There are so many books that I want to read that I decided that I’m going to give myself a theme each month to narrow down my choices. Since Halloween is coming up I decided that October will be my month for mysteries, thrillers and scary books. Mary Downing Hahn’s Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls was my first read in this category. I have to say that having just finished the book it wasn’t the mystery or thriller that the book flap advertised, but it was definitely scary. However, it was scary in a way I didn’t expect. Mister Death begins the night before the last day of school in a suburb outside Baltimore in 1956. Nora and her friends are happy and excited for the summer before their senior year. By the next morning, though, something happens that changes the whole town forever. I liked this book from the very first page. The author creates the feeling of being a teenager in the 1950s right away, from the girls’ high ponytails and full skirts to the songs by Little Richard, The Platters and Fats Domino that they listen to while they cruise around town with their boyfriends in their Ford Fairlanes. My favorite part of the book is when a Pat Boone song comes on the radio and Nora and her friends make fun of him because he’s a “goody-goody” and they only like bad boys like Elvis Presley and the Big Bopper. I guess Pat Boone was the Justin Bieber of his day.
I got so caught up in the 50s atmosphere that the sense of dread Nora feels the next morning when she wakes up really jolted me. The rest of the book is about the loss of innocence. Nora narrates most of the chapters, but a few are from the points of view of other characters, including a boy everyone rushes to accuse. Nora believes that this boy isn’t really guilty and she becomes his only friend. I can’t believe how much stuff Mary Downing Hahn crams into one book. She tackles tons of topics, like faith, friendship, lonliness and appearance versus reality. It’s strange to think that while so much has changed since 1956 so much has also stayed the same. When I read the Afterword I learned that the book was based on an incident that occured in the author’s town when she was in high school. She says that it took her thirty years to be able to write this novel because of how emotional it was for her. I’m so glad she did; this book gave me so much to think about.