Monday, August 17, 2009

The Babysitter

Book Description:

From the minute Jenny accepted the Hagen baby-sitting job, she knew she had made a mistake. First there was the dark and disheveled Hagen house, moaning and groaning with her every step. Then the crank phone calls started. "Hi, Babes. Are you all alone? Company's coming." When Jenny discovered a creepy neighbor prowling in the backyard and a threatening note in her backpack, she realized this wasn't a harmless game.But who would want to hurt her? What kind of maniac wanted to scare Jenny... to death?

My Description:

* Just a quick note: I just read the comments for the last post ("Missing") and apparently I offended some people with my Star Trek comments (shout out to Bridget who thinks I'm a slutty whore!) For that I apologize. Honestly, I've never even seen the show so I really have no right to judge. *

We begin this tale of TERROR! (sarcasm is fun, no?) with Jenny and her friend Laura riding the bus. Laura is yapping about boys and Jenny is totally zoning out, staring out the window and worrying about her babysitting job. She's a babysitter. The book is called "The Babysitter". Is your mind blown? Anyway, Laura sees some guy named Bob Tanner raking leaves in his yard and completely freaks out because she has the mind of a retarded chimp. Seriously, it's just some dude with a rake, not Jesus Christ. She hangs her head out the window and screams at him. The guy turns and it's not even Bob. It's just some random guy trying to rake his yard in peace without getting harrassed by some teenage girl. As Jenny watches this pathetic scene, she thinks about how Laura could have any guy she wanted. *sigh* Here we go... Laura is gorgeous, looks like a model, and her poop smells like dew kissed roses. Jenny looks dull, tries to look like the models she sees in Mademoiselle (epic FAIL), and feeds off Laura's half assed compliments ("You look just like that actress Demi Moore." Except not.) like a starving dog with a juicy, meaty bone. I would like to read an R.L. Stine book in which all the main characters are beasts. Not everyone has to be blonde and perfect, Stine! Jenny and Laura talk about school and then Jenny tells the story of how she got the babysitting job she's going to.

She was at the mall and spotted a little boy with blonde hair and blue eyes (of course. Dammit, Stine.) who was playing near the fountain all by himself. Jenny is shocked and normally I would say "Why are you so surprised? All parents in Shadyside neglect their children." But I forget that this book doesn't take place anywhere near Fear Street. JOY! So Jenny rushed over to the boy who introduces himself as Donny and they sat and chatted intil his parents, the Hagens, rushed up. They were grateful to find him and since Donny had obviously fallen madly in love with Jenny, they immediately offered her the job without checking to see if she was a serial killer or something first! Happy endings all around.

Jenny finally reaches her stop and walks the few blocks to the Hagens' house. They live on a street that is oddly reminiscent of another street we're all too familiar with. Old rambling dilapidated mansions? Check. Creepy trees? Check. A lonely teenage girl with absolutely no self-esteem and no boyfriend which means no-one would care if she vanished because everyone knows teenage girls only have their boyfriends to care about them? Check check check! Edgetown Lane is the poor man's Fear Street! Anyway, Mr. Hagen lets Jenny in, makes some painfully lame jokes, and hurries off to take Jenny's jacket upstairs for no reason. Mrs. Hagen comes out of the kitchen and apologizes for her husband's nervousness: "He's always nervous on the nights we go out." Because? Ok, don't tell me. See if I care! Donny is in the den watching Ghostbusters and Mrs. Hagen leads Jenny to the room after gabbing on and on about the difference between 'groovy' and 'awesome' (one is for hippies, the other for mall rats). "I was a linguistics major, believe it or not." Oh I believe it. I also believe in shutting the hell up. Mr. Hagen comes down and tells Donny he has to go to bed after the movie is over. Donny whines like a good little cliche and then Mr. Hagen decides to cheerfully mention the recent rash of babysitter attacks. "Some creep in a ski mask was breaking into homes and beating up babysitters. So far there had been two attacks. Both babysitters had had to be hospitalized." What a comfort. Finally the parentals make their escape and Donny seems relieved: "Good." Tee hee.

