PHBC: Mother’s Helper by A Bates

!!d7nnYw!mM~$(KGrHqYOKnUEw89OpVZ3BMRq3YG6gg~~_35What’s It All About?

Becky Collier, hurting from her boyfriend’s betrayal with her former bestie, accepts a job as a live in nanny on a remote island. Something is afoot though and Becky quickly realises this is no summer in paradise.

Something’s Afoot?

You betchya. Mrs Nelson is awfully suspicious, practically forcing Becky to hide out in the woods. Then the phone calls start…

Scary Phonecalls?

No. Just really annoying ones, potentially about PPI claims. It’s not as crap as it sounds though. Becky has to try work out what’s going on with little baby Devon and his twitchy mother AND suss out local forest prowler Cleve – is he curly haired friend or foe?

The Girl

As I mentioned last time, Mother’s Helper was the first Point Horror I ever read and *something* got me hooked. On second read it could well be Becky. Given that we’ve had some pretty shoddy female leads, Becky is wonderfully capable and down to earth.

The evidence:

1. ‘Actually, I’ve never needed rescuing my whole life…In fact, I’m the one who rescues everyone else.’

2. She’s fantastic at childcare. Her subtle undermining of Mrs Nelson is both funny and skilled.

3. It’s Becky who plots out the escape from the island with the fake baby – ingenious.

I’m not sure about the hair you can sit on though. That can’t be hygienic. I’m just picturing the last two inches of her hair matted with leaves and bits of chewing gum, not to mention toilet seat faecal matter. I mean, does she sometimes get poop on her hair? ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.

The Love Interest

This is the first Point Horror to present a compelling hint of genuine and understated lesbian affection. Just kidding! Love interest Cleve is a wholesome all-american sailor/wood lurker who lives near the forest cabin.

I actually quite liked Cleve. When he and Becky go on dates (once Mrs Nelson lets Becky out), he’s quite sweet. I like the bread sharing exchange: the one who tears the bread doesn’t get to choose which bit they eat, and I enjoyed Cleve’s made-up Becky story in which she’s an heiress on the run. The sudden brooding moments are a tedious red herring but we’ve met a lot LOT worse*

*Chuck from The Babysitter flashback. *shudder*

imagesDialogue Disasters

Mrs Nelson’s dialogue veers towards bonkers: ‘I wasn’t brought up to publicly discuss private things!’ but *just* stays this side of acceptable. Even Devon’s baby chat isn’t awful.

With this in mind, I shall dedicate this whole section to the GRACEFUL WHALE EARRINGS. I mean whut?

Body Count: 0 (boooo!)

Some Mild Peril?

Mother’s Helper has a very different, slightly more mature feel to previous episodes. In fact, the whole thing feels very nineties thriller – think The Hand That Rocks The Cradle or Single White Female. The scares, as such, are classier – no creepy masks or guts in letterboxes. The mutilated dolls left in the cabin are the only clue we’re even in a Point Horror.

By far the most effective moment is when Mrs Nelson catches Becky in her locked bedroom. Point Horror could have used more high-tension moments like these.

Is It Any Good?

Yes. Despite not a lot actually happening, a sense of something lurking just in the woods is enough to keep you reading. Is it surprising that Mrs Nelson is a certified fruit loop? No, she’s act madder than a shithouse rat throughout. Trying to figure out precisely what’s up with her, though, is quite compelling. The fact that she stole Devon is a pretty neat twist though, one which I’d forgotten.

And I really think Bates deserves praise for creating a ‘strong female character’ in Becky, and a kind which we don’t see very often: a girl who is strong and capable without needing to be Buffy. The ending felt particularly compassionate, and wasn’t what I was expecting.

perfumeNext month we get a whiff of evil as we visit perhaps the most unusual Point Horror, THE PERFUME BY CAROLINE B COONEY.

Over to you:

1. Which is better – this or The Babysitter?

2. How did Franklin get the number for the cabin?

3. Why did Mrs Nelson bother to hire Becky? Isn’t this the least likely thing you’d do in her situation?

4. What does Mrs Nelson hope to achieve by pushing the sheriff off the cliffs?

5. Will Becky make it work with Cleve long-distance or will she be back in Jason’s clutches the day after she gets home?

 

LGBT Reading List

Thats so gay posterHello lovelies. Last Friday I was very proud to be asked to speak to young people at the Stonewall Education Conference.

In the words of Malorie Blackman:

All of our children have the right to see themselves reflected in the stories available to them. Diversity is more than just seeing yourself reflected in the world of literature, it’s about others being able to see you too. Every child should have a voice. No child should be invisible.

With this in mind, I assembled a reading list of books representing LGBT characters and/or  issues. I asked the young people to return to their schools and colleges and to audit the titles already on shelves and push librarians to consider ordering more titles.

A few people on Twitter have requested a copy of the reading list so HERE IT IS: Stonewall Education Conference 2014. It’s by no means a complete list, as new titles are being added all the time. Feel free to add to it, but a library having these titles would be a broadly inclusive. Other lists are available etc etc…