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Down a Dark Hall The first Young Adult novel I've read as an adult is Down a Dark Hall the supernatural mystery by Lois Duncan first published in 1974 This revised edition released in 2011 modernized the novel by introducing cell phones texting and the Internet; Why don't those girls call 911? or better yet Isn't there an app for that? being considerations for the suspense author of today Antiuated usages like Mother were also updated but what I was thrilled to find preserved was a sense of Gothic dread that reaches back to the early 20th century and beyond where haunted manors creepy headmistresses and raving lunacy were the top existential threats to teenage girlsThe story begins with sixteen year old Kit Gordy being driven through the countryside by her new stepfather and her newly remarried mother who are off to honeymoon in Europe while Kit is enrolled at Blackwood School for Girls A city girl Kit is despondent at being dumped in the sticks and separated from her best friend who applied to the same boarding school but did not pass the entrance exam Arriving in Blackwood Village Kit's stepfather receives directions from a gas station attendant as well as some exposition the school was once the Brewer place recently purchased and renovated by some foreign lady A townie named Natalie Cullers has been employed as cookPulling onto the grounds of Blackwood School Kit senses something evil under the eaves The headmistress Madame Duret welcomes Kit who has arrived a day ahead of the other students Kit's apprehension is initially soothed by the decor of her private room which is furnished with antiue comforts including a canopy bed Above all Kit doesn't want to ruin her mother's honeymoon by making a scene Joining Madame Duret for dinner Kit is introduced to Professor Farley who teaches math and science and the headmistress's dashing son Jules who teaches music Kit is alarmed that along with Madame Duret the languages and literature instructor this is the entire facultyAfter a night of restless sleep exacerbated by a door that only locks from the outside and a forebodingly dark corridor outside Kit meets the school's cook Natalie who she learns will be preparing food for the entire student body Even stranger the townie has been instructed not to converse with the student body Kit finally locates the first of her classmates a shy redhead named Sandra Mason The girls watch a limousine drop off two students a blonde beauty later introduced as Lynda Hannah and a mousy brain named Ruth Crowder The gates to the property are sealed and Kit gets the sinking realization that they are the only students enrolled at the schoolKit is awakened by a shriek from Sandra's room Braving the dark corridor Kit finds Sandra's door locked which should be impossible if she's behind the door Kit forces her way inside the chilly room where Sandra is troubled by a nightmare in which she imagined a woman standing over her bed Returning to Kit's room for the night they realize that they both had psychic experiences as children Kit being visited by her father the morning he was killed in a traffic accident Sandra receiving a premonition of her parents disappearing over the Caribbean Kit is confident that Lynda and Ruth were both enrolled by Madame Duret and not her friend due to similar experiencesStrangeness is afoot at Blackwood School For Girls Lynda discovers she can sketch a detailed portrait Kit catches Jules listening to a piano composition she knows she's heard somewhere even though the headmistress's son tells Kit he doesn't know it Natalie confides that Mr Brewer the previous owner of the house lost his family in a fire and withdrew from village life until he lost his mind Madame Duret notifies the girls that Natalie has uit Kit is confident that something sinister is going on Isolated at the school fifteen miles from the village without Internet and with their handwritten letters going unreturned the girls have no choice but try to survive until Christmas breakTo a critical thinker Down a Dark Hall is one of the most implausible books I've ever read keep in mind it's my first foray into Young Adult fiction Even by the standards of the day it was originally published it's difficult to accept that parents would enroll their little princesses in an uncredentialed boarding school overrun by ghosts particularly one where their daughter is unable to contact them by phone fax or email The girls are discouraged from simply going AWOL by the presence of some spikes atop the fenceline I'm for real All of this makes the belief in psychic phenomena and ghosts seem credible by comparisonAt 49000 words the novel is a uick read and an elementary one On a superficial level Kit seems unburdened by anything that Nancy Drew hadn't encountered in one of her mysteries or Scooby Doo for that matter What elevates Kit above other children's sleuths and makes Down a Dark Hall compelling is its emotional depth From the beginning Kit is given reason to mistrust adults and feel both alienated and powerless She is driven from her home and her support network She's cast off to fend for herself She taps into a reserve of power but also something inside her that is new and terrifying Duncan calls these spirits but sex can easily be read between the linesTime has demonstrated that Duncan author of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Killing Mr Griffin among other tales of terror dealing with the isolation and victimization of teenage girls is operating on another level here It says something for the existential dread of her writing that readers in the 1970s 1990s and present day can inject their own fears into her text and with a few minor adjustments for technological progress the story can be as unsettling as ever I also liked the solution to the mystery which involves view spoilerthe exploitation of psychic teens for the common good as Madame Duret sees it of communicating with geniuses like Vermeer Schubert and Emily Bronte who deprived the world of major works by their untimely deaths hide spoiler Why does the exclusive boarding school Blackwood have only four studentsKit walks the dark halls and feels a penetrating chill What terror waits around the next corner Actual Rating 15 starsI didn't like this bookI am actually surprised I managed to finish it Half the time I found it boring the other half it was just not credible The behaviors and dialogues between the characters made little sense they were unconvincing to me view spoilerIf the girls so desperately wanted to get out of there they could have It seemed to me like they chose to stay or they were being lazy hide spoiler 355 creepy branches I would describe this as a cozy horror novel in that it felt like a creepier version of Nancy Drew My biggest complaint is that I wish it didn't move so uickly Video review of the book and movie will be up tomorrow This was one of my Halloween reads for this year It's a YA novel that was originally published in 1974 and written by the accomplished author Lois Duncan I know had I read this as a teen in the early to mid 1980's I would have enjoyed it very much In 2011 the author updated the book by modernizing some phrases and including such things as cell phones and texting While the writing style felt a little dated compared to today's standards I must admit that I enjoyed it immensely The change of style and pace reminded me of my