Recap #24: The Baby-Sitter II by R.L. Stine by Wing
Title: The Baby-sitter II by R.L. Stine
Summary: Jenny’s last baby-sitting job nearly killed her – literally. But she’s getting over it and she’s even taken a new baby-sitting job.
Then the phone calls start again – and when she answers she hears a familiar voice. It’s a voice from the past, a voice from beyond the grave…
“Hi Babes, I’m back,” he says.
Is it Mr Hagen, returned from the dead to wreak a hideous revenge? Or has Jenny got a new and more deadly enemy?
Tagline: Knock, Knock, Who’s there? … Don’t ask.
[Wing: Oh, good, weird capitalization and unnecessary punctuation. We’re off to a great start.]
Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.
Never read this before, absolutely not looking forward to it after the shitshow that was THE BABY-SITTER. Here. We. Go.
Is it too early to switch to bullet points? Because I haven’t even started reading and I’m ready.
We open on Jenny sitting and recapping the first book for the reader. Now, I want to give this a trope counter point (“this recap is sponsored by the WWE”), except that since this is a new book, it makes some kind of sense to remind readers what happened in the last book. Ideally, it wouldn’t be in an info-dump, but subtlety and slick writing are not Stine’s strengths, at least at this point.
[Dove: I read this before book one back in the day, because back then we were subject to the whims of head office at our local bookstore, it was basically the rule of: See it? Buy it. It won’t be there later. It took me months to track down book one. I think I got three before one. So the recap is helpful for the likes of me, stuck in a small town that did not offer a book ordering service.]
[Wing: Fair enough. And I am the one who read Class Trip II and never bothered to find Class Trip before we recapped it, so who am I to argue?]
In case you, too, recap lover, have forgotten what happened, and for some unknown reason don’t want to go read the first recap just to read this one, basically, Jenny baby-sat for little Donny Hagen, whose father was killing baby-sitters and tried to kill her, only to die instead.
We do get some new information in Jenny’s recap. She broke up with Chuck, thank god, because she didn’t really feel like laughing and joking all the time. I would rather it be because he was an inappropriate asshole, but I’ll take it. He didn’t take the break up very well, and has been really angry and moody. So…either foreshadowing or a red herring right there.
My recap of the first book ended with 22 ableism points. We’re starting there, because Jenny’s recap is full of Hagen being dangerous because he was so ~crazy.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 22
Jenny’s having dreams about Hagen crawling out of the rock quarry, all distorted and covered with blood; sometimes his skin falls off in chunks, sometimes he has a bleeding skull instead of a head; she can’t move in the dream, she can’t run away from him; and all she can do is scream. This is pretty freaky. I feel for her. At least a little. Not too much though, because mostly I think she’s an idiot.
Jenny has been recapping for her shrink, Dr. Schindler (…really, Stine? That’s the reference you want to make for this story?). Jenny doesn’t think he looks like a shrink, because he’s too handsome and tanned, with wavy, coppery hair, blond eyebrows, and green eyes. He looks too young to be a shrink, too. [Dove: Don’t you know? Hot people don’t have mundane jobs. They’re off being movie stars and stuff.]
Part of why Jenny is there is because she’s been offered another baby-sitting job, and she desperately needs money for school in the fall. She thought she’d have a real summer job, but she’s so upset and tired from not being able to sleep, and she doesn’t think she can manage a full-time job. Now, on the one hand, that’s absolutely understandable. On the other hand, most summer jobs aren’t full-time jobs in the first place. On the other other hand, IF YOU ARE TOO STRESSED TO WORK FULL TIME, GOING BACK TO THE SAME JOB THAT MADE YOU THIS WAY IS CLEARLY THE SMARTEST IDEA.
This new job is for the Wexners, who live a few blocks from Jenny and have a ten-year-old son, Eli. Jenny will be sitting two days and two nights a week. Depending on how long those days and nights are, that’s pretty close to full time anyway.
Dr S continues to try to rush her out of his office, offers her sleeping pills (which she doesn’t accept because they won’t stop the dreams), and tells her to call anytime if she wants a prescription. Stine, do you have any idea how this sort of thing works? Maybe I have just had really good experiences, but my psychiatrists would never rush me out of an appointment, nor would they so lightly offer meds. (And I take a couple different meds because I have bipolar disorder. Meds are serious business.)
