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About the Author-
Mary Downing Hahn grew up in Maryland in the 1950s, and the crime on which this novel is based touched her own life. She is one of Clarion's most popular fiction writers and has received numerous awards, including three Edgar Awards (juvenile category) from the Mystery Writers of America and more than fifty child-voted state awards. Ms. Hahn, formerly a librarian, has written more than two dozen books and now lives in Columbia, Maryland. Visit her website at www.marydowninghahnbooks.com.
- maryam312 - This book is very thrilling. It is full of mystery and suspense. This is one of the best Crime Mystery books I have read so far.
Starred review from June 11, 2012
In a gripping story all the more chilling for its roots in a real-life crime that touched Hahn's (The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall) life, two Maryland teenage girls are murdered on their way to school in 1956. The author skillfully threads together the voices of several individuals affected by the tragedy. The predominant voice is that of 16-year-old Nora, a friend of the victims who realizes that "Nothing is what it used to be. It will never be the same again." Frightened and confused, Nora questions her Catholic faith ("Why does God let horrible things happen to people?), grapples with her insecurities ("Not stylish. Not pretty") and her fears ("Hell. Death. Especially death. But also sex"). She cautiously befriends Buddy, the boy who everyone else believes killed the girls. Buddy and the actual murderer contribute to the narrative, which also includes excerpts from the murdered girls' diaries and references to period films, music, and fashion. This wrenching novel offers an aggregate portrait of the effects of loss and grief, including both the strengthening and dissolution of relationships. Ages 12âup.
Starred review from April 15, 2012
The high-school year is almost over, there's a party in the park and Mister Death will soon be there, rifle in hand. It's June 1956, and the kids in the park are dancing to Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and the Platters. Mister Death is there too, a boy in a tree, rifle in hand. Two girls, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, never make it to school the next day, their bloody bodies found in the park where they were shot. Hahn's well-constructed story traces the effects of a crime on everyone involved, including Buddy Novak, accused of a crime he didn't commit. Multiple perspectives offer readers a chance to view the crime from various angles. A third-person narration follows the machinations of Mister Death, while a first-person voice is perfect for developing narrator Nora Cunningham's character, a 16-year-old girl full of questions and doubts, and who ultimately doesn't believe the gossip mill that pins the blame on Buddy. Diary entries, letters and first-person accounts from secondary characters add depth and sophistication to the tale, letting readers figure out for themselves what really happened. An engrossing exploration of how a murder affects a community. (Historical thriller. 12 & up)
COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
July 1, 2012
Gr 8 Up-The night before what promises to be a long, hot, and probably boring summer, Nora and her best friend, Ellie, go to an end-of-the-school-year party. The girls, along with their friends Cheryl and Bobby Jo, stride into the park in their short shorts and Keds for an evening of listening to Elvis Presley, drinking first beers, and exchanging sloppy kisses in the dark. In the morning Nora and Ellie, nursing first-time hangovers, decline to walk with Cheryl and Bobby Jo, but finish their breakfasts instead. But as the day goes on the girls wonder where their friends are-they never showed up at school. Finally, their whereabouts are revealed when a group of classmates bolt out of the woods near the park yelling, "They're dead!" This haunting novel alternates narrators to give voices to naive 17-year-old Nora; the mysterious perpetrator of this hideous crime who dubs himself "Mister Death" (in homage to e.e. cummings); Cheryl's ex, Buddy Novak, whom everybody suspects; and even the dead girls themselves (via journal entries). This creepy tale slowly and craftily builds tension. Definitely a scary novel, it has the added feature of offering a unique snapshot of life in the 1950s.-Tara Kehoe, Plainsboro Public Library, NJ
Copyright 2012 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
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