My Best Friend is Invisible
Series number: 57
Number of pages: 114
Release date: July 1997″
Tagline: Not seeing is believing!
Did I Read It as a Child?: No
The Story On the Back
Sammy Jacobs is into ghosts and science fiction. Not exactly the smartest hobby–at least not if you ask Sammy’s parents. They’re research scientists and they only believe in real science. But now Sammy’s met someone who’s totally unreal. He’s hanging out in Sammy’s room. And eating his cereal at breakfast. Sammy’s got to find a way to get rid of his new “friend.” Only problem is…Sammy’s new “friend” is invisible!
The Story On the Pages
My Best Friend is Invisible is one of two stories with invisibility at its heart within the original Goosebumps series, the other one being Let’s Get Invisible. But this one here? Oh boy is this one a trip! Strap in folks, things are about to get weird.
Our story opens with a boy named Sammy having dinner with his family. There’s Simon, his perfect little brother, and his two parents, who are scientists that work with light and spend all their time talking about really phony sounding technology, including a flashlight that can detect invisible things. If you know anything about Chekhov’s gun (that if you need something at the end of the story, establish it at the beginning), you see where this is going.
But we’re not anywhere close to that yet. For the first quarter of this book, we get established in Sammy’s life. Like how he’s not great at math, his friend Roxanne is really bossy, and how he keeps his bedroom window closed to keep it warm. That’s actually part of the horror; Sammy keeps finding his bedroom window open when he keeps it closed!
The invisible presence “haunts” Sammy for a few chapters before they officially meet. The thing helps him with a math problem (hey, my kind of invisible friend!) but also ends up trashing Sammy’s room with half eaten food because it’s always eating. When Sammy is blamed for the messy room and made to clean it, the invisible thing makes itself known.
Turns out it’s a twelve year old boy named Brent. He’s been invisible for as long as he could remember and wants to be Sammy’s friend.
For the last three quarters of the book, this story progresses like all Goosebumps books where Stine wasn’t completely passionate about the narrative he was telling, and that’s to say it’s boring.
It’s real boring, guys.
You’d think something interesting could be written about an invisible boy that’s effectively haunting another boy, but nope. Brent is just awful to have around because he always thinks he’s helping but he screws things up.
Come the end of the story, Sammy has had enough of the invisible presence and tries to tell people about him so they can get rid of him. Since these are Stine-patented shitty parents though, they don’t believe their son is being followed by an invisible boy and instead try to, more or less, commit him to an asylum.
Not even a frank heart to heart first, straight to the nuthouse with Sammy!
Understandably, Sammy is not a fan of the old “we’re taking you to a special doctor” routine from his parents and pleads his case that he can show everyone the invisible boy. They go along with their son as he uses their special flashlight (named the Molecule Detector Light) to find the invisible boy.
Find the invisible boy they do, and it’s not a boy, it’s a monster!
It only has one head and short, non-stretchy arms, and what’s that soft stuff growing out of the top of its head?
Sammy’s scientist parents recognize what it is, and ask Brent if he’s a human. He responds that he is and that his parents made him invisible so he’d have a better shot at life. Why’s he need to be invisible to live his life?
Humans are an endangered species.
My Best Friend is Invisible ends with Sammy begging his parents to keep the human boy as a pet but his parents saying he’ll be better off in a zoo. And there it ends, with us left to assume that Brent went into captivity where he grew fat and unwilling to breed.
My Best Friend is Invisible really should have been out of the invisible kid’s perspective. It really, really, really, REEEAAALLLYYY should have been out of the invisible kid’s perspective!
And that’s really saying something because neither of our two main characters are good. Not even tolerable! Sammy spends most of the book either telling Brent to show himself to other people or screeching at Brent because he fucked up. He’s not leading man material. Brent himself offers only a slightly better alternative because he’s invisible and a human in a monster world.
If the story had been out of Brent’s perspective, maybe we could have had some expansion on this Earth where monsters have apparently taken over and are living lives identical to humans, right down to pizza, math homework, and haunted house stories! But no, we don’t get that. We get Sammy dealing with an invisible pest.
Stine just doesn’t write very good male characters (or maybe he just writes male characters that are too true to life and that’s why I hate them?) because most of the time, they’re little shits. Sammy and Brent are two of those little shits. Loud, competitive, slovenly, whiny, name an undesirable trait in a man and one (if not both) of these two have it!
They make me wish the words on the page had been invisible so I didn’t have to read about them.
Spooks and Scares
Is My Best Friend is Invisible scary?
An invisible twelve year old boy that’s bothering another twelve year old boy is not a tale of terror. It’s annoying. So much of this narrative is spent with Sammy being frustrated that Brent has done something. Be it tripping him up in a relay race or messing up his room with half eaten food. That’s not scary! That’s not anything! Brent is a needy slob and Sammy gets upset about it. If you’ve ever seen a sitcom, you’ve seen this dynamic. And did it scare you?
Stine has another invisibility story titled Let’s Get Invisible and it succeeds because it doesn’t just give you an invisible boy and expect you to quake from that alone. There’s an exploration of the invisibility (to a degree) and world building. The world building in My Best Friend is Invisible amounts to little more than the mention of a haunted house.
And that haunted house? What I wouldn’t have given for that to have been the story, or at least more central to the story. The invisible boy could have been living there as a “ghost” to keep himself safe, but no. A haunted house is mentioned, along with a bitchin’ backstory for a single chapter of tomfoolery and that’s it.
Can invisibility never be scary? No, of course it can! Anything can be scary, but it depends entirely on how you use it. Sammy and Brent had normal conversations together, it just so happened that Brent was invisible while they talked about these mundane things. How needy Brent was could have been played to better effect too. As it is, it’s just two obnoxious pre-teen boys that don’t get along very well!
And don’t even get me started on the “twist” ending! Brent is really a human and everyone else around him are monsters? What was the point? To retroactively scare us? Because it doesn’t work! All it does is raise a few superficial questions that will never be answered, so they are just as quickly forgotten as they are thought up. Not to mention that Stine already pulled this trick with both Welcome to Camp Nightmare and The Girl Who Cried Monster.
The only nice thing I can say about My Best Friend is Invisible is that it’s about an invisible person and that invisible person isn’t Johnny Depp. So it at least has that going for it.