The Babysitter Murders

( 5 )

Overview

Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante ...

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Overview

Everyone has weird thoughts sometimes. But for seventeen-year-old Dani Solomon, strange thoughts have taken over her life. She loves Alex, the little boy she babysits, more than anything. But one day, she has a vision of murdering him that's so gruesome, she can't get it out of her mind. In fact, Dani's convinced that she really will kill Alex. She confesses the thoughts to keep him safe, setting off a media frenzy that makes "Dani Death" the target of an extremist vigilante group.

Through the help of a brave therapist, Dani begins to heal her broken mind. But will it be too late? The people of her community want justice . . . and Dani's learning that some thoughts are better left unsaid.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this provocative exploration of a community's response to the mere possibility of a horrific crime, Young employs elements from her first book, The Opposite of Music: the present-tense narrative; the Hawthorne, Mass., setting; and the reassuring presence of Gordy Abt, who appears as the boyfriend of 17-year-old Dani Solomon, who is worried because she has TMI—Too Much Imagination. It comes out in daydreams about mocking (and harming) her mother, outing her best friend, and even killing the little boy she babysits. Dani both wants reassurance that she's not a murderer at heart and to escape these frightening, persistent thoughts, but she can't find the words to explain how she's feeling to the people closest to her. When her secret does finally emerge, the repercussions change many lives, even those of people Dani has never known. Young's writing style is assured, and the tension stays high throughout, as local reaction escalates, complete with tabloid headlines, a cesspool of Internet commentary, and the threat of vigilantism. It's a realistic and disturbing look at our cultural response to mental illness. Ages 14–up. (July)
From the Publisher
"Teens who feel misunderstood will relate to Dani’s struggles to maintain her reputation in a society that tends to view them with suspicion."
—KIRKUS REVIEWS, June 15, 2011

* “Young's writing style is assured, and the tension stays high throughout, as local reaction escalates, complete with tabloid headlines, a cesspool of Internet commentary, and the threat of vigilantism. It's a realistic and disturbing look at our cultural response to mental illness.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
Dani, seventeen, has long suppressed and hidden her undiagnosed OCD and its accompanying disruptive thoughts, but while babysitting youngster, Alex Draper, she glimpses a televised stabbing report that creates her uncontrollable fantasies of stabbing him. Terrified, she hides the Draper's knives for Alex's safety, but realizes she must quit babysitting and finally seek assistance. Resigning is a fiasco; Alex's mother becomes angry, Dani anxiously bungles her problem, and 911 is dialed. Officer Pinto and Sergeant Mason arrive, with the latter calming everyone, then reassuring Dani and her mother. Officer Pinto disagrees with Dani's treatment, insinuating worse circumstances to his wife with their son, Malcolm, overhearing. Mrs. Pinto blabs, but Malcolm hits the Internet, and the "kiddy babyslitter" goes viral. After Malcolm leaks identities, Dani is hunted and must somehow secretly escape town. This is no slasher novel as its title seems, but far more frightening; its contemporary witch-hunt after spurious information regarding an individual enters a community via the Internet is hardly fictional. Still, irony and dark humor from wired kiddy surveillance t-shirts, "Dani-cams," rewards for revealing photos of Dani, outrageous editorials and blogs, and a tasteless mayoral statement of increased city revenue from curious visitors abound. Enticing subplots chronicle suspicious friends, Dani's first romance and the angst of her lesbian best friend's disastrous one, and Dani's therapy. The prose drags somewhat before the 911 call, but shifting mainly to letters, gossip, and postings, provide a faster-paced, exciting story sure to attract, appall, and caution older females. Reviewer: Lisa A. Hazlett
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
At 17, Dani, a junior at Hawthorne High School, seems to have it all. She is an honor student, sings in the a cappella choir, is a tennis star, has a best friend, baby sits for an adorable toddler, and the guy she has a crush on is taking an interest in her. Then she starts having disturbing thoughts that she cannot shake. She imagines herself killing the toddler with a knife, outing her friend, knocking a ladder from under her mother, etc. She knows she does not want to do any of these things, but she is afraid that she might. When Dani blurts out the truth to the toddler's mother, the police get involved. An unethical officer talks about the incident at home and Dani's name comes out. The media goes into a frenzy inciting fear of "the teen murderer" in their midst. An internet vigilante group targets Dani as a threat and goes after her. Dani is forced into hiding. Her mother takes her to a competent psychologist who treats her effectively for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Told in present tense from three characters' points of view, the story is sometimes confusing. The choice of the title and the photograph on the cover of the book are perplexing. There are no murders and the girl in the photo does not resemble the description of any of the characters. The potential value of the book would have been improved if an author's note had provided factual information about the symptoms and possible causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder, as well as recommended treatment procedures. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
Dani adores Alex, so why is she thinking about killing him?