[Dove: This is kind of a sister trope to the police not taking “pranks” seriously. Medical professionals think you’re “crazy” and dope you up to the eyeballs, rather than treat you — and it has the unfortunate message of “meds are bad, you’re only being given them because people can’t be bothered to fix you. You can be fixed without meds, we just don’t care enough to try.” Not good.]
The office is just weird and awkward, the way Dr S is with Jenny, the way he touches her shoulder then immediately stops when someone else is around to see them, the way his receptionist doesn’t know what “tie-dye” is.
When Jenny leaves, it’s storming, and she walks to the bus stop in the cold rain. She keeps thinking she hears footsteps behind her, keeping pace with her no matter how fast or slow she walks, but when she checks, there’s no one there…
And off Stine goes with his cliffhanger chapter endings for no reason.
There really is someone behind her, and, unsurprisingly, it’s Chuck. He tries to flirt with her and crack jokes, she shuts him down and notices that he’s really big, built like a wrestler, and asks herself if she ever noticed how wide he was, how powerful he looks. Don’t think you ever got past his class clown bits in the last book, so … red herring or foreshadowing, you pick.
In a really uncool moment, Jenny’s mom seems to still like Chuck, enough to tell him where he can find her. That’s not awesome, Jenny’s mom.
Jenny tells Chuck, again, that she’s changed and she doesn’t want to see him anymore. He shouts at her, suddenly angry, tells her he can’t accept that, won’t accept that. He startles her into stepping into the street. There’s also some weirdness going on with her vision, things changing colors, taking on sparkling brightness, very odd. Very alien. I think Jenny’s an alien.
(I don’t actually think Jenny’s an alien, but Dove has this opinion about the cover for book four, so I’m teasing her.) [Dove: Go look at the book shelf, I’m not wrong.]
Jenny almost misses the bus because she’s unable to tell what is real and what is fake. Awesome.
Jenny has another dream, and there is a repeating line that haunts her: you can’t lose memories by chasing after them.
That’s a really good line, actually. She’s not sure what it means, and before she can work it out, Mr Hagen rises, his head like a “pulpy, bloodstained moon.” When she finally wakes from the nightmare, her mother reassures her that nothing bad like Mr Hagen will ever happen to her again.
WOMAN, YOU BASICALLY SAID “I’LL BE RIGHT BACK” IN THE MIDDLE OF A HORROR MOVIE. GOOD JOB.
Finally we get to the baby-sitting in chapter three. The Wexners’ house is a small, two-story house with a super neat lawn and hedges and a gravel driveway. Jenny is very glad it looks well cared for and inviting, and not a horror movie house like the Hagens’ house.
The living room has white leather furniture and a glass and chrome coffee table, with watercolor paintings on the wall. This house may be decorated in Wing-style. (Though I’d never do white leather. My furniture is red leather.) Mrs Wexner painted the watercolors. I love this family already. Do not be evil or dead by the end, K PLS THX BYE.
Mr Wexner is a short, slightly built man around 34 or 35. Oh dear god. I need a minute. He has a pleasant, narrow face and neat light brown hair, and he dresses very preppy (button down, pressed chinos). They talk a minute about how long the parents will be gone, and about Eli’s mechanical genius, and then Mr Wexner says “I wish Eli acted more like other ten-year-olds.”
FUCKING RUN, JENNY. THERE IS NO GOOD RESULT FROM THAT.
Mrs Wexner doesn’t join them until the Wexners are ready to leave. She’s small and thin, shorter than Jenny, wears her blonde hair cut “boyishly short” (whatever, sexist, Stine), and has dramatic dark eyes and three diamond studs in her left ear. She, too, dresses kind of preppy (long sleeve t-shirt, tennis shorts, sandals). Mrs Wexner warns Jenny not to let Eli walk all over her, she needs to be firm with him, but not too firm, because he’s very emotional, he’s so smart it’s easy to forget he’s only ten.
This sounds like an AWESOME sitting job.
Finally, the Wexners leave and Jenny heads upstairs to meet Eli. As someone who baby-sat a lot during high school and university, I am really bothered that Jenny doesn’t meet Eli with the parents still around. That’s dangerous and weird and just not ok.
Of course, she starts to imagine him as a monster, waiting to pounce on her when she comes upstairs, but then talks herself down. Sure enough, Eli is in his room on his computer. Get down with your techie self, Eli.
