Jenny is still with Cal. Jenny is still having nightmares about Mr Hagen. Mrs. Jeffries decides that despite Jenny getting a job, that a change of scenery would be better for her daughter and sends her to stay with her pretty, popular and loved cousin. It’s after her first night there that Jenny finds out that her cousin Debra babysits. This instantly has Jenny on edge. Debra babysits a little baby boy called Peter. His mother Mrs Wagner goes to college.
Guess what happens…. After Jenny tells Debra what happened to her back home 2 years ago, whilst in the house babysitting, the next night Debra is babysitting alone. She gets a call from Mr Hagen.
Jenny’s nightmares worsen, she has what I would describe as PTSD, without a doubt. This makes Debra even jumpier.
Several male characters that are dead plots weave their way in and out. A good book with predictable scenarios for a horror, but a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming.
Well done R. L. Stine… You had me on this one.
Read on for a more in-depth review…. SPOILER ALERT!!
Okay, so once again, I will be writing my thoughts about the book as I have noted them down….
Jenny starts the summer going for a job interview in a doughnut shop in the mall. This is all well and good, Fatphobic comments are made about her new manager (because he offers her the job) and how he is eating his own merchandise. Jenny is still friends with Claire and Rick, this seems promising after Rick’s peacocking in the last book. A really bitchy comment is made about Claire, “Claire wasn’t really pretty, but would be someday.” Seriously R. L. Stine, feeding a load of teenage girls the bullshit that they will sprout, and turn into beautiful flowers at some point, because being serious and dedicated to the books isn’t enough. You have to be pretty too…. (Can you feel my eye roll?)
Then follows a subtle line up of mini scares. Jenny becomes convinced she sees Mr Hagen in the mall tearing the head off a baby… She screams. Rightly so. People make her feel crap for ‘imagining’ this. It’s at this point, I have written in big capital letters, PTSD! The nightmares are back with vengeance, so Mrs Jeffries decides that a change of scenery would be good for her daughter. This is backed by Doc Schindler. Jenny goes into a little rant about how she is jealous of her pretty cousin, the fact that she has it all. The looks, the boys, the popularity. All of it. I guess she is also jealous that she may have a life without nightmares, but again R. L. Stine reaffirming that women/girls should be jealous of those who are perceived to be doing better than them.
Cal guilt trips Jenny when she tells him that she is going away to see her cousin. It’s her fault she made him angry. She is trying to ruin HIS summer. Erm, no. She is going away to see if a change of scenery will help with the bullshit she has had to deal with, but it’s okay Cal, we will make it about you. Jenny leaves Cal all pissed off and moody.
Cut to Debra in her bedroom, making prank salacious phone calls to a man she fancies. Her ex Don just so happens to be outside her door listening. He is jealous (see a pattern forming here? I am getting tired of these men who are just not able to understand the words ‘We are over!”) and hurts Debra by pulling her into a hug and then forcibly kisses her. Because THAT’S how boys/men treat their girls when they are dumped! Women shouldn’t be ending relationships, it’s the man’s thing! Bullshit. Get over it and move the fuck on! This is then compounded by Debra brushing his behaviour off as, and I quote, ‘harmless’ and a ‘big animal’. ERM no, you have been conditioned to believe that he can treat you like that. URGH 90’s literature is infuriating… Don leaves only when Jenny has asked Debra if she’s okay, because behaving like a complete prick in front of another woman isn’t acceptable. They have to be alone!
Debra suddenly remembers she has to meet Mrs Wagner and drags Jenny along… Debra is a babysitter! *Insert mock shocked face* To a proper baby. Baby Peter. Debra realises once Mrs Wagner has left and she sees how twitchy Jenny is that Jenny has an issue with babysitting. With her past of two people trying to kill her! Who’d have thought that would emotionally traumatise you! Debra convinces Jenny to tell her what happened back home. Jenny divulges and uses ableist language to describe Mr Hagen and Miss Gurney. Well, let’s face it, Ableism wasn’t a thing back then. It was perfectly fine to use offensive language that could upset people because everyone did it. /sarcasm
Cue predictable scare! Someone is in the kitchen. Someone saying the words Mr Hagen uttered. Oh it’s the ‘crazy’, alcoholic ex-housekeeper! Who has her own key. Babbling about how things used to go missing around the house, that she never drank when babysitting and that Mr Wagner went missing too, but that wasn’t her fault. Seriously, what is it with R. L. Stine’s need to vilify those who suffer with addiction or mental health issues? I hope his writing has improved over the years. Although I doubt it.
