As I have mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of scary stories, and I’ve never read an R. L. Stine novel (I know. Contain your shock, please!) But when Young Scrooge came in as a new book, I thought I would give it a try. I love Christmas stories that are a little nontraditional, and A Christmas Carol isn’t terribly spooky to me.
Rick Scroogeman has every reason to hate Christmas. His last name ensures that everyone teases him around Christmas time, and he has the unfortunate luck to be born on Christmas day. He just wants Christmas to go away, and has no problem ruining the Christmas play for his whole class. His antics bring him to the attention of his principal, who is not amused. When Rick sees no reason to repent, he is visited by the traditional ghosts. But will they actually change his life?
I’ll confess that I didn’t care for this book. Rick is a huge bully. Everything is a joke to him and he seems clueless to the pain of others. Of course, we all love to hate the traditional Scrooge. We want to see him get what’s coming to him, and there are elements of that in the story. But Rick’s journey to the past isn’t to his own past but to sometime in the 1800s. There is no contrast between the “old” Rick and the “new” one; it’s just bullies from an older time treating Rick like he treats others. The ghost of Christmas future takes Rick to some weird future with zombies that makes absolutely no sense. And Rick’s final conversion is less than sincere. The gifts he gives others assume a continuation of his bullying ways.
The book could have been so much better. Rick narrates the story, and is definitely an unreliable narrator. He keeps telling us that he’s not stupid, and then proves that he is. He is such a caricature of a bully that he’s unbelievable. Where the traditional Scrooge offers the hope of redemption, Rick just falls flat. I didn’t find the story at all scary, just sadly disappointing.