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Whistling In the Dark

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  10,879 ratings  ·  1,350 reviews

It was the summer on Vliet Street when we all started locking our doors...

Sally O'Malley made a promise to her daddy before he died. She swore she'd look after her sister, Troo. Keep her safe. But like her Granny always said-actions speak louder than words. Now, during the
Paperback, 298 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Berkley Books
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Whistling In the Dark by Lesley KagenThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk KiddTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch AlbomWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
good book
87 books — 37 voters
The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathFor Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest HemingwayThe Tin Drum by Günter GrassBirdsong by Sebastian FaulksCorelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
537 books — 43 voters

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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,879 ratings  ·  1,350 reviews

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Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, series
Nothing else hurts worse in the world as much as tears for the missing.

Ignoring the multiple new books and ARCs that I have to get to, I just craved a re-read of this book. Sally O'Malley and her sister Margaret(Troo) O'Malley are two tough little girls living in a Milwaukee neighbourhood in 1959. Still reeling from the loss of their father, the girls are worried about their mother who lies in a hospital battling a staph infection. Their older sister, Nell is more interested in her boyfriend, t
Jan 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
I had to check several times to make sure that Sally was indeed 10 yrs old and Troo, even younger. The author tried too hard to make the narrator sound like a 10 yr old at times yet at other times the thinking, language, and experiences were of a much older girl. No way was Troo believable as a 9 yr old. Matter of fact most of the story was simply implausible. Even though the book was under 300 pages it felt much longer. The story was so slow at times that I had to fight the urge to skim just to ...more
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fabulously written from the perspective of a 10 year old. Here's a couple of my favorite excerpts - don't worry, they won't ruin the book:

To tell you the truth, I didn't get half of what went on up at that church. With all the Latin mumbo jumbo and the Stations of the Cross and the nuns who waltzed like ice skaters wherever they went but would smack you a good one for not singing along with a hymn. I didn't even get what my First Communion was supposed to be about, even thought people made a big
Aug 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: pretty much no one
This is a Reader's Choice book featured in the Salt Lake County Library System - that's why I picked it up. They are usually good reads. This one was a disappointment to me. It's the story about two sisters in 1959, aged 9 and 10, left pretty much to their own devices one summer because of their mom's hospitalization, a dysfunctional step-dad, and an older sister who is wrapped up in her boyfriend. I loved the character, Sally - the older of the two girls. I loved her thought processes and her l ...more
Well, hmmmmm….. This was a love/hate teeter-totter sort of book, for me.

Some elements were ‘reasonably’ believable and engaging, but not evenhandedly across the board nor with any sort of consistency. Portions of the story touched me deeply and drew me in emotionally; yet other segments left me feeling detached and/or disenchanted.

I couldn’t rectify the ages of the two younger sisters (Sal and Troo) with their actions – especially not for the era. And quite a few people, places, and scenes fel
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and am currently reading it again in anticipation of the sequel, Good Graces, which will be out in September. I love the voices in all of Lesley Kagen's books and especially that of Sally O'Malley in Whistling in the Dark. Sally has qualities I have always admired - common sense and attention to detail! These are qualities I identify with. Even though I wasn't yet born in 1959 when the story takes place, and even though I am decades older now than Sally is in the story - there ...more
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A well written story set in Milwaukee, WI in 1959. The storyteller is a ten-year old girl who takes us back to the cultural markers of the time, from the drive-in restaurants to the former Wauwatosa site of the Milwaukee County Zoo. If you were a few years on either side of ten in 1959 you'll recognize your childhood in this book!

This is also a mystery, and the details are unrolled skillfully by the author, who grew up in Milwaukee and based some of the characters on real people she had known. A
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone in a book club!
The best child narrator since Scout in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD!
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Sally O'Mally has a big imagination, but she's not entirely wrong. Someone is murdering & molesting the little girls in her neighborhood, and someone is watching her. Are they the same person? Read the book, and find out.
I enjoyed this book, and read it all in one sitting , but there were some things that confused me. Little details, like ages: how old are Sally, and her sisters? There are hints given, but never a definite age, and that bothered me. We never know for sure what city the novel is
THT Steph
Jun 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: who-dunnit
Whistling in the Dark is mainly appealing for the amazing first person narrative. The story is told by Sally, a girl who is often confused by her own imagination. Her character is naive, which I not only found endearing, but realistic for the time. Children were just not privy to the facts of life and slang as they are now... which brings me to her sister, Troo. Troo was not a believable character. Although the sisters spend a lot of time running the streets with a variety of characters, it is s ...more
Mar 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I suspect that Sally O'Malley, the spirited 10-year-old narrator of "Whistling in the Dark," grew up to be Stephanie Plum. With delightful imagination and innocence (OK, the comparison to SP breaks down on the innocence factor), she doggedly follows clues to the identity of the "murderer and molester." Again and again. Although the story unfolds during a short 6-week span, it is coming-of-age in its best sense. The late 50's in Sally's corner of Milwaukee feels happily nostalgic: making lanyards ...more
Feb 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the location and era of this novel as well as the big mystery. I wish a younger sounding woman narrated the audiobook. At times it felt like a gossipy naggy woman was telling the story instead of a 10 year old girl.
Aug 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
It was a little slow and rocky at first, but Whistling in the Dark was a great read! I finished it all in one night, I was so enthralled. I've read others like this, but it was a good mix of nostalgia, childhood innocence and dark reality. The thing I liked best about this was the protagonist, Sally, which is important when reading a first-person narration. Sally is endearing and full of funny wisecracks. There are a few flaws, but the good outweighs the bad, and this is a book that everyone can ...more
When I first began reading Whistling In the Dark, I really didn't care for it. The two main characters, Sally - age 10, and Troo - age 9, just weren't believable characters. Their language and thinking were too sophisticated for this age group. The first half just dragged but, the stubbornness in me had me continuing to read. The story got better and there were finally age-appropriate characteristics for Sal and Troo. But the author was also busy getting every social issue addressed in the story ...more
I wonder if I should have started with some of Kagen's newer works and then read my way backward? In retrospect, reading her first novel first may not have been my most clever move.

The story, here, is what my pals and I call "Fine and Perfect" which means it was ok but I don't really want to talk about it.
I'm still going to talk about it, though.

Alright. So. The story. It's a fun, quick summer suspense featuring a ten-year-old girl in 1959 Milwaukee who believes she will be the next victim of a
Mar 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Synopsis: Sally O’Malley is a young little girl, with a strong heart and a young little sister who needs protecting, named Troo. But lately, in the summer of 1959, scary things too big for two little girls to be dealing with alone, with the father dead, mother in the hospital, a drunk step father and a big sister who’s too worried about her boyfriend. Their other young friends have been found dead, naked and raped and Sally believes that she’s next. She thinks she knows who did it, but she’s alw ...more
Jun 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Sally O'Malley knows what's really going on. At least, she knows more than any of the adults in her life would believe possible. It is 1959, and Sally is missing her father, who recently died in a car accident which occurred in the company of Sally's uncle and her little sister Troo. Sally made some promises to her father before he died, and the most important is that she would look after her sister. Sally, who is delightfully earnest, has every intention of following through to the letter. In t ...more
Rebecca Winner
Oct 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!!
I have only one word to describe Whistling in the Dark........and that is WOW!!!! I had never read any of Lesley Kagens books before and just happened to find a copy of this book...I loved this book so much, the first thing I did when I was done with it, was to go to and order all Lesley Kagen's other books! This is a coming of age book about two little girls who are on their own because their mother is hospitalized...their stepfather is an uncaring drunk and their older sister is in ...more
Beth A.
Jul 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Beth A. by: Megan Earley
Shelves: mystery
I read this book pretty quickly, a good part of it in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. Perhaps with a more relaxing book I would’ve become sleepy sooner.

It’s fast paced, and draws you into the plot quickly. The main character is a young girl. Everything is from her perspective, and is charmingly done. You really only have the information Sal has, although sometimes you are able to connect tidbits and come to conclusions that are beyond her.

Sal, her sister, and their friends are e
Mar 17, 2009 rated it did not like it
It felt like the author looked up every "written-by-spunky-child" cliche since To Kill a Mockingbird and slapped them into this book. No surprises, in plot or characterization. I've read this story, met these kids, in better literary form, many times.

The voice, at it's best, was similar to "A Girl Named Zippy" a book which truly was funny and sweet because it was real and unassuming. Contrarily, I felt like the author, in this book, was giving space for me to warmly chuckle or go "awwww" after e
Aug 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love the way this book is written. It's not just the story that's told that I liked, but the WAY it's told. you really get to know the characters and feel intensely about them (both love and hate!).

I love the viewpoint Sally gives. She's not really truly an innocent child, but you're definitely reminded of her age at various times throughout the book. Her assumptions made based on misunderstanding double meanings, etc.

I would suggest this read to any of my friends.

I recently read the book for
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is just an adorable read. Being born and raised in Milwaukee it really makes it that much more special as you can picture the whole neighborhood. Love the characters.
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Good mystery told in the voice of a 10 year old girl. I really liked this book, it was easy to picture the characters & the setting because it was well written. ...more
Lisa Sim
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is a mystery and had many connections that keep the plot moving. (I don't want to spoil it!!)
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. The author is a superb writer and what made it fun for me was the such a familiar setting in Milwaukee.
Sep 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Set in the summer of 1959 and narrated by 10 year old Sally, this is the story of her growing up over the course of one summer. Her mother is in the hospital, her stepfather is lost in his booze, her older sister is occupied with other things, all of them leaving Sally and her sister Troo to roam the streets unattended. There has been a molestation and murder in their town and Sally is determined she knows who it is. A summer full of secrets, truths, maturing, nostalgia, neighborly kindness, and ...more
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great story. The main character is believable and so likable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.
Kailie Hicks
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a beautifully written book. I loved the story and I really enjoyed the characters.
Katherine Jones
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Strong, unique voice of a delightful young narrator. Story woven through with secrets and mysteries artfully revealed. Masterfully drawn characters set in an interesting time and place. Loved it.
Laura Joseph
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
How to Keep a Promise
Whistling in the Dark, by Lesley Kagen

“… things happen when you least expect them, things that can change your whole life.” Lesley Kagen, Whistling in the Dark. Lesley Kagen’s book Whistling in the Dark is a wonderful story told from the point of view of Sally O’Malley, a ten year old girl, living in Milwaukee during the summer of 1959. The story begins with Sally’s father and best friend dying in the hospital from a car accident. Sally’s father calls her into his hospital r
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Lesley Kagen is a mother of two, a grandmother of two, an actress, narrator, speaker, essayist, and the award winning, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, including her newest, EVERY NOW AND THEN, which will be released on Oct. 6th. She lives in a charming small town in Wisconsin in a hundred-fifty-year-old farm house with her dog, Gracie.

More about Lesley and reading guides can be f

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Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
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“...things happen when you least expect them. Things that can change your whole life.” 29 likes
“...things can happen when you least expect them so you always gotta be prepared. And pay attention to the details. The devil is in the details.” 21 likes
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