Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls
By Mary Downing Hahn
Expected publication April 17, 2012 by Clarion
Based on a true story, readers meet Nora, who is finishing her junior year of high school in 1955. She doesn't know it but her life is about to change forever - the last day of school, two girls she knows are murdered and it seems only pure luck that she did not meet the same fate. Nora will struggle with how to move on after this horrible crime.
I can't believe it, actually, but this is the first book of Hahn's that I've ever read. It's pretty amazing, because I love scary things and Hahn is definitely known for her spooky books for middle-grade readers. This new novel is a departure for her, in a way - though it could potentially still be described as a spooky book, it's based on an actual crime, tells a more personal story, and is geared toward a young adult audience. After finishing this title, I don't know why I never read Hahn before - though this book is for a different audience, I assume it's still indicative of her other titles. Hahn has crafted a dark and fascinating coming-of-age novel tied up with a mystery and a horrific crime. Though Nora is our main protagonist, Hahn has chosen to tell the story from a variety of perspectives and I think it works really well. The greatest chunk of page time is devoted to Nora's story and opinions, but I really enjoyed reading about things from other points of view. Nora is a good choice for the protagonist, though - she is not as closely connected to the crime as some of the other characters and she is already going through her own difficult times. The murders force her to take a closer look at some of the things she believes - does she really agree with the crowd and believe that Cheryl's ex-boyfriend is the murderer? Or does she follow her gut and think he's innocent? Can she still believe in a God that lets these two young women die? Nora's struggles are not dissimilar from the struggles of most teenagers - whether to choose the crowd over yourself, ideas about religion and what it all means, worries about the future and our families. Hahn creates a perfect historical novel, as well - the book takes place in 1955 and everything about it screams that decade. While there isn't actually much of a mystery here (the murderer narrates the prologue, so we know who it is all along), it's still an incredibly compelling story. I found myself itching to keep reading. I think this book will appeal to a wide variety of teens - those who like historical novels, those who want to read coming-of-age stories, and those who like unsettling tales.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.