Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)
Ali has always considered her mom strict. So when her aunt Dulcie asks her to come to the cottage in Maine over the summer to watch her cousin Emma, Ali does not want to pass up the opportunity! But, as she arrives in the old lakefront cottage her mother and aunt spent time in as a child, mysteries begin to unfold. Why is Dulcie acting so standoffish? And who is this stuck up girl named Sissy who seemingly appeared out of nowhere? Does it have to do with the odd photograph Ali found a couple months earlier? Or is she just being ridiculous?
In a ghost story for the modern age, readers of all ages will be drawn into Ali’s suspenseful story as she uncovers the deep, dark, and dangerous secrets of the lake where her mother and aunt grew up. Ali and the reader discover how much action have consequences, even when they’re an accident, and can haunt the perpetrator for years afterwards. This message, coupled with the suspense and spooky nature of any ghost story, makes it valuable for readers of any ages.
Author Mary Downing Hahn does an amazing job not only in creating this suspenseful element, but also in the realistic nature of conflict between relatives. Ali’s frustration and sadness mirrors her mother’s, while Dulcie is the standard adult frustrated by the children’s antics. Emma is portrayed an unreasonable 4-year-old, which is exactly how any 4-year-old would behave! A child just wants to impress their new friend, and when told that they aren’t allowed to do so, then OF COURSE they’re going to rebel. And then there is Sissy, a bitter girl with a dark past, who even the reader grows sympathetic to, despite her antics. All of this is done with such care, that even if you don’t like ghost stories, you’ll be amazed by the details of this relationship…especially in a middle-grade novel.
While I was easily able to guess Sissy’s secrets, it did not hinder my enjoyment of the story. The story is about seeing Ali and Emma reach those same conclusions, and mending fractured relationships. Sure, there are some parts that force reality a little bit: would the paper and cops really believe that the girls saw a ghost? There is some dated terminology in the book though, which may not be politically correct, but if parents and readers identify it and discuss it, then I personally don’t think it becomes much of an issue. Remember: ghosts are from the past, and since they are from the past, they might say things we don’t say now.
Either way, although the lake is deep and dark and dangerous, this book has light in it. The story is more than spooky; it’s more than ghosts. It’s about family. And for that, I think people should read it.
What’s it about?
Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?
Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.
Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.