"A novel of lingering horror."
That describes it aptly. Barbara, a 20-year-old babysitter to a couple of preteens, wakes up to find herself tightly tied to a bed and gagged. The kids are in charge now, and with a couple of teenagers from the neighborhood visiting, they have no intent of letting Barbara loose. Thus begins Barbara's never-ending days and nights of torment.
The kids make sure she is literally always restrained in some way. One hand free to eat, that's it. Just enough free to use the bathroom, and that's it. She is always retied, often in different ways for the kids' own amusement. Things go downhill, though, when the teens of the group decide to do other things to her for their own amusement. Yes, those kinds of other things...
The book finally ends with... Barbara's death, and the kids successfully getting away with it.
Yes, this is a real novel. Some reviews on Amazon.com are from people who say that they've thrown the book away in disgust or even destroyed it after having read it, and one person admitted to burning it! Another reader praised the book for its realistic portrayal of helplessness, and showing how one's thoughts would actually wander and what they'd wander to, what one would think and feel, when they're tied up and perpetually helpless. There's a tremendous amount of description in this story, and we get inside the heads of not only Barbara, but each of her captors, each of whom is getting something different out of the situation, each of whom has a different view of it, and all of whom, over time, begin to care less and less about Barbara.
The author has never written another novel again (He died shortly after publishing this one). There's some speculation as to whether or not this is essentially one massive Author Appeal-fest, but most will tell you, the book is very well-written, and definitely gets under your skin. One review here attests to that.
The book attracted the attention of TV editor, Barry Schneebeli, who wrote a sequel called Game's End. Due to copyright laws, it was never actually published, but is available online at his website, and you can find a review here). It begins with the what-if premise of Barbara being saved at the last minute, and the kids' activities exposed as a result, and explores the resulting media frenzy and criminal trials, as well as Barbara's physical and emotional recovery from her ordeal. Had Schneebeli's project gone to press, it might have brought the original book out of obscurity.
- The Atoner - Bobby in Game's End; this ultimately gets him killed.
- Author Appeal - Some people speculate that Johnson was a sadist and the book is nothing more than an exercise in self-indulgence. Others say this isn't the case.
- Bondage Is Bad
- Bound and Gagged - Galore. From beginning to end. Many, many different ways.
- Children Are Innocent: Averted.
- Creepy Child - Paul
- Deconstruction - Pretty much does this to the oft-used comedic plot device of the babysitter being tied up by her charges (I Love Lucy for example). When Barabara is first tied up, it seems like the novel will go in a light-hearted direction. She's more surprised and annoyed, than concerned. That changes in the second or third chapter.
- Died Standing Up - Perhaps the only time this trope has had no connection to Badassery. Barbara, due to how she is tied at the end.
- Damsel in Distress
- Downer Ending - Is it ever!
- Dying as Yourself - Paul in Game's End. Right before he dies, the cloud of insanity is finally lifted from his mind
- Earn Your Happy Ending - Though only in Game's End. Barbara's physical rescue comes easily enough, but it takes the rest of the book to emotionally overcome what happened to her.
- Fatal Flaw: Barbara manages to get the upperhand and fight off her captors and nearly forces them to free her...all while still bound and gagged, but relents at the last second because she can't bare to hurt Cindy any more than she already is
- Foot Focus - One of the boys has a foot fetish, and obsesses over Barbara's feet. The youngest girl in the group (she's 10) later tells Barbara that this boy tied her up before and even tied her big toes together.
- Fix Fic - At least two professional works, the above mentioned Game's End by Barry Schneebeli, and a subplot in the novel The Abyss by Steve Vance, were born out each writer's desire to save Barbara and/or punish the kids.
- If you've ever read the book, you might be tempted to write one yourself. No one would blame you.
- Freudian Excuse - Paul
- The Hero Dies: Barbara is more of a protagonist than an actual hero, but you get the idea
- Humiliation Conga - Game's End
- It Got Worse - And worse. And worse. And it never gets better.
- Karma Houdini - The kids who did all this.
- Game's End retconned this two ways. First, Barbara was saved at the last moment. Second, most of the book was about the kids answering for their crimes (and the tragedy their parents go through)
- Kids Are Cruel - They're as cruel as they can get here.
- Kill the Cutie
- Les Yay - The epilogue suggests that Barbara's roommate may have had a crush on her...or maybe not. It's a little vague.
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil - Many of these kids, it is implied, wouldn't do things to Barbara on their own. Especially Bobby, whose conscience nags at him much of the time. But as a group, they lose their inhibitions, or go along with what the others are doing.
- Depressingly, this is Truth in Television. People always tend to mentally degenerate in groups like that - take the Bystander Syndrome for example. If one kid saw a dying person in front of him, he would try to help him because he feels 100% responsible. If it was ten kids, each of them would feel only 10% responsible.
- Punch Clock Villain - Bobby, one of the kids Barbara was babysitting.
- Purple Prose
- Rape as Drama
- Rape Is Love - John views raping Barbara as proving to her that he loves her
- Later on, due to Stockholm Syndrome setting in, Barbara begins to return his affections
- Redemption Equals Death: In Game's End, a now-teenaged Bobby dies saving a girl who he thought was drowning. She wasn't really drowning, she thought he was cute and was just trying to get his attention. Say what you will about Bobby, but this does redeem him somewhat.
- Ripped from the Headlines - Maybe. Some speculate that it was loosely, very loosely, inspired by the Sylvia Likens case (which was a tragedy of its own, also involving kids being very cruel to a teen girl, but was of a very different nature than this book). Others say there are more differences than similarities.
- Spanner in the Works - Jack in Game's End
- Teens Are Monsters - Very much so.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth - The epilogue suggests that this is why Barbara died.
- Took a Level In Badass: Barbara suddenly quits being a distressed damsel and almost manages to fight her way to freedom, all while still tied up. The only reason she fails is due to her Fatal Flaw