It’s hard for me not to bring the snark but can we have a moment for the fantastic Mary Downing Hahn? A lady so great she needs three names. Thanks to Pamela who gave me this book to read. Mar really knows how to write about children’s angst without just making it about boys and makeup. Jessica meets Daphne, who is the class weirdo but doesn’t seem to care. When working on a book project together, Jessica learns that Daphne lives out on an old farm with her senile Grandmother who barely feeds them and Daphne is basically taking care of her grandmother and her little sister, and almost starving to death. She doesn’t want anyone to know because they may take them away. Jessica struggles with not telling anyone, and also struggles with associating with Daphne who the kids at school make fun of. In the end Jessica tells her mother and the girls are put in an orphanage but then are finally adopted by a distant cousin. Daphne forgives Jessica but has to move away to an orphanage (are they even called that anymore?). Daphne is mad at first that Jessica told, but finally forgives her in the end, and distant relatives adopt them.
And seriously? I read this one night and bawled my eyes out.
MDH, as I like to call her, also wrote the Jellyfish Season, which I adored. it seems that she writes about girls who feel awkward, and not just in a I’m-going-through-puberty way, but girls who really can’t relate and try to reach out to their families and maybe don’t always succeed. Jessica is feeling especially crappy at school because her childhood best friend has suddenly become popular so Jessica tags along with the popular kids and although they are not very welcoming to her but she sticks it out anyway to be with her friend. Jessica, Jessica, I’ve been there. And in my early twenties, not just as a kid.
In my internet searches, I came to the realization that MDH also penned the horror classic. Wait Till Helen Comes (not to be confused with the porno of the same title. I KILL myself.). and OH MY GOD I read the shit out of this one.
Some things I remember so vividly. The main character has parent that just remarried and they move into what used to be an old church. There was even a floorplan of the church included. My real estate fetish was in affect even back then, so I was into it. She also had a bratty stepsister who she hated but was super favored by the parents. The bratty stepsister became friends with Helen, the ghost of a little girl who drowned in the lake. Helen wanted brat girl to drown herself, Jenny Wilder style, in the lake so she’s have another ghost friend to play with. Main character saves her and all is well. And man, this shit was scary. And not in a Dawn’s secret passage scary, but pretty creepy.
However, I am not sure what is scarier, the ghost or the little girl’s mullet.
Mary Downing Hahn, I salute you.
I wish I knew you. We’d meet at a local coffee shop and you’d show up in your cozy cardigan, and we’d write short stories and share them with each other. And then I’d tell you about my struggling relationship with my mother and you’d say “there, there dear” and give me some tea.