Mary Downing Hahn’s latest, The Girl in the Locked Room (Clarion), is the a ghost story (well, sort of) told in the alternating points of view of “the girl” and Jules.
Jules is middle schooler who has lived a pretty transient life. Her mother is a writer and her father travels the country fixing up old houses. His latest project is an estate in Virginia–and this is where the girl comes in.
The Girl is a former occupant of the house. She lived there in the late 1800s and is locked away in an attic room. We know something horrible happened to her family, and the central part of the story is figuring out what that is–and if Jules can help her move on.
The Girl in the Locked Room is a real page turner, and I think young readers will enjoy its ability to be spooky without being so terrifying that it will scar them for life. I liked Jules, I liked her friend Maisie, and I really liked the parents–but then I am a sucker for functional parents.
I was disappointed, however, that a ghost story set in Virginia, would elide race, especially when that story is set on a big estate that must have–at one time–been a plantation. If anything, adding that element to the story would only have made it deeper and would have raised such wonderful questions for readers to consider.
On the whole, however, this is a fun book. If you or your young reader is looking for a spook story for these cold winter nights, The Girl in the Locked Room is definitely worth checking out.