Eli finishes what he’s typing before he acknowledges her, and pretty quickly tells her that he doesn’t need a baby-sitter. He built the computer himself, and Jenny is really impressed by that. As she should be, considering when this was written. He’s blasé about the testing people calling him a mechanical genius with an IQ over 180. He demands to know Jenny’s IQ, but she’s never taken the test, and he mocks her for not taking it, then tells her she wouldn’t understand anything about his computer since she’s not a mechanical genius. I can see how well his parents are doing to control that ego.
He calls his parents Rena and Michael, not Mom and Dad, and has secretly built a phone because they don’t want him to have one. When Jenny asks who he calls with his secret phone, he shrugs it off, says no one really, because he doesn’t have too many friends. Because you’re a little asshole, and your parents are just encouraging it.
I know I sound harsh on this kid, but look. I was a gifted and talented kid, too. Really fucking smart. My younger brother, though, is a full blown genius, and he struggled a lot making friends (and still does sometimes), because he’s a stubborn dick who always has to be right, can’t back down from an argument, and is pretty much an asshole to everyone. I love him a lot, and think he’s awesome, but that’s not a personality most people can or will deal with, much less befriend. [Dove: He also asked my intentions towards you. He’s awesome.] [Wing: He is a joy and a delight forever, much like me.]
Sure enough, when Jenny asks Eli if he tries to make friends, he says friends are stupid, the kids at school are stupid, and he keeps insulting them. Cause that’s going to get you friends, jackass child. Little kids are already pretty sociopathic, and when they are also wicked smart, well … parents need to parent a little harder, is all I’m saying.
Eli tells Jenny he’ll show her his real friends, and I immediately know where this is going, because it is always fucking spiders. He tells her to stick her hand in a box without looking, and clearly this is going to be spiders, because always fucking spiders, but also it has to be something creepy. AND SURE E-FUCKING-NOUGH, JENNY PUTS HER HAND IN THE BOX AND THEN STARTS TO SCREAM.
BECAUSE IT IS ALWAYS FUCKING SPIDERS.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 (+1)
WHY IS IT ALWAYS FUCKING SPIDERS?
Next chapter has Jenny explaining to Dr S that Eli keeps three tarantulas as pets. As she’s talking about it, she feels itchy all over. Me fucking too, Jenny. I’m about to go sit in a fire for awhile, to avoid the thought of spiders.
Jenny freaked out while baby-sitting, Eli laughed a lot, and Jenny says she wanted to kill him for it. Dr S tells her she didn’t really mean that, which yes, is true, but also, kind of a pointless statement. Jenny agrees she didn’t mean it, but says that she thinks Eli is truly evil for how he reacted.
Also, Eli put on a glove before he picked up the tarantula before he put it back in its case. Umm, you a little freaked out by them too, Eli?
Dr S suggests that Jenny is reading more into this trick than she should be, which, oh hell no, Dr S. Fuck that noise. Of course, Jenny also ignored the kid the rest of the night, he even put himself to bed. She says he doesn’t have the right to be mad at her for scolding him, and Dr S rightly points out that HE’S FUCKING 10, rights aren’t really a part of it yet. He’s going to be mad, and his parents need to deal with his pranks. Jenny told them when they got home, and all they did was tell Jenny not to get Eli angry because it’s hard to win him back when he’s angry. Umm, that is not what you should be worried about. If you, as his parents, can’t handle parenting because you don’t want him to get angry with you, YOU SHOULD NOT FUCKING BE PARENTS.
[Dove: This. This, this, this. Times a billion. They’ve completely enabled Eli’s behaviour to the point where he has complete control of the household.]
[Wing: This is such a terrible example of how so many people parent their precious snowflake children.]
This book is going to make me asplode about parenting, isn’t it? Fuck. I hate you, Dove. Why did you buy the rest of the series? [Dove: Did we, the recappers, just hit an I beat you because I love you count?] [Wing: … Crap.]
Dr S asks about her nightmares, but doesn’t let her respond because her time is up. ONCE AGAIN, UNPROFESSIONAL AND SHITTY.
As Jenny leaves, there’s a weird moment with Miss Gurney, his secretary. She says he’s a wonderful man and she used to be his patient too (… I am skeptical that having her work for him isn’t a professional misconduct), but she calls him Dr Gurney before quickly changing to Dr S. WEIRD.
Jenny meets up with Claire and Rick at the Pizza Oven. Jenny calls them her friends, but who the fuck are Claire and Rick? What happened to Laura?
