Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Wait Until Helen Comes

Written by Mary Downing Hahn, this is the eighth book I have read for the Young Readers Challenge. It was published in 1987 by Avon books.

When I began this book, I didn't like it. The parents, newlyweds, were too self-serving and self-absorbed. When they married they created a blended family, Jean, Michael and Molly,her two children from a previous marriage and Heather, the moody, troubled seven year old daughter of Dave and his deceased wife.

Basically, it is a story about the trials of a blended family and an unwelcomed move to a new home. The subplot is, of course, a ghost story involving Heather and the ghost of a young girl named Helen. Their stories paralleled each other exactly. As the story unfolds, Michael remains pretty much unchanged, Molly is forced to face her fear of her mortality and Heather is able to face her guilt in regards to her mother's death. It all ends well, of course, but I have real problems with the whole thing.

In the first place, Heather was three years old when her mother died in a fire that was started by the toddler. I really think that the guilt is not realistic -- a three year old is not going to remember in detail the events leading up to her mothers death and blame herself. Heather's possession by Helen (the ghost) if you want to call it that, is just disturbing.

The parents, Jean and Dave, are completely self-absorbed and don't seem to be too concerned about their kids until the end of the book. They don't listen. The arguments between Jean and Dave concerning the children are very realistic and, in my opinion, not very entertaining.

Michael is the only well adjusted one, it seems. Not much to say about him -- the character isn't very well developed and you only get his insight once throughout the whole book.

Molly seems to be having issues with her own mortality. I picture Molly to be about twelve, although I don't believe it was ever stated, and I just don't think a twelve year old would dwell on the finality of her death. Most twelve year olds I have known think they are invincible!

All in all, the book was very well written and flowed well. It drew me in and held my interest but I just think it was entirely too graphic, morbid and depressing for anyone under the age of twelve and I am not too sure about a twelve year old -- I guess it would depend on the child.

I would recommend that parents read this book before recommending it to their children.