Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book Review: mister death's blue-eyed girls, by Mary Downing Hahn (Clarion Books, 2012)

Release date:  April 17, 2012

Recommended:  Ages 12 and up

It's June, 1956, and school's just about out for the summer.  Teenage Nora and her friends have a party with a few boys, dance, hang out and drink too many beers.  But none of them can imagine that their lives are about to change forever.

The next day, the bodies of two of the girls, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, are found shot to death in the woods near their house.  Everyone thinks that Buddy, Cheryl's ex-boyfriend, who's looks like an imitation of James Dean, must be guilty.  But when no evidence is uncovered, he's released, although everyone in the town still assumes he did it.  Nora is the only one who seems to think someone else is guilty--and the murderer is still out there.  Who's to blame for this brutal crime...and will he wind up going unpunished?

This excellent mystery, written from varying points of view, including Nora, her friend Ellie, Buddy, and the actual guilty murderer, takes place in a time that seems so innocent now--a time of listening to Elvis records, worrying what would happen if a boy touched your knee, having ice cream sodas at the neighborhood drugstore.  But we see how one event makes everything change for all the teens in the story.  What would it be like to have your friends murdered, begin to question your Catholic faith, and not know how to go on living?  And what if everyone in town thought you were a murderer?  This is different from other Mary Downing Hahn books I've read--not a ghost story, but a story nonetheless of how the dead can haunt us in other ways.  Highly recommended.  Note:  the novel is inspired by a real crime which took place when the author was a teen, and has haunted her for years.

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