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The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story

Review

The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story

For 12-year-old Jules, her family’s move to Virginia is the last straw. They’ve been moving from place to place her whole life, following her dad to his jobs fixing up old houses. Now they’ve landed at Oak Hill, a huge, creepy old mansion, and Jules has had enough. The addition built onto the back of the house for them to live in is too close to those empty rooms for Jules’s comfort, and she keeps thinking she sees movement in a window on the third floor. As work on the house begins and Jules explores the property, she finds small things left behind by the family that must have lived at Oak Hill —- broken dishes, scraps of wood and cloth, a set of tiny porcelain dolls and an old-fashioned key, which Jules slips into her pocket without thinking. As the summer goes on, Jules begins to experience deja-vu; she keeps seeing a little girl and her parents, dressed in old-fashioned clothes and apparently unable to see her. Strangest and most frightening of all, Jules wakes every night to the sound of horses thundering toward the house. When she rushes to the window, she sees nothing, and the noise disappears.

"THE GIRL IN THE LOCKED ROOM does not disappoint. The pace is quick enough to be exciting but leaves plenty of room for suspense. Readers of all ages will be delighted by this chilling tale."

Jules’s parents don’t believe her when she tells them of her strange experiences. Her mother, a writer, prefers to keep ghost stories in the realm of imagination, and dismisses Jules’s reports of the strange girl she sees. Her father is too wrapped up in the restoration of the house to notice any lingering occupants. Luckily, Jules  finds a friend to share in her investigation of the old house - Maisie, a girl she bonds with at the library over fantasy books. With Maisie’s help, Jules finds a locked room on the top floor of the old house --- a room to which she has the key. 

Running parallel to Jules’s story is that of Lily and her parents. They were the original occupants of Oak Hill and led an idyllic life, until a terrible and mysterious event shattered their world. Now a shadow of a little girl languishes in the attic of the old house, waiting for someone --- anyone --- to let her out. 

THE GIRL IN THE LOCKED ROOM is told through two voices: that of Jules, in the present day, and Lily, whose narrative seems to shift in time and space. Lily’s chapters are told in simple, wistful prose, as sparse and ghostly as the girl herself. With Jules, author Mary Downing Hahn evokes a rambunctious preteen on the verge of adolescence; Jules’s voice is fun and believable. Her character seems to shift between childhood and the adult world, just as she finds herself falling into scenes from the past. Hahn seems to portray Jules at a unique time in her life, when she is capable of inhabiting both realms simultaneously. Jules is almost too old for ghost stories, and shows interest in adulthood, but she is still intrigued by her glimpses of a ghostly girl. There’s little reference to the world beyond Oak Hill and the surrounding village, creating a unique space in which the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred. 

An old-fashioned haunted house story, THE GIRL IN THE LOCKED ROOM does not disappoint. The pace is quick enough to be exciting but leaves plenty of room for suspense. Readers of all ages will be delighted by this chilling tale. 

Reviewed by Rebecca Hawkins on November 29, 2018

The Girl in the Locked Room: A Ghost Story
by Mary Downing Hahn

  • Publication Date: September 4, 2018
  • Genres: Children's 10-12, Fiction, Horror
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books
  • ISBN-10: 1328850927
  • ISBN-13: 9781328850928