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Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary…

Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls

by Mary Downing Hahn

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The author based this on an actual event from her adolescence that has haunted her ever since. The memories must be as clear as yesterday because the raw emotions and reactions of the characters are realistic and believable. When two teenage girls are murdered in a small Maryland town, the repercussions are far and wide. Cheryl's ex-boyfriend Buddy is immediately pinpointed by the community as the killer even though the police didn't find anything to tie him to it. Nora, whose voice we hear most in this novel of alternating voices, begins to doubt God. Friendships fray and drift as differing opinions and feelings surface. Occasionally we hear the voice of the killer. Even though the main act occurs at the beginning, suspense continues to run throughout the book as characters cope with the aftermath. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Mister-Death's Blue-Eyed girls is a haunting novel that deals with the unsolved murders of two teenage girls. The books focus is less about the murders themselves but rather the effect it has on the friends and family of the victim. Mary Downing Hahn based the story on a murder that took place in Washington, DC. In the afterward of the book she talks about how this event haunted her throughout her lifetime. The book is well written and the author does a good job with portraying the emotional responses of the teens in the story. This is an amazing book and I highly recommend it to others ( )
  68papyrus | May 7, 2013 |
This is a great book which the author bases on an event that happened in her youth. It delves into young death and the grief process of those affected by the tragedy. Two young girls are murdered and their core group of friends all have different reactions to it. It is an interesting look at the 50's as well, referencing music, soda fountains, movies, etc. Hahn has many great books for young readers, but this is her delving into the teen genre. I would consider it a hit. ( )
  bnbookgirl | Apr 17, 2012 |
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: A whole town is changed forever after two girls are killed in this 1950′s era thriller.

Opening Sentence: He opens his eyes. It’s still dark, way before dawn. He’d willed himself to wake at three a.m., and he’s done it.

The Review:

This book was not what I was expecting based on the title. I honestly would have enjoyed it more if I had read the Afterword first, since I was expecting paranormal elements. The title comes from a poem by E.E. Cummings, and is adopted by the killer as a stand in for his name. The book is told from multiple third person perspectives, focusing mainly on Nora, and sometimes on Buddy, and occasionally on the murder, Mister Death. Through the different perspectives, we are able to see the story and characters as a whole, much like a mosaic.

The novel starts on the eve of the last day of junior year for Nora, Ellie, and Cheryl. The three girls, along with a younger friend, Bobbi Jo, go out to a party and get drunk. The next day, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo are dead. The reader knows only that the killer is someone named Mister Death, and that he has a personal vendetta against the two girls. The book continues on as Nora, Ellie, and the rest of their peers try to cope with the murder of two of their classmates. The prime suspect is Cheryl’s ex-boyfriend, Buddy, and he gets a few chapters to explain his side of the story. The whole town thinks Buddy is the killer, except Nora.

The whole novel is about how Cheryl and Bobbie Jo tears the life of so many people apart, and even decades later is still on the mind of their classmates. This novel deals with depression, fear, religion, and growing up on multiple levels shown through the different viewpoints of the characters. Nora wants to get past the murders, but those around her will either not let it go or talk about it to help ease her mind. Nora’s sections often are repetitive at the sentence level, and she struggles with the trauma that cannot be properly expressed.

The novel moves slowly with multiple chapters for single days. That was one thing I did not necessarily like was how slow the novel is until over halfway through it. We get to know Nora the best since she has the most chapters. Nora starts out a good, naive Catholic girl until her world is turned upside down by the deaths. She searches for answers and finds none that placate her. She tries new things that go against her Catholic upbringing like booze, making out, and reading new authors like Walt Whitman and T.S. Elliot. In a way, the deaths free her to try things she might never have discovered, especially the authors.

The other character who has multiple chapters is Buddy, the alleged killer. We learn from his first chapter that he did not kill the girls, which then leaves those to question who did. The town likes having Buddy as a scapegoat because he had a motive, and if he wasn’t the killer, then that means it could be anybody, and they had no other leads. We know that the murder is Mister Death, but his chapters do not have his real name. Buddy not only loses the girl he loves, but his whole town and family shun him for the rest of his life. He joins the Navy to escape the past. Nora talks to Buddy a few times, and we get to see Nora from a different perspective for the first time. I am glad that Nora does believe in Buddy’s innocence, even though it alienates her from everyone around her.

Overall, the book is well written, but just not what I expected. I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in thrillers and stories about growing up during a difficult time.

Notable Scene:

“What’s so special about Cheryl anyway?” I ask. “Why do boys like her so much? She’s not all that pretty. Her teeth are so big she looks like a chipmunk.”

We laugh again.

Ellie reminds me of the time Cheryl sneaked out of a slumber party and stayed out all night with Buddy.

I was there. I definitely remember.

“That’s why they like her,” Ellie says. “She pets and stuff.”

What exactly does petting mean, I wonder. Letting a boy touch your breasts or put his hand on your knee, maybe more. Stuff you’d have to confess, that’s for sure. But Cheryl’s not Catholic, she doesn’t have to tell a priest what she does with boys.

“What do you think she was doing with Ralph down in the woods last night?” Ellie asks.

We look at each other, wondering…

By now, the trees have closed in around us, silent in the morning coolness, their trunks tall and straight. Slants of sunlight knife down through the leaves and dapple the path.

Ellie tells me about a story she read in True Romance magazine. “The girl was a tease. She got a bad reputation and…”

While Ellie talks, I glance over my shoulder, suddenly alert to a difference in the silence. A rustling in the leaves, a branch snapping, a sense of being watched, just like last night.

I glance at Ellie. She’s fallen silent. Has she noticed something too?

A crow takes sudden flight from a branch. His alarmed cry sets of a chorus of caws from a dozen crows. They all fly up into the air and circle the treetops. A murder of crows, that’s what my English teacher calls them–a flock of sparrows, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows.

FTC Advisory: Clarion Books provided me with a copy of Mr. Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Apr 15, 2012 |
Its been a really long time since I read a book by Mary Downing Hahn but when I was younger I used to devour all her middle grade ghost stories. I was always fascinated by how easily she could scare the crap out of me and still keep me glued to the page. I think the same thing can be said about her new YA novel but instead of using a scare tactic to pull the reader in, it's the story's raw emotion that will grab you.

Although the novel is told through the eyes of several different characters, including Buddy and Mister Death (the killer), you spend most of your time with Nora. Nora is an empathetic character who is easy to care about. Her internal struggle to deal with her friend's death is really what drives the novel forward and if you don't feel a connection with Nora it's likely this novel just isn't going to work for you.

The novel has a slow pace which I think works well in showing how the characters and town deal with the crime's aftermath. This is NOT a crime novel but rather a coming-of age story built around a tragedy with some mystery elements thrown in. I think the 1950's small town setting adds a lot of intensity and atmosphere to Nora's own belief that bad things only happen to other people who live somewhere else.

When I first picked up Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls I was only vaguely aware that it was based on an actual crime, as well as the author's own personal experience of that event. I think this fact adds greatly to the emotional depth of the story. You can feel the author's emotions leaking through the page and the weight of the story seems to have a greater importance.

I was really surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book. Though it is heartbreaking, I do think the novel has something important to say about how people deal with tragedy. The novel is likely to only attract people who like coming-of age stories or historical fiction, but I do hope it finds a larger audience. ( )
  ShaEliPar | Apr 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547760620, Hardcover)

Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham’s junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties—friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is—are shaken or cast off altogether. Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy’s guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent—the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove. Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:17 -0400)

Narrated from several different perspectives, tells the story of the 1956 murder of two teenaged girls in suburban Baltimore, Maryland.

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