Read mister death s blue eyed girls by Mary Downing Hahn Online

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Based on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham’s junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties—friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is—are shaken or cast off altogether. Most peopleBased on an actual crime in 1955, this YA novel is at once a mystery and a coming-of-age story. The brutal murder of two teenage girls on the last day of Nora Cunningham’s junior year in high school throws Nora into turmoil. Her certainties—friendships, religion, her prudence, her resolve to find a boyfriend taller than she is—are shaken or cast off altogether. Most people in Elmgrove, Maryland, share the comforting conviction that Buddy Novak, who had every reason to want his ex-girlfriend dead, is responsible for the killings. Nora agrees at first, then begins to doubt Buddy’s guilt, and finally comes to believe him innocent—the lone dissenting voice in Elmgrove. Told from several different perspectives, including that of the murderer, Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is a suspenseful page-turner with a powerful human drama at its core....

Title : mister death s blue eyed girls
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ISBN : 12962790
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 343 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

mister death s blue eyed girls Reviews

  • karen
    2019-03-27 06:06

    mary downing hahn wrote one of my all-time favorite middle-grade books, wait til helen comes. i must have read that book hundreds of times in my blossoming youth. it was the perfectly-toned book full of creepy atmosphere and it just haunted me in the best way.so i was delighted to come across this book at the library, when i was just going to pick up some books i had placed on hold. i mean, i knew she had written other books, but it was a surprise to see one of such recent vintage.and i am so glad i made the time for it. this is a very personal book for hahn. the events related are events that actually occurred, when she was a girl in 1955: two girls whom she knew, walking through the woods on their way to school, were shot by an unknown gunman in the baltimore suburbs. this crime rocked the small community, fingers were pointed, but no one was ever convicted.it is a great piece of historical fiction, but it is not a typical mystery novel. rather, it is more like a judy blume novel,where a girl comes of age and questions her faith and worries about her parents' disintegrating marriage and her future, and whose dreams are unattainable because of something as vulgar as money.and there was real emotional resonance. it is heartbreaking the way her mother encourages her to go out and be with her friends, instead of moping around all summer. what friends? two have been murdered, and the rest have been shuttled off by their worried parents to get them away from the aura of fear that pervades the community. the only person left is the boy everyone in town suspects of killing the girls. it is so sad, this young girl dealing with so much fear and philosophical turmoil and doubting god in the middle of it all. where is she supposed to go? the woods, the outside are terrifying now, and she has no one to turn to, and even when she turns to a priest, he offers no real help.buddy's story is no less heartbreaking. suspected but not convicted, he becomes a pariah, with nowhere to turn, clinging to his tough-guy attitude even though he is heartbroken that the love of his young life has been murdered and everyone thinks he could have done such a thing.this is very atypical YA fiction. there are the romantic fumblings, naturally, but set as they are in the fifties, they are very tame and fraught with the need to be "a good girl" despite the natural hormones of teendom. all in all, a really great book, but don't go into this thinking it is going to be a nancy drew-esque mystery story with a plucky heroine solving a crime. it is something more rewarding than that.

  • Reynje
    2019-04-08 04:16

    Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is less a mystery than a straight up coming-of-age story. Though the synopsis bills the novel as a suspenseful page-turner, it’s really more of a slow-burn, character-driven exploration of how an unsolved crime impacts a community. Downing Hahn’s novel fictionalises real events that took place in 1955, altering the specifics of the crime and people involved to create a parallel version through which to examine the subsequent fallout. The story is related primarily from the viewpoints of Nora Cunningham, a peer of the murdered girls (Cheryl and Bobbie Jo), and Buddy Novak, ex-boyfriend of Cheryl and commonly believed perpetrator of the murders. In additional to their perspectives, Downing Hahn weaves in letters and diary excerpts, fleshing out the range of perceptions and reactions to Cheryl and Bobbie Jo’s deaths. Perhaps because this is a story anchored in the author’s own experience, there’s an authenticity to Nora’s voice and the response of the wider community. Downing Hahn depicts the fear and grief that permeate the neighbourhood, and how it at times manifests as anger or denial. A pall is cast over Elmgrove, the promise of summer freedom curtailed by anxious parents locking the doors at night and curfews enforced. Parents and peers alike eye Buddy askance, convinced of his guilt. And Nora descends into depression and a crisis of faith, unconvinced that a God who truly cared would allow her friends to be brutally murdered. Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls explores questions of religious belief and doubt, burgeoning sexuality, and the gravity of public opinion. Convicted by the community, if not by the law, Buddy forms a tenuous connection with Nora, who is increasingly isolated as the lone believer in Buddy’s innocence. Her former friendships, in various ways, succumb to the pressure of the tragedy. Her friends want to move on, move away from the killings, while Nora cannot. Instead she finds herself progressively more effected by them, and her belief that the killer remains at large. Nora questions her faith and her future, her relationships with her parents and friends, and why Cheryl and Bobbie Jo had to die. Largely, this is a novel about emotional journeys in the wake of tragedy. Which, while thought-provoking and well-written, may be slightly anticlimactic for readers seeking a greater sense of closure and explanation. While reading Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls I made various assumptions about where the story might lead at various points; I was wrong on all counts. This book isn’t written to answer all the questions it raises, but merely to point out their existence. That said, on the strength of the writing, Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls is an impressive novel. Downing Hahn captures the uncertainty and self-consciousness of adolescence, the on-the-cusp sensation of being a young adult, and the spiralling of becoming unmoored from long–held beliefs and connections. Downing Hahn points out that teenagers in the 1950s weren’t all that different from teenagers of today, in terms of the emotional, social and physical turmoil they face. This lends Nora, Buddy, Ellie – even Cheryl and Bobbie Jo – an immediacy and relevance to a broad readership. This is a strong novel, satisfying even without furnishing all of the answers, and is recommended for readers looking for introspective, character-driven writing.

