The bold print seems aimed at her directly: “Detail-oriented student for cataloguing personal library.” But when Robin Bailey answers the ad she is surprised that she has already been recommended for the job by Parker Swanson, the gorgeous new guy in school. Parker’s grandfather will pay her to organize the collection of antique books that belonged to Parker’s stepmother, a Medium who died by her own hand. Suddenly Robin is plunged into Parker’s dark and twisted family saga, trying to protect his stepsister Claudia who is haunted by visions of her evil mother and driven to desperation. Parker says Claudia is crazy. But Robin has heard and seen the ghost! Now her part-time job is a full-time nightmare! (book back blurb)
I would have taken the blurb from Goodreads like I normally do, but it was just outright wrong. So I got it directly from the source.
HELP WANTED is a book that’s halfway to being the ridiculous cheese of RL Stine, but it’s also half-grounded in something resembling reality. Robin appears to be a rather level-headed, somewhat well-rounded, character that comes off as genuine and like a real human being. So does her friend Walt. Not a whole lot of drama or hyperbole going on with either of them, all things considered. Parker is an egotistical jerk that Robin puts in his place time and time again and luckily doesn’t fall for his crap at all. And her alleged best friend Faye is just a stuck up, drama queen bitch. Not sure how her and Robin are even friends, they’re so opposites. And Faye isn’t even that appealing as a human. Completely self-centered and not all that supportive of Robin, Robin would have been wise to ditch this one years ago. Luckily Faye just kind of falls off the map halfway into the book, probably because Cusick realized she was kind of a twit.
The story itself was compelling and while I wasn’t buying the supernatural slant that kept getting spun, I did keep trying to figure out who was behind what and what exactly was going on. I didn’t see the ending coming, which is awesome with these books because even I can see them from a million miles away. It was also kind of nice the way it ended, rather atypical without giving away any spoilers.
Of course, what would cheesy old school YA horror be without a couple of ridiculous deaths? You get a solid three of them within the pages of the book, four if you want to count the stepmother, but that’s off-page. Cusick doesn’t have the ridiculous and absurd creatively with deaths that Stine does, but there’s some literal backstabbing and crawling maggots happening. So kudos for that.
One of the truer thriller books coming out of that era, and some of the more level-headed, HELP WANTED lands closer to the top in terms of re-readability and standing the test of time. Most of the characters (at least those that matter) aren’t caricatures of real people and the drama isn’t so over the top that it comes off as absurd. Robin and Walt are great characters that are actually relatable and the ending has a good twist. I really can’t ask for much more when it comes to these books!