Mark Twain Award Nominee 2009-2010
Mary Downing Hahn creates a solid ghost tale with Deep and Dark and Dangerous.
Thirteen year old Ali finds a mysterious picture in an old book and begins to wonder who has been torn out, so when her aunt gives her the opportunity to babysit at a cabin by Sycamore Lake (where the picture was taken), she jumps at the chance. Maybe she’ll solve the mystery!
Soon after arriving at the cabin by the lake, Ali begins to investigate further into the mystery of the picture. In the process of investigation and babysitting her niece, Emma, Ali meets Sissy; a girl who seems to cause trouble wherever she goes. As things begin to escalate, Sissy appears more often and Ali figures out who Sissy is. Could she really be the ghost of the girl from the torn picture?
Hahn weaves a tale of mystery and suspense that will have readers’ hearts pounding through the action scenes. The book has a little bit of a slow start, perhaps focusing too much on the frailty of Ali’s mother and not enough on the mystery itself.
However, once Ali gets to the cabin with her aunt and cousin, things pick up very quickly. The last half of the book is action-packed and offers few refuges from the action. Hahn did an incredible job of building suspense to the point of absolutely bursting before revealing who Sissy really is and winding down the action.
Aside from offering suspense in the plot, Hahn waxes philosophical with such topics of loneliness (how far will one go to have a friend?), spirituality (what happens after death?), guilt (how long does it take to heal childhood trauma?), and redemption (can you truly remedy a wrong by saying you’re sorry?).
Hahn seems to be a little disconnected from her characters, and the conversations surrounding the mystery of the picture get a little redundant and monotonous. Character development also seemed minimal during the book. Perhaps there is a little development on Ali’s part and Emma learns an important lesson about friendship, but Ali’s mother and aunt (those who should have changed the most from solving the mystery) stay static and secondary.
The book will hold the audience's interest and give just enough clues throughout to help astute readers guess the solution before the end of the book. The book might seem a bit scary as “A Ghost Story” is written on the front cover, but it’s the kind of ghost story that is creepy, not gory. The book does what it sets out to do—tell a ghost story that will keep readers guessing the answer to a mystery.
Rating: 4 Pages