  • Becky
    2019-04-25 05:59

    One of my favorite things about this book is how it captures that sense that, as a teenager, you could literally fall in love with anybody at any moment. Nora, the main character, has crushes on at least four different boys in the book and she 1. never ends up with any of them and 2. isn't made out to be erratic or fickle or "boy-crazy." This is so true to my experience as a teenager, and is almost never a part of YA novels, which tend to focus on "true love" (which is fine, I love those books too). Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is a beautiful, atmospheric, and quiet book. It's the perfect kind of book to turn back to when you need a comforting kind of reminder that your fears and questions are valid and that the world is terrifying and cruel but also warm and full of possibility. (I think those are called "coming-of-age" novels.)

  • Katherine
    2019-03-29 02:07

    ”’and what I want to know is how do you like your blueeyed girls Mister Death.’”The best kind of books to read, in my opinion, are books the authors want to write, and have a personal connection to. The Forbidden Wish, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, and The Red Tent are perfect examples. Books that aren’t meant to be published; personal pet projects of the authors’. But then these gems of manuscripts get picked up and published. These books are often so good because the author wants to be working on it, rather than writing a book for contract, or writing what is deemed ‘trendy’ or ‘on point’ at the time. And with this book, we can add another one to the list, because it was so bloody good.Summer, 1956. A time of innocence, James Dean, Elvis Presley, and lazy summer days ahead. School is about to be let out. The biggest thing on Nora Cunningham and Ellie Spencer’s mind is the upcoming school dance and how much fun they’ll have during their summer vacation. That is, until Chery and Bobbi Jo, two of their friends, are found brutally murdered. Murders aren’t supposed to happen in small town America. Two innocent girls don’t deserve to be killed like that. Everyone’s a suspect, but the prime figure seems to be Buddy Novak, Cheryl’s ex-boyfriend who got into an argument with her the night before. Soon, the whole town agrees with her, and he’s locked up immediately. But he didn’t do it. And Mister Death knows it. He’s watching every single move with sadistic glee, knowing they’re looking in the wrong direction, and how he committed the perfect crime.”He smiles at himself. The man you meet at the top of the stairs, that’s who he is: the man who isn’t there. The man you should pay attention to, the man you shouldn’t’ offend. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the man who isn’t there.”But it Buddy didn’t do it, than who did? And will anything ever be the same again? Nora and Ellie are best friends and comrades, with Nora being the main protagonist of the story. You can tell from the dynamics that Ellie is the leader of the two, with her constantly egging Nora on to do things she wouldn’t normally do. Tall, gangly, and just a little bit awkward, she and her friend Ellie become severely spooked after the murders of their friends. But over time, she starts to wonder if Buddy, the one who everyone thinks did it, really didn’t kill them. Along the way, she has her faith questioned and shaken to the core. Everything she was taught to believe and think about her values and faith has been shattered. I’m hot, I’m tired, the soles of my feet burn with pain. Most of all, I’m scared and confused. It’s as if the whole world has changed. Nothing is what It used to be. It will never be the same again.””Nora was the typical 1950s girl, but I admired her maturity and questions about things around her. Ellie is Nora's best friend and religious Catholic fanatic. She immediately comes right out and says she thinks Buddy did it, partly out of fear.”He’s stupid and mean and I don’t like him. Don’t trust him either. Those squinty eyes of his, that narrow foxy face.” She and Nora feel a lot of the same emotions but not always the same beliefs, and like so many friendships, grow apart with time and distance. Buddy is Cheryl's girlfriend who is accused of murdering her and Bobbi Jo, even though he is innocent. The psychological damage that it does to him is clearly evident. ”They leave me in the cell. I hear them laughing as they go upstairs. ‘Sorry little piece of shit,’ one says.And it’s true. I am, that’s all I am now. It’s like I’ve lost myself somewhere. Nothing seems real. Not even me.”He’s not winning any favors with the community, but with 1950s prejudices out there, it’s hard for him to convince anyone that he’s innocent, even himself. But over time, Nora puts those thoughts aside and starts to believe that he isn’t guilty after all. And as readers, we know he’s not because…Mister Death knows he’s not. Perhaps the best parts of this novel were the ones where Mr. Death was narrating. I could’ve had the entire novel narrated by Mr. Death and been happy. We do get a good look into his mind, though not enough to satisfy my cravings. The author’s best writing shows when she’s writing from his point of view. I mean, with writing like this, how can it not be true?”Stupid girls. If they’d been with Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, they’d be dead, too.He wonders if they know that. He wonders if they’re scared. He wonders if they think Mister Death will come after them.” The only quibble that I had was the fact that Mister Death was never named!! And that really, REALLY bugged me because I wanted to find out his name and who he really was. But maybe the author did this on purpose, in a way so we couldn't humanize him, feel sorry for him, or become attached to him.The author states in the afterward that this book was based off an actual crime that happened in 1956. She wasn’t directly involved, but has a significant memory of the event and how it shaped her. You can tell from both the writing and the characterization that this event clearly haunts her. In writing this story about Nora and Ellie, Buddy and Cheryl, Bobbi Jo and Mister Death himself, you can almost feel the author exorcising the memories that still remain with her. This gripping, emotional fictionalized retelling is a portrayal of the fear this little town has over a horrific crime that shouldn't have happened, and the consequences that ensue. It transports you to a time of innocence and carefreeness that we haven’t seen here in American in a very long time, and how evil can seep into the most tranquil of places. But most importantly, it shows how the question of guilt, innocence and death remain just as timely and important as they did back then. ”Then the boys come. Somehow I know the one with the gun was the one they laughed at. That’s why they he shot them. They laughed at him. Laughed.”

