You Can’t Scare Me
Series number: 15
Number of pages: 120
Release date: January 1994
Tagline: They’re coming for you…
Did I Read It as a Child?: Yes
The Story On the Back
Courtney is a total show-off. She thinks she’s so brave and she’s always making Eddie and his friends look like wimps. But now Eddie’s decided he’s had enough. He’s going to scare Courtney once and for all. And he’s come up with the perfect plan. He’s going to lure Courtney down to Muddy Creek. Because Eddie knows Courtney believes in that silly rumor about the monsters. Mud Monsters that live in the creek. Too bad Eddie doesn’t believe the rumor. Because it just might be true….
The Story On the Pages
You Can’t Scare Me is a story following one girl who’s seemingly unafraid of everything and four friends who are big enough dicks to want to keep pranking the girl until they find what she’s scared of. Honestly Stine, where do you come up with some of this stuff?
So yeah, I’ve pretty much given you exactly what You Can’t Scare Me is all about in one semi-run on sentence. The story follows the four friends, two boys and two girls. The boys are Eddie (our POV), and Herbie (nicknamed Hat because he always wears a hat and Stine is primo at the nickname game). And the girls are Charlene and Molly (and the fact they have ovaries is as much character development as they get).
These four friends spend 85% of this story failing to scare the unscareable Courtney. They then spend the next 10% coming up with a plan that’s actually got some gumption, and then the last 5% teasing me with the scary story this book could have been but chose, of its own free will not to!
The town where they live has the amazing urban legend of the Muddy Creek Mud Monsters. The backstory has it that a hundred years ago the town refused to house a certain group of people (probably black or Asian people if we’re being honest) and they were forced to build a shanty town near Muddy Creek. One night Muddy Creek flooded and the people living around its banks were drowned in the mud. Now, once a year under the light of the full moon, the poor souls who drowned in the mud said to rise from the creek and drag unsuspecting victims back down with them.
But that’s just the last 10% of the book! Stine came up with this amazing legend that’s actually scary as hell, and then decided to have Eddie and Co. put rubber snakes in Courtney’s lunch bag, or drop a tarantula near her, or lure her into the woods to get a trained dog to pretend to attack her.
Mud Monsters > literally everything else Eddie comes up with!
By the time Eddie actually thinks of the Mud Monster plan, you’ll be angry with how few pages are left in the book to enact the plan. The plan being that Eddie’s older brother and two of his friends muck themselves up like Mud Monsters and stumble out of the woods to scare Courtney. Who, yes, has been lured into the woods twice by the same group of people that she knows are actively trying to scare her!
By the last 5% of the story, we actually get to see the Mud Monsters in action. And here’s the thing that really makes this whole endeavour a big old slap across the face – the Mud Monsters that shamble towards Courtney and Eddie are not Eddie’s older brother. They’re actual Mud Monsters!
The legend is real! There are horrible monsters chasing Eddie through the woods, trying to catch him so they can drag him down into the mud and make him a monster too!
THIS IS THE LAST CHAPTER OF THE STORY! It ends after this brief encounter of what should have been the main focus of the whole damn book and then we never even get a sequel to satisfy the Mud Monster carvings the last few pages of this book ignites!
The characters of You Can’t Scare Me have Eddie and Co. as the so-called protagonists of the piece and Courtney the Unscarable as the antagonist. I don’t know how the rest of the world feels about Courtney, but this girl did not deserve all the shit that Eddie, Hat, Charlene, and Molly thought she deserved. The girl isn’t scared of anything, so what? Why go out of your way to try and make her scared of something? What’s in it for you except a story to share amongst yourselves after the fact?
Who else but Eddie and his asshole friends care if Courtney is frightened of anything? They’re clearly the antagonists of this story but we’re made to feel they’re not because they’re the POV that we follow. I mean, the POV should have been Courtney, we should be made to sympathize with her. I actually do regardless of Eddie’s thoughts on the matter.
Courtney is presented as generous, kind, and intelligent. She shares her lunch at school, she rescues a cat out of a tree, she educates those around her about what snakes might be dangerous in the woods – WHY IS SHE THE ENEMY?!
I also ended up liking Eddie’s older brother Kevin. He has quite a few interactions with Matt throughout the story and plays a huge part in it come the end. He had a good dynamic with Eddie. He was the older sibling and he no doubt made sure Eddie knew that, but he wasn’t antagonistic about it. There’s even a scene where Eddie and him discuss scare tactics and I just love that so much! When siblings work together (or when any usually opposing forces work together) is my jam! Don’t ask why, it just is!
I’m also so down for the older brother agreeing to slather himself in mud to help Eddie out. With the stipulation that Eddie do all of his brother’s chores for a month of course. Older siblings know how to keep the younger ones in line after all.
Spooks and Scares
I am so disappointed in You Can’t Scare Me. What happened Stine? Why make an in-depth backstory for creatures that are only going to appear for ten pages at the end of the story? There’s writing a slow-burning horror story and then there’s writing most of a story, coming up with something really great near the end, but being too lazy to rework the story overall. And that’s when you get You Can’t Scare Me.
It’s simple how you fix this narrative into something all around scary and entertaining: Mud Monsters right off the bat.
Give us a chapter or two to introduce characters and get the backstory of the Mud Monsters out of the way and then just get right into the monsters. You don’t need Courtney at all, or if you do, have her in a different capacity. Make her the kid that always wins the science fair but this year Eddie and Co. want to win because the prize is really awesome. Send them out in the woods to try and discover Mud Monsters. Now you’ve got four kids lost in the woods while the undead undesirables of their town’s racist history drag themselves out of the mud around them. And BAM:
Another angle that could have been explored is that the Mud Monsters are known and acknowledged and it could have been like the scarecrow episode of Supernatural, where a small selection of adults within a small town orchestrate a sacrifice of a man and woman so there are bountiful harvests. I don’t think the small town surrounding Muddy Creek needed bountiful harvests, so make You Can’t Scare Me instead a story of protecting the town’s dirty little secret.
Or is it too heavy to have a story aimed at the 9-12 age group show that white people will do literally anything to keep their family’s legacy from looking bad because saving face is more important than admitting when wrong doing was perpetrated?
As it stands now, You Can’t Scare Me lives up to its title by being a book full of scares that aren’t scary. And I’m sure you already know this, but I’ll say it for prosperity, a horror story doesn’t really work with no scares.