Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-46306-3
You have been very naughty. You have won first prize in a horror story contest with your entry The Revenge of the Werewolves… and you are on your way to Twisted Tree Lodge to receive your prize: a weekend convention with the most famous horror writers out there. Isn’t this exciting? Only, you didn’t write that story. You found it in the trash at your school, wrote your details on the sheet but couldn’t remember what you did with it next, and the next thing you know, your name has been announced as the winner. Still, there can’t be any harm to just enjoying your ill-gotten prize!
Weird things happen the moment you step off the bus. You spot a black-clothed man dropping some papers from his brief case. You pick up a few sheets and realize that it’s “your story” (which you have never managed to read until now), and it’s about a kid who pretended to have written his prize-winning entry attending a conference of horror writers. The story will end with everyone in the lodge butchered by werewolves as revenge for the crappy treatment these creatures receive in horror stories! Oh no, the man has vanished, leaving you to stand there in terror. Is the story describing your future? What will you do now?
For once, The Werewolf of Twisted Tree Lodge doesn’t diverge into two very different story arcs like other gamebooks in the Give Yourself Goosebumps series. You will be scrambling around the lodge all right in every route you take, although villains in one option may turn out to be the good guys in the other, depending on your options and RL Stine’s whimsy. There will be werewolves, of course, along with vampires, zombies, and more. Also, there are considerably more happy endings here, so this one is almost like a gamebook from another series that accidentally stumbled into this one. It’s not at all formulaic!
This one works like a charm, because it succeeds in creating a menacing vibe that doesn’t let up even when things are supposed to be funny. There are nods to everything from In the Mouth of Madness-style living-out-a-story thing to The Howling, so much so that exploring all the options here can be a very fun experience. The bad endings are also pretty violent for something meant for kids, so that’s a plus too.
The later gamebooks in this series tend to feel more like “real” gamebooks and less random-o-mizer scenes strung together, but the end result can still be hit and miss. This one, though, is a hit as there are genuine glimmers of inspiration and creativity here. You can consider this a belated apology for Night in Werewolf Woods.