  • Kitkat
    2019-04-15 08:13

    I would give this book a 2.5 rating. I hated most of the characters except Nora and Buddy. Her friend left her and her sort of friend left to hook up with girl. I didn’t like anyone except Buddy and Nora together but then he never called her. I mean what heck but at least they got together in the end. That is not the only reason I knew nothing about the killer and I wanted a little insight or something interesting to happen. But I now understand why it’s such an uninteresting story because it’s a true story. Two girls did die in Washington DC and the author wrote about them to release some inner demons.

  • Sarah Jude
    2019-04-17 01:25

    MISTER DEATH's BLUE-EYED GIRLS is not your typical mystery. A terrible double-murder happens, and it is central to the plot, but it's not a whodunit type of thriller by any means.The book is set in the 1950s, just outside Baltimore, and the murders in the book take their inspiration from a real case from author Mary Downing Hahn's adolescence. Two girls she knew through a friend were murdered. That's the seed of narrator Nora Cunningham as she navigates grief in the aftermath of her friends' murders. She deals with doubt--that the boy everyone thinks did it could have actually been a killer, in that God could be real if He allows bad things to happen, that maybe she isn't a "nice" girl because she's now aware of her sexuality. The questions she faces regarding religion, her friendships, and herself are all ready fodder for countless YA novels, but framing them with the backdrop of a 1950s teen coming to terms with the senseless killings of her friends provides a unique take.MISTER DEATH'S BLUE-EYED GIRLS is ultimately a story of innocence lost. There's before. There's after. It's a sharp line without transition. The murder of Bobbi Jo and Cheryl ripples through Elmgrove, not only through Nora herself but everyone who knew these girls. Friendships change as a result of becoming too painful in their memories. Sometimes you draw away from those who remind you of a horrible moment in your life, and that's the fate that befalls Nora and everyone touched by what happened to Cheryl and Bobbi Jo. Nora says it herself near the book's end: the girl she was before can't exist now. Nora has seen too much, felt too much, thought too much, grieved too much. She's too aware now of the tenuous of mortality, and the things she thought were safe before (friends, faith, family, her town), it's illusory so why shouldn't she let it go and consider what else there is? The innocence of Nora at the beginning of the book is lost but she finds awareness that there can be more than what she previously considered.Nora's character arc is well-drawn, and it's intriguing to get snippets from other characters such as Buddy (the boy who is blamed), Ellie (the girl who had been her best friend only to become a stranger), Charlie (one of the boys she had feelings for), and Mister Death. The struggles and questions in Nora's mind are relatable even to contemporary teens because certain questions are universal. I'd recommend the book with the caveat that it's not a suspense murder mystery, though it has elements thereof. It's well worth the character study of how grief can shake a person to her core.

