Give me a book involving a group of teenagers with magical powers fighting evil, and I’m a happy camper. Add the fact that these teenagers are babysitters tasked with protecting the innocent and I’m an intrigued happy camper. Probably because I did not do much babysitting as a teenager, and thus, it was fun to imagine what adventures occurred when looking after children using magical powers.
Esme Pearl and her best friend Janis have run a babysitting club for years. But they are surprised when the new girl, Cassandra Heaven, despite never having babysat before, seems too desperate to join their club. The only reason Cassandra wanted to join because her deceased mother told her to “find the babysitters.” It turns out that both Esme and Cassandra come from a magical lineage of people tasked with protecting the innocent from evil.
That sounds as cliche a magical coming-of-age story as they come. And…well, yes, in a way, it is. While it is cool that Esme and Cassandra cover up their powers by being babysitters, such a premise doesn’t feel like it’s used to the fullest.
When I read the summary, I thought we were going to have misadventures involving babysitting kids and magic spells: something relatively lighthearted. What we have instead is another magical girl story involving the fate of the world, including a grumpy old mentor who is not what he seems at first. We could have watched Esme and Cassandra babysitting different kids and using their powers to protect the kids and also clean up whatever mishaps occur as a result.
We also don’t get the big reveal of what Esme and Cassandra’s powers are about until a little before the halfway point. As a result, everything after feels kind of rushed and half-baked. If I knew I was going to get a cliche save-the-world-before-bedtime story, at least get the cliches out of the way so we can get the actual adventure.
But honestly, the actual adventure is not all that exciting either. We don’t get many instances of Esme or Cassandra using their powers as intended, so things go a little slower than they should.
While the story was pretty average, I did at least like the characters. Esme is a fun protagonist who loves fashion and thrifting. She has an interesting backstory in how her mother went crazy when she was little and tries to find ways to connect with her. It’s sad to see how Esme gets glimpses of who her mother was but knows she might not have that again. Consequently, Esme is mature and careful, a direct contrast to Cassandra.
Cassandra is the member of the magical girl group who revels in having magic and doesn’t care about consequences, which lands her and Esme in some sticky situations. While I did wish she wasn’t so reckless, her heart was still in the right place.
Now, this magical girl story is the first book in a series, which might explain why the story seems so slow. However, the story is not interesting enough for me to keep going. I would have preferred a lighthearted fantasy adventure that takes advantage of wacky babysitting adventures combined with a little magic. There are enough “edgy” fantasy stories about there with high stakes, so how about something a little fluffier from time to time?