Anyway, Rick is a big, good-looking jock who likes to crack jokes. Claire is very serious, tall, and thin. Jenny says she’s not really pretty, but she will be one day, and a lot of guys make fun of her for being tall. She doesn’t make jokes, and rarely even gets jokes that are told to her. Jenny likes that about her a lot.
Chuck was looking for her, and Jenny is frustrated. Rick tells her he’s a good guy, and while Jenny says he’s just doing it to annoy her, I want to stab him in the face.
Jenny tells them a little about Eli, and Rick offers her a job at his uncle’s shoe store, where Rick and Claire both work for the summer. Jenny turns it down, though, because Jenny is determined to end up dead while baby-sitting.
DED FROM STUPID: 1
[Dove: Seriously, Jenny. This completely undermines the angst in the start of the book, where you have to babysit because you literally have no other options.]
After Claire and Rick go back to work, Jenny wanders around the mall for awhile, thinking about how unsettled she feels whenever she sees Dr S. Now, I don’t do talk therapy, but I don’t think it’s a great sign if you feel bad every single time you see your therapist. Yeah, tough things happen (well, theoretically, from what we’ve seen, Dr S isn’t really doing anything anyway), but you are supposed to feel better at least some of the time.
While looking at cassettes in the music store, Jenny notices a boy watching her. He is sort of tough-looking, with short, spiky blond hair, black denim jeans, and a red and black Aerosmith t-shirt. He has long legs, blue eyes, a gold stud in one ear, and he walks with big strides, lots of confidence.
He keeps staring and follows her, and this is not well-written enough to be creepy, but also because I know it is ending in a cliff-hanger for no good reason, because Stine, so there’s no real need to be concerned.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 3 (+1)
Also, he keeps “loping” instead of walking, which makes me think of wolves, and so I have to say: NEEDS MORE WEREWOLVES.
Of course, all he’s trying to do is give her an envelope she dropped; it’s a bill from Dr S. Jenny tries to calm down and get over her embarrassment, and realises that he’s a hottie who smells like cinnamon. [Dove: a boy that smells of Christmas? Can’t work out if attracted or hungry.] [Wing: My younger sister and I have a private joke about things smelling like Christmas that is perverted and hilarious, and now I am laughing.] Cal’s new in town, and will be starting at her high school in the fall. They joke about t-shirts and music for a bit, and then Jenny tries to take off, but he follows her outside. Jenny is super uncomfortable even before he asks her out. She deflects that she doesn’t know him, but Cal pushes on, saying that some guy from his new neighborhood invited him to a party on Friday night, maybe Jenny knows him, Jim something. Jenny says she doesn’t, but she can’t come anyway, she baby-sits on Friday nights. Cal immediately says he meant Saturday night instead, and then promises that he’s not a bad guy, she should take a chance on him, and he’s really kind of pushy about the whole thing. I don’t like you, Cal, which means you’re probably the actual love interest.
Stine manages to cliff hanger the fucking scene, without ending the chapter, on Jenny asking herself whether she should go out with him, in a really dramatic way.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 4 (+1)
Baby-sitting, again. The Wexners are in a rush to leave, and Mrs W says that Eli’s been in a cranky mood all day, asks Jenny to try to get along with him. Because yes, that should be your concern. I keep putting off this recap because I can’t deal with the shitty way the Wexners parent. The Wexners start fighting over whether Eli is a good kid or a monster and whether Mrs W scared off all the other baby-sitters.
Jenny. Really. This job is not worth it. Leave.
DED FROM STUPID: 2 (+1)
Eli is watching some sort of cabin-based horror movie, and when Jenny asks whether he should be watching it (may be a valid question, I guess, but I started watching horror movies pretty young, too, so I might not be the right person to talk about this). After arguing with him for awhile, Jenny leaves him to it and goes downstairs to read a magazine. She can’t focus on it, though, too caught up in thinking about Cal and why she said yes to him. He’s kind of tough, not really her type. Which, pushy and asshole-ish, I don’t think she should have said yes, but tough guy, funny guy, what is your type, Jenny?
The phone interrupts her thoughts, and all she hears is “Hi, Babes. I’m back.”
Now that is a valid chapter ending.
That is a reference to what Mr Hagen said in the first book, and Jenny immediately freaks out that her nightmares are coming true. She talks herself through it, though, because she saw him fall, she heard the noises his body made when he hit, she’ll never be able to forget that. And god, that would be a pretty awful thing to have seen.
