Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"The Sitter" by R.L. Stine

Ha, I found it! The recent parity of the US and Australian dollar made me venture onto Amazon to grab some books I'd been wanting to purchase. "The Sitter" was on there from some alternative seller for $0.01, but postage and handling costs ensured I paid far more for it than it was actually worth. Nevertheless, it made me once again appreciate the Internet for providing me with the opportunity to get hold of material that simply isn't available in this country.

"The Sitter" has Ellie Saks abandoning her life in the city to escape from her ex-boyfriend Clay, who has become a creepy stalker-type dude. Despite the fact she sleeps with him just a couple of chapters into the book. Anyway, encouragement from her friend Theresa has her searching for jobs in The Hamptons, and luck has her landing a job as a nanny for Chip and Abby Harper. They are parents to two-year-old Heather and creepy four-year-old Brandon, who has mysteriously stopped speaking. As Ellie tries to connect with Brandon, she finds herself the victim of a campaign of terror. What does it have to do with the curse of the Harper guest house, as told to her by former Harper nanny Mrs. Bricker? As Ellie searches for the truth, she must contend with Clay's repeated attempts to get her back, as well as her repeated sightings of Will, an ex-boyfriend whose death in a car crash she feels responsible for.

Golly. This one is all over the place. On the one hand, there's Brandon's creepy and violent behaviour, and whether he might be possessed by the ghost a young boy in love with his nanny. But it doesn't explain why he doesn't speak or why he tries to kill his own sister. On the other hand, there's the nasty gifts that Ellie keeps receiving and who might be sending them to her. The novel presents Clay and Chip as the main suspects, but even the book points out they have no actual motive. Is there a connection between the two. Finally, the subplot of dead ex-boyfriend Will just gets in the way. We know it's going to figure in the proceedings at some point, otherwise why include it?

The end result is a thriller that's more effective than Stine's "Eye Candy", but yet falls short of any sense of satisfaction. Basically, all these disparate threads serve to expose Ellie Saks as the most idiotic, inept, stupid, frustrating, infuriating moron ever put into the pages of a novel. I've never come across such a numbskull in all my reading years. She's too stupid to live! She keeps running off to chase after any blonde boy who resembles her dead ex (or is he?) - whether she's supposed to be looking after her charges, or getting intimate with a nice new boy she's met - nothing matters except chasing after this guy. Tiresome. Then there's the fact she just doesn't get the hell out of dodge while the going is good. For Christ's sake, leave it in the hands of the police and hightail it out of there! Finally, she just has no common sense. If you were babysitting a boy who had already killed TWO birds and tried to drown his own sister, would you ask for somebody to drop off your beloved pet cat to come stay with you? She actually seems surprised when the cat winds up decapitated.

These faults only serve to highlight Stine's other main inadequacies - simplistic writing and chapters that end on false scares. Just like "Eye Candy", I couldn't find much to differentiate this from the "Fear Street" books other than heightened sexual situations and coarse language. I recently read on the Internet that this is being considered for big screen treatment! Other than one genuinely effective plot twist, I can't see this making its way to cinemas without some MAJOR rewrites.

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