Category: So Not For Kids


The Sitter

Hey, guess who’s reviewing a fourteen year old book! This gal! So, yeah, there might be some spoilers here. I tried to avoid them, but this was surprisingly hard to talk about without getting into what, specifically, made my reactions happen. I got really hung up on one thing, guess what it was. That’s pretty well it though. I’ll have another post up probably tomorrow or Friday. For now, enjoy!

the-sitter-cover

Ellie Saks is at the end of her lease, the end of her temp job, and the end of her patience with her mother and her ex-boyfriend turned stalker Clay. So, she jumps at the opportunity to leave the city behind for a trip to the Hamptons for a summer of fun away from it all. A stroke of luck even lands her a babysitting job and place to stay. That luck turns sour though when someone starts sending her threatening notes and disturbing gifts. With a disturbed child to care for, a stalker on the loose, and a ghost story unfolding with her in the middle of it can Ellie figure out what’s going on or even survive her summer as the sitter?

Not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy The Sitter. This is one of those books that feels so, so like a lot of the books I have tremendous nostalgia for but with all the nostalgia stripped away and a painful attempt at retargeting its readership. See, R. L. Stine does a great job with teen horror, particularly cheesy teen horror. His books can be very formula and very like a B horror movie, but they tend to be fun and quick and you know what you’re getting in to when you pick one up. That’s sort of the case here and with a few changes this could have been a pretty standard Fear Street book. That’s part of the problem though, with The Sitter Stine tries too hard to make his book “adult” and it feels very forced. There’s a fair amount of profanity, some drinking, a really gross sex scene, drug use is mentioned, but it all feels like someone reminded Stine that he was writing for grownups after the book was already finished, so he just threw that all in.

So, that said, what made me dislike this book other than the audience related weirdness? There are a lot of things that get a pass in teen novels that shouldn’t and don’t in adult novels, this book for example had terrible foreshadowing. Early on, we find out about Ellie’s cat, he’s sweet and trusting and she misses him so because she couldn’t have him in her apartment. Yeah, he didn’t make it to the end of the book. The problem with that is twofold. Stine’s used killing the beloved family pet to gain a quick cheep hit to the feels before, several times actually, so as soon as the cat gets mentioned you know what’s going to happen. It’s a similar thing with the big twist at the end. It also ties into my next big issue.

A ton of terrible stuff happens between Lucky’s introduction and Lucky’s plot appointed death, but Ellie doesn’t seem to take that into account. The book’s plot was almost entirely reliant on the protagonist making stupid choices. Again, a lot of those choices would have made more sense in a book with a teenaged protagonist rather than one in her twenties both because relative youth and because a teen protagonist could be stuck being the sitter rather than it being a summer job. This bit is really hard to go into without spoilers, but our protagonist gets death threats and vile stuff mailed to her. She stays, doesn’t even talk to the police after like the second thing. Not for the threats, or her cat getting killed, or her stalker ex showing up and threatening her. Most of the tension in the book relies on the reader having never read R. L. Stine before and Ellie being an idiot.

Add to that, The Sitter has a ton of stuff going on that doesn’t seem to go anywhere until the end. There are chapters from the antagonist’s view point. They could have been cut entirely. There was a side plot about some curse on the guest house. That could have been cut. Clay probably should have been cut, he doesn’t really add much to the story and is basically made of cringe. The cat could have been cut, he was a completely pointless inclusion. Any of that could have been removed to tighten up the main plot and work the twist in better.

Those are my big issues with the book, everything else kind of spins off of those. It had a twist ending, but that was completely unsupported by the rest of the book. The only reason I didn’t see it coming was that it was so completely out of left field it came from another game entirely. It’s silly in the grand scheme of things, but this book made me angry. There were so many places where Stine could have done better, could have not done the blatantly obvious thing, could have shored up the writing instead of going into another side plot. This book gets a one, as much for what it could have been as for what it is.

So, I’m a bit late with this one.  Blame the kitten, Jonesy seems to have decided that the best toys ever are my hands and the cables to my laptop. It would be adorable if it didn’t make me worry that she was going to electrocute herself.  That aside, I’m back to working again and have another review partly done for either later this week or early next week.  All that said, this is a review for one of the books that I got last summer, so it isn’t entirely current.  Enjoy the review!