After putting Donny to bed a little later, Jenny decides to explore (i.e. snoop) the old house. She hates nearly everything about it because it's old and creepy. Suddenly a loud banging noise interrupts her negative thoughts. Is it the Babysitter Bungler ready to beat the crap out of Jenny with his trusty crowbar?! No, it's just a loose shutter. Damn. She heads toward the kitchen and flips out when she feels something brush against her leg. Apparently, the Hagens neglected to mention that they have a cat. Jenny goes to Donny's room to make sure her banshee shriek didn't wake him. He's still asleep so Jenny grabs a Coke and some chips from the kitchen, settles herself in the den, and tries to think of something to do. She picks up a newspaper, but that's a mistake--'Third Babysitter Attack Has Police On Alert' Then she digs through her backpack for something else to read and all she finds is a Stephen King novel and she's already freaked out enough by the loost shutters and kitty cat and psycho babysitter beater. A moment later, she hears footsteps from upstairs. She thinks it's the cat, but if you have an IQ higher than zero, you know it's Donny. He's thirsty so she gets him some milk before taking him back to his room. He asks for a kiss and a story. She gives him both. Her story is longwinded and all about a nimroad babysitter who decides to get back at her charge for scaring her by scaring HIM. Thrills and chills! Yawn.

As Jenny is walking downstairs, she hears someone knocking on the door. Her first thought? "It sounds like a burglar, Jenny thought. A picture of a guy in a black-and-purple striped sweater, wearing a black mask over his eyes, carrying a bag of burglar tools flashed into her mind." First of all, why the hell would a burglar KNOCK? Pardon me for forgetting that most burglars are polite members of society who will lightly rap on the door before coming inside to vandalize your home. Second, why is Jenny's imaginary burglar dressed like the unholy spawn of Grimace and the Hamburglar? And third,why would he need tools if he's just gonna knock anyway? So many holes in your "logic" Jenny! After completely freaking out for a few seconds, she finally goes over to the door to peek outside. Some weirdo in a lumberjack shirt with greasy hair and caterpillar eyebrows is waiting on the porch. Is it the Babysitter Bunter?! No, it's Willers, the next door neighbor who simply wants to make sure everything is ok because he thought he saw someone creeping around the house. Jenny quickly dismisses him, shuts the door, and jumps a mile when Donny puts a hand on her shoulder and says "I'm thirsty again."

It's now Friday afternoon and Jenny and Laura are hanging out at *sigh* the Pizza Oven. No comment (because you already know what my comment would be if I had one.) Laura is stuffing her snout while Jenny tells her about her night at the Hagens' house. Of course Laura can't keep her eyes off some guy who just walked in wearing a leather jacket and pants that are so tight his baby maker is probably broken. Jenny slyly brings up Laura's BOYFRIEND Eugene. Laura says she's probably breaking up with him because the magical Bob Tanner asked her out. Five bucks says Bob Tanner and Laura are this town's version of Gary Brandt and Suki Thomas. Skanks! The leather boy moves away and Laura's attention is back to Jenny. They talk more about Jenny's job until they're unterrupted by some douchebag named Chuck who has been hiding under their table the entire time for no reason other than he's an annoying little shit. He climbs in the booth beside Jenny and Laura decides it's time to leave. Chuck and Jenny chat a little because Jenny thinks he's cute. He ends up asking her out for Saturday night and she makes the mistake of telling him she babysits. "I'll come by on Saturday night while you're babysitting." She keeps telling him no, but he pretends he can't hear her. Eventually she gets pissed and walks off. I hate characters like Chuck that serve no purpose. In this case, Chuck only exists so Stine can insert every lame ass joke he can think of. "It's been real. Real gross! Haha!" Not funny. "My dad and I came here from Mars a little more than a month ago." Not funny but believable; only a fucking Martian could make such lame jokes and think they're absolutely hilarious. "Just looking up your dress! Haha!" *sigh* Shut up, Chuck.

The next evening, Jenny arrives at the Hagens' house a few minutes late. Mrs. Hagen is cool with it, but Mr. Hagen acts like he's about to have a seizure and runs upstairs. They leave a few minutes later and Donny insists they play hide and seek. He runs to hide while Jenny counts to 100. Of course Jenny gets scared walking around the house alone and gives up once she reaches the kitchen. Luckily, that's exactly where Donny is hiding and he bursts out of a closet, effectively scaring Jenny (which isn't hard). Donny may as well babysit himself. If the shit really hit the fan, Jenny would be absolutely useless. As punishment for scaring her, Jenny makes Donny go to bed which takes about another 45 minutes because Jenny is an idiot and allowed him to have plenty of sugary juice and such. Once he's in bed, Jenny hears the phone ringing in the den and runs to answer it. She really shouldn't have--it's just some pervert who gets his jollies by heavily huffing his stanky breath into the phone. Jenny sets the phone down and runs to Donny's room. He's standing there with the receiver to his ear (why does a 6 year old have his own phone?) but he swears that he didn't call, that the phone rang and he was simply listening. Donny goes back to bed and Jenny heads for the den. The pervert is persistent and calls about a million more times. Jenny ignores it, but finally just picks the damn thing up. "Hi, Babes. Are you all alone? Are you all alone in that big house? Well, don't worry. Company's coming." Ew. She hangs up, freaked out and wondering if that was Chuck. Probably. But then she remembers Willers, the greasy neighbor, and automatically believes it's him. Just because someone never washed their hair or waxes their prominent brow or wears anything that doesn't look like it came out of a Seattle grungehead's closet does not mean that person is some kind of creep! Anyway, as Jenny is preparing to call the cops (as if they would or could do anything) the phone rings... It's Mar. Hagen who apparently thinks Jenny is a complete incompetent, asking her tons of questions before finally hanging up. She paces around the room for a while before stopping in front of a photo of Donny and a little girl that looks exactly like him. Jenny realizes that this must be why Mr. Hagen is so protective of Donny--he lost a child. She quickly forgets all about this when she looks out the window and sees a car parked at the curb with a man in the driver's seat. A man sitting in a car! What kind of HELL is this?! In other words, Jenny needs to chill the fuck out.

