Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn

by Jessica
  • Age Range: 10 – 12
  • Grade Level: 5-7
  • Series: Stand Alone
  • Print Length: 205 pages
  • Publication Date: September 3, 2019
  • My Rating: 4 stars

I picked this book up because I found the cover and description enchanting. Jules moves around a lot because her parents restore historical buildings and this time he is in Hillsborough Virginia and Jules is ready to just live in one place. Tired of moving she isn’t thrilled about meeting new people and starting over. 

When she finds out the house is supposed to be haunted Jules is creeped out. And she starts seeing a face in an upstairs window. In a room behind a locked door that no one can open. 

Together with her new friend Maisie, Jules investigates the history of the house, and the people who died there. 

What I loved

At only 205 pages this was a short read, and while it isn’t the scariest tale out there, I think it was sufficiently spooky for a reader who can’t handle scary stuff but wants to try and dip their toes into the world of ghost stories. If your reader is aging out of goosebumps and wants something a little bit more – this would be perfect.

While Jules is a loner, she does bond with Maisie over fantasy novels when they meet in the library – a small detail I loved. When I was a kid my best friends were in books and it would have been great to make a friend who loved them as much as I did.

On the spookier side of things loved the scenes from the ghosts perspective. Her presence is still there but she has nearly faded away. The ghost is lonely and confused.  You get to see her watch Jules and know what she is thinking. This does two things – it makes you relate to the being watched feeling Jules is having, but also keeps the scariness down because the reader will see that the ghost doesn’t want to harm Jules. So you get spooky but not scary. 

What I didn’t like 

Honestly, not much. The age and timeline of the ghost is a little confusing. At one point she talks about being 6 when she died, but at another point she says she’s 9… though this is hardly a detail to keep you from reading it.

While researching reviews for the book, other readers felt the story it isn’t scary enough. They were expecting more. Reviews also  point out issues with the end of the book. I won’t spoil it too much, but Jules and Maisie help rewrite the ghosts death, and her history. Technically this should impact the present… but it kind of doesn’t. If you try to apply time travel logic to it then yeah it is a bit problematic.  But I didn’t try and analyze the story on that level. I just read and enjoyed the happy ending.

As for the scariness, I wasn’t expecting a terrifying hide under the covers story, so I wasn’t disappointed. It is a solidly spooky story and I think there is definitely a need for less scary stories. When my daughter was younger she got nightmares over everything so this tale would have been a great fit for her. Especially since the cover looks scary – meaning she wouldn’t feel like its a book for “babies”. 

Who Should Read This Book?

This book would be great for younger readers, or readers who struggle. None of the text was overly difficult and yet the story was engaging enough that I kept reading to find out how the girls saved the day. And while the target audience is 5-7th grade, I think this would be a great spooky read for a 4th grader, maybe even 3rd if they are into being scared.

;TLDR ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Jules moves into a new home and finds she isn’t alone. She is determined to make contact with the presence behind the locked door. Together with her new friend Maisie they discover—and change—the fate of the family who lived in the house all those many years ago. Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing Hahn is a lightly spooky tale for readers who want to be scared without having to hide under the covers at bedtime.

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