During World War 2 a group of English children were sent to a small town to keep them safe from the war.  In the time they were there each of them was entrusted with one of thirteen ancient artifacts for safe keeping.  These artifacts are all that stand between humanity and a realm of flesh hungry demons.  Fast forward to the present and the septuagenarian keepers are being killed off one by one and their artifacts stolen.  It will be up to bank teller Sara Miller to take up the broken sword and stop nothing less than the end of life as we know it.

Michael Scott and Colette Freedman’s The Thirteen Hallows had promise.  It wasn’t treading any new territory with the plot of hapless heroes with a magical MacGuffin trying to stop some big mysterious evil from destroying the world.  But there was way too much gratuitous stuff for it to be good, and it can’t all be attributed to the villains’ demonic alignment and the dark magic that they’re using to get at the hallows.  Plus, the characters each seem to be clutching their own personal idiot ball whether it is the detective who insists that Sara is an insane serial killer despite evidence to the contrary or the evil sorceress who can magically track our totally mundane heroine but can’t kill her and take the sword.  This is going to be one of the ones that I get a little long winded about because there’s a lot that could have used a second look.

So, the gratuitous stuff, it’s mostly violence and there’s some sex.  The violence could have been hand waved by saying that the levels of brutality used were necessary in every case that popped up, I think it was mentioned that the keepers had to be terrified and in agony for the magic to work.  But it wasn’t needed for the murder of Sara’s family or the random neighbor who tried to help the first on screen victim.  The sex might have been used once or twice for magic stuff, but mostly it seemed to play into the main villain’s being oh so evil just because they can be and sex is apparently the best way to show that.

Following that, the characters were flat.  The villains were evil because why not, the heroes were only the heroes because the plot needed them to be, and the police were really really dumb.  I can’t stress this enough, the characters were just poorly written and that bothers me.  I like my fantasy novels, or any novel I read for that matter to be character driven and these guys didn’t cut it. The main characters where flat enough that I almost started cheering for the villains, but they somehow managed to be even flatter again, evil for evil’s sake.  The worst case for me was the senior cop, Detective Inspector Fowler.  The writers needed a reason for Sara and Owen to stay on the run rather than turning to the police, this could have been accomplished by having the police laugh them off after they told them everything or by having the villains frame Sara for killing one of the officers that were investigating her family’s murder or any number of other things.  Instead, old cop digs in almost immediately and decides that Sara must be some kind of psycho killer despite her reactions indicating otherwise and the sheer number of statistics that suggest that women generally don’t kill people in that violent a manner.  If he had jumped on after the evil junky’s death, then I would be fine with it because people saw her do that.  On the other hand, the comparison between him and his partner, Sergeant Heath, made her one of the only characters in the book that I came anywhere near liking.

Speaking of Heath, the quality of descriptions in this book were also all over the place.  The reader gets lovingly written scenes of violence and gore and yet the only descriptions we really get for her were that she’s blond, butch, and nicer than her partner.  Again, if there had been better reason given for the attention to gore, like if the police were checking the crime scenes and slowly piecing together what was happening with bits of ritual that were left behind among all the blood and viscera.  That would have been cool, and could have given credence to Fowler’s insistence that Sara was a crazed killer until evidence piled up that it was the Dark Man and his sorceress accomplice or one of their underlings.  But it wasn’t, and that seems like a waste.

So, where does this leave me on The Thirteen Hallows?  It had potential, I can say that of it, but that potential was squandered on hollow characters and overall mediocre writing.  It was a fast read but more in a “when does this get good” way than a “this is amazing” way.  This was the first thing I’d read by either author and, while I’ve heard good things about both in reading to see who they were, it may be the last thing I read by either of them.  The ending left room for more books and anything I can find online suggests that there’s supposed to be a sequel at some point but I have a hard time seeing where I could go from here.  I’m giving this one a one out of five for characters that I couldn’t bring myself to care about and a story that couldn’t seem to decide what it was or what it wanted to be.