When most people think of Mary Downing Hahn, this is the book they think of. (Me, I tend to think more of Daphne’s Book or The Wind Blows Backward.) I was never way in to ghost stories like some people. And I even probably liked Time for Andrew a little better. But who cares what I think? The masses like Wait Til Helen Comes and I can’t argue with that.
WTHC is told from the POV of 12 year old Molly. She lives in Baltimore with her mom, her 10 year old brother, Michael, brand new stepdad Dave, and Dave’s seven year old daughter, Heather. Heather is a handful. She hates Molly, Michael and their mom. She’s whiny and manipulative–but her dad can’t see it. Heather’s mom died in a fire when Heather was only three, so all kinds of excuses are made for her terrible behavior.
The book starts off with Molly and Michael being told by their mother that they’re moving to the country, to a little town called Holwell, Maryland. Mom and Dave are both artists (Mom is a painter and Dave is a potter) and need the space to work. Of course Molly and Michael are wicked pissed. When they move, Heather’s behavior becomes even worse.
There is a graveyard in their new backyard (the new house is a converted church) which Heather is obsessed with. It gives Molly the creeps. Heather believes she is visited by the ghost of a little girl who is buried in the cemetary, Helen. We find out that Helen’s parents died in a fire, and Helen herself died that same night escaping the fire and running in to the pond where she promptly drowned. Molly believes that the ghost of Helen is trying to lure Heather into the pond, as rumors have been floating throughout town about some other children drowning that way.
Heather refuses Molly’s hand of sisterhood and becomes weird and withdrawn. She goes as far as to tell Molly and Michael that Helen is going to get them. Sho ’nuff, one day when no one is home, Molly, Michael and their mom’s stuff is completely ransacked. The small town Sherriff blames city-folk coming in from Baltimore and causing all sorts of havoc, but Molly knows that it was the ghost of Helen.
So time goes on and one day Molly discovers Heather being led to the pond by Helen. Molly jumps in and saves her, much to Heather’s dismay. Once it starts raining, they hide in the ruins of the house where Helen lived with her family. They crash through the floor into a hidden cellar, where they find two skeletons. Turns out they had never found the bodies of Helen’s parents. So their ghosts are reunited. Yay.
Molly and Heather have a heart-to-heart. Turns out that Heather inadvertently started the fire that killed her mom, and she feels unlovable. Molly hugs her and says she loves her and encourages Heather to tell her dad. The girls are rescued and Heather does talk to her dad and of course, he loves her anyway. Happy endings all around.
Sometimes I am shocked by the crappy parenting going on in YA books. (I mean, sometimes I’m shocked by it in real-life too, but that hurts me to really think about sometimes.) Molly and Michael’s mom is no exception:
- She’s moving her kids from the only city they’ve known to some hick town. This is AFTER she had promised Molly she could spend the summer at enrichment camp and Michael he could spend the summer at Science Camp. And she refuses to make the 45 mile each way trip throughout the summer so they can attend these camps. Listen lady, you’ve got kids who are smart enough that they want to go to brainy-type camps. You take them to a place so remote that there is practically no town, much less town provided daycamps. Get off your lazy ass and spend a couple hours in the car so your already smart kids can reach their full potential.
- When Michael complains about moving, mom says, “You’re ten years old. Start acting like it!” Um, last time I checked ten year olds DO whine about not getting their own way. I’m thrity two (yikes!) for fuck’s sake and even I hate not getting my own way.
- Mom acts like Molly is an idiot for being afraid of having a graveyard in their backyard. But being scared like that seems pretty reasonable for a 12 year old.
- When Molly and Michael want to go to the library, mom says that they can ride their bikes. It’s five fucking miles away in a town that they’ve never been to. Jesus lady, you got a couple of kids who want to go to a library. Could you support them? If not, maybe you shouldn’t have fucking had kids.
- But most of all, Mom and Dave both suck because they make Molly and Michael, a 12 and 1 year old, responsible for Heather’s well being from morning until dinner time. Because everyone knows that a 12 and 10 year old are the best people to be watching an emotionally disturbed little girl. I mean, even in Stoneybrook the babysitters are thirteen.
So yeah, that is totally what stuck out to me most about this book. The crappy parenting. This book is sort of….eh. Not too much to snark (other than the lack of parening skillz.) but not too much to gush over either.
Maybe my next book will be better. Help me decide what that should be….(see sidebar poll).