Horror Book Review #1: Let’s Go Play at the Adams’

Posted: September 7, 2014 in Horror Blog
Tags: , , ,

“The 3 types of terror: The Gross-out: the sight of a severed head tumbling down a flight of stairs, it’s when the lights go out and something green and slimy splatters against your arm. The Horror: the unnatural, spiders the size of bears, the dead waking up and walking around, it’s when the lights go out and something with claws grabs you by the arm. And the last and worse one: Terror, when you come home and notice everything you own had been taken away and replaced by an exact substitute. It’s when the lights go out and you feel something behind you, you hear it, you feel its breath against your ear, but when you turn around, there’s nothing there…”

― Stephen King




Man, my girlfriend is going to have a major eye role when she sees that I did a review on this book. Probably because I seriously haven’t shut upped about it since I finished it nearly a month ago. And… not in a good way. I feel a tad grimy for having two negative reviews in a row, but alas it is the hand that I’ve been dealt (and subsequently so have you if you read these!)


As a horror fan I am constantly looking for “those” stories. I don’t know how else to describe them. They surpass typical horror/suspense and go beyond. It’s like a mesh of what King describes as horror and terror. Like… if those two got together for a wild night and made a baby. Yeah, that’s what I want. Several films that I have seen fall on this list, but only a few books have ever entered this realm- so I’m always looking for more to add to that list. Books that keep me up at night and I pause, wondering if I dare continue.

Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ was a novel that, according to most of the reviews I had read, fell into the category. It’s a novel, inspired by the actual Sylvia Likens murder (like Jack Ketchem’s The Girl Next Door, which I have also not read but have seen the movie adaptation to.) People were saying it was one of the most terrifying and messed up novels they had ever read. I tried originally searching for it a year ago, but the book has since gone out of print and amazon and book sellers are selling it rather expensively (which may have added to my whole “Hm… well, it must be good!” mindset.) Finally I found a library who had it .


What follows is seriously all you need to know about Let’s Go Play.

The plot focuses on Barbra and the Adams children, who she is babysitting. Barb is a college student, with a real bright future. The problem is the “Freedom Five” (the two Adams kids, and their three friends) have different plans for her. While the adults are away, the kids want to play. So the Adams kids chloroform her and tie her to the bed. What Barbara is in for is a week worth of torture, humiliation, and rape before the kids form an extremely elaborate plan to frame a Mexican field worker, and kill Barbra by stabbing her with a red hot poker.


There, I summed up a 300+ page book in one paragraph for you. The book was author Mendal Johnson’s only novel published, and that is probably a good thing. His writing style is very choppy and super repetitive. His details are good, but you are constantly reminded of them over and over again. It reads a lot like this:

‘That porch? Yeah, the back one. The one in the back of the house. The houses back porch. Yeah. It’s made of wood. The back one is. And when people walk on it, it creaks. And Billy thinks someone is outside, because it creaked- the back porch that is. The one connected to the house. And the kids are alone, save for the ONE adult they have tied upstairs naked. The one person who can help them. Barbra. She could help them, but she won’t. She can’t. Because she’s tied up, and naked. And beaten. ’

Get the picture? That’s what the whole book is like. And I understand that Johnson was probably trying to go for a childlike mindset when he wrote the book, since your main characters are children and you need to understand their thoughts, but it doesn’t work. Not when he has a nine year old girl think of words like ‘tumultuous’ and ‘troglodyte.’  And it goes through radical transitions on the drop of a dime between Barbra’s thought process and time spent on events in her room takes place that overlap with events taking place with the kids and their thought process. It gets muddled vary fast, and hard to follow without stopping, going back and rereading the entire page once you figure out what the heck you just read.

You also, straight up, never feel for the characters. The author doesn’t write children well. It seems like when he wrote it he was like “Oh, here is a real life story of kids being evil. I don’t know why they’d do such a thing, but that’s not important! I’ll write a story about it.” It plays off very much like how Michael Myer’s is explained as pure evil in Halloween. Except you actually buy that story. Here you can see that these kids know that they are doing wrong here, and on multiple occasions they talk about how they just need to end it, how the “game” isn’t fun anymore, how it’s boring, and how they will get in trouble. All of them think that at some point (except Paul, because he’s messed up majorly (which I’ll get to later)) but yet they continue to just go on beating, raping, and eventually killing this poor girl.

Now Barbra does get some good characterization, I’ll give the book that. But there are points where she does, says, or thinks things that are so out of place and feel forced. The last time she is raped, she decides to enjoy it and actually orgasms. It’s a three page Stockholm syndrome fest, and it is so unrequired and actually (I feel) demeaning to Barbra’s character. It makes her seem like she has to have a man there in some way, even if it’s John, and how she should have accepted men earlier. I don’t know. It just felt wrong.

Then there are moments in the book that are funny and they are in no way supposed to be. Going back to Paul, the author tries so hard to shove down our throats that Paul is messed up and psychotic. And the first time he messes around with a knife it gets a tad creepy. But after that it’s like Johnson was like “Let’s give him ALL the clichés!” Paul is so atypical that the fact that nobody but his sister Dianne can see it is ludicrous. But he does, at one point, throw a fit because he thinks he can’t kill Barbra and runs head first into a wall trying to kill himself. Yes. You read that right. And it read in the book about a stupid as it sounds here. I literally laughed out loud, when I read that passage, to near tears. It was ridiculous. That along with this super, insanely elaborate plan to frame and kill this field worker along with Barba made me almost want to stop reading it. It didn’t make sense. And it all happens, and nobody is ever punished that we know of. It ends on a mild cliffhanger, with the author asking the questions for you about the remaining character’s futures (since, I’ll be honest; I didn’t really care at the end what happened to the children anyway.) Not only do I not believe that none of the kids would ever say anything, I cannot believe that they could get away with it in the first place. There were too many holes in their story.


There was one, single, mildly redeeming thing about this book though and it was the beginning of the epilogue. It talks about how the death of Barbra affected those who were close to her, and I will say that the author handled that feeling of loss and heartbreak really well- especially with Barba’s college roommate/best friend. It was beautiful.


But all and all this was a ludicrous, poorly written mess. There was no point, and was just violent garbage for sake of being violent. It wasn’t scary; it was just stupid and gratuitous. Hardly any of the characters were either relatable or believable and the ending just pisses you off. I was so let down by this book. I haven’t been this upset at a book since I read Johnny Got His Gun. The film version of The Girl Next Door while super hard to watch for the most part (I have it on my “probably will never watch again, but was good” movie list) was well done. You felt for the characters and there were some terrifying portions. Not a film soon to be forgotten; it leaves a residue. So does this Let’s Go Play at the Adams’, but not for the same reasons.

  1. […] posts though I couldn’t help but notice… there is only one [horror] book review, for Let’s Go Play at the Adams’. And the review, if you notice, isn’t super positive. Now Let’s Go Play was a book […]


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