By R.L. Stine
Available now from Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)
I outgrew R.L. Stine's books pretty quick. I still kept reading them regularly, at least through seventh grade, because they were fun. Formulaic, yes, but the Fear Street books especially were chock-full of inventive deaths. For a morbid little kid an inventive death goes a long way.
Nowadays, I have a fond nostalgia for Stine. It helps that I met him once in person and he was incredibly nice. (I was super awkward because my friend dropped out on me and I was the only person over eighteen there alone.) Without that nostalgia, I might not have finished A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SCREAM. But I'm sure the intended audience for the novel will enjoy it. There's one death that's probably going to make my dreams a little freaky for a night or two.
The plot is simple: Claire and her best friend Delia have small roles in Mayhem Manor, the remake of a never-finished horror film. Three members of the original cast died on tape. Pretty soon, bad things start happening to the new cast too. It's made clear that the studio will shut down if the production fails, but it's still hard to believe they don't close down the film for everyone's safety. As for the connection to A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's fairly faint. Each girl has a crush on a guy who has a crush on the other girl. There's also a hairy man, Mr. Puckerman, with potions.
There was one aspect I found disappointing. I remember Stine being delightfully gross, but I don't remember him being gross about gender. There's a third girl, Annalee, who goes after Jake when Claire keeps failing to make a move. She's catty about it, but it still grated on me when Claire and Delia constantly derided her for being a slut. No wonder she didn't care to observe their unspoken hands off.
Don't go into A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM expecting complex characterization and an involved plot. The characters are types, and sometimes hard to keep track of since there's a bunch of them. The plot is only complicated in that it often requires people to act quite stupid. Claire, for instance, keeps using potions she steals from Mr. Puckerman despite always grabbing the wrong one.
But I can't help but find something comforting about Stine's formula. He's keeping cheesy teen (and child friendly) horror alive. Just take a look at the fine work of Bitching, Books, and Baking to see how big the genre used to be.