youth and the books I enjoyed reading This was a nicely written old fashioned creepy story Today we might call it a cosy mystery gothic story It had just enough mix of teenage angst and mystery Nothing over the top Just wholesome I think some of today's YA novels are missing this I know there was a movie recently released of this book I look forward to watching it i had never read anything by Lois Duncan before I got this from chirp for 3 and some change and listened to it on my commute i was really hoping for witches but we get mediums instead thats ok that can be cool too the characters were ok and i'm sure in 1974 the story was 5 stars i didn't guess who the girls were channeling until it was revealed and sorry girls but i'm so on Madame Duret's side If these girls had been smarter and arranged for a portion of the sale of their works they would be set for life but nooo i don't want to channel so and so ugh really come on now the story was ok and the narrator was good i would read or listen to by Lois Duncan I read this one for the Chilling Children suare It would also work for Ghost Haunted Houses Genre Horror Supernatural Gothic Terror in a Small Town and Classic Horror I am giving this book 3 12 stars rounded up to 4 for GR based upon my enjoyment of the book this time around If I had been rating this book circa 1976 two years after it was published and I was 10 I would've given it one million stars once I emerged from my hiding place under my comforter Because this book scared the bejeezus out of me when I read it as a pre teen I still maintain that Down a Dark Hall is the scariest Duncan with it's ghostly elements A relatively short story the author does a tremendously effective job in building tension I can still visualize the climactic scene in my mind from when I first read it than 40 years ago I doubt that it would have the same impact on today's relatively sophisticated young people but I can say that my daughter at around age 13 disappeared into the kindle reissues of Duncan's books for one entire month during the summer vacation between 7th and 8th grade She devoured them reading one after another until she had read them all She would come to me kindle in hand a look of pleading in her eyes and ask for Gallows Hill or I Know What You Did Last Summer or Summer of Fear And being a sucker for a child asking for a book my answer was yes yes and yes again at which point she would disappear to her tree house with an apple reappearing only for dinner Duncan's books all involve young female protagonists While hardly revolutionary now given the plethora of YA books published every year centering around young women Duncan's books were uniue in their time Adults are largely absent unless they are actively sinister Young women and groups of young women freuently act together to get into and get out of their own problems Evil wears both a female and a male face but the victims are almost always young women who must empower themselves to face their fears and vanuish their tormentors Down a Dark Hall plays to these themes admirably Kit is dropped off at Blackwood Hall by her parents who either cannot or will not see the obvious clues that danger lurks there The red flags are so big that they are flapping loudly in the face of anyone with eyes to see Kit is abandoned at risk and must literally fight her way out of danger That she succeeds is a triumph And that Duncan has created a terrifyingly realistic story out of frankly supernatural happenings is remarkable At the end of the book there's a discussion with Duncan who is still alive although she hasn't written anything new in years In the A she talks about the process of updating the books in 2011 for the modern tween where she attempts to deal with the reality that today's youth possess cell phones that enable them to call 9 1 1 at basically any moment On the one hand she did a reasonable job in fixing the texts On the other hand they are still obviously books for a different era and in some ways I feel like it would've been better to just leave things as they are and let kids read them as books published before widespread availability of technology If you're interested in the ubiuitous nature of the Duncan YA horror phenomenon that swept teen and pre teen girls in the 1970's that extends even to today the New Yorker published a lovely article titled I Know What I Read That Summer which you can findhere Even though I read plenty of YA horror books when I was younger I never got to read a Lois Duncan book I'm happy that this was my first and I really enjoyed it It reminded me a lot of classic gothic horror films like House of Usher and House on Haunted Hill and I loved Lois's writing There were scary parts edge of your seat moments and a twist I never saw coming Since this came out in 1974 it felt super original for that time and even now I feel like it still holds that originality I'm excited to watch the movie adaption this month and see how they adapt this eerie story to screen This is a perfect read for October RC Lovely 'vintage' gothic written for young adults but can be enjoyed by all This story immediately brought Haunting of Hill House to mind and it continued to be reminiscent of it throughout in my opinion That's a good thing because I liked it a lot as well It has the trademark Lois Duncan creepy ambience and great descriptions of the house environment and characters Loved Kit and her fellow schoolmates They were painted so vividly and the paranormal experiences made me feel like I was there with them Thought the ending was perfectHighly recommended This is one of the first full length novels I read I remember it serving as one of the seminal moments in my literary formation I remember it being suspenful and full of immagery This book was republished in 1990 but was originally published in the late 70's I read it in 5th or 6th gradeWhile studying children's literature as part of my Masters program we had to choose a book that we had read in elementary school The assignment instrcted us to look at our influential book with adult eyes We had to then review itI remember finding the book in a local library and discovering that Lois Duncan had been busy since writing Down A Dark Hall She went on to write the I Know What You Did Last Summer series That should have been my first clue The story takes place in a private school for gifted students It turns out there are only five students in this strange school Their studies include channeling the spirits of long dead artists and composers Kit the story's main character is always close to figuring out the secret but remains a step behind until the end of the bookThe author hits the reader over the head with heavy handed immagery which leaves nothing to the imagination It's a really BAD book It's amazing what twenty five or so years and an adult sensibility can do to shatter the memory of a long ago wonder of literature

About the Author: Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan born Lois Duncan Steinmetz was an American writer and novelist known primarily for her books for children and young adults in particular and some times controversially considering her young readership crime thrillers Duncan's parents were the noted magazine photographers Lois Steinmetz and Joseph Janney Steinmetz She was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania but grew up in Saraso

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