Title: The Baby-Sitter III
Author: R.L. Stine
Published: 1993
Publisher: Scholastic

The Baby-Sitter III holds a special place in my heart because I distinctly remember begging my parents to take me up to Borders Books and Music to grab this and The Baby-Sitter 4. I remember the exact location, the fact that it was dark out when we went, and that my mom and sister went to another store while my dad and I walked around Borders. It’s odd how some moments will stick in your head so vividly for seemingly no reason, but this one does. This memory is confirmed when I look at the covers. I don’t own the cover pictured to the left (the best cover in the series, by the way), but rather an updated, late ’90s, white cover that has virtually no personality to it for both this one and the conclusion of the series. Cover aside, though, The Baby-Sitter III surprised me in all the right ways.

After the events of The Baby-Sitter II, Jenny is facing another summer where she is trying to get over what’s happened to her. This time around, instead of babysitting, she decides to get a job at the local donut shop in the mall. Her mother has another idea, though: she should go visit her cousin, Debra, for the summer! Getting away will help her overcome her paranoia and give her another outlook on things; simply put, it will be good for her. Jenny agrees, and decides to spend the summer up at her cousin’s house. Surely this will be a better summer, right? Well, it is, until Debra, who happened to take a babysitting gig this summer, starts getting some creepy phone calls that are straight out of Jenny’s past.

I love that Stine introduces Jenny’s cousin, Debra. Not only is she a main character, but there are actually chapters from her point-of-view, which I believe is the first time we step out of Jenny’s head in this series. It’s quite refreshing to have another perspective, and does a lot to add to the narrative that Stine is telling. Something unexpected that I genuinely enjoy is the fact that Debra and Jenny actually get along. I totally expected Debra to talk behind Jenny’s back to her friends, and/or for her to treat Jenny like garbage. That isn’t the case at all. Debra and Jenny get along swimmingly, and Debra shows legitimate concern for her cousin, which really helps drive home the paranoia and terror that these characters are facing.

Jenny takes a job at a stable, assisting people on their horse riding, and this location allows Stine to write some alternative locations from what we’ve seen previously. Up to this point, everything was very suburban, but Jenny getting out to the country provides a nice change of pace. There is one scene where Jenny is riding a horse through an approaching rain storm, and I don’t know exactly why, but I loved the way Stine described the scene. It isn’t poetry, of course, but just a great example of how Stine’s little details can help engross the reader, and gave me an even deeper appreciation of his talent as a writer.

We still get a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship here, but it’s mostly between Debra and her boyfriend. This new dynamic is really well written, and it keeps the main story away from the mental health issues that Stine wasn’t really ready to tackle with any meaning in The Baby-Sitter II. The book is better off for it, not because those mental health issue shouldn’t be discussed – they absolutely should – but in a series that is willing to give it the depth and respect it deserves, which is not The Baby-Sitter. Don’t get me wrong, there are still shades of that here, obviously, and Jenny is clearly still going through some things that she needs help with, but it’s not the major focus of the book (and if you’ve read this book, you might be yelling at me right now, but hopefully you understand what I mean).

I’m genuinely surprised to say it, but The Baby-Sitter III is the best book in the series so far. Stine’s writing is the best I’ve seen it, the characters are engaging, and the finale – though I did have an idea of who the “baddie” would be – is incredibly interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and am really excited to see where book four will go, even though I’ve heard nothing good about it. Maybe I’ll get lucky a second time, and be surprised by that one too!