"You always make her go away. You’ll be sorry!" or Wait Till Helen Comes


First things first: total mullet alert on the cover! I mean, I get that it was 1986 when this book was published, but holy shit that is one fine child-sized mullet on Heather.

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Heather refuses Molly’s hand of sisterhood and becomes weird and withdrawn.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).

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About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Mary Downing Hahn, paranormal. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to "You always make her go away. You’ll be sorry!" or Wait Till Helen Comes

  1. Taren says:

    YES! I love this book! You and Sadako and everyone have inspired me. One day you will read my thousand word dissertation on the bad parenting in YA.

  2. Sadako says:

    I'm kind of ashamed to admit I haven't actually read this, but this post has spurred me on. I'm so making an effort to this summer.And Taren, I definitely want to read the dissertation on the bad parenting. Man, the examples just go on and on and on, don't they?

  3. Sadako says:

    Sorry to post twice, but AHH! Norma Klein! I LOVE her! That's My Bay is the first one I read of hers. I read it randomly in either middle or high school, just kind of plucked it off the shelf. I loved it so much. It was YA but it had sex and it made me feel all mature, and…so good! I've always thought Norma Klein was underrated. You have to do it next, oh please.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, the parenting was pretty bad in this book. Even more frustrating was how the stepdad would verbally abuse Michael and Molly right in front of their mother and all the mom would do is turn around and yell at the kids for making Dave angry and driving him away. Sadly, a lot of mothers do put the men in their lives ahead and their own chikdren but you wouldn't expect that to be the case in a YA novel.And wasn't this the book, where after anyone who met Heather would suggest counseling, (cause you know, she did watch her mother die a horrible death at age 3, and was clearly acting out) her dad would say shrinks were all jerks who would only mess with her head?

  5. Rosaline says:

    Daphne's Book is definitely my favorite Mary Downing Hahn, but I loved Wait Till Helen Comes when I was younger. The part that always upset me the most was when Helen lies to her dad and says that Molly and Michael abandoned her in the woods, and he not only believes Helen, but he gets angry with their mother for defending her kids. Then he takes Helen for ice cream, and she looks triumphantly out the car window at Molly. Grrrr!I also loved the idea of living in a converted church, especially since Molly includes a floorplan. Yay, floorplans!

  6. Ditty75 says:

    This was probably my favorite book of all time when I was growing up! I still think it's wonderfully scary. However, this and another blog that recapped this book pointed out the bad parenting to me and other issues with the book, the main one being:Why didn't the parents get Heather into counseling? Surely they could tell that she had some major issues. You would think that she would have been in counseling immediately after the fire.How much of a stretch is it for them to figure out that Heather felt guilty about her mother's death? It seems perfectly obvious to me. Surely Dave would have thought about that before. I would assume they figured out how the fire started.And, as another blog pointed out, why weren't the bodies of Helen's parents ever discovered? It's not like the cellar was a hidden place. Surely someone would have thought to look in the cellar. Something else I just thought of–why were the ruins of the house there? You would think, especially since the pond was a picnic spot and children had recently drowned in it, the house would have been torn down.Still, even with all of those issues, I love the book. It rocks. 🙂

    • Leigha says:

      well they wouldn’t relize that they were dealing with a mentally enstable little girl who watched her own mother to die.MDH(mary downing hahn)wanted the parents not to relize about Heathers bad behavor.Thought the Mom does she only thinks that it is the move and MDH anted them not to notice this problem.But i liked when micheal said,’Why don’t you open up your eyes and see what she’s really like!’ becz,tsk tsk dave,it true.Why didn’t dave notice anything about her weird behavor.Also everyone who lived in the CHURCH didn’t know about the house at all,or helen AT ALL!!!!I loved this book and ya i see what you mean….

    • Agatha says:

      Weeeee, what a quick and easy sooiutln.

  7. nikki says:

    I can't believe I completely forgot to point out Dave's refusal to get his girl counseling. I was like eleven when I first read this book, and I knew that Heather was fucked up about the fire. Duh. And mom always taking Dave's side…. another thing I forgot to mention. Thanks to my hyper-vigilant readers!

  8. Pingback: “Why had she buried the doll?” Or, The Doll in the Garden | Are You There Youth? It's Me, Nikki

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