Then we get this:
People don’t come back from the dead.
Look, Stine, either write supernatural or don’t, but stop trying to tease it in your non-supernatural stories.
Even though she’s awake, Jenny apparently falls back into her nightmare, until she manages to shake herself out of it. She’s having a full blown panic attack, and decides to go check on Eli upstairs, until she hears the back door opening and someone walking through the kitchen.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 5 (+1)
It is, of course, Mr W, back because he forgot the tickets because they were arguing as they left. He asks about Eli, and Jenny tells him he’s watching a horror movie, then asks if he’s normally allowed to watch scary movies. Mr W says that they don’t really have much control over what he watches (WHAT THE FUCK KIND OF SHIT PARENTING IS GOING ON HERE) and then says maybe Eli will get the blood and gore out of his system by watching the movie.
Jenny. Jenny, it is time to LEAVE.
DED FROM STUPID: 3 (+1)
To be fair to her, she does recognize that is a really weird thing to say. Unfortunately, she doesn’t do anything about it. Instead, she goes up to check on Eli, and finds the movie off and him standing and staring at his goddamn spiders and if I never have to type that word again, I would be so happy.
Why am I recapping this again? UGH.
Anyway, Eli doesn’t like to watch the end of movies where they kill the bad guy. Stine, this is the least subtle I’ve ever seen you be over someone potentially being a killer, which probably means this is all a red herring, but I am not even going to give you a point, because I am too disturbed by the spiders.
[Dove: This? (Sorry about the awful quality, it was the only one I could find.)]
[Wing: I don’t watch that show, so I’m just going to believe this is super appropriate or something.]
So tired of reading about them.
They talk about the damn spiders for awhile, and about movies with giant spiders, and I’m pretty sure Stine can see the future. He knew we would feud in the 2010s, so he wrote this book knowing that one day, it would try to destroy me so he could win our feud. You’ll never win, Stine! NEVAH!
Eli is reading a Stephen King book. Jenny thinks that’s too old for him, too. I don’t know, I was definitely reading horror stories by ten. God, whatever, I need the story to move away from this kid and his gruesome pets.
[Dove: The “reading a Stephen King” as a shortcut for “being a gorehound” (following on from Eli’s dad’s comment about horror getting the gore out of his system) shows lack of research. Eli could well be reading Different Seasons, which while containing scenes that aren’t lovely happy bunnies prancing through a meadow, aren’t the standard horror fare. Also, when it comes to King, you have to put in the legwork to get to the gore. IT is a massive door-stop of a book, but 90% of it is about the power of friendship. If Eli was reading Richard Laymon or James Herbert, then I’d be concerned — especially given the former’s attitude towards women. Eli needs no more encouragement to view half the population as mindless objects.]
[Wing: Eh, I think Eli views everyone as mindless objects. He’s not sexist, he just hates everyone he thinks isn’t as smart as he believes he is. This will be his downfall someday.]
Parents come home, there’s yet more talk about spiders, I want to set everything on fire, and finally, Jenny leaves, deciding to walk home even though she’s freaked out, had that call earlier, and it is after midnight. Of course, she’s not gone more than a few steps when Chuck surprises her. This is, of course, split across chapters, but since Chuck could be the killer this time, I’m not going to count it in the trope count.
He’s sweaty, breathing hard, been waiting for her – I’m pretty sure Chuck was just jacking off in the bushes.
You’re welcome for that mental image.
Anyway, he’s very grabby, and he demands to talk to her, wants her to explain why they broke up, why she won’t talk to him, and is generally throwing his size and strength around, trying to intimidate her. She reminds him she’s been through something terrible and she can’t deal with him being a reminder of what Hagen did, and he gets even angrier, because he was there for her, all the things he did for her, and this is how she repays him.
I beat you because I love you: 1
Wing’s head goes boom.
No one fucking owes you anything, Chuck. No matter what you did for Jenny, you don’t deserve her attention, her friendship, her love – nothing. Fuck that fucking noise. This is such typical Nice Guy bullshit.
Jenny realises that Chuck could have been the person to call her earlier, he knew the exact words Hagen used. He says he called her house and talk to her mom, but doesn’t confirm or deny whether he called her at the Wexners. Jenny once again tells him it’s over, and he grabs her yet again, because physical violence is the way to get what you want, guys. He actually fucking throws her down to the ground, looms dangerously, then tells her she’ll be sorry and runs off. This is pretty terrible.
