Title: The Baby-Sitter IV
Author: R.L. Stine
Published: 1995
Publisher: Scholastic

I mentioned in my Baby-Sitter III review that I remember the night my parents drove me up to Borders Books and Music to grab both this one and it’s predecessor. Much like The Baby-Sitter III, I knew virtually nothing about the plot of The Baby-Sitter IV before finally starting this book. The hype surrounding it, though, was nothing but negative. I haven’t come across a single person that thought I would enjoy this book. Hell, after the high of The Baby-Sitter III, even I didn’t expect this series finale to live up to the rest of the books. The great tragedy of The Baby-Sitter IV is that it had the potential to be something really fun. Once I closed the book on this one, though, I found that the negativity was mostly well-earned.

In the conclusion to R.L. Stine’s Baby-Sitter series, Jenny and her mother have moved to a different neighborhood about one year after the events of Baby-Sitter III. Jenny believes she is all better, and ready to move on, and stop being scared of everything. Her new neighbor happens to have kids, and when the mother needs to run out, she asks Jenny to babysit for a few minutes while she heads to the grocery store. Vowing never to be afraid again, she decides to do it. This kicks off a more permanent gig – and, yes, I said the same thing you’re thinking: why in the hell do you keep taking babysitting jobs, Jenny?! – and it doesn’t take long before she starts hearing things in the house that attempt to bring Jenny back to that state of fear she’s known so well over the past few years.

It didn’t take long for me to realize where this story was going, and though it is a completely different direction than the rest of the series, I was all-in. This is essentially The Baby-sitter’s “in space” entry in the series that completely jumps the shark, and I was loving where things were going for about the first half of the book. The problem, though, is that the escalation of events happens so slowly, and eventually I was near the end, trying to figure out how in the world Stine would wrap things up so succinctly, while still providing a satisfying ending to the series. Turns out, he wasn’t.

I have no evidence to support this as it is simply my own theory, but I really feel like Stine didn’t expect to end the series with this fourth entry. There is no grand lesson that ties all of the books together thematically, and this ending is, I’d argue, even more rushed than the previous three books. It doesn’t feel like we’re spending our last moments with these characters, and that is a real shame. Mind you, I didn’t need a “happily ever after” ending for Jenny, but I would have loved something that hinted at a future. Instead, the way the book ends gave me the idea that we would be visiting Jenny again for her next summer vacation, where she was sure to haphazardly take on yet another babysitting job, and again run into a once-in-a-lifetime scenario for the fifth time.

While I had an idea where things were going, I will admit that Stine did pull the wool over my eyes well-enough. It’s one of those stories where I almost want to go back to the beginning, now having finished it, to see what I missed. The problem, though, is that even though Stine creates this interesting new world for Jenny to suffer through, the conclusion feels so half-baked and silly that it ruins most of what came before it. This feels like a novel that could have used an additional 30 or so pages to really make the journey worthwhile.

As a conclusion to The Baby-Sitter series, The Baby-Sitter IV falls short. I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand-alone novel either because so much of our relationship with Jenny and her friends is based on having read the previous entries. I have been purposefully vague on what exactly this story is about because I loved going into it blind, and wouldn’t want to ruin that for someone else. Because I had no idea where this would go, I was enjoying myself while reading it, for the most part. It’s just a shame that it goes nowhere, and fails to satisfyingly wrap-up a series that I have grown to enjoy.

Is The Baby-Sitter IV worth reading? Well, if you’ve made it through the first three books, you might as well see it through to the end. Don’t expect much, and maybe you’ll have a bit of fun with it. I didn’t hate this by any stretch, and the ride toward the reveal was fun enough, I just wanted more from it after spending so much time with Jenny and her friends. Stine doesn’t reward his reader for seeing this story through to the end, and though he wasn’t obliged to do that, of course, it still would have been nice.

Now that I’ve made it through this series, I do want to mention that Stine also wrote an adult novel that one might easily mistaken for a fifth book in this series. It is called The Sitter, and though it is also a thriller following a babysitter – well, more accurately, a nanny – it is not related to this young adult series. Still, maybe I should give that one a read at some point.

Make sure to check out my reviews of The Baby-Sitter, The Baby-Sitter II, and The Baby-Sitter 3 as well!