They Learn A Lesson? I Guess?: Chicken, Chicken (Goosebumps #53) Chapters 21-27

Today we finish reading this year’s Goosebumps book, Chicken, Chicken, just in time for Halloween tomorrow! Who doesn’t love a scary story to get in the mood for Halloween? It’s a shame we didn’t read one.

The 53rd book of a series is not usually the best one.
The 53rd book of a series is not usually the best one.

Chapter 21

The last chapter ended with Crystal and Cole breaking into Vanessa’s house to look through her spell books, and suddenly seeing Vanessa. This chapter begins by letting us know that Vanessa is not there, actually:

I spun around—and saw Vanessa’s cat leap onto the high back of an old armchair. […]
“I-I thought it was Vanessa,” Cole murmured.

Man, I wish every book were written with cliffhangers as terrible as this. It might be the one thing that could make Fifty Shades of Grey even worse. “Christian and Ana started having sex. CHAPTER TWO. Christian and Ana actually weren’t having sex at all.” I can see it now.

Crystal finds a promising spell book, and then Vanessa is there.

Chapter 22

I swallowed hard.
And realized I was staring at a painting. A huge oil portrait of Vanessa.

Goosebumps just used the exact same cliffhanger fake-out twice. Once was just not enough for the thrills and chills that was “I thought someone was there, but they weren’t”.

why does this keep happening

Crystal shares her discovery of the spell book with Cole.

“Cole—look!” I exclaimed, holding up the front cover. “It’s called Chicken Chicken Chicken.

…I have questions about this.

  1. Why three “Chickens”? To make it different from the title of the book itself? Why would that even be important?
  2. Even in the context of the world of Goosebumps, what publisher decided this was a good book title? That would be like getting a college syllabus and finding that you need to buy a textbook titled Chemistry Chemistry Chemistry.
  3. So does that mean that the only spell in this book is the “turn a human into a chicken” spell? Why would someone buy that?

They leave with the book, only mildly concerned that Vanessa’s cat is giving them a death glare during the process. You’d maybe think that in a world where humans can be turned into animals, they’d be slightly more concerned about this.

They arrive home and make a horrible discovery, which of course has to be saved for after the chapter cliffhanger.

Chapter 23

“It’s the wrong book!” I cried, jumping up from the bed. I left a pile of feathers where I’d been sitting. “It’s a cookbook! It’s a whole book of chicken recipes!”

As many questions as this answers about the insanely stupid title of this book that we’re supposed to accept is a real book, this really just raises a more important question about why on earth these kids wouldn’t even open the book before they decided to steal it.

The situation grows more dire when Crystal gets a glimpse of herself in the mirror and realizes she looks like the middle part of an Animorphs book cover:

My eyes! My head!
My eyes had changed into small, round circles. And the shape of my head was changing, too. Growing narrow. My eyes were far apart now, moving to the sides of my head.
Seriously, these things are hilarious
Seriously, these things are hilarious

They go back to Vanessa’s house, where hopefully they’ll actually open up a book to see if it has magic spells in it or not this time. I can’t wait for these idiots to turn into chickens.

I dropped the recipe book on the coffee table and turned to the stack of books beside the couch. […]
Cole let out a triumphant squawk. “These books—they’re all magic books!” he declared.
“You’re bluuuck right,” I agreed. “Hundreds and hundreds of magic spells.”

How did they manage to fuck this up the first time? I have more questions about this than I do about the turning-into-chickens part.

Cole points out that the literal hundreds and hundreds of books poses something of a significant problem:

Cole flipped rapidly through the pages of his book. His eyes were practically spinning! “How will we ever find the right one?” he demanded.
“I think I just found it,” I told him.

Oh, good. That was easy. I’d hate to have to take three chapters for them to so much as open up a single book. For instance.

They find a human-to-chicken spell, but no chicken-to-human spell. Reviewing the instructions and finding that it’s just an incantation, they decide to try doing it backwards.

He turned to me. “Don’t forget to cluuuck bluuck,” he called.
I knew what he meant. He was reminding me to do the spell backwards.

This book is great.

I lowered my eyes to the bottom of the page. And I started to read the words, going up: “Cluck cluck chick. Chick cluck cluck chick.”

This makes sense, because I remember Vanessa doing exactly zero of those things when she cast the spell in the first place.

Chapter 24

The effects of the spell start to take place. And… yeah, I’m just gonna let the book take this one:

We weren’t chickens anymore. We were BIIIIIG chickens!
“I—I’m as big as a horse!” I cried.
I gazed up. The ceiling was only an inch or two above my head.

you done fucked up

I had to try to reverse the spell again.
Maybe I couldn’t turn us back into humans. But I might be able to shrink us back to our normal size.

O Lord, please let this be the rest of the book.

I was falling… falling… […] The book was taller than me!

Thank you, Lord.

“Cheep cheep!” I cried.
“Cheep cheep cheep,” I heard Cole’s tiny reply.
I spun around to find him. “Cheep?”
“Cheep cheep!”
He was a little yellow chick! I swallowed hard. I knew what that meant. That meant that I was also a tiny yellow chick!
I had reversed the spell—too much!

Aw, man, I was really hoping we’d get into some wacky “I tried to undo the spell again, but this time I grew EXTRA ARMS/started BREATHING FIRE/the bottom half of my body turned into AN OSTRICH” shenanigans. But noooooooooo. They couldn’t even fully turn chicken when they were giants. I would have also accepted “GIANT CHICKENS DESTROY RURAL TOWN” as an ending. But nooooooooooo.

