Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Boyfriend (Novel)

The Boyfriend (Novel) Release date: 1990. Author: R.L. Stine. Publisher: Scholastic Inc. ISBN: 0590432796.

Plot summary: Joanna Collier is sixteen-years-old, lives with her mother and has everything she wants. After her parents’ divorce, her mother received a lot of money, and Joanna lives the life of a princess: she drives a new BMW, lives in a mansion, has all the most expensive clothes. Despite her plush existence, however, Joanna is cold. She has trouble feeling anything for anyone. She loves to play cruel games with boys, including her adventuresome boyfriend Dex who comes from the wrong side of town. Joanna intends to break up with Dex, but before she can, there is a terrible accident and Dex is killed. Feeling more relief than anything that she is now off the hook from having to break up with him, Joanna moves on to her new boyfriend, the rich and classy Shep. Joanna’s best friend, Mary, is shocked by her callous disregard for everyone in her life. But then something happens that doesn’t fit into Joanna’s perfect world: Dex comes back from the grave. Joanna is confused, but agrees to keep dating Dex despite her better judgment. But something is wrong. Dex is different. He limps, he smells musty, and his skin is turning an unsettling green. Could it be that Joanna is now dating the zombie-version of the guy she used to toy with?

Critical evaluation: Acclaimed writer R.L. Stine creates a creepy tale with a message in The Boyfriend. The story starts off introducing Joanna, the main character, but not exactly the protagonist. Joanna is the quintessential spoiled brat. She’s manipulative, stuck-up, callous and selfish. The reader feels nothing but disdain for Joanna. When her sweet and endearing boyfriend, Dex, is killed, it’s almost hard to stomach how little Joanna cares about the loss, but more about the convenience factor of not having to break up with him. When Dex returns, the reader is rooting for him, despite the fact that he has become slightly creepy. The story is an interesting one, particularly for the genre, in that the “monster” is the protagonist. Instead of a damsel in distress, Joanna is a vixen who needs to be taught a lesson. In the end, the reader will appreciate what Joanna learns as a result of her despicable behavior to the people in her life. The old adage of “treat others as you want to be treated” is given a zombie-twist in this entertaining read. The horror aspects of the story will also appeal to teens who are a fan of the genre.

Reader's annotation: Sixteen-year-old Joanna Collier has everything she wants: the perfect car, the perfect body, the perfect clothes. Her perfect world receives a surprising addition, however: the zombie-version of her ex-boyfriend, Dex, shows at her house one night, and he is intent on dating his old flame.

About the author: Robert Lawrence, or R.L. Stine was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1943. Stine began writing at age nine, despite his parents’ urges to go outside and play. He continued writing all the way through grade school, and, after graduating from Ohio State University in 1965, moved to New York City to pursue his career. Using the pen name “Jovial Bob Stine,” he wrote many humor books for children, and created a humor magazine called Bananas. Stine’s wife, Jane Waldhorn, created a publishing company, Parachute Press, which would publish Stine’s most famous books: his scary stories. In 1986, Stine published his first teen horror novel Blind Date, and decided to continue writing in this genre after the books success. In 1989, Stine began the Fear Street series which has since become the best selling teen book series in history. In 1992, Stine created Goosebumps, which was incredibly popular with children and later turned into a TV show. Stine has sold over 350 million books, making him one of the most successful children’s and teen authors in the world. Stine is often referred to as the “Stephen King of children’s literature.” (

Genre: Horror/Fiction

Curriculum ties:

Booktalking ideas:
One person in a relationship taking advantage of the other
Accidental death
The “golden rule”

Reading level/Interest Age:
Grades 8-12

Challenge issues:
Cruel behavior of main character
Sneaking out of house
Gruesome details and gore

Challenge counterpoints:
Recommended for grades 8-12.

If parent does not want child reading "scary stories," recommend that they stay away from such authors as R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, etc. who specialize in the genre.
Recommend parent read book before child.
Recommend parent discuss book with child.
Recommend parent discuss fantasy vs. reality in terms of zombies, monsters, etc.

Reasons for inclusion:
Written by critically acclaimed author.  

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