Coming of Age Thriller

MisterDeath’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn is based on real events that took place in the mid-1950s. The horrific murders in the book happened during the author’s teenage years and are the defining moment in the life of the main character, Nora Cunningham. Nora is a typical teen, neither very popular nor an outcast, insecure about her looks, and uncomfortable because she’s tall. Murder is at the heart of the story, but it is more of a coming-of-age story.

 The day after a night of partying, Nora and her best friend, Ellie, are almost witnesses to the shocking murders of their classmate and a young friend, Cheryl and Bobbie Jo. The deaths have an impact on the teens at the party, and each deals with the tragedy in his or her own way. Nora, who starts out as a good Catholic girl until this tragic event shakes her convictions about friendships and religion, begins to question everything. She tries new things that go against her Catholic upbringing like reading new authors and making out.
The title of the book is inspired by a poem by E.E. Cummings. The killer takes a line from the poem and refers to himself as Mister Death. The story is told through multiple perspectives, including the killer’s, but focusing mostly on Nora and, occasionally, Buddy, the alleged killer; there are also letters and diary entries. Through the different viewpoints, the reader gets the whole story. This narrative style works very well as the characters experience tragedy and growing up. The book is sometimes slow, but very well-written and is quite a departure from middle school ghost stories readers may have come to expect from Hahn. Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is in the Younger Teen section in the OCPL system.

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