Book: “The Babysitters Coven” by Kate Williams
Publishing Info: Delacourte Press, September 2019
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: Adventures in Babysitting meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this funny, action-packed novel about a coven of witchy babysitters who realize their calling to protect the innocent and save the world from an onslaught of evil.
Seventeen-year-old Esme Pearl has a babysitters club. She knows it’s kinda lame, but what else is she supposed to do? Get a job? Gross. Besides, Esme likes babysitting, and she’s good at it.
And lately Esme needs all the cash she can get, because it seems like destruction follows her wherever she goes. Let’s just say she owes some people a new tree.
Enter Cassandra Heaven. She’s Instagram-model hot, dresses like she found her clothes in a dumpster, and has a rebellious streak as gnarly as the cafeteria food. So why is Cassandra willing to do anything, even take on a potty-training two-year-old, to join Esme’s babysitters club?
The answer lies in a mysterious note Cassandra’s mother left her: “Find the babysitters. Love, Mom.”
Turns out, Esme and Cassandra have more in common than they think, and they’re about to discover what being a babysitter really means: a heroic lineage of superpowers, magic rituals, and saving the innocent from seriously terrifying evil. And all before the parents get home.
Review: Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this book!
Once the weather turns from summer heat and sunshine to chilly breezes and longer nights, I immediately get into a full on Halloween mindset. True, Horrorpalooza 2019 is still a few weeks away, but we’re going to get into the spirit with a new YA book about witches! When I read the description of “The Babysitters Coven” by Kate Williams, I was totally on board. Teen girl babysitters with magical powers being snarky and protecting the world from evil? Now where have I seen this before?
I may have gone in with too high of hopes, because while I did mostly enjoy “The Babysitters Coven”, it fell into familiar traps that I’ve seen in YA paranormal fiction.
But, like always, we start with the positive. It’s hard to deny that “The Babysitters Coven” is an original and cheeky concept. For any other late 80s, early 90s kids like me, the homage to “The Baby-sitters Club” is charming as hell and really taps into a children’s literature nostalgia. As someone who wanted to be a part of the BSC, I was smiling whenever the implicit (and sometimes explicit) references to that series were made (though how dare Esme imply that Mary Anne was the lame person to be? MARY ANNE SPIER IS THE BEST!). On top of that, I did really like our protagonist Esme and her best friend Janis. Their friendship felt like a realistic and fun teen girl relationship, and I enjoyed that they were both kind of geeky and always up for making references to things that I enjoy. It made them all the more relatable when they would talk about the original “Halloween” or “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, amongst other things from fandoms that I like. The backstory to Esme, her surprising supernatural abilities, and the abilities of the new girl Cassandra were well thought out and I liked how they were slowly revealed. I don’t want to give too much away, but what I will say is that there is a mythos here that has a lot of meat to it with more exploration to go.
But a few of these strengths do have flip sides to weaknesses. The first is that while there is a lot of exposition here, and mythology and magical system building, I felt like too much time was spent on the set up and not enough on the actual main conflict. Because of this, the big bad and final showdown felt like it jumped from zero to one hundred, with not enough build up in between. I know that this is the first in a planned series, so perhaps Williams wanted to spend most of this book setting up for future things. But the problem with that is that a balance needs to be struck between set up and conflict, and it definitely felt uneven. There was also the issue I had with the character of Cassandra, who never really grew from mysterious cool girl, even after she officially joined Esme and Janis’s group. I wish that we had more insight into who she was and more complexity, but as of right now I don’t really have a good sense of who she is, unlike Esme and Janis. And finally, “The Babysitters Coven” tends fall far too close to the dreaded ‘aggressively quirky’ tone that I really cannot abide in any kind of story. I’m sure that a lot of this has to do with trying to create a self insertion fantasy for the target reading demographic, which is admittedly not a woman in her mid thirties. And hey, that’s fine! Escapist power fantasies are all well and good and who am I to begrudge a teen girl from getting to enjoy such things? But for me, entertaining writing it does not make all by itself.
“The Babysitters Coven” has the potential to be a really fun new paranormal fantasy series, and its first book has its ups and downs. I think that while I may not move on to the next installation, there will be a lot of geeky, supernatural obsessed readers out there who will find it to be a joy to read!
Rating 6: A cute idea with some admittedly fun moments tends to get bogged down in exposition over plot, and edges towards the aggressively quirky.
“The Babysitters Coven” is new and not on many specific Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think it would fit in on “Books With Supernatural Females”.
Find “The Babysitters Coven” at your library using WorldCat!