My parents, in their wisdom, never let my brother or me read the Goosebumps series. But they let – no, encouraged us to read gothic novels by John Bellairs, which are creepy and disturbing and AWESOME on a deeper level.
Bellairs writes about losers. His heroes are chubby, pale, klutzy boys who have no friends and lots of personal flaws. They tend to have close relationships with older men that are, in retrospect,. probably kind of unhealthy in their intensity.
These loser kids get mixed up in all kinds of horrible doings. Lewis Barnavelt in The House with a Clock in Its Walls necromances an evil spirit to impress a new friend. Johnny Dixon in The Curse of the Blue Figurine pilfers a statuette from a church and brings down the wrath of the Pharaohs. Doomsday is usually in the offing. Which is much more scary than the slimy ghouls in Goosebumps.
Besides the supernatural baddies, there’s lots of human cruelty. Kids bully our pudgy heroes relentlessly. There’s betrayal, cowardice, weakness. People sniffle and whine.
But these books are comforting, too, because everything is alright in the end. The good guys vanquish evil, save the world and drink hot cocoa with fluffy marshmallows. Which is not a bad way to live your life.
I almost forgot to mention that Edward Gorey designed the covers. His drawings suit the books perfectly. They capture the awkward, slouching kids and the musty evil that lurks around them.
Hunt down a couple of these books, find a hammock and a sweet cold drink and spend a sunny afternoon in bliss. You won’t regret it.
P.S. My favorites in no order: The House with a Clock in Its Walls; The Mansion In the Mist; The Chessmen of Doom; The Curse of the Blue Figurine.