I beat you because I love you: 101 (+100)
She spends a lot of time thinking that because she hurt him, now he hates her, and no, Jenny, this is all on him, fuck that. Late that night, she gets another call, and the caller just whispers at her. She doesn’t recognise the voice at first, but then it turns out to be Eli. Because that’s not creepy at all. He’s calling her on the phone he made, which is pretty cool in itself, except that it’s 2:30 a.m., and he shouldn’t be calling her at all, creepy child.
The next night, Jenny is unimpressed by the party. We get some outfit descriptions (Cal: black, straight-legged jeans and an oversized, short-sleeved Hawaiian shirt, Jenny: green t-shirt over an orange sleeveless t-shirt over white tennis shorts. I cannot figure out how Jenny’s outfit works. How can you see the orange shirt under the green shirt if the orange shirt is the sleeveless one?), but Jenny can’t see most people at the party because it’s too dark! (Exclamation point courtesy of Stine.) They take off, even though they haven’t been at the party long, in Cal’s Dodge Dart. As they drive away, Cal’s happy mood disappears, and he drives in silence and won’t respond to Jenny, all moody while he touches the scar on his chin. How dramatic.
[Dove: I think Jenny’s outfit might be something along these lines:
[Wing: Oh god.]
Finally he says that he’s embarrassed, because he wanted to show her a good time, but instead the party was a bust. Jenny tells him it’s okay, he takes everything badly and can’t let it go, and finally she orders him to pull over – but not so she can escape this moody jerk. Instead, she flings herself at him for a long, hard kiss.
Jenny. Oh, Jenny, I give up on you.
They make out for awhile, and Jenny thinks about how needy he is. Hot. Then she thinks about how they’re both really needy, and maybe that’s why he’s so attractive to her. Oh, god, Jenny. I know I literally just gave up on you, but I am giving up on you again.
Jenny stops them after awhile and suggests they go roller skating. Cal points out they don’t have skates, and she calls him silly when she tells him the rink will rent them. Cal does not like being called silly, apparently, and Jenny is ridiculously fond of him being sensitive, oh god. Cal’s never skated before, apparently, but is willing to give it a try.
Good luck with that, jackass.
… he is a natural skater. Of course he is.
They have a blast, kiss again on the porch when he takes her home, and then Jenny sees someone hiding in the bushes by the house. Jenny points it out and Cal rushes over to check, while she panics that it is Mr Hagen. JENNY, YOU KEEP TELLING US THAT HE IS DEAD, HOW IN THE HELL IS MR HAGEN YOUR FIRST THOUGHT AND NOT CHUCK, YOUR EX WHO HAS PROVEN TO BE ABUSIVE IN THE AFTERMATH OF YOUR BREAKUP?
DED FROM STUPID: 4 (+1)
Cal doesn’t catch whoever it is, but suggests it was a burglar. Yes, a burglar just hanging out in the bushes. Comforting. He leaves, Jenny reads for awhile, and is just about to fall asleep when she gets a call. She assumes it’s Eli again, but this time, the caller uses all of Mr Hagen’s old words.
Jenny and Cal are meeting up at the mall, in the back corner of the parking lot for some reason. While she waits for him, she thinks the rain has transformed the parking lot into a dark, sparkling jewel, and nothing is real, everything is enchanted by the rain. Her imagination is certainly much more defined in this book. Maybe Stine reacting to criticism of being told but not often shown that she was too imaginative in the last book?
The stores have closed, the lights have gone out in the mall, and Jenny is just hanging out alone in the corner of this parking lot in the dark, after a thunderstorm, under a tar-black sky. She dances around, she hums, she’s kind of adorable, and then she starts to get frustrated that Cal has just left her waiting. She hears something scraping, sees a hand flung out from a bin, and goes to see if Cal has been hurt. Nope, it’s Mr Hagen and this whole thing has been a dream.
Fuck you, Stine. Fuck. You.
Jenny tells Dr S about the dream and how real it felt, how she could still smell Hagen’s rot, but it was weird that she was at the mall instead of at the rock quarry, which is where these nightmares usually take place (with good reason). [Dove: Malls are cool?] [Wing: No.]
Dr S focuses on Cal, because Jenny says he was the reason she was in the parking lot during the dream. He wants to know if she thinks Cal is the one making the creepy calls, if she is doubting him, and she denies it. Dr S does gently suggest that it might be her imagination, because she did go through violent trauma, and sometimes that can be the result. I don’t do psychotherapy, but this seems a bit off. Especially when he works her into a shouting fit of confusion and then cuts it off because their time is up. Great therapy there, dude.
She’s baby-sitting for Eli more than expected, which annoys me, because she should have run away from this creepy kid already, but also, she didn’t think she could hold down a full time job, remember? And yet she’s baby-sitting more than ever. Eli’s mad at her for some reason, too. Dr S finally talks her into taking a sleeping pill (because they just hand those out willy nilly and force them on patients) [Dove: I have had insomnia since I was eight. I still have never been given sleeping pills.], and as she’s leaving the office, she finds a dead tarantula in her bag.
This is disgusting. I want to be done with this recap already.
+ Jenny questions whether Eli would really kill one of his pets to play a joke. Wing says yes.
+ Jenny thinks Cal looks great in a denim workshirt and faded jean cutoff shorts. Wing says that’s a lot of denim.
+ Jenny rushes off to play tennis with Claire and Rick; Cal is surprising her with a visit, and goes with them. Cal says he’s never played before, but ends up being a skilled player. Jenny thinks he’s a phony because he always has to act as if he’s never tried something before. Wing doesn’t care.
+ Jenny tells the Wexners about the dead tarantula. If I never have to type “tarantula” or “spider” again, I will die happy. They go to talk to Eli, and all his tarantulas are still alive. (Of course they are. I have to keep writing about them.) This makes Mrs W and Eli pretty unhappy with Jenny. Wing wants to burn everything.
+ Eli throws a fit, his mother leaves after telling Jenny to be nice to him, she leaves him alone for awhile, and then goes upstairs to find Eli’s room torn apart and Eli on the carpet, his eyes frozen in a glassy stare, head tilted at an odd angle, and blood pooling under his head. It is, of course, a prank, and for a second, Jenny wants to make him cry, make him bleed for real. Well now, Jenny. Wing would like to talk to you about Team Evil. [Dove: *snort*]
+ Eli and Jenny are playing Monopoly when Chuck calls. She snaps at him, as he deserves, yells at him not to call again, and then hangs up. She’s worried she’s upset Eli with the shouting, but he is calm and tells her she landed on Park Place and owes him money.
+ Rick and Claire turn up after dinner (man, her mom just tells everyone where she is – I never had visitors while baby-sitting), Rick calls Eli a little spaz, so there’s an ableism point, good times, and Eli does not want Jenny’s friends in his house. He softens up a little when Claire keeps offering him M&Ms. (Not at all creepy, a teenager tempting a kid with candy.) Rick nearly kisses her, Jenny blows that off and is all confused, and then she hears Claire and Eli shouting upstairs. (Eli is shouting “I said no” at one point, which just adds to the creepy child molester vibes Stine is unintentionally putting out here.) Claire falls down the stairs, with the implication that Eli pushed her. [Dove: Yeah, this was a sinister scene for all the wrong reasons.]
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 25 (+3)
+ Jenny talks about this with Dr S, and Dr S says Eli could have been frightened, and it’s normal for people to have inappropriate facial expressions when they are stressed. Claire is fine, just pulled a muscle in her shoulder. However, she hit her head hard, and I bet is concussed, and that is serious business, even if they weren’t as aware of how it worked back when this was written. Jenny flat out says Eli may be evil.
+ Despite feeling that way, Jenny is back at work. The Wexners ask about Claire, and then Mr scolds her for having friends over without telling them. While Jenny’s thinking that she’ll never trust Eli again because he’s evil, he runs out and gives her a giant hug, and immediately she starts to like him again. Jenny. Come on.
+ Jenny reads Wuthering Heights for awhile, wishing to go walking on the moors with a handsome young man dressed for the hunt. Stine, do you even know what Wuthering Heights is about? She’s just about to check on Eli when the phone rings, and again, it’s someone saying Hagen’s words. She goes upstairs and hears someone whispering in Eli’s room. Immediately, she’s worried about someone being in there with Eli and what they could have done with Eli and not, you know, thinking that ELI HAS A FUCKING PHONE IN THERE AND CALLS YOU SOMETIMES, GOD, JENNY. When she finally enters the room, Eli is, of course, alone, and says he’s been calling his friends. (The friends he doesn’t have?) He then gives her another big hug, once again stopping her suspicions, and then asks her to tell him about her other baby-sitting job. [Dove: Seriously Jenny? You think the kid is evil… but now he knows how to hug, it’s all fine?]