It's Sunday morning and Jenny is eating pancakes with her mom which means she's still alive which means the man in the car wasn't the Babysitter Bonker which means the Babysitter Bonker is still at large. Oh what a world! They talk about babysitting and Mom brings up Chuck. She says he called her last night to get the Hagens' number because he knew Jenny was there. Since Jen is afraid of everything on the planet, she's now terrified of Chuck and believes he's dangerous and made those weird calls the night before. *sigh* Then she thinks she's jumping to conclusions. But maybe it WAS him. Or maybe he's harmless. SHUT UP! Even if he did call, who the hell cares? He's an irritating pest, but I seriously doubt he's sitting at home drawing up plans for Jenny's brutal murder. Although it might be best if he was...

Later, Jenny meets Laura at the mall. They talk about Chuck (what else?) and Laura says it couldn't have been him making the calls. She immediately changes the subject because Jenny's life isn't important to her in the least. What IS important? Press-on nail kits and Ellen Sapper's pierced ears. Once again, Jenny, you would be better off alone than with this dodo bird. They go into Sock City (yes, an entire store devoted to socks) and spot Chuck. Great. Jenny does her usual freak out and tries to run away before Chuck sees her, but he's already making his way over. He makes some stupid jokes, apologizes to Jenny for being a jerk at Pizza Oven on Friday and annoys the store manager to the point that the guy asks them to leave. They reach the theater where a clay animation festival is taking place and Chuck gets excited and begs them to come. Laura makes her exit, leaving Jenny alone with him AGAIN. Enjoy your clay.

Jenny is babysitting again, playing Uno and Chutes & Ladders with Donny until his bedtime. Of course it takes about an hour to get him to go to bed and Jenny has to pretend to be a werewolf before he will. How degrading. She goes into the den, opens her government textbook, and puts the new Bangles cassette into her Walkman (this book really is old). She turns off the music after a few minutes because she's afraid Donny will need something and she won't be able to hear. After a bit, she gets boredwith reading and goes in the kitchen for a Coke (is Pepsi a sin? How much does Stine get for product placement?) Eventually her mind wanders to Chuck...I was over this storyline the moment it was introduced. It's boring! The guy hasn't done a damn thing and she's acting like he's Charles Manson. Of course she gets another freaky call. "Hi, Babes. Are you all alone? Don't be sad. I'll be there soon. Then the fun will really begin." Promises promises. Jenny reacts predictably and calls the police. What the hell could they possibly do? They could post someone outside the house, but the creep would just drive on by once he saw the coppers. They could trace the call, know what? Just forget it. I don't even care! The cop she talks to takes down all her information and says the calls probably came from...INSIDE THE HOUSE! AHHHHH! I wish. He says the calls probably won't amount to anything and she should get a friend or something to stay with her if it would make her feel safer. Jenny feels better even though the call was pretty much useless. She runs to check on Donny and hears someone knocking at the door. Is it the Babysitter Buster?!

