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Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

*Deep and Dark and Dangerous* by Mary Downing Hahn- young readers book review
Deep and Dark and Dangerous
by Mary Downing Hahn
Ages 9-12 192 pages Sandpiper August 2008 Paperback    

As a tween and teen, ghost stories were a real thrill to read. October was ideal for delving into all the scary books and movies leading up to a great thrill and scaring ourselves silly. Then, as time continued, the same effect occurred that has been hitting children of all ages for at least a decade now: desensitization. Not much is really scary now, even though many years ago nightmares would be triggered by the simplest of ghost stories. Deep and Dark and Dangerous may very well have succeeded in bringing a little hauntingly scary thrill back into the traditional ghost story.

Ali is a 13-year-old girl who has lived most of her life with the traumas of a manic-depressive mother stifling a good portion of her breathing room. Her Aunt Dulcie is the polar opposite of her mother and someone Ali reveres for all her talent and personality. As Aliís summer is getting ready to kickoff, she finds a very old photo of her mother, her aunt, and the remaining arm of a figure which has been torn from the photo. When Ali asks about the photo, her mother and aunt refuse to acknowledge knowing anything about a third girl.

As luck would have it, Ali is given permission to go to Maine with her aunt to act as babysitter and companion to her young cousin, Emma. The old family cottage is fixed up and, for the first time in 30 years, it will be lived in once more. A few days later, a 10-year-old girl named Sissy starts showing up at the Cottage. She is mean, untrustworthy, and causes major strife between Ali and Emma. With each passing day, Sissy drops hints to Ali about Aunt Dulcie, her mother, and their involvement with the death of a little girl in the very same lake their cottage is on.

Ali and Emmaís teetering friendship with Sissy becomes nearly fatal several times over as they are drawn into the lake on several occasions. Someone, a little girl perhaps, is still down in a deep and dark part of the lake, and it's up to Ali and Emma to uncover the truth. If they do not succeed, they may very well find themselves in the deep and dark part of the lake as well.

Deep and Dark and Dangerous is very much a ghost story, but the reader fails to really be bothered by that throughout the whole tale. Indications that a spiteful and angry spirit is around are slopped throughout the tale, but connecting the proverbial dots doesnít happen until late in the story. In addition, the scariest part of the story is not the ghost but the behaviors and actions of the adult sisters who are at the root of the ghost problem.

One of my more favorite ghost stories is Stonewords by Pam Conrad. In this story, the main character not only interacts with a ghost but is transitioning into her world as well. In Deep and Dark and Dangerous, the same concept is happening, but the ghost is interacting only in this world. In addition, the ghost in this story is so solid and interacts so commonly with Ali and Emma that the thrill of a ghost being present is hard to grasp.

For what it is, Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn is a good book, more interesting to an 8 to 12 age range than anything older. For those who aren't so desensitized, the element of spookiness is there and can be triggered even more by curling up with this book in the shadows on a cold winter night.
Young readers book reviews for ages 8 to 12 years old

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