+ Jenny is at the mall, in the parking lot, trying to remember why it is all so familiar. She literally just retold this dream to Dr S. Good lord, do you think we’ve forgotten? She runs, thinking someone is chasing her, but when she turns around, Dr S is just walking around. He claims to be looking for his car. He takes off as Cal finally joins her after he’s finished up for the day at the ice cream shop where he works. (Jenny says he was buying groceries. At…the…mall?)
+ Jenny is in the middle of telling Cal what’s been going on when she decides that she’s solved the mystery of who is calling her. She’s not ready to tell Cal, and she’s apparently not ready to tell the goddamn reader either, which is just a cheat, STINE. Finally she tells Cal that she thinks it is Dr S. Cal asks the obvious question when she says that only Dr S and Chuck know the whole story, which is why not Chuck? Jenny says Chuck would never hurt her. Jenny, have you forgotten what has happened in this book? Cal points out that Dr S has no motive, and Jenny says then it has to be Hagen, and he’s really back, and she doesn’t want to believe she’s being pursued by a dead man. I just headdesked so hard I think I gave myself a concussion. [Dove: This is the same idiocy as displayed in Defriended. I SHALL IGNORE THE OBVIOUS AND RESOLUTELY HOLD ON TO MY STUPID THEORY.]
+ Jenny’s back for another session, and the fish are acting weird in their tank. Of course they are. Jenny says they’re going crazy, and Dr S says they don’t use that word in his office. On the one hand, fair point not using it to describe the fish in their frenzy. On the other hand, he’s a therapist, if someone feels crazy, they should be able to use any words to describe how they’re feeling. That’s the point of being able to try to talk about it in therapy. I am putting way more thought into this than I should, because clearly Stine hasn’t. Her big plan is to tell Dr S she’s going to the quarry to face her fears, and then when he shows up, she’ll know. Or something.
+ Cal and Jenny go to the quarry. There are new piles of gravel, and Jenny finds it weird that anyone would be doing work there now, because it was deserted for years. They argue a little over what to do, but then a car pulls up, and Cal hides behind the gravel. Jenny turns to face the dark figure, and, of course, we get a fucking cliff hanger on “You! … What are you doing here?!”
It is, of course, Miss Gurney, Dr S’s assistant. She says Jenny can’t have Dr S. She listens to all of Jenny’s tapes, she’s super jealous of Jenny. She used to be Dr S’s patient, but now he ignores her for Jenny. Great, she’s a former patient, she’s ~crazy, so she’s dangerous.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 125 (+100)
Cal tries to tackle Miss Gurney, but she ducks and he sails headfirst into the quarry. Well that was a thing. I don’t believe he’s dead. Then a hand appears at the edge of a quarry. Two hands. Jenny freaks out, because HAGEN HAS RETURNED. And certainly not Cal catching himself and climbing out. The quarry’s been filled with water, and she screamed so loud she never heard Cal splash when he hit. Miss Gurney is described as the “big woman” a bunch here, because fatties, am I right, never get their own man. Jenny and Miss Gurney hit the water, Jenny passes out a little, then comes to with police cars and Cal rescuing her, while the police officers try to get Miss Gurney out of the water. Dr S turns up, because he finally figured out what was going on. Wing still doesn’t give a fuck.
Cal jokes that they should go see Return of the Living Dead, and Jenny tells him he has a sick sense of humor. I thought you didn’t like tough guys or funny guys, Jenny.
I hate everything. Burn it all to the ground.
[Dove: That was dumb. Super dumb. And here’s the saddest thing: this is probably the best sequel. It’s all downhill from here.]
[Wing: No. I refuse to do the others. There are no others. Stine never wrote another word in his life.]
DED FROM STUPID: 4
I beat you because I love you: 101
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 125Category: Point Horror Recaps
Tags: 90s attire, ableism, adults are idiots, annoying main character, author: r l stine, comments by dove, crazy means dangerous, needs more werewolves, recaps by wing, threatening phone calls, weaksauce bad guy motivation, WHY IS IT ALWAYS SPIDERSpermalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
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