Hahn’s latest middle-grade ghost story brings the supernatural to the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic with all the disturbing force readers have come to love and dread.
Uncomfortably thrust into the limelight as the new girl at the Pearce Academy for Girls in the fall of 1918, white, 12-year-old Annie Browne is nervous about making friends when she is approached by Elsie Schneider (also white), the schoolroom pariah who is shunned by the other girls as an obnoxious (and German) liar and tattletale. After a short while of dealing with Elsie’s unpredictable moods, jealousy, and aggressive manipulation, Annie agrees with them and falls into the ranks of the more popular girls as they ruthlessly tease Elsie. When Elsie dies without warning in the 1918 outbreak of Spanish influenza, Annie is shaken by shock, guilt, and, eventually, fear when, after a sledding accident and concussion, Elsie’s ghost appears to reclaim Annie’s friendship and enact revenge. Compelled to say and do terrible things as part of Elsie’s vengeful plan, Annie is sent away due to a “precarious state of mind,” and if Elsie has her way, Annie will never return. For those looking to delight in the mirth of the macabre, look elsewhere. Hahn breaks the spell of girlhood frivolity to reveal a dark cycle of pain, fear, and casual cruelty with supernatural consequences.
Another historical and chilling success. (afterword) (Historical suspense. 10-14)