Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review - Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters by Bruce Coville

Short review: Stuart's life is complicated. His best friend is a ghost only he can see, the camp bully picks on him and turns into a monster, and he's being chased by a walking mummy. Just a normal summer at Camp Haunted Hills.

Colton is a jerk
Glassman wants to make movies
Campers are monsters

Full review: In Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters, Coville continues the story of Stuart Glassman's sojourn at Camp Haunted Hills, a summer camp for kids that is run by the famous movie director Gregory Stevens which teaches kids film making, picking up where How I Survived My Summer Vacation left off. This installment continues the kitchen sink approach to storytelling that seems to be de rigeur for this series, with the campers joined by Roger the Ghost, a walking, talking Egyptian mummy, and a formula that transforms people into monsters. But the main story of the book is Glassman's conflict with the camp bully Lucius Colton, who seems to have taken an instant dislike to the nerdy and bespectacled Glassman.

The main conflict of the book is fairly simple: Colton hates Glassman and acts like a jerk - pushing him around, dumping food on his head, and destroying his property. Glassman explains that he's tried reasoning with Colton, fighting Colton, and otherwise getting Colton to get off his back, all to no avail. Roger, well-meaning but kind of dumb, tries to help by pulling a prank on Colton which more or less backfires, resulting in a mess that embarrasses Glassman's favorite counselor Harry Housen and that Glassman and his Brenda Conners have to clean up. And of course, despite being the result of good intentions on Roger's part, it does nothing to slow down Colton's persecution of Glassman.

Having a ghost who can go anywhere without anyone seeing him as a character allows Coville to throw in some story elements out of left-field, and he does. Roger tells Stuart and Brenda that a delivery made to Gregory Stevens' home was a real Egyptian mummy, and that one of the delivery men stole something from the mummy's case. Coincidentally this story is related to Stuart and Brenda immediately after they find a mysterious gold bug-shaped object on the ground near the trail to Stevens' house, although neither of them make the fairly obvious connection.

Because the book is only 106 pages, the story hustles along quickly . Colton tries to get revenge on Stuart by turning the tables and playing the trick Roger played on Colton earlier on the entire camp. Colton's plan is plan to let Stuart take the blame for the initial disaster and at the same time save everyone himself and get the accolades of being a hero. Through the application of some quick thinking, film special effects technology, and the unexpected intervention of a walking mummy, Colton's plan is foiled, Stuart saves the day, and everything turns out okay.

Well, sort of. Some of My Best Friends Are Monsters is the middle book in the series, and it shows in several ways. The most notable is that by the end of the book, the conflict between Glassman and Colton has resulted in a temporary triumph for Glassman, but remains unresolved. The book does not even include a message about being friends, or being nice, which makes it quite unusual for a Coville story. As a result, the book feels somewhat incomplete, and not much more than some funny filler in between How I Survived My Summer Vacation and The Dinosaur That Followed Me Home.

Previous book in the series: How I Survived My Summer Vacation
Subsequent book in the series: The Dinosaur That Followed Me Home

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  1. I do remember this book, kind of liked it and didn't mind that it was filler. But I think we bought all the books at once, so there really was no filler for my kids.

  2. @Julia Rachel Barrett: All three of the Camp Haunted Hills books are very short - so short that they could easily be condensed into a single volume. I figure if you moved directly to the third book the "filler" aspect of this one wouldn't be so apparent, but I think it suffers somewhat because it is little more than a bridge between the first and third books in the series.