karen's Reviews > Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls

Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
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Sep 01, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: why-yes-i-ya
Read in August, 2012


mary downing hahn wrote one of my all-time favorite middle-grade books, wait til helen comes. i must have read that book hundreds of times in my blossoming youth. it was the perfectly-toned book full of creepy atmosphere and it just haunted me in the best way.

so i was delighted to come across this book at the library, when i was just going to pick up some books i had placed on hold. i mean, i knew she had written other books, but it was a surprise to see one of such recent vintage.

and i am so glad i made the time for it. this is a very personal book for hahn. the events related are events that actually occurred, when she was a girl in 1955: two girls whom she knew, walking through the woods on their way to school, were shot by an unknown gunman in the baltimore suburbs. this crime rocked the small community, fingers were pointed, but no one was ever convicted.

it is a great piece of historical fiction, but it is not a typical mystery novel. rather, it is more like a judy blume novel,where a girl comes of age and questions her faith and worries about her parents' disintegrating marriage and her future, and whose dreams are unattainable because of something as vulgar as money.

and there was real emotional resonance. it is heartbreaking the way her mother encourages her to go out and be with her friends, instead of moping around all summer. what friends? two have been murdered, and the rest have been shuttled off by their worried parents to get them away from the aura of fear that pervades the community. the only person left is the boy everyone in town suspects of killing the girls. it is so sad, this young girl dealing with so much fear and philosophical turmoil and doubting god in the middle of it all. where is she supposed to go? the woods, the outside are terrifying now, and she has no one to turn to, and even when she turns to a priest, he offers no real help.

buddy's story is no less heartbreaking. suspected but not convicted, he becomes a pariah, with nowhere to turn, clinging to his tough-guy attitude even though he is heartbroken that the love of his young life has been murdered and everyone thinks he could have done such a thing.

this is very atypical YA fiction. there are the romantic fumblings, naturally, but set as they are in the fifties, they are very tame and fraught with the need to be "a good girl" despite the natural hormones of teendom.

all in all, a really great book, but don't go into this thinking it is going to be a nancy drew-esque mystery story with a plucky heroine solving a crime. it is something more rewarding than that.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Stephanie Parent I recently read this and really loved it. It was especially interesting to me b/c I grew up near where the book takes place, and recognized some of the 1950s downtown Baltimore landmarks from my parents' childhood stories. I was surprised by how moving I found the ending, too (the surreal chapter, before the epilogue)--I actually cried. And I really need to reread Wait Till Helen Comes soon.


karen yes! i need to dig up my copy...


Stephanie Parent I actually still own WtHC! And I'm going to reread The Wind Blows Backwards too--that's another slightly more mature, romantic title she wrote in the 90s. I know I read it as a teenager but unfortunately my memory of it is very fuzzy.


message 4: by Nicole (new) - added it

Nicole I still have WtHC! Stepping on the Cracks was one of my favorite books growing up. Karen, if you haven't read The Wind Blows Backwards yet, you definitely should. There's sex! And death!


message 5: by karen (last edited Sep 01, 2012 07:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

karen i think i am definitely going to read more of her stuff. this one was really well-written. shows how tasteful i was as a child, i guess... good intuition and all... ha.


Stephanie Parent Oh, now I'm looking forward to rereading TWBB even more! I also loved Stepping on the Cracks, Nicole, and pretty much all of her middle-grade books!


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