  • Ashley W
    2019-04-24 07:56

    The plot ofMister Death's Blue-Eyed Girlscomes from a very real event that occurred in the author's life. In 1955 Baltimore, Maryland, two teenage girls were murdered in cold blood and the case remains open today.The murdered girls in the novel, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, are two of best friends of the protagonist Nora Cunningham. The book is mainly from Nora's perspective along with the prime suspect and Cheryl's ex-boyfriend, Buddy, and the actual murderer who is only known as Mister Death. The novel follows the grieving Nora and Buddy after the girls' deaths and the creepy gloating of the teen murderer. I really wanted to like this book because of it's interesting premise and also because I absolutely loved Mary Downing Hahn's works when I was younger. However, this book really didn't do anything for me, except annoy me.Nora just annoyed me so much in the way she was self-absorbed and only thought about herself throughout the course of the novel. While I do understand that two of her friends were murdered and the case remained unsolved, Nora only seems to care about herself. Because she was friends with Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, she expects everyone to bend over backward to comfort her. That made me angry because that is not the way real life works. She does spend the course of the novel feeling angry and heartbroken because of her friends' deaths, but she also says and does things that seem very immature and selfish. She complains that her life is over because she's all alone during the summer and her mother forces her to go out and be social. I wanted to throw the book across the room because this is such an ignorant thing to think/feel when two of her friends' lives are over...permanently.The redeeming factor in this novel were Buddy's chapters and how he deals with everyone in town believing that he is responsible for the murders. I genuinely felt sorry for him, especially because in real life, there was a boy just like him. I can't imagine what it would feel like to have been accused of murder by everyone you knew and knowing you were innocent. I also liked the epilogue at the very end. All of the characters drifted apart since being together only brought back thoughts of Bobbi Jo and Cheryl's murders. It wasn't happy but it was realistic. I didn't really like how there was no closure at the end, but I guess it's kind of open-ended. Not to mention necessary since the murders, to this day, remains unsolved despite a confession that everyone seems to dismiss. While I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would, I still heartily recommend it. Just don't look for mystery within its pages, but a coming-of-age story full of grief.

  • Kate
    2019-04-19 01:12

    Just before the summer of 1956, two girls are murdered. Nora and her friend Ellie were supposed to walk to school with Cheryl and Bobbi Jo, and they are stunned when Cheryl and Bobbi Jo are found shot and killed in the park. Cheryl's ex-boyfriend Buddy is brought in for questioning. As the summer goes on, Nora struggles with newfound realizations that God can't solve everything and her own belief that Buddy is innocent.I had recognized the poem that inspired the title from reading The Silence of the Lambs (the serial killer Buffalo Bill gets his name from this poem). The title/poem has this menacing quality to it and I expected this to be about a serial killer probably from the "Silence of the Lambs" connection. However, this book was written more like a memoir, and from the information from the author's afterward, it does seem very personal and quite unlike any of her other novels that I've read.The time period is described spot-on. Not that I lived through the 50s, but the details are very specific, all the brands and things that a girl in the 50s would have thought was important and common, and yet the essence of being a teenager - thinking about the cutest actors, what books parents don't want you to read, flirting with boys and thinking about religion and the meaning of life - is timeless. Nora was easy to identify with, being a reader and a little naive. So this wasn't a taut, fast-paced thriller, but rather a look how two murders changes a group of teenagers forever, and it was really well-done.

  • Wendy
    2019-04-05 08:10

    An intriguing book, like a might-have-been version of the beloved The Cheerleader. What might have made Snowy's angst even worse? If Linda and Judy had been murdered and everyone thought Norm Noyes did it. It takes the book (or the reader? I shouldn't be presumptuous) a little time to settle into the time period, for it to start seeming like real life and not the old part of Back to the Future with endless historical-period references. But eventually Nora, and some of her friends, become real people.The book does not offer easy answers, or denouements, or even, for the most part, much drama--it isn't as shock-valuey as I thought it might be at first (the murderer's voice seemed to be going there). This is mostly about Nora's internal drama and also how the murders affect the town.I have mixed feelings about what seems to be the author inserting a fictionalized version of herself into the main narrative, giving herself a role where she was really an observer in real life. On the one hand, that does seem presumptuous, sort of self-important--but really, it doesn't come off that way. Nora has to have a larger role in order for this to make sense as a book, I think. In real life we can be on the periphery of an event like this and it can still affect us deeply, but in fiction, I think the reader would keep thinking "she's making an awfully big deal about something that really didn't affect her life at all". So I'm okay with it, I guess, but I can see where one might make a case for it being creepy. Maybe if the book weren't well-written.Overall, this was an interesting way to explore a teenager's crisis of faith.

  • Jodi Papazian
    2019-04-19 02:16

    The concept of this book sounded so creepy to me and I was looking for a good, scary read. However, I was a bit disappointed with Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls. There wasn't much mystery to the story. I had originally assumed that this was going to be a mystery - and while it was for the characters, it wasn't for the reader. Although you didn't know at the start of the story who the murdered was, you figured it out by the second or third chapter. One of the biggest issues that I had with this story was how dated it was. (It was based on a real-life incident that happened in the Mary Downing Hahn's town when she was a teen). I read a lot of reviews that praised the author for not "modernizing" the story. I guess I am on the opposing side. I felt that all the pop-culture references dated this story so much that it became frustrating to read. I could not identify with any of the characters or their experiences. All of the references and language that they used was like a foreign language to me - and if I was that frustrated, I can imagine how a teen will feel. At one point, I even thought that I had mis-ordered this book and that it was actually an adult read. It's one to recommend to readers (most likely older girls) who are fans of mystery, but might be more enjoyed by much older readers.