No. It's Chuck who scares the shit out of Jenny because he's wearing a scary mask. Does she ever shut up? She spends about 99.9% of her life screaming her head off. Once he pulls the mask off, she opens the door and gets pissed. She verbally cuts his ass to shreds, but he refuses to leave and she finally lets him in because he looks cold. You're both idiots. He apologizes and before Jenny can say anything, Donny comes downstairs in his little G.I. Joe pajamas and wants to know who the hell has invaded his home. I love you, Donn.y Chuck introduces himself and asks Donny if he'd like to try on the monster mask. Donny says yes, Jenny says no, and Chuck ignores Jenny's "authority" by giving Donny the mask. Chuck and Donny play around until Jenny gets angry and says Donny needs to go back to bed. Donny begs Chuck to tuck him in and Jenny says it's ok. As if anyone is actually listening to her at this point. Chuck comes back a few minutes later and tries to cuddle with Jenny on the sofa, but she's not having it. Instead she decides to ask if he called her earlier. His answer? "Yes, I'm sorry, Jenny. It was me." SHOCK! Before he can say more, a loud crash from outside interrupts. Even though she's usually scared of her own shadow, she grabs a flashlight and decides to investigate. She makes her way to the side of the garage and finds America's favorite greaseball Willers. He claims he thought he saw a prowler, came out to investigate, and tripped over a pile of firewood. Jenny doesn't really believe him but heads back inside where Chuck offers to warm her up. Not with the child in the house, sir. Jenny refuses and Chuck opts to explains his phone calls instead. He says he called, got nervous, started breathing heavily, and hung up. She mentions the other call, but he says that wasn't him. She still isn't sure, but rather than think about it, she decides to make out with him. It always leads to that, doesn't it?

20 minutes later and they're STILL kissing...until they hear car doors slamming outside and realize the Hagens must be home and Daddy Hagen probably won't take too kindly to a strange boy in his house. Chuck darts out the front door just as the Hagens come in through the back. Mr. Hagen wanted to leave the party early because he has no faith in Jenny. He stomps upstairs as his wife bitches about his "hunches and bad premonitions". He hands Jenny her coat and goes into the living room. "Wait a minute! What's this?" Uh-oh. It's just that stupid mask, but Mr. Hagen acts like he discovered a used condom stuffed in the couch. But I forget that teenagers NEVER have sex! NO! *sigh* Jenny lies and says she brought it for Donny. Mr. Hagen accepts this and finally shuts his fat face. As he drives Jenny home, he quietly informs her that he doesn't like his babysitters to have visitors. Jenny nervously says she understand. When he pulls up to her house, he whispers "We had another child." Okey dokey. Jenny says by but he doesn't seem to hear.

The next day, Jenny and Laura are in P.E. playing volleyball. Jenny sucks and Laura acts like a total bitch about it. "Try to get it over the net this time!" Shut. Your. Piggy. Snout. Jenny calls her out on it and Laura's excuse for being so cranky is she broke up with Bob Tanner the night before. She works fast. And that's really no excuse to treat your supposed "best friend" like a piece of gutter trash. Before Jenny can reply, she gets the wind knocked out of her by a fast moving serve. She goes to sit in the locker room and finds a note in her backpack. 'Hi, Babes. All alone in that big old house? Don't worry. Company's coming.' Not this shit again. He could at least be creative. Now Jenny believes more than ever that it's Chuck. I wish I cared.

It's Saturday evening and Jenny is on the bus heading toward her usual destination. She gets off and walks a few blocks. She's almost to the Hagen house when she sees Willers following her and she flips out and starts running. He tells her to stop, but her mother always told her to never trust plaid so she keeps running. When she reaches the house, Mr. Hagen opens the door. She tells him about Willers and he says he doesn't know anyone by that name and the house next door has been vacant for months. Well, that at least explains Willers' unkempt appearance--he's a homeless drifter. The parents leave and Donny wants to watch the movie he rented--Poltergeist. He falls asleep about halfway through and Jenny puts him to bed. A few moments later, she hears footsteps. Not Donny. NOT the cat. It's Mr. Hagen whose paranoia has become extremely annoying. He says he had a bad feeling something was wrong and rushes to check on Donny. "Jenny! Donny's gone! Gone!" Well, that's just fucking peachy. Mr. Hagen completely loses his mind, screaming until Donny pops out from under the bed. Hagen grabs him like he hasn't seem him in years. Mrs. Hagen enters a moment later and tells her husband she's giving him some of those happy pills she's so fond of. She says she'll drive Jenny home, but he insists he'll do it and they put Donny to bed.

When Jenny arrives home, she finds her mom in bed reading. They say good-night and when Jenny gets to her room, she decides she would rather spend Saturday nights like her mom. She'll work for the Hagens a little while longer but that's it. With Jenny's nerves, I'm surprised she lasted this long. Her phone rings and it's just (up)Chuck. He says she's been avoiding him and he's sorry for whatever he did. She explains about the creepy note and says she doesn't know what to think. He begs to see her on Thursday night to "study" and she says he and Laura can both come. He ends the conversation with "Thursday night will be special." and Jenny thinks that was weird and reads way too much into it. Jenny needs to pocket some of Mrs. Hagen's happy pills. Maybe that'll shut her up...

