"Get dressed." "It's time." "You can't back out. We're brothers. We're a team." These are the words whispered in the dark as a boy with a face "nobody remembers" arms himself with the family hunting rifle and slips out of his house to get revenge. He's the "stupid jerk from ...history class." "Damn, damn, damn." Cheryl glances at Buddy, still sitting on the hood of his car, still smoking, still watching us. "I was hoping he wouldn't come." "Buddy doesn't move but he stares hard at Cheryl." He's the kid with the slicked back hair and the quick fist that delivers a black eye when he's provoked. Then, there's Nora with the dreams that some day Don will see her and love her as much as she loves him. She who always follows the rules until the night she ventured into the world of some cheap Rolling Rock and a quick kiss.
This is the night when everything stops making sense and she starts really taking a look at the people around her and what is true in her world. The next morning two girls are found shot. They're dead. If Nora and her friend hadn't been late for school they would have been killed too. Now the question is who would have done this? One of the girls is Cheryl and that leads the police to question Buddy who will be forever guilty of this crime in the minds of the community.
But, did he fire that weapon? Does smoking and beer and a hot car make you a killer? Could someone else be the true murderer? Based on a true story that is part of the life of Mary Downing Hahn this is a book that chills, lurks and churns up the things that are easy to accept and the things that just might matter the most. 330 pages Ages 13 and up
In her 1991 historical fiction book Stepping on the Cracks, Mary Downing Hahn mined her WWII homefront childhood to create an award-winning story which is still used in classrooms.
In her newest book Mr. Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls, she again visits her Maryland hometown and fictionally addresses the murder of two peers which shaped her as surely as losing her uncle in WWII.
Written in present tense with multiple narrators, including the killer, rich in 1950’s cultural references, and brutally honest in detailing the emotions of a 17 year old girl suddenly confronted with death, this book will have great appeal to teens.
In the aftermath of the killings, the main character Nora reevaluates her life, including her faith and her friendships. She makes important discoveries: “For the first time I realize not everyone lives to grow up. I mean, I knew that before, but not like I know it now.”
Readers will appreciate the afterward in which the author shares what is factual in the story and her reason for writing it.
The publisher recommends this book for ages 12 and up, which is standard nowadays for young adult novels. Looking at this book from a qualitative standpoint, I would not purchase it for a middle school library. With its realistic depiction of 1950’s youth (including smoking, drinking, sexuality), its multi-layered meaning, its intricate text structure, and its language often figurative, this book will provide a challenging and provoking read for high school students. Hahn is known among the younger set for her ghost stories; the ghosts in this story are figurative but no less haunting.
Recommended by: Beverley Olson Buller