  • Dana
    2019-04-13 00:22

    I wanted to read this book because I read an interview with the author about how this story had been a part of her for most of her life and her agent finally talked her into writing it down. I didn't think of it as historical fiction until I started reading it and was time warped into the 1950s. When I think of historical fiction I never think of the 50s. I always think of really boring novels written in depressing eras of history so this was really surprising. Historical fiction can be about a period in time that I like reading about? Go figure. The mystery of the story was appealing as well as Nora's struggle with religion and finding herself while dealing with the murder of her friends. I haven't ever read any of Mary Downing Hahn's books before this but I won't be passing her titles by from now on.

  • Erika
    2019-04-25 05:02

    Ah, coming of age. Ah, young love. Ah, summer. Ah, murder.

  • Angel Gelique
    2019-04-23 01:10

    Review to come....

  • Dark Faerie Tales
    2019-04-01 06:24

    Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie TalesQuick & Dirty: A whole town is changed forever after two girls are killed in this 1950′s era thriller.Opening Sentence: He opens his eyes. It’s still dark, way before dawn. He’d willed himself to wake at three a.m., and he’s done it.The Review:This book was not what I was expecting based on the title. I honestly would have enjoyed it more if I had read the Afterword first, since I was expecting paranormal elements. The title comes from a poem by E.E. Cummings, and is adopted by the killer as a stand in for his name. The book is told from multiple third person perspectives, focusing mainly on Nora, and sometimes on Buddy, and occasionally on the murder, Mister Death. Through the different perspectives, we are able to see the story and characters as a whole, much like a mosaic.The novel starts on the eve of the last day of junior year for Nora, Ellie, and Cheryl. The three girls, along with a younger friend, Bobbi Jo, go out to a party and get drunk. The next day, Cheryl and Bobbi Jo are dead. The reader knows only that the killer is someone named Mister Death, and that he has a personal vendetta against the two girls. The book continues on as Nora, Ellie, and the rest of their peers try to cope with the murder of two of their classmates. The prime suspect is Cheryl’s ex-boyfriend, Buddy, and he gets a few chapters to explain his side of the story. The whole town thinks Buddy is the killer, except Nora.The whole novel is about how Cheryl and Bobbie Jo tears the life of so many people apart, and even decades later is still on the mind of their classmates. This novel deals with depression, fear, religion, and growing up on multiple levels shown through the different viewpoints of the characters. Nora wants to get past the murders, but those around her will either not let it go or talk about it to help ease her mind. Nora’s sections often are repetitive at the sentence level, and she struggles with the trauma that cannot be properly expressed.The novel moves slowly with multiple chapters for single days. That was one thing I did not necessarily like was how slow the novel is until over halfway through it. We get to know Nora the best since she has the most chapters. Nora starts out a good, naive Catholic girl until her world is turned upside down by the deaths. She searches for answers and finds none that placate her. She tries new things that go against her Catholic upbringing like booze, making out, and reading new authors like Walt Whitman and T.S. Elliot. In a way, the deaths free her to try things she might never have discovered, especially the authors.The other character who has multiple chapters is Buddy, the alleged killer. We learn from his first chapter that he did not kill the girls, which then leaves those to question who did. The town likes having Buddy as a scapegoat because he had a motive, and if he wasn’t the killer, then that means it could be anybody, and they had no other leads. We know that the murder is Mister Death, but his chapters do not have his real name. Buddy not only loses the girl he loves, but his whole town and family shun him for the rest of his life. He joins the Navy to escape the past. Nora talks to Buddy a few times, and we get to see Nora from a different perspective for the first time. I am glad that Nora does believe in Buddy’s innocence, even though it alienates her from everyone around her.Overall, the book is well written, but just not what I expected. I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in thrillers and stories about growing up during a difficult time.Notable Scene:“What’s so special about Cheryl anyway?” I ask. “Why do boys like her so much? She’s not all that pretty. Her teeth are so big she looks like a chipmunk.”We laugh again.Ellie reminds me of the time Cheryl sneaked out of a slumber party and stayed out all night with Buddy.I was there. I definitely remember.“That’s why they like her,” Ellie says. “She pets and stuff.”What exactly does petting mean, I wonder. Letting a boy touch your breasts or put his hand on your knee, maybe more. Stuff you’d have to confess, that’s for sure. But Cheryl’s not Catholic, she doesn’t have to tell a priest what she does with boys.“What do you think she was doing with Ralph down in the woods last night?” Ellie asks.We look at each other, wondering…By now, the trees have closed in around us, silent in the morning coolness, their trunks tall and straight. Slants of sunlight knife down through the leaves and dapple the path.Ellie tells me about a story she read in True Romance magazine. “The girl was a tease. She got a bad reputation and…”While Ellie talks, I glance over my shoulder, suddenly alert to a difference in the silence. A rustling in the leaves, a branch snapping, a sense of being watched, just like last night.I glance at Ellie. She’s fallen silent. Has she noticed something too?A crow takes sudden flight from a branch. His alarmed cry sets of a chorus of caws from a dozen crows. They all fly up into the air and circle the treetops. A murder of crows, that’s what my English teacher calls them–a flock of sparrows, a gaggle of geese, a murder of crows.FTC Advisory: Clarion Books provided me with a copy of Mr. Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

