Sam and his best friend Lexi won a vacation to HorrorLand, so you know this will end badly. After riding some rides, they stop by the Spear It Cafe for lunch and meet Chef Belcher. He recommends tons of disgusting things, including rare sheep liver, before taking their order. After chowing down on friend shrimp and fries, Sam sees the shrimp come alive and climb all over him. Luckily, Belcher pops up and sprays them down with hot sauce, which kills them.
As they run away, he tries to lure them back with promises of a free dessert, which just makes them run faster. They find their way to a joke shop. Sam goes crazy over a cell phone candy dispenser and over a grow your own pet kit. Jonathon Chiller, the owner of the store, acts really strange. When Sam goes to pay, Chiller tells him just to pay the next time he comes.
Sam and Lexi discover that a new pet store just opened in town, but when they go inside, all the store sells is hamsters. A giant hamster stumbles out of the back room and comes right for them before taking off its head and revealing that it's Mr. Fitz, the owner of the store. After hanging out for a bit, they head home, and Lexi gives him a hamster she stole for them. Sam gets pissed, takes it from her, and heads back to the shop.
The little hamster, which he nicknames Freckle Face because of the freckles on its face, eats some of the candies from his fake cell phone. Mr. Fitz seems less then enthused to see him and kind of buys his story that the hamster got caught on Lexi' shirt. Freckle Face keeps eye balling him until he leaves.
After begging his parents yet again for a pet, Sam's mom finally tells him that he needs to show he is responsible and complete some tests before he can get a pet. His little brother Noah starts acting like pets before deciding he wants to be a hamster and biting him. Lexi grabs the grow a pet thing they bought, douses it in water, and they all watch in shock as it becomes so large that it knocks a hole in the ceiling and breaks their furniture. Sam's mom points out that he's clearly not responsible, and his dad says he failed his first test.
Sam later sits by himself and eats some of his candies. The candies suddenly taste better than anything he ever tasted before, which causes him to keep eating and eating. Nothing really happens except his mom asks him to watch over Noah as his first test. The little brat finds the grow toy and tries to eat one so he'll grow big. Sam distracts him with some candy, which leads to his mom showing up and yelling at him for giving his little brother candy. Lady, candy is the least of your troubles with this one.
He then goes back to see Mr. Fitz and asks about an after school job, assuming that it will show his parents he can handle a pet. Just as he agrees, Lexi shows up and begs for a job too. She decides to wear the hamster costume outside, and Sam helps clean the cages. Freckle Face comes at him, grabs his pocket, and steals a piece of candy. Another hamster starts begging and steals a piece. Sam drops a few pieces in the cage, and the two literally fight to the death until Fritz shows up. When he goes home that night, he swears the two are watching him.
The next day, he realizes that he left the phone in the hamster cage, but Lexi agrees to distract Fitz until he can find it. Though he doesn't find it, he does learn that the hamsters are now super mean when they attempt to attack him. Lexi convinces him to call the manufacturer and get help. The man on the phone flips out when he hears it was orange candy, says it was recalled, and claims it eats your internal organs. He then laughs, says it was all a joke, and offers to send him free candy.
When Sam goes back to the pet store, Fritz makes him get inside the enormous cage to clean it. Seconds later, he realizes that all the hamsters are watching him and growling. This time, they all go crazy as soon as he's alone in the cage. They start attacking each other and when he tries to break it up, they turn on him. Convinced he has no other choice, he tosses one of the grow toys in the hamsters' water dish, but one of the hamsters eats it first.
As the hamster grows bigger and bigger, Sam freaks out, grabs the other toy, and eats it himself. The hamster is way bigger and starts smothering him, but before he can die, the growth stuff wears off and it shrinks back to normal. Once Sam shrinks down, he thinks everything is fine, but then Fitz wanders in.
It turns out that he was behind the whole thing. He gave the hamsters some water he created to make them angry because he wants to launch the Worldwide Hamster Wresting League. Better still, he caught the whole thing, including the growth spurt, on a hidden camera. Fitz attacks him and demands he tell him where the growth formula came from. Lexi wanders in and accidentally lets the hamsters loose, which lets them escape. He asks Lexi how much of the water she drank, and she then transforms into a crazy woman and attacks him.
Sam arrives home without explaining what happened with Lexi, which irks me. He lays down in bed and suddenly sees a glowing light coming from his closet, which makes him remember that a Horror attached something to his souvenir from the park. When he gets close, the walls disappear and he finds himself transported back to HorrorLand. Chiller is waiting for him and say it's time to pay him back but he must first wait for the rest of their guests.
*When Lexi orders a grilled cheese sandwich, Belcher says he made the cheese himself between his toes. That's just...wrong?
*What is up with the cell phone candy dispenser? This book came out in 2010 when those things were pretty much already over. Sam acts like it's the coolest thing he's ever seen. He also says it's easier to sneak into school than a cell phone. What school lets kids use cell phones all willy nilly but bans candy?
*Sam asks his mom how he can prove he's responsible if she won't let him get a pet to show he's responsible. She changes the subject, but I think it's a valid question.
*I love that they yell at him about the whole grow a pet thing. Yes, because those packages at the dollar store grow to 20 feet tall. It totally reminded me of when Bart sold his soul on The Simpsons and bought a dinosaur one.
*Fitz tells Sam to forget about cleaning the cages and just put some new pine shavings on top of the old. I'm sure that place smells lovely.
*Stine must really hate parents because he always makes them so awful! At one point, Sam's parents go from yelling at him for playing with his brother to fawning all over Noah because he's oh so cute.
*Has anyone read any of the later books and can tell me what happens? It's weird because the older HorrorLand books always do one story and then a second story that takes place at the park that continues from book to book. It looks like they wrapped up that story and started a new one with this ending, but there's only a few books after this.