May 28, 2014

Deep Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:18 am by suebe2

Deep Dark and Dangerous
by Mary Downing Hahn
Clarion Books

When the photograph slips out of the old mystery that she’s reading, Ali recognized her mother and her aunt although they were both children in the photo.  But the photo has been torn and all that’s left of the third girl is a bit of her arm.  Curious, Ali takes the photo to her mother.  Mom snatches the photo away and refuses to answer any questions, going to bed with a migraine.

That doesn’t surprise Ali as much as it would some people.  Her mother, a fearful woman who worries contantly, has frequent migraines.  But when her aunt comes to town and invites Ali to the lake with her for the summer, Ali’s mom melts down again.  She doesn’t want Ali at the lake and insists it is a horrible, unpleasant place.  How can her mom and her aunt have such different memories the same place?  Ali pushes to go and, with her father’s help, heads off for a summer in Maine.  She will be in charge of her preschool cousin, Emma, when her aunt is painting in preparation for a big art show.

Sure the weather is a little cloudy and chilly but Ali doesn’t get what her mother disliked so much until she meets Sissy.  The blonde girl is closer to Ali’s age of 13 than to Emma but she befriends the younger girl and starts to turn her against her older cousin.  Instead of the happy girl who loves stories, Ali is suddenly stuck watching a lying sneak.  How is it that Sissy has such a hold over her younger cousin and where does she live?  She’s always evasive when Ali asks a question about her home and manages to give Ali the slip somewhere around the old cemetery when the older girl tries to follow her.

Then someone tells Ali about a girl who disappeared the last summer that her aunt and mother spent at the lake as children. Could she be the one in the photo?  The one Ali’s mother won’t discuss and her aunt claims not to remember?

Hahn has written a horror story in the old-style sense of the word.  This isn’t a story full of blood and gore.  Instead it is a mystery full of deep, dark atmosphere.  There is obviously something wrong and the question is simple — will Ali figure out what it is before something awful happens?

This is an excellent middle grade novel and middle school readers will definitely identify with Ali who is trying to be mature and responsible but simply can’t keep all of the adults in her life happy.

This might not be the best choice for a young reader who scares easily but this story is not gory although it is spooky in the very best ghost-story tradition.  An excellent choice for a summer read.

–SueBE

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