  • Estelle
    2019-04-15 04:23

    Review first posted at Rather Be Reading Blog:During one of my non-fiction writing classes in college, we were required to read Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. Have you read it? It’s the account of the 1959 murders of a family — Dad, Mom, sister, brother — in a small farm town in Kansas. The book includes the gory details of the murder, several interviews with the convicted murderers, and the aftermath experienced by the town residents. Published in 1966, In Cold Blood is known as the premiere book in the true crime genre, the “original” non-fiction novel.And I was obsessed with it.I watched all the movies and did plenty of extra research, even though the whole story scared the shit out of me. Two men coming into your house and shooting you all in the head. It’s not something that happened every day but to me, the point was: it could happen. Capote was able to spin a news story into some kind of magic trick, a play where cold-blooded murderers were depicted as human beings. You felt like you were reading fiction until you remembered that it was all true.Calling In Cold Blood one of my favorite books of all time may seem out of character for the girl who is surrounded by YA novels on a daily basis, sure. That’s probably why I didn’t think Mister Death would do much for me. It was a complete surprise when it woke the stirrings I had once felt reading In Cold Blood. Although, instead of a book chronicling a real crime, this one, while inspired by a similar situation the author experienced, was completely fictionalized. But it didn’t matter that it was fiction. The emotions were raw, and the story was gripping (without being over-dramatized). It was as good as real.Here we have a group of teenagers planning to have the summer of their lives when disaster strikes: two of their friends are found murdered in the woods and nothing will be the same again. Most of the story is told through the eyes of Nora, a self-admitted good girl, lover of God, and ever so self-conscious and and over-analytical. While she was friends with the victims (Bobby Jo and Cheryl), she lives on the other side of town and knows them mostly through her best friend, Ellie. (There are many supporting characters in this story.) Maybe this is shocking but she is most affected by these events because a) if they had not been running late, she and Ellie would have been in the woods too and b) how is it that they were just dancing all night a few hours ago and now these girls are dead? (ala John Lennon’s “Life’s what happens when you are making other plans.” and Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking: “You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.”)Clearly, Nora is going through some heavy stuff. Her group of friends all disperse for the summer, leaving her very alone. She’s filled with dread, “insane thoughts” about God’s existence, her own commitment to religion, and most importantly, her own unpopular belief about who did not commit the crime. She is basically spinning out of control and I was hanging on to every word, feeling her heaviness, her fright, and uncertainty.“Which is worse, I wonder, atheism or insanity?”Dispersed between Nora’s chapters are snippets from her best friend, a boy she likes, the boy wrongly accused of a crime, and even chapters told by the killer himself, only known as Mister Death. I loved this. Hearing what the other characters were going through, the haunting words from the one who pulled the trigger, and even words from the victims themselves. Tensions build, secrets are spilled, and more comes out in the open. These chapters could have certainly been jarring, but their placement made sense and never disconnected me from Nora. She was never too far away.You should know… this is less of a whodunit and more of a psychological analysis of the affects of a traumatic event and how it affects others for years to come. If all true crime dramas dug this deep and pulled out such authentic actions and emotions, I would certainly be inclined to read more of them.I passionately believe this book, while targeted to the YA audience, has the meat, the themes, and the human insight to be received by a wider audience with open arms. While reading it and now that I have finished, I am more than positive Mister Death could find its way to many kinds of readers. These unexpected events and the reactions these characters have to them are relatable on so many levels. While no one wants to imagine a similar tragedy occurring in their life, it is difficult not to think “what if” while reading Hahn’s engrossing words.

  • Sara
    2019-04-11 03:17

    Even though technically not a lot really HAPPENS in this book, I could not put it down. The emotional suspense tugged me along at a rapid pace, and I stayed up until 1:30 AM to finish it and see what happened to Ellie and Nora and Mister Death and Buddy. This book is an emotional, personal experience. In the end, when you find out how Mary Downing Hahn is personally connected to the story, you realize that this may be the story she has always been meant to tell. Perhaps her most personal, devestating story. I can't imagine putting a story like this into words, and I think Hahn did an amazing job. It is sad and beautiful, an amazing exploration of grief and the effect of a murder on people in a small town. Besides the emotional complexity, another thing Hahn does amazingly well is situate her story in time and place. I could picture this small town American 1950s place vividly, and the pop culture references make it really explode into life. I am not quite sure how this book has such a low-ish star rating -- I think it may be one of the best I've read this year. The only thing that kind of bugged me is hidden behind a cut that follows. It did not bug me enough to move this from a five star to a four star novel. (view spoiler)[ I think the jump from the past to the present at the very end is a little bit awkward. I knew what she was doing, but I think it could have been done a little more gracefully. It felt a little bit tacked on.(hide spoiler)]

  • SusanDunn
    2019-04-16 03:16

    The interview with the author made this sound SO good that I dropped everything to read it. When the author was in high school, two of her friends were murdered, and the killer was never found. In this somewhat autobiographical YA novel, Hahn explores this incident that she has had in the back of her head for 30 years. I thought I was going to love it, but I really didn't. The main character, Nora, is kind of a whiny, nervous girl, who I really didn't like - or sympathize with. She isn't popular but wishes she was, and she's too timid to strive for the life she wants. On the last day of her junior year of high school, she and her best friend oversleep. When their friends stop by to pick them up to walk to school, Nora and Ellie tell them to go ahead. That's a decision that saves their lives. This is still an interesting read, based on the author's experiences, but that's mostly what made me stick with it.I'm not sure this will be popular with teens, b/c it's written in the time period that the original murders took place. Today's teens won't know the music of Little Richard or The Big Bopper. They'll have to ask their parents what a ducktail looks like, or what crinolines are. I think that in trying to be true to the time period Hahn is going to lose many of her readers.