Thursday rolls around and after putting Donny to bed, Jenny rushes to answer the door. It's Chuck, Laura, and poor Eugene, Laura's whipping boy. Laura immediately drags Eugene into the den for reasons I'd rather not think about. Jenny and Chuck start making out until they're interrupted by Eugene telling Chuck that he left his headlights on. He runs outside and once alone, Jenny hears a noise in the kitchen. Here we go AGAIN. Turns out it's just that meddling cat who has knocked over the sugar cannister and is busy lapping it up. Instead of cleaning it up, Jenny goes back to lapping at Chuck's tonsils. Unfortunately, once she comes up for air, she sees Mr. Hagen standing over them. Oh shit.

Before Hagen can decapitate them both, Mrs. Hagen walks in and so does Laura and Eugene. Jenny's friends bail because Mr. Hagen is about to totally lose his freaking mind. While the Hagens go check on Donny, Jenny goes into their bedroom to get her coat. Once she opens the closet, a shoebox filled with the obligatory damning newspaper clips falls out. All the articles are about the recent babysitter attacks and about babysitters in general. And all the names have been circled in red marker. Jenny decides Mr. Hagen is insane even though those could very well be Mrs. Hagen's clippings. NOT. Mr. Hagen enters and tells her it's time to go. She says she could just take the bus, but he insists he must drive her. Yeah...right off the edge of a cliff. Oh, my mistake--he's driving her to the middle of nowhere and she only just realized it. When she makes the mistake of asking too many questions, he screams "SHUT UP!" and smacks her across the face. At the risk of getting slapped again, are we there yet? Anyway, Jenny says she didn't do anything and Mr. Hagen explains why he hates babysitters: "I had a baby. A little girl. She was only two. But the babysitter wasn't quick enough. The babysitter wasn't smart enough. The babysitter wasn't GOOD ENOUGH! My little girl died. Now it's your turn." I get the sinking feeling that Jenny is speeding down a dark and desolate highway with *gulp* the Babysitter Basher!

The car suddenly comes to a stop and Mr. Hagen forces Jenny out of the car. She realizes that they're at the old deserted rock quarry where no-one can hear you scream. They stop near the edge of a deep pit and Jenny realizes he plans on pushing her in. She keeps telling him that she didn't do anything, but all he knows for sure is the time: "It's time to die." Blunt much? Just as Mr. Hagen steps forward to shove Jenny to her death, a man's voice calls out "Stop right there, Hagen!" SAVED! By Willers! Although greasy and clumsy, he can still serve a purpose. Even though he's pointing a gun at Mr. Hagen, Hagen still makes a move to push Jenny. She dives out of the way and he goes sailing into the pit. "His scream cut through the air like a fading police siren. Then she heard a sickening crash, like a full carton of eggs hitting the sidewalk. Then silence." Fucking ouch.

Willers comes over and leads Jenny away from the pit. He tells her his real name is Lieutenant Ferris; he's the officer Jenny talked to the night she freaked out and called the cops. They get into his car and as he drives, he explains that he's had Hagen's house staked out since the babysitter attacks started. "Two years ago, his daughter died mysteriously. No-one ever knew the cause. [That's what MYSTERIOUSLY means, Sherlock] He went berserk. He blamed the babysitter that was taking care of her. It wasn't the girl's fault, but Hagen just went nuts. He attacked the girl, beat her up pretty badly. It went to court. He got off lightly because he had been in a disturbed emotional state. Then he moved to the other side of town and took a new job. When someone started bearing up babysitters a few months ago, he was our prime suspect." Ok, Chatty Cathy, I get it. And all of that just sounds so stupid.

Once home, Ferris walks Jenny to the door where she's greeted by her mom and Chuck. Ferris explains everything and leaves for the Hagens' house after telling Jenny he'll pick her up tomorrow for a statement. As the three sit at the table drinking tea, Jenny's mom mentions a woman who needs a babysitter. Are you stupid or just stupid? Obviously Jenny refuses and Chuck says that she's only babysitting him from now on. *sigh* Shut up, Chuck.

Conclusion? So Mr. Hagen was the one making all the calls and writing the notes. GROSS. The big problem I have with this book is the fact that we never learn how the child died. What the hell happened and why was the babysitter blamed? Oh well. This was the simple story I had been craving. I could have done without Chuck and his brainless jokes, though. They weren't funny in 1989 (when this sucker was published. Stine's glory days!) and they're not funny now.

Next time: "First Date" She's a lonely girl searching for love. He's a psychotic teenage boy with big creepy hands, perfect for choking a chicken. Can they make it work? *cough*NO*cough*

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