I pecked my little beak furiously against the floor.

Although this is still pretty okay, to be honest.

Crystal starts wondering “why did Vanessa think she had a right to do this to us”, so it’s nice that the book is addressing the severe mismatch between “you knocked over someone’s groceries” crime and “therefore you will be turned into a chicken” punishment. It’s definitely a little late, but this should be a pretty important theme in this story. Maybe that’s what’s really scary in this Goosebumps novel. Maybe what’s really scary is the inefficacy of the individual against the unwarranted cruelties of life which could randomly happen to any one of us at any time.

Anyway, then the cat tries to eat them.

Chapter 25

Then Vanessa comes back. For real this time. Make up your mind, book.

Chapter 26

Vanessa laughed. “You’re both so cute!” she exclaimed. “What a shame I had to teach you a lesson.” She tsk-tsked.

Vanessa suddenly goes hard Bond villain.

“What should I do with you two?” Vanessa asked, her dark eyes flashing. “Should I send you back out? It’s a long way to your house from here. You’d probably be eaten before you got there.”

Crystal spots a typewriter and makes one last desperate effort to fix her situation. She leaps out of Vanessa’s hand onto the typewriter and starts pecking out a message.

VANESSA, WE’RE REALLY SORRY. WE DIDN’T MEAN TO SPILL YOUR GROCERIES. WE CAME TO APOLOGIZE.

I wonder how long this took.

Vanessa brought her face down close to me. “Your apology is a little too late,” she said coldly. “There’s nothing I can do.”

Well, given the usual Goosebumps tendency to just undo its cliffhangers…

Chapter 27

I stumbled back wearily onto the typewriter keys.
PLEAS, I pecked out.
I was so tired, I didn’t have the strength to push down the E at the end. […]
“Well…” she said finally. “I like the way you say ‘please’.”

Yup.

She carried us over to a tall bookshelf and held us close to the books. “Do you see my collection?” she asked. “All etiquette books. Dozens and dozens of manners books. I have dedicated my life to manners.”

How do they keep coming across entire other collections of all of her books? Where the hell are all of these books coming from?

“Politeness is so important,” Vanessa said, holding us up to her face. “Especially for young people. That’s what I care about more than anything else in the world. Good manners.” […]
So that’s why Anthony wasn’t turned into a chicken, too! I realized. Before he ran away, Anthony had called out to Vanessa that he was sorry.
If only Cole and I had apologized then!

I am not convinced that a single person in this book has actually gained any grasp on manners whatsoever.

arrested development always leave a note 1

arrested development always leave a note 2

Vanessa insists it’s still too late, so Crystal types one last desperate message:

THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING TO US. AND THANK YOU FOR TRYING TO TEACH US TO BE POLITE. YOURS TRULY, COLE AND CRYSTAL
[…] “I don’t believe it!” Vanessa exclaimed. She tore the sheet of paper from the typewriter and read it again. “A thank-you note!” she cried. “You wrote me a thank-you note!”
She gazed down at Cole and me with a broad smile. “No kids today ever write thank-you notes!”

Vanessa then undoes the curse and turns them back into humans. She then offers them some soda, because when a supernatural entity with an absolute and harsh code of justice based on a flawed sense of morality offers you some soda, this is a totally great time to score some free soda.

I raised my eyes and saw Cole tilt his glass to his mouth and drink the soda down. He was really thirsty!
When he finished, he lowered his glass—and let out the loudest burp I ever heard! […]
Vanessa stepped in front of me.
What is her problem? I wondered.
Then she pointed her finger, first at Cole, then at me. And whispered, “Pig pig.”

If there is a lesson to be learned in Chicken, Chicken, it has nothing to do with manners. It’s not to fuck with psychopaths.

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8 comments

  1. Bellomy Reply

    I forgot how much I loved this book. I so, so, so love this book.

    The final two chapters reach a level of total insanity and incoherence I would never have had the nerve to actually submit to a publisher and expect them to accept.

    You have to admit, it takes some huge balls to be able to go up to a publisher and say, “Look, I was running out of ideas, so I turned them into chickens, okay? Giant fucking chickens, that’s what I went with. Oh God, I’m so tired.”

    Publisher flips through book

    “Wait. So nobody notices them turning into chickens?”

    “No.”

    “Why would she care that it’s a thank you note? It literally has to be a note, they can’t talk, there’s no other way for them to communicate.”

    “Fuck if I know. Look, dude, it’s book fifty-three, come on.”

    Publisher stares

    “Can’t argue with that logic!”

    Like I said: Brass balls. I don’t think I could have done it.

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  2. Bellomy Reply

    Also, I guess:

    I raised my eyes and saw Cole tilt his glass to his mouth and drink the soda down.

    …is so much more fun to write than “I looked up and saw that Cole had already finished his soda.”

    Because normal people totally describe people drinking by explaining each step of the process (“First, he titled the glass to his mouth…”) and reminding the reader that when you drink, the liquid flows downward.

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    • matthewjulius Reply

      I was about to make a joke about Stine ripping off Alice in Wonderland, but I figured we all get that he was totally out of ideas by this point. Because it’s freaking Chicken, Chicken.

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  3. Confuzzled Reply

    Vanessa is so fucking insane she could be a teacher at the House of Night.

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  4. Judy Reply

    I blame the parents for raising these mannerless children. Vanessa was doing public service.

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