite-sized books perfect for elementary students who were looking for just a touch of the spooky. Stine’s original Goosebumps series spawned 62 books released between 1992 and 1997, with each novel focusing on a different subtype of horror. These novels were perfect for children of all exposure to horror, as they scratched the itch of scary without being completely terrifying. R. L. Stine has returned to his Goosebumps series with a new novel, House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. How does this new entry into the world of Goosebumps fair compared to the rest of the series? Continue on to find out.

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Scholastic for the purpose of this review. Warning: slight spoilers and impressions from Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. are below!]

Uncle Wendell the weird

If there’s one thing twins Betty and Billy want their parents to know, it’s that they would rather not go stay with their Uncle Wendell for two weeks. However, when Goosebumps: House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. opens up, that’s exactly where these siblings are headed off too. While their mother and father are traveling for two weeks, Betty and Billy are prepared to stay with their Uncle, whom neither are very familiar with.

The last time they had seen their uncle, they were much smaller. And it doesn’t help that his house is in a dense forest located in the middle of nowhere. Upon their arrival, it seems like no one is home, so the twins’ parents do the responsible thing and leave their children standing on this strange porch in the woods, otherwise, they’ll be late for their flight. I tried not to get too mad at this blatant child neglect and suspend reality for the sake of the story.

Goosebumps House of Shivers #1 Cover

Eventually, Uncle Wendell arrives at the house, sharing his woes with the children. You see, the scariest book to ever exist, which was once in his possession, has been stolen from his house. However, this isn’t just some normal book, for if it’s opened, it could unleash horrors onto this earth unlike those we have ever seen. He asks the twins to help him retrieve the book from the thief, who has disappeared into the Wayward forest, which they begrudgingly agree to do.

A fast-paced tale with plenty of twists in this Goosebumps novel

While Scariest. Book. Ever. never explains what makes the McGuffin so terrifying, Uncle Wendell stresses the point enough that all three set off into the forest to find the thief and save the world from the horrors in the book. What Wendell fails to explain is the horrors that reside in the forest, who aren’t keen on unwelcome guests. Those unwelcome guests are Betty and Billy, who must gather their courage if they wish to make it out alive.

From this point on, Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. continues at a breakneck pace, packing in tons of crazy creatures, many of which feel like created by a child playing with a plethora of Mr. Potato Head collections. Seriously, they seemed to get wackier the longer the book went on. The novel also has so many twists and turns, many of them felt unwarranted or unearned, which took me out of the book at times.

For the lack of such explanations as well as the twists and turns that took place throughout the novel, I had to remind myself that this series is aimed at young children and not adults. Because of that a deeper exploration of characters isn’t necessary and could bog the story down. The less is more approach works best with children, providing just enough to further the story without complicating it. Reminding myself of that, I was able to contain the eye rolls and become enveloped in the story.

Comparing new Goosebumps to old

So naturally, having grown up with the original Goosebump series, reading this newest entry I found myself comparing it to what I’ve already read. I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a Goosebumps book in years, probably since middle school and I’m in my thirties. That being said, I have vivid memories of many of the books having read them more than once, as well as the television series that seriously freaked me out when I was younger. 

So my excitement at being able to review another from the mind of R. L. Stine was exhilarating, I was ready to visit my childhood once again. However, Goosebumps House of Shivers #1 wasn’t the revisit to simpler times as I had hoped it would be. This newest entry into the world of Goosebumps didn’t have the same feel of horror that I’d remembered from the earlier entries. While it’s possible that is because I’m now an adult with a new definition of what is scary, that didn’t feel like the reason this novel didn’t work for me.

Instead, House of Shivers # 1 works much better if you frame it in your head as an action-adventure novel, with just a hint of horror to it. With that in mind, you can view it outside the framework of a Goosebumps novel, and it makes much more sense. All that being said, the story that R. L. Stine tells in this novel is great, especially for those in elementary to middle school.

Billy, who serves as the narrator of this tale, is your typical pre-teen boy, who is incredibly relatable, especially if you have a bossy sister who thinks because they are older (for Billy it’s only ten minutes) and therefore knows better than you. You can see your inner child within Billy and Betty, as they challenge the world and each other to be brave in the face of adversity. They make this story enjoyable, especially for adults reading this novel with their children.

If you’re a parent looking for a new novel to read for the spooky season, which is just around the corner, then Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. is a great choice. However, if you’re looking to read this and recapture your love for Goosebumps from your childhood, well you might just be a tad disappointed.

My Rating: 6/10

Goosebumps House of Shivers #1: Scariest. Book. Ever. by R. L. Stine is available September 19 . Will you be reading this one? Let us know on X or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Brian Kitson

Working hard to bring you the latest news and thoughtful analysis of all things nerdy!

Brian Kitson has 358 posts and counting. See all posts by Brian Kitson