Once a random thought crosses Dani's mind, she can't get rid of it—even when it's completely contrary to her nature. She lives in fear that she's blurted out inappropriate sexual thoughts about her teacher or rude remarks about her best friend's newly revealed lesbianism. Worst, though, are the thoughts of harming the little boy she babysits. She decides to quit her babysitting job, and—responsibly, she thinks—does so in person. Alex's mother hears only that Dani's thinking about killing Alex and calls the police. Dani's committed no crime, so she's not arrested, but word gets out, and Dani falls prey to the smear tactics of a vigilante group called Protect Our Kids. Under a therapist's treatment, Dani learns to deal with her rare type of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her attempts to heal backfire when Alex's mother overreacts again, tricking Dani into a confrontation with Malcolm, a creepy guy with his own obsessions. The somewhat shallow plot is offset by alternating points of view; the detached tone of seamlessly interwoven snippets from online chatrooms, blogs and newspaper editorials effectively demonstrate modern parental fears that danger lurks everywhere.

Teens who feel misunderstood will relate to Dani's struggles to maintain her reputation in a society that tends to view them with suspicion.(Fiction. 12 & up)

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Dani Solomon, 17, has a rare form of obsessive-compulsive disorder and is plagued by disturbing thoughts that play over and over in her mind. She thinks about outing her gay best friend, groping her music teacher, insulting her mother, and, worst of all, hurting the little boy she babysits for. When she confesses her thoughts to the child's mother so she will understand why she cannot babysit anymore, Dani becomes the subject of vicious gossip and rumors and eventually the target of a vigilante group. Intensive therapy helps her name her disorder and begin to deal with it. This book's take on OCD is unique in YA literature, and the focus on public overreaction to what is essentially a thought crime is a new wrinkle. However, the characters and dialogue just don't ring true in many parts of the novel. Matt de la Peña's Ball Don't Lie (2005), Terry Spencer Hesser's Kissing Doorknobs (1998, both Delacorte), and Crissa-Jean Chappell's Total Constant Order (HarperCollins, 2007) are all better choices for novels about teens with OCD.—Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416959441
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 7/26/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Janet Ruth Young is the author of the teen novels My Beautiful Failure, Things I Shouldn’t Think (previously published as The Babysitter Murders), and The Opposite of Music. She lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Visit her at JanetRuthYoung.com.

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Read an Excerpt

1

MyFace Profile

Name: Dani

Sex: Female

Age: 17 years old

Location: Hawthorne, Massachusetts, United States

Last log-in: April 23

Mood: romantic

My hobbies: tennis, running, singing

Interested in: friendship male and female, dating male, relationship male

My favorite quote:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”—Charles Reade

About me:

Hello, world!!! I’m a jr. at Hawthorne High and sing alto in our a cappella group the Hawtones . . . love the teamwork . . . play varsity tennis . . . brings out my competitive side . . . best friend is Shelley . . . u can see lots of pictures of us here . . . lots of good times . . . I’m a loyal friend, always try to live up to what is expected of me . . . hate letting people down, would rather be disappointed in them than have them disappointed in me . . . I’ve had this happen to me at least once since my dad moved away when I was little . . . I won’t bore you with that story since you probably know how that goes . . . I like a guy at school, but he has no idea . . . so if you are cute and reasonably tall and above all, NICE, please hit me up.

