Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls by Mary Downing Hahn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Nora and her friends are looking forward to their last day of junior year and the summer ahead, but their lives are changed forever when Cheryl and Bobbi Jo are brutally murdered. Mister Death's Blue-Eyed Girls explores these murders and the ripple effect they have throughout the girls' small town.
I feel strange giving this book two stars after seeing so many great reviews, but man, this book did nothing for me. The title made me think it would be a supernatural story, and once I got into the book I thought it would be a mystery or a psychological thriller, but this delivers none of the above. The story is seen mostly through the eyes of Nora, described by the author as a self-insert exploring a murder from her childhood. There's so much going on in the story, but it's lost with Nora as a narrator. She's static and never seems to grow from the whiny, insecure girl she is in the beginning.
Hahn works in some other narrations that could have had promise. There's Buddy, Cheryl's ex boyfriend who everyone believes killed her, the real murderer "Mister Death," and various diary entries of minor characters. The problem is that these aren't balanced. You have a lot of Nora with the occasional other perspective. Not only that, but it switches between first person, third person, and diary entries with different narrators. The effect was just a jumble that distracted from the story itself.
The other thing that attracted me to the book was the 50s setting, but even that was poorly executed. A lot of Nora's mentality was rooted in the time, like her views on sexuality and her struggle with religion, but it's a shame Hahn didn't let that stand on its own. Instead, she felt the need to "world build" by taking three paragraphs to list (and I really mean list) pop culture elements of the time. Just to be sure we know it's the 50s.
The best part of the book for me was the relationship between Nora and Buddy. By the end of the book, there was this great connection between the two after they'd both suffered from the aftermath of the girls' murders. I only wish that there'd been more to hold my interest before the last 30 pages.
I'm just not sure what this book was going for. The subject matter seemed to be directed at teens, but but the lack of complexity in a serious subject matter read like middle-grade to me.
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