Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Review: Down a Dark Hall, by Lois Duncan

For the life of me I have no idea where I got the recommendation to read this book. Apparently Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) is trying to get this book made into a movie and is going to produce it? But that still doesn't account for what prompted me to seek this one out. I think someone recommended it on a blog, and the cover looked good?

Well, you know what they say about judging a book by its cover: before doing so, you should check and see if the book was written for 13 year-old girls in the early 70s. Because this one was.

Kit or Kat or Kate or something like that is the main character, and she's headed to Blackwood Academy, a fancy private school for girls deep in the woods in spooky upstate New York while her mom goes on a honeymoon with her new husband (her first husband, Kit's father, was killed several years ago).

When she gets there, she's amazed to find that there are only 3 other students. Ruth, Sandy, and...Julie? Julia? Something like that. Also there's a very stern headmistress, whose name escapes me, and a nice old man named Professor Something or other, and the headmistress has a 'dreamy' college-aged son. His name is Jules, which I remember because the girls spend much of the book flirting with him.

Everyone starts to have strange but incredibly boring hallucinations and dreams. One girl dreams that someone was in her room with her. Kat thinks she sees a guy behind her in a dark hall (apparently the same one from the title) in a mirror. And then the girls start producing amazing works of art and science, showing skills that they never had before. It's incredible! Where did these skills come from?

Answer: from dead people. The girls are all psychic, sort of, or at one point saw a ghost, and thus are on the right wavelength to have been specifically selected to attend the school and become an unwilling vessel for these famous people, who range from Schubert to Emily Dickinson and other girly celebrities from the 19th century, to use to produce the poems and music and paintings and advanced math they've been working on since dying.

The characters are about as deep as a puddle, and the story isn't scary. The book took me a very painful 4 weeks to read, and I refused to put it down because I was positive it was going to get scary or good on the very next page, thus confirming whatever it was that prompted me to wait in line for and eventually check the book out.

In the end, that never happened. As a 30-something year-old guy, I can't recommend the book to other guys of most any age. As a 13 year-old girl in 1972 or so, I think the book is dreamy and is horrifying, especially the part where there's a fire and a ghost almost appears but doesn't.

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