TMI, Dani thinks. That’s way too much information. Just leave in the happy parts.

Hello, world!!! I’m a jr. at Hawthorne High and sing alto in our a cappella group the Hawtones . . . love the teamwork . . . play varsity tennis . . . brings out my competitive side . . . best friend is Shelley . . . u can see lots of pictures of us here . . . lots of good times . . . I’m a loyal friend, always try to live up to what is expected of me . . . if you are cute and reasonably tall and above all, NICE, please hit me up.

Dani presses Publish.

© 2011 Janet Ruth Young

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The most powerful force in the universe is gossip

    I have to be honest and say that I was a little nervous about reading The Babysitter Murders - the title alone makes one come to an abrupt stop when browsing the bookshelves. What a daring and startling story that Janet Ruth Young has written! To be sure, The Babysitter Murders still continues to linger in my mind and has changed how I read or watch the news - for the better.

    The story concept is unquestionably disturbing as readers get a look inside Dani's head, but it is obvious that Dani also finds her thoughts unsettling and prefers to not have them in the first place. This slows readers down from casting Dani into a villain's role and wonder what exactly is going on. The constant debate of whether Dani will be innocent or guilty keeps the pages turning - and the curiosity nearly explodes as Dani tries to figure out how to avoid the inevitable temptation.

    I cannot go into too much detail without destroying the carefully-knotted story, but when Dani finally faces the point of no return, what happens next makes me sick to my stomach. Oh, how quickly the media pounces, how swiftly the cry for justice sounds, how wildly the panic spreads, how prematurely Chicken Little runs about before the sky actually falls. If there had been any hope for Dani to get help for this sickness, assuredly it has been crushed by the bloodthirsty public who wants her head on a platter.

    In her defense, Dani does attemp to reach out to those closest to her for help - which is incredibly brave on her part - although she does not spell her concerns out explicitly. The Babysitter Murders makes me wonder how I would react if Dani had told me what was going on. What happens if my best friend confides in me about thoughts on wanting to murder someone - seriously - and needs my help to stop her from doing so? I am ashamed to say that I would probably back away slowly and hightail it to somewhere safe. How else does one react? How does a PARENT react when their child approaches them? Obviously I am out of my depths, but if someone I loved had this issue, I should be able to acknowledge their cry for help as a GOOD sign and not ditch them.

    The Babysitter Murders reminds me a little of shine where a singular news event affects the entire town and the truth is not as black-and-white as the typeface on the paper wants you to believe. It definitely cautions readers from jumping to conclusions and reminding them that even the worst stories have two sides to them.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2011

    Good book !

    this book is great! i couldn't put it down !!! I don't wanna ruin the ending , but i WAS dissapointed because i thought she was actually going to murder somebody..but other then that the plot was great and i loved it !

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Great book for children.

    I loved the book and s o did my little brother i read to him also... the book has lots of twists and will leave you with the ntaste of despare in your mouth i reccomend this book for older children that like mysteries.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!

    For me, as I started this book, it was real easy to fall into the story line. We have a teenage girl, who is overwhelmed by a lot of things. So much so, that she starts to over think things and her thoughts. Dani, has bad thought just like everyone. But these thoughts scare her so much that she just freaked herself out.

    It is hard for me to write this review cause I am not sure how to get the right words to describe this book. The story line of this book is simple yet filling. The reader sees Dani the main character deal with her thoughts. I like that Dani took the steps necessary to help her in whatever way possible. She knew her thoughts were wrong, so did she what she thought best.

    The best part about this book are the towns people. They overreacted way tooo much! I'm all for being protective of your kids but if there was no harm done, why react that way. They acted like a mobbed just waiting to get their chance at Dani. Even her friends I was shocked with that they acted. We've all have dirty thoughts we can't control. So I was angry that the people reacted so harshly instead of helping they made it worse.

    I like this book cause of the great psychological thrillers. It really give a great descriptions of what goes on inside of ones mind and how it explodes once let out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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