Camp is supposed to be fun, but Sarah hates Camp Cold Lake. The lake is gross and slimy. And she’s having a little trouble with her bunkmates. They hate her.
So Sarah comes up with a plan. She’ll pretend to drown — then everyone will feel sorry for her.
But things don’t go exactly the way Sarah planned. Because down by the cold, dark lake someone is watching her. Stalking her. Someone with pale blue eyes. And a see-through body. . . . (goodreads.com)
Yeah, still thinking Goosebumps is better than Fear Street. Stine just has the dynamic between characters going better in these books, there’s more development (a feat considering they’re significantly shorter than the Fear Street books) and they’re creepier. Sure, you go into a Goosebumps book thinking it’s going to be a little silly but these really remind me of old Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes where there’s a creepy build-up and sometimes there’s a resolution and sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes silly but usually always hitting the mark with fear. Seriously, I just like these better.
Sarah isn’t really that great of a character. Super whiny and spastic but at least she’s self-aware. She’s not deluding herself when she forced her new bunk mate out of an already chosen bed because she just can’t sleep next to an open window and she doesn’t listen to people because she feels she knows better but immediately regrets it when she realizes she’s wrong. I really don’t feel bad for her when people start teasing her because she is difficult to like. She does start backsliding a bit when she attempts to drown herself in a bid to get people to feel bad for her and like her (an extreme stretch that even Sarah recognizes) because, really, she is where she is with people because she’s socially inept, she recognizes it, but doesn’t do anything to help herself at all.
When her near-death drowning experience opens her world up to ghosts things start getting a little creepy. Like RETURN OF THE MUMMY, THE CURSE OF CAMP COLD LAKE has a slow build and then the supernatural is brought in in one large lump sum toward the end. It gets difficult to tell whether what’s happening with the ghost is inside or outside of Sarah’s head and I like that type of horror. It shakes things up a bit when the plot starts to make the main character a little unreliable but everything does eventually settle itself.
The ending, I think, was the best part. This is one of those stories without a resolution and a solid twist ending that I certainly didn’t see coming. Looking back on it it actually doesn’t really fit and it’s kind of a standard Stine out of nowhere ending but considering I wasn’t rolling my eyes through the whole book I’m far more forgiving of it here than I am when it happens in a Fear Street book. I had far better characters to read, a much more developed setting and story, and something far creepier to work with. Instead of piling on to a bunch of negatives it’s only a lone negative in a bunch of positives. Far more palatable.
I’ve never been to camp but this is what I imagined it would be in terms of dynamic between campers and councilors and the mandatory fun you’re supposed to have. Stine set a really good scene and then gave me a good creeper of a story on top of that. A haunted camp? How Jason Voorhees. Minus the body count and for a younger crowd.