Jenny is freaking out. Debra just tells her to ‘just stop thinking about it’. Because it’s THAT easy when you have been through 2 huge emotionally scarring incidents. Just stop thinking about it. Yeah right.
Debra’s boyfriend Mark shows up, he is annoyed at Debra because she didn’t hear him knocking over the noise in the kitchen. He spots Jenny. Instantly knows her name. Hmmm. He is a lifeguard. He and Debra seem to have a ‘comfortable insulting you’ relationship. They all get talking and he tells Jenny, after she mentions she wants a summer job, that he could probably get her a job on his Dad’s ranch. Debra and Mark start snogging. Jenny feels like a third wheel in a living room full of little figurines. This is reading classical scary plotline.
Oh wait, it gets better. Jenny decides to go upstairs, whilst Debra and Mark are making out. Jenny is convinced the baby isn’t breathing and screams. Debra panics but runs upstairs and picks the baby up. The baby is alive and well, if not a little pissed at being woken up. I would be too, to be honest. Jenny is seeing things that aren’t really there.7
Jenny is on the ranch and meets a cute, but not her usual type, wrangler. Gary. He is not ‘that good looking’ but has a weird sense of humour? Sound familiar?? Screams Chuck, the abusive ex-boyfriend Jenny left behind in book 2… Possibly a dead plotline. (I will find out after I have read number 4!)
Debra mentions that Mark is the jealous type… Seriously. Every man who has been bought into these books has a problem with jealousy.
Jenny’s flashbacks, nightmares and impulsive thoughts are put down to an ‘obsession’. I mean that’s what a deep psychological trauma is! NOT!!!!!
Debra goes to babysit Peter. He is grizzly and teething. Here comes the baby advice that would have you slaughtered by mum’s around the world. “Just rub some rum on his gums”. I am so glad we have moved on a bit from here! Bonjela is amazing stuff.
Debra sets up a double date with Jenny and Terry (the dude she was prank calling at the start of the book, because she fancies him!) and her bloke Mark. It goes well, Jenny and Terry hit it off. When they get back, there is a baby, not moving on the porch. Wait, it’s not a baby, it’s a doll. Jenny is now convinced Mr Hagen is back and has followed her to her cousins, from the dead.
Jenny has more horrific dreams after finding out Cal has runaway from home. These dreams start with Cal and he usually ends up turning into Mr Hagen.
Debra’s boyfriend Mark, finds out that Debra had been calling Terry and is pissed. He won’t talk to her. They break up. Mr Hagen calls after she hangs up from Mark. The house is empty and she is alone… The mentally unstable alcoholic of an ex-housekeeper sneaks back into the kitchen. It’s all drama.
Jenny is up at the ranch, she is told to take a break. She does with one of the horses, just goes bolting off into the thunder and the rain. A big storm hits the town. Lights are flickering on and off. The lights go off completely in Mrs Wagner’s house. When they flicker back on, Debra goes to check on Peter. The front door that she shut was open… Someone has been in the house. Debra makes her way upstairs… The BABY IS MISSING! Can you believe it!
Debra freaks out, rightly so, heads back downstairs to be greeted by a soaking wet Cal. The phone is dead in the kitchen. Debra needs to call the police. They go running to the neighbours (because back then cellphones were limited to the rich) to use their house phone to report the baby missing. The cops turn up, so does Mrs Wagner. All sorts of theories are flying, the one being repeated the most… Mr Hagen is back from the dead and has taken the baby!
The phone rings whilst the cops are there. Debra is told Jenny is gone and that HE has the baby. Cal goes white. Mrs Wagner screams about her baby. Debra realises she recognises a noise. Two cops, the mother, Cal and Debra pile into a patrol vehicle and make their way up to the ranch. They check the barn and out from one of the stalls comes a rider with the babe in their arms.
It’s Jenny. Only it’s not Jenny. Mr Hagen is speaking through her. A thunder-clap rings out, spooking the horse Jenny is on and she comes crashing down. The baby is safe (phew!) and is handed back to it’s mother. Cal comforts Debra because they all now know that Jenny has lost her shit. “Jenny kept him alive in her mind!” Obviously resulting in her becoming the homicidal man.
So overall, the book started out predictable. I believed it could be a number of people. I truly wasn’t expecting the kidnapper or the prank caller to be Jenny. It was a twist that pleasantly surprised me. I have a feeling though that the language all through these books will be similar, the way the writer’s portray their male and female protagonists will be stereotypical and forced gender roles, BUT I may be wrong! Who knows!