Blurbed as a thriller, Nancy Bush’s The Babysitter is more of a character-driven story with some thrilling moments bookending the story.
All Jamie Whelan wants to do is attend the big senior party where Connor said he hoped to see her later. Standing in her way is her responsibility to babysit a local family’s twin children. After much begging and bribery, Jamie gets her older sister Emma to split the babysitting duties with her.
After Jamie leaves and the kids are put to bed, Emma is savagely attacked by an intruder. The incident destroys Emma’s life as she is scarred physically and mentally by the attack. Jamie leaves town as soon as high school is over, putting distance between herself and her family.
Now years later, Jamie’s mother has passed away and she is forced to return home with her teenage daughter to look after Emma. But questions about that night still linger and as Jamie begins to dig into what happened that night (with the help of Connor who is part of the local police force), she puts herself and her daughter in harm’s way yet again.
If all that sounds pretty thrilling, I’m probably doing a better job of selling it than Bush does. Apart from the opening and closing moments, the thrills are few and far between in the middle section of this book. There are long paragraphs of self-reflection by Jamie that feel like they’re treading water and rehashing details we already knew. There are a few attempts to inject some mystery into things but they feel forced as the story unfolds. I’m not opposed to a good character-driven mystery. But, alas, this just wasn’t it.
And then the ending. After spending four-hundred or so pages, the pace picks up as the truth about that night comes out. But then Bush completely undermines the entire story and narrative by having Emma reveal something in the book’s final paragraph that is meant to completely upend everything we’ve read until that point and serve as a final twist. Except it doesn’t work because it feels like it’s tacked on and comes so far out of left field that I can’t help but wonder if Bush intends to revisit these characters again in a future installment.
If she does, I can’t necessarily say I’ll be jumping at the chance to be there.