  • Beverly
    2019-04-22 02:23

    A compelling story. Too bad no one could answer Nora's faith questions to her satisfaction. The priest and her parents kept saying that the murder of the two girls in the story was "God's plan." Of course it wasn't God's plan. Nora kept wondering why God "let" the murderer shoot the two girls; but she never wondered why God "let" her, a 16-year-old teenager, drink beer (against the law), and why God "let" her allow her male classmate to grope her. As with most people who do not understand the full implications of free will, we get to choose whether to do right or wrong. And God does not usually interfere. And while most people will wonder why God "let" so-and-so commit some heinous crime; they never wonder why God "lets" them do bad things. So it's free will for me but not for thee. They want God to control other people, but not themselves, but they cannot have it both ways. Either God is a cosmic puppeteer, pulling our strings and making us hop to his maneuverings, or he is a holy, merciful and just God who has given us free will and does not force us to love Him, believe in Him, or obey his laws. But, there are always consequences for bad choices, sometimes in this life, always in the next.

  • Briony
    2019-04-12 08:24

    I am going to give this book a 4.5 to a 4.75 rating. I have been a fan of Mary Downing Hahn since I first picked up Wait Till Helen Comes back in my wee days. Even till this day I still get excited to see when she has published a new book. I am hoping to catch up on her books that I missed in my high school and undergraduate days. Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls did not disappoint me and will probably hold a special place in my bookshelf for the day I read it on. Today was the four year anniversary of a friend’s death and less than a week since my brother’s friend passed away unexpectedly. The authenticity and realism of the plot and characters’ emotions and actions speak volumes.Nora’s thought process of losing two friends, her emotional dealings with her current friends and the attempt to discover herself propelled the book along. I also liked how Hahn faded characters out as time continued. I did appreciate how the book ended. There were no special endings and seems to be true to life. Must read the Afterword. It puts the book in an entirely new perspective. Favorite part of the book? The reference to “Blue Suede Shoes.” It is one of my mom’s and my favorite songs.

  • Olivia
    2019-04-09 03:59

    Mister Death’s Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn is a young- adult murder mystery novel based on a true story in Washington D.C over five decades ago. The main character, Nora Cunningham, is faced with the vicious murder of two girls she was acquainted with. All of Nora’s plans and priorities in her life are shifted because of this devastating event. She begins to question her faith, and why terrible things can happen to good people. Many people in the town believe that the ex- boyfriend of one of the deceased girls was the one that shot, and killed them. Nora deals with her conflicting thoughts of who could have killed these two, young teenage girls. This is a must-read book for people in seventh grade and above. The vocabulary used in the book is somewhat challenging, and the topic is gloomy and heavy. If you are interested This book is not a light, easy read. The flow of this book was improved by Hahn’s chapters told by by multiple views, including the unnamed murder. The writing style of Hahn is unique in the way that her details can make or break the story. If you are ready for a scary, violent, but emotional book, this is one you will not be able to put down.

  • Jackie
    2019-03-26 00:15

    This story is a fictionalized account of a true crime that revolved around the 1955 murder of two teenaged girls in Maryland. Cheryl, 16 and Bobbi Jo, 14 are shot like animals on their way to school on the last day of the school-year. Everyone assumes, based on circumstantial evidence, that Cheryl's ex-boyfriend, Buddy, killed them. He didn't. He passed two lie detector tests, the murder weapon was never found, and he knew nothing about the two small clues that police kept under wraps. But, the town ostracized him and shunned him nevertheless. He left, joined the Navy, and never came back. Nora Cunningham, a friend of Cheryl and Bobbi Jo's, was virtually the only one in town that believed Buddy had nothing to do with the murders. Lives go on, time passes, but the murder is never solved until 50 years later, when the sister-in-law of the killer comes forward after his death. Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is chilling and creepy in a way that tells us how untruths can ruin a person's life, for the rest of his life. Unlike so many of Hahn's other books, this one is compelling and unsettling, in a deliciously macabre way.

