A Ghost Story

The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Summary from NetGalley:

The Girl In the Locked RoomGhost story master Mary Downing Hahn unrolls the suspenseful, spine-chilling yarn of a girl imprisoned for more than a century, the terrifying events that put her there, and a friendship that crosses the boundary between past and present.

A family moves into an old, abandoned house. Jules’s parents love the house, but Jules is frightened and feels a sense of foreboding. When she sees a pale face in an upstairs window, though, she can’t stop wondering about the eerie presence on the top floor—in a room with a locked door. Could it be someone who lived in the house a century earlier?

Her fear replaced by fascination, Jules is determined to make contact with the mysterious figure and help unlock the door. Past and present intersect as she and her ghostly friend discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago.


ARC provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Group via NetGalley for an honest review. 


Whenever a student asks me for a scary story I always direct them to Mary Downing Hahn’s book, she always delivers and I have never been disappointed by one of her books.  I am looking forward to adding this one to the collection and book talking to the kids.  This is a middle grade book, but would be enjoyed by anyone of any age. And I must say that cover is just perfect.  It will catch your eye and make you want to pick it up!

For such a short book (200 pgs.) it packs a lot into it. The characters are not as well developed as I would like, but they are all very likable girls.  The story is told from Jules’s and Lily’s perspectives.  Jules is a delightful young lady who yearns to live in one place and not be constantly moving around.  Her dad’s job, restoring old homes and buildings keeps them on the move.  She has a pretty good relationship with her parents which was nice to see. Jules is a perceptive child and although she claims she has never seen a ghost, she gets feelings from the buildings that her father works on.  From the start this new house gives her the creeps.

“Even from a distance, I knew something bad had happened in that house.  Maybe it was the crows perched in a line on the roof, maybe it was the utter desolation of the scene, but the word foreboding came to mind, along with haunted, misery, and sorrow.  It was the perfect setting for a ghost story.”

But she soon becomes fascinated with the girl she sees in the window and wants to help her.  On a trip to the town library she meets Maisie, a fellow book worm  obsessed with Diana Wynne Jones and her Chronicles of Chrestomanci books which she convinces Jules to read.  They bond quickly over books and Maisie agrees to help her.  I liked Maisie and their friendship although it does happen a bit fast.

The Girl, or Lily as we eventually learn, has a very sad history.  You almost instantly feel sorry for her and want to help her.  Her story is told in short burst which keeps you interested in the story and wanting to know what happened to her.  She ends up being a very brave girl who is able to change her destiny because of that.

The plot of what happened to Lily and her family is very sad but the way that Jules and Maisie helps her is quite unique.  If you are familiar with Ms. Jones works you might be able to guess how they solve the problem.  The ending was also well done and left you satisfied that things worked out for everyone.

Another great scary book by a master ghost story writer.  Definitely pick this one up if you need a spooky story to read.  Would be perfect for Halloween even though it is set in the summer. 


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