Here we are again with body shaming, and shaming curly hair again as well (come on, what is so wrong with curly hair R.L Stine!?)
R.L Stine is huge with rape culture in his teen books. Yikes. I did not notice this when I read them as a preteen/teenager. It happens three times in this book. With the boys in the car, two guys in Chelsea's workplace and that scene with a drunk Sparks. (more details below) These are terrifying real-world situation that no person wants to be in. There is also an instance where they call another girl a tramp, so we've got slut shaming, too.
The mom going "you're attractive... if you lost a bit of weight...and put on lipstick"
Um NO... you can call a person pretty, regardless of their body weight. That is a good way to mess your kid up. I can relate to having someone in the family always bringing up weight. It is really painful when the shaming comes from the last people who should ever shame you and can leave lasting damage.
I can also relate to having someone always trying to get me to put on makeup. "Oh hey, if you just put on a little makeup." or "Here, let me show you how to fix your hair." No, mom, you might mean well, but I'm fine the way I am, thanks. I'm an adult now, so I think I can figure out how I want to do my hair or if I want to wear makeup or not. (Spoiler, I don't 99% of the time!)
Don't do this. If you try to force someone to change their looks (by adding makeup..etc) when they don't want to, you are basically telling them they are not good enough the way they are.
Throughout the book, her weight and looks are mentioned. There is also a scene where she compares her lunch (a normal size lunch!) to Nina's lunch of yogurt and an apple, saying "Nina is going to think I'msoooo fat, but if I only eat what she has, I will be starving!"
I'm not writing this word for word... but you get it.
Boy: How about a date?
Other boy: Plenty of room in here.
*boys laugh and make kissing sounds*
Boy: We're great. We're really great.
Other boy: Bet you're great, too.
Chelsea: Leave me alone!
Boy: Aww, that's not friendly?
Other boy: Don't you want to be friendly?
Chelsea: I'm warning you!
Boy: Aww, she's getting steamed
Other boy: That's not friendly!
This is rape culture. You know what these boys are doing and what they wanted to do to Chelsea, whether they would go through with anything or not is beside the point. It is disgusting that anyone would act like this.
Also, two guys do about the same thing to her when she is alone in her workplace.
Happens again later on when Sparks tells her to "be friendly" while he's basically chasing her around her workplace, saying and doing creepy things. He is also drunk.
Nina (The main character's oh-so-skinny friend) believes her boyfriend is going to leave her, because she sees him talking to another girl named Suki. Oh, the horrors! You know, he could have been asking help with homework, or Suki could be his friend, but no, jump straight to "he's cheating"
Nina says "Suki is such a huge tramp!" (I read another R.L Stine book that has Suki mentioned. She is kind of a stereotypical "hard rock bad girl" or maybe Goth (I can't remember) and acts/dresses differently and apparently has a reputation for sleeping around but it only feels this is so because of how Suki is stereotyped. In the other book, she is also treated the same way.)
I still love these books; yeah, I have a blind spot for them. I know they are outdated and problematic by today's standards. I'm reading them through nostalgia-colored glasses.
Afterthought: I just want to point out that the main character is mentioned as being "chubby" and the bad guy says she is "dark and chubby. Not real pretty but she's okay." The book talks about "fixing" her up by straightening her hair, wearing makeup and losing a few pounds.
These 80s & 90s teen books probably made a lot of people feel bad. Or if you were like me, you would just overlook the problematic stuff; it just went right over my head.