  • Madeline Partner
    2019-04-06 04:12

    I wish the Acknowledgements or closing statement was at the beginning, as it really helped me understand why this novel was written the way it is. I almost feel bad reviewing it, as to me, this novel seems almost like closure for Hahn.Anyways, I enjoyed this book, the murder mystery was especially creepy (yay, all the more fun). The points of the book told from Mister Death's perspective were very interesting, and creepy. To be honest, I could easily guess the murderer from the beginning of the book, and that did annoy me quite a bit. I'd have preferred if there had been more mystery to who actually did it.In the beginning of the book, Nora, the main character, is very self-absorbed, and doesn't seem to care much about other people, and this stays with her for most of the book, though she does loosen up towards the end. Overall, there was no real action besides the murder. It was mostly thought, and some slow action, that you could find in a teen romance novel from the 1960s. Eeeh, I'd give it three out of five stars.

  • Robbi Caldwell
    2019-04-19 03:06

    In a departure from Hahn's typical ghost stories, Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls is a fictionalized account of the real-life 1955 murder of two teenage girls. Hahn relies heavily on her own experience as a teenager dealing with these murders to create Nora's character. And while some reviewers have complained she wandered too far from her norm, I found this book to be so full of such raw, genuine human emotion in relation to death and good vs. evil that it was really much more haunting than any of her other ghost stories. It stuck with me. When I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it, reading bios on and interviews with Hahn, and looking up the news story about the death-bed confession. It was a tad slow in the beginning (Part One, which is only about 30 pages) but well worth it to keep reading. Recommended.

  • Samantha
    2019-04-11 01:06

    The writing was beautiful, I loved the way "Mr. Deaths" point of view was added in, and I really felt for the characters.But,This book is not for everyone, yes there are some dull moments, I have to admit they are a needed part of the story.I, just as much as any person hate being bored while I read but this book provides a necessary boredom. Mr Deaths blue eyed girls is less about action and drama and more about how a community deals with the brutal murder of two teenage girls. This includes the main character, you see into her mind and it is a very real and very raw account of what happened (this book is based on a true story - which you also have to appreciate). It really is a beautiful piece of work and I give it a loving 3 stars with no hard feelings towards the missing two (I just reallllllyyy hate being bored).

  • paula
    2019-04-17 05:03

    Even before the events of Nora's early summer twist into sudden nightmare, this book is an extraordinary book. This character is so naked to the reader, and so painfully easy to identify with. Mary Downing Hahn is in her seventies, but has seemingly shot body and soul back into the head of a teenage girl - reading Nora's thoughts is like dropping feet-first into a shockingly cold pool. I read a lot of damn YA, and very rarely do I encounter a character so convincingly inhabited.Full review on Pink Me: http://pinkme.typepad.com/pink-me/201...

  • Kristin
    2019-03-27 03:19

    In the 1950s, author Mary Downing Hahn was deeply affected by the murder of two teenage girls near Washington D.C. She was haunted by the occurrence for so long that she finally decided to write a book about it. In this telling, narrated by fictional Nora, the girls live in Baltimore County and are completely fictionalized. The book jumps around, at times thrilling and at others dwelling too much on Nora's inner thoughts. The 50s atmosphere was forced a bit but I did enjoy taking an intimate look at that era. Not an unpleasant read, though not one I was racing to at the end of the day either.

  • Courtney
    2019-03-25 01:05

    I have always loved Mary Downing Hahn as an author. When I saw this title at the library, I immediately checked it out. It's a great read based on sad, but true events that happened one summer in 1956.

  • Ruth
    2019-03-25 02:06

    I decided to read this book because I was interested by the title. It didn't turn out to be as good as I thought though. I felt disconnected from the story, and the pace seemed to be a little slow moving at times. Nice ideas, not the best delivery though.

  • Rachel Rimmasch
    2019-04-23 07:10

    I thought that this book was really good, because of how Hahn made us feel the characters feelings when Cheryl and Bobby Jo were murdered. I didn't really like how the murderer never was caught and how at the end, she skipped like 50 years to the point where no one really cared about the murders anymore. Also skipping 50 years was completely random and I never really understood why she did that.

  • E'in Nadh
    2019-04-24 06:03

    In 2014, I thought I didn't like historical fiction, or was sure I wouldn't enjoy this genre. Did I really say that??? I remember reading a lot of this back in 2012, but I didn't know what it was called. Simply called them "books set in 1950s/1960s". I've seen this book in many of the libraries I've been in, but never picked it up because I was always just looking for books that Booktube/Bookstagram have mentioned before. What a mistake. The 5th time or so I saw this title, I decided to just take it. Two girls are shot to death. That's all I dare say because it's so good to read it without knowing much, haha.Books are really best enjoyed not knowing anything about. Jumped into this and immediately loved the setting of 1955. The writing was clear and I could easily imagine the clothes, the places, the characters and how they talked and acted. I loved every bit of it. If you're looking for an actual murder mystery, this isn't the one for you. It doesn't revolve around that, but it's more of a coming-of-age story about letting go, how small a town is and how everyone can know everyone and at the same time not... how being accused of something you didn't do could leave such a huge impact.This was based on an actual murder in 1955, and reading the author's Afterword just made me wanna cry my heart out. Reading the book halfway I looked at her picture on the back coverflap and was like... Wow, she's old. But there is a reason for that *cries* I Googled about this real life case, and reading about how every single detail in it matched the details in this book is just........ *cries again*