Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn
I read this book when I was in 5th or 6th grade. I remember it making the rounds in my group of friends, and I thought it was the scariest thing I’d ever read. So after reading another book by Mary Downing Hahn (which I didn’t like that much), I decided to read this again to see if I still liked it as much as I did when I was in middle school.
From the book: Molly and Michael aren’t happy about moving with Mom and her new husband Dave into a converted church in the country. They miss their old friends and all their city activities and Molly has to share a room with Heather, Dave’s spooky daughter, whose mother died in a mysterious fire. Heather is unpleasant and difficult to get along with. She tattles and lies and doesn’t want to do the things the others do. One day when Molly is minding Heather, the little girl wanders off into an old graveyard behind the church. There, Heather becomes obsessed with a small tombstone hidden beneath the overgrown weeds — a tombstone that bears her own initials, H.E.H. And it’s in the same graveyard that Heather develops a strong bond with the malevolent ghost of H.E.H., a girl whose mother died in an 1880s fire as mysterious as the one that killed Heather’s mother. In a novel that’s terrifying and poignant by turns, Molly gradually realizes that even though she doesn’t like Heather, she must save the possessed child before the ghost lures Heather to her doom.
This book still creeped me out a bit, I must say. I’m kind of a chicken, so it’s not really hard to do. But still. I couldn’t remember much about the book, pretty much something about a church and the ghost destroying a bunch of stuff. It definitely lived up to my fond feelings about it. It was written in ’86, but there wasn’t much that dated it in regards to content. Molly talked about listening to her Walkman, but that was really the only thing that would have put me in the mind of the ’80s. My favorite character was Molly. She was real to me. She was scared of a lot of things. She got upset easily. She had a realistic relationship with her mother and her brother. And she saved Heather even though she didn’t like her. I also liked Mr. Simmons. He was my favorite side character. He was friendly and helpful but could also be very serious. Honestly, Dave was probably my least favorite. Let’s look at this objectively. Helen is the ghost of a 7-year-old child who accidentally caused the deaths of her mother and stepfather. She was stuck that way forever. And guilt in death warped her personality into something evil. Heather was also a 7-year-old child who was responsible for the death of her mother. So, first of all, both of the girls were children (even if one of them was dead). Their age plus their circumstances were what made them so mean. Dave, on the other hand, was a grown man who wouldn’t listen to anyone but his daughter who was possessed by a ghost. He was stubborn and rude and quick to jump to conclusions. I don’t know what Jean ever saw in him. My favorite part was probably the struggle between Molly, Heather, and Helen toward the end of the book. We finally found out why Heather had such a connection to Helen and why she was so unhappy for such a little girl. I just kind of wish there was more to that part. I would’ve liked to see it even more dramatic. One thing that I took from this book (and the other spooky books I’ve read this month) is that if my kids ever tell me they’re seeing ghosts, I’ll believe them. Parents never listen in these stories! If the kids weren’t trying to figure things out on their own, the danger might never even develop! I would definitely recommend this book to any middle schooler or anyone who likes middle grade ghost stories. Even though it’s about 30 years old, I think it still holds up.
Began reading: October 15, 2019
Finished reading: October 17, 2019