The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine
Carly Beth is a scaredy cat and everyone knows it, especially Steve and Chuck. Anytime they get the chance, they scare Carly Beth. It can be a “Boo” from around a corner or a story of a tarantula gone wild. Carly’s brother also likes to get in on scaring Carly. This year, she has determined to go as something really scary for Halloween. Her mother bought her a duck costume, but that’s not scary.
There’s a new costume shop in town. Carly begs entry into the store around five in the evening on Halloween. She doesn’t want to be a gorilla or a Freddy. There’s a room in the back though. Inside are very scary masks. The man refuses to sell her one, but she insists. She puts on the mask and she is terrifying. Her brother is scared. Her friends are scared. Carly finds a delightfully evil power in scaring other children. She finds she is mean in the mask. It’s as if something awful comes out in her when she wears the mask.
When she’s had her fun, or she thinks she’s had her fun, she tries to take the mask off, but there’s a problem–it won’t come off.
What I liked
Obviously, I get on subconscious kicks to read similar things sometimes. I just read another book concerning a mask and here I am reading this one. I think I recently did the same thing with vampires. I find this kind of funny.
You know, I can see this mask as being a metaphor. Sometimes we pretend to be someone or something else so we can act out some desire or rage that we normally wouldn’t act out, as ourselves. We have to ask ourselves a question though. Is it the real you if you hide something down deep that can only come out when you’re “pretending” to be someone else? Wouldn’t the “pretend” you be the more real you? At the same time, we’re all human every single one of us have had a desire to strangle someone else. Someone has, in reality, been so annoying, aggravating, crazy-making, or anger-making that we wouldn’t mind seeing them get run over by a steam roller. Do we act on these desires? Usually not. We calm down and know that violence is not the answer, unless it’s vigilante justice, in which case, violence is always the answer, but none of us are Batman, so we better hang up that hat.
This book reminds me of the idea of internet trolls. There are jerks on the internet, who may be perfectly nice people in real life who use the internet as a mask so they can belittle as many people as they want. They can get away with anonymously calling a thousand people fat, lazy slobs on the internet, whereas in real life, someone might tackle them, and this person would probably end up on the short end of that stick.
Carly isn’t a jerk, but I can understand her frustration. We all want to secretly get back at someone every once in a while. Carly found that getting back at people can make you something you’re not, or make you someone you don’t want to be. Horror of horrors, what if that new someone is the you you’re going to be forever?
What I didn’t like
I do find this book a little scary for kid standards. Maybe kids won’t think that deeply about this book though. I think I find it scary because of the deeper implications of “getting someone back,” but maybe that wouldn’t even cross a kid’s mind.
It’s a mask…no…it’s my face! Aaaaahhhhhh……..
Would you wear a weird mask you found in the back of some weird store?
If you could be someone else, would you act on some of those deep and taboo desires you might have?