Barbara is a young college student who lands a, mostly, cushy summer job as a babysitter for a prominent couple in a quaint New England community. She is the live-in sitter when Mr. and Mrs. Adams leave for an extended trip abroad. What poor Barbara didn’t know was that the Adams’ children, teen Bobby and younger sister Cindy, were completely off their proverbial rockers.
After the parents have left, and spending a final, nice, normal weekend with the kids and their neighbor friends, Barbara wakes to find herself gagged and tied to her bed. Bobby and Cindy are her captors now, and any hope of rescue is dashed when Barbara learns that the neighbor kids (John, Paul, and Diane) are partners in the crime.
What Barbara endures is a living hell. The brutality ratchets up by degrees the longer the kids’ “game” continues. From mental torment to physical torture, humiliation and rape, the children (who dub themselves the Freedom Five) become drunk with power in the wake of no adult supervision.
The children (and it’s difficult to think of them as such) range in age from about just under 10 to 18 years. John and Diane are the closest in age to the twenty-year-old babysitter, yet they remain as unfeeling and bloodthirsty as the younger ones at what they are doing, even when considering the consequences of their actions. And they are fully aware of every outcome and plan accordingly.
As much as Barbara fights back, the kids retaliate in more gruesome and unexpected ways. When physicality fails, Barbara enters into a mental game of survival. The problem with that is all the kids are true blue monsters. Whatever nobler qualities Bobby exhibits, and despite his arguments for freeing Barbara, he still goes along with the group.
With the set-up of a captive babysitter, author Mendal W. Johnson could very easily have written a sleazy story sold only in a back room. Let’s Go Play At the Adams’ doesn’t let the reader off so free and easy, it requires us to do a certain degree of thinking. Light entertainment it is not.
And, yet, Johnson never really goes as far over the line as I expected. This novel has been out of print for many years and has gained a reputation for being one of the most reprehensible books ever released into the mainstream. Don’t believe any of that. There are some sick, twisted things within its pages, but there is still plenty of room to push between its content and the so-called envelope.