The books in the Goosebumps series regularly seem to take the vein of a morality tale (of a twisted sort) where one virtue, evil, personality flaw, or issue is taken up as the focus of the story, and Night of the Living Dummy is no exception. The order of the day here is competition...in this volume we meet twins Lindy and Kris Powell who are constantly competing, arguing, trying out do, out wit, and one-up one another. Their parents are frazzled and fed up with these beautiful twins who seem to frequently cross the line into cruelty and viciousness, and often behaving without sympathy toward one another and others.
As we join them, the twins are exploring the house across the way from theirs when Lindy discovers a ventriloquist dummy in the construction dumpster...even better he appears to be in excellent shape. To Kris' horror, Lindy keeps the dummy, which Kris initially distains as stupid, gross, and boring. Shortly after finding him, Lindy manages to gain some skill and when her act becomes popular with their classmates...popular enough to get her some gigs doing birthday parties with her act, Kris decides that she too MUST have a dummy. Her parents initially rebuke her, dummies are expensive and try to get the girls to share which outrages Lindy...she becomes quite cruel toward her sister calling her a copy cat and really wanting this one thing for herself.
When their father manages to conveniently stumble upon a second dummy in a second hand shop for a good price, it seems like the problem is solved...but Lindy is still angry at her sister for trying to steal her thunder and begins to pose the dummy so that it appears to be alive, frightening her sister terribly...when the secret is revealed, Kris is crushed...but shortly after the dummy DOES come to life and the twins are left without their parents support (they are just fed up with talk and whining about the dummies to hear a single thing more about them). Will the girls be able to stop Mr. Wood? Will he make them his slaves? You'll have to read to find out...what you get is always different than what you expect with these stories, and Night of the Living Dummy is no exception, it does have a signature "got ya" moment at the end.
Overall, Night of the Living Dummy is well written and the characters are simple but adequately written. The girls are sympathetic in some instances and not in others...there are times in the story when you think they are getting what they deserve for the way they behaved...but in the end, you want them to pull out of it and save themselves from Mr. Wood. At the very end, just when you think it's all going to be ok, boo...an abrupt shock at the end and the story is over, leaving the reader wondering how the girls will get out of their predicament...this one reeks of sequel, which I understand there are several of. I give it five stars, this is much better written than some of the other books I've read in the series and for taking something that's already kind of creepy (the dummy) and making it horrific several times over.