One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn (review)
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Reviewed by
Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Hahn, Mary Downing One for Sorrow: A Ghost Story. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017[304p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-81809-5 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-328-69902-2 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4–7

Starting at the Pearce Academy for Girls in 1918, sixth-grader Annie manages to wriggle out from under the attentions of Elsie, a clingy, mean-spirited, and much detested girl, and into the favored crowd, where she happily joins the others in bullying Elsie. The Spanish flu is raging through the country, though, and when Elsie succumbs to it, Annie and her cohort feel terrible—mostly—about how they treated her. Elsie, however, is going to make sure that Annie feels more than simple regret, tormenting her from beyond the grave to the point where her parents fear for her sanity and place her in to a convalescent home. Hahn (author of the classic Wait Till Helen Comes) situates her ghost story within the context of an already frightening world: World War I and the flu loom over the girls’ daily lives, with funeral processions becoming daily events; then there’s the smaller but still caustic acts of hate in the girls’ ridicule of Elsie, their poorer classmate. Though Elsie’s situation is pretty awful, she is wicked in life and death; meanwhile, Annie is blind to her own privilege, believing that her remorse should earn her forgiveness. Elsie makes an intriguingly venomous spirit, and she’s particularly good at getting both Annie and the reader to question Annie’s perception of reality. Another solid addition to Hahn’s oeuvre, this would also make a spine-chilling pair with Cohen’s The Doll’s Eye (BCCB 2/17).

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