Mary Downing Hahn was one of the middle grade thriller writers of the 80s and 90s. I vaguely remember seeing some of her books in my elementary school libraries, and I probably read them, too, though I barely remember what they were about. They were gentle reads, scary but not too scary, and always stopping short of that edgy line that the popular Point Horror books series loved to toe.
I picked up THE GIRL IN THE LOCKED ROOM for nostalgia's sake, and because the title and cover intrigued me. The book is about a girl named Jules who moves around a lot because her parents love to restore old houses. Their newest project is a house that's allegedly haunted. Her parents laugh it off, but then Jules starts seeing a face in the window and seeing images of a girl. Seeing the girl makes her uneasy. She knows something terrible must have happened to her, to make the house feel as it does.
I think the hints of sensuality in the Point Horror books and their bone-chilling creepiness have spoiled me for all other middle grade thrillers, because nothing else comes close. THE GIRL IN THE LOCKED ROOM feels painfully tame, kind of like some of the sillier Goosebumps titles. It tries to be interesting and different, referring to multiverse theory and the idea of altering a terrible event to change the future, but the way it's written just doesn't really pan out. I know I'm much older than the target audience for this book, but I think even most middle grade kids would probably turn up their noses at this.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars