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Item - Something's in the Woods

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(Hardcover edition)
(Hardcover edition)
(Hardcover edition)
(Hardcover edition)

Combined Summary

Series: Choose Your Own Nightmare (1995-1997) — no. 12
Translated Into: El bosque tenebroso (Spanish)
Author: Brightfield, Richard
Illustrator: Schmidt, William (Bill)
Dates: November, 1996 (Paperback edition)
1997 (Hardcover edition)
ISBN: 0553483315 / 9780553483314 (Paperback edition)
Publishers: Hardcover edition: Gareth Stevens Publishing -- United States
Paperback edition: Bantam -- United States
LC Cataloging in Publication Summary: The reader's decisions control the course of an adventure in the woods involving spooky ghost kids, disappearing parents, underground goblins, and mind-blowing time warps.
Jordashebasics's Thoughts:

You and your parents go camping in Wiley Woods, where spooky things are rumored to happen.

Normally, I get annoyed about the lack of focus that some of these books have, when the title promises one thing, and the vast majority of the book delivers something completely different. See Beware the Snake's Venom. With a title as vague as Something's in the Woods, this one avoids that problem. This book doesn't have a central plotline, but at least the title didn't promise anything.

The branches are also strange, and they are diverse enough that it never feels like anything was explained. There's a ghostly girl, her ghostly parents, and they want to cook you alive. You do a bit of time traveling, running into a troupe of traveling entertainers. A bear steals your candy bars. You encounter a bunch of ghosts of lost kids. And there are a few endings that involve goblins or something. It's strange stuff.

Reading all of the content doesn't reward the reader with a more complete story. As such, it's not that interesting.

More reviews by Jordashebasics

KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

Based on premise alone, Something's in the Woods has all the elements to be one of the most exciting Choose Your Own Nightmares. You and your parents are going camping in a state park called Wiley Woods. Right away, the place You see only one apparent employee, a spaced-out man with a non-professional demeanor, but once you make camp beside the beautiful lake, you figure you'll be all right. As a kid your dad camped in Wiley Woods with your uncle Joe, but he admits there have long been stories of the supernatural here: ghost kids, goblins, and more. Sticking close by your parents seems sensible, but in the middle of the night you awaken to find their tent gone. They wouldn't have packed up and left without you, so where are they?

Staying at your single-occupancy tent when you hear sounds from the direction of the car could lead to an encounter with a goblin masquerading as your mother, but more likely you'll find yourself in the company of an old-fashioned troupe of performers around a crackling campfire. Carlo, a boy your age decked out in court jester garb, greets you. He hasn't seen your parents, but offers you a ride with the troupe into the nearby town of Dunston. Carlo cautions that Wiley Woods is full of disconcerting surprises that often involve time distortion, but have you really have been transported to the distant past? Leaving Carlo now results in a spooky ending, but a ride into Dunston appears to confirm you have gone back centuries in time. The local tavern doesn't recognize your coins to be legitimate currency, as you learn too late; you're in danger of being publicly hanged. You might escape the tavern owner and rejoin Carlo's troupe to spend the remainder of your life as a performing juggler, or be thrown in jail with other kids accused of malfeasance. Can you and Joshua, a friendly fellow inmate about your age, contrive a way out? Depending how you react when faced with the hangman's noose, you may or may not end up back in the present day with your parents.

If you immediately follow the sound of voices in the direction of your parents' car rather than linger by the tent, the decision moves you into the orbit of a girl named Amanda with sickly yellow eyes. Accompanied by Algenon, her brutish bear-dog of a pet, Amanda warns that if you continue wandering, goblins will grab you. Leaving Amanda at this point is a perilous undertaking, but if you go with her to the park information center, you learn she and her parents are untrustworthy. Using dark magic, they force you upstairs to bed until they can sort matters out in the morning. You can't stay here until dawn; you have to locate your parents! If you allow the spell to hold you overnight, you'll wake up to Amanda and family preparing to serve you as part of a meal. Will your parents save you in the nick of time? Resisting the spell leaves you with a couple avenues of escape, but don't forget about Algenon, capable of hunting you down far more effectively than Amanda. If you survive to leave Wiley Woods with your mom and dad, you'll know you've done something right. Either that, or were very lucky.

Something's in the Woods is frustrating to rate. One or two story threads grabbed my attention in the best way, particularly your adventure with Carlo's troupe. The secondary and tertiary characters in this thread are developed better than usual for a junior gamebook; Joshua especially, the blonde boy with bulging eyes whom you meet in the klink, adds color to the story. If the entire book were written with such personality and attention to detail it would be a highlight of the Choose Your Own Nightmare series, but most of it is a mess of internal contradictions and silliness that fails to be compelling. Also, the threat posed by Wiley Woods is ill-defined, without any cohesive story behind the villains you face. This book is worth a reread for its deeper threads, but I can't bring myself to call it good.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

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Known Editions

Paperback edition
Hardcover edition

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