Horror Novel Review: Bad Dreams by R.L. Stine


First published in 1994, Bad Dreams is yet another R.L. Stine YA novel about life on Fear Street.

This time, it’s Maggie and her younger sister Andrea who have moved into a new house on Fear Street.  Maggie and Andrea are rivals about almost everything.  They’re both super competitive swimmers who are fighting for the right to represent their high school at the State Championship.  They both like Justin, who is typical boring R.L. Stine boyfriend.  They ever argue over who should get the ornate bed in Maggie’s new bedroom.  Because Maggie agreed to let Andrea have the bigger room, Maggie gets to keep the bed.

I don’t know, Maggie.  You might want to rethink that.

It turns out that the last owner of the bed was actually stabbed to death while laying on top of it.  Soon, Maggie is having disturbing dreams where she sees the murder happening.  Is Maggie being contacted from beyond the grave or are her dreams warning her that she’s about to become the next victim?  And what about all the strange noises coming from the attic?

Soon, Maggie is struggling when it comes to school and swimming because she’s just not getting enough sleep!  (This book made me happy that I’ve never needed more than 3 hours of sleep to function.)  However, the other two girls who are competing against Maggie and Andrea for a chance to go to State each falls victim to a bizarre accident!  Someone is taking out the competition!  Is it the ghost?  Is it Andrea?  Could it even be Maggie herself!?

Will Maggie be able to solve the mystery?  Will she eventually get a good night’s sleep and fulfil the promise of having sweet dreams?  Will she and Andrea ever be able to put aside their sibling rivalry?  And who will go to State!?

And, perhaps most importantly, does anyone really care?

As far as the plot is concerned, Bad Dreams is an example of R.L. Stine on autopilot.  All of the questions are eventually answered but the answers seem to come out of nowhere and it’s hard to escape the feeling that Stine pretty much just kept writing until he reached the minimum word requirement and then he decided to quickly wrap things up without really worrying about whether or not he had provided enough clues to keep the reader from feeling as if she had been denied a fair chance to solve the mystery on her own.  That said, the first of Maggie’s dreams was nicely creepy and the constant arguing between Maggie and Andrea was kind of entertaining.  I’ve got three older sisters so I imagine that every single one of them could probably have related to Maggie at some point while we were all growing up.  (It also helped that Andrea and Maggie had red hair, just like me!)  Plus, all of the drama around the swim team reminded me of the later episodes of Saved By The Bell: The New Class, in which it suddenly turned out that everyone at Bayside was obsessed with the swim team.  Today, books like this are best used for nostalgia and that’s what I definitely felt while reading Bad Dreams.

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