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Whistling In The Dark by Lesley Kagen

I'd pulled this exact same fire handle last summer right around this time. And boy, were those firemen steamed when they found out there was no fire. I'd done it cuz Mary Lane said she'd give me a dime if I would and, after all, she was our best friend.

from page 82, Whistling In The Dark by Lesley Kagen

Whistling in the Dark by Lesley Kagen tells the story of the summer people started locking their doors on Vliet Street--it is told from the perspective of a ten year old girl with a very active imagination.

It is summer. It is 1959 in the Vliet Street neighborhood in Milwaukee. Young girls are going missing and then their bodies are being dumped--molested, naked, and dead. The O'Malley sisters' mother is in the hospital for a mysterious procedure and complications and the fact that she "may be dying" keep her there for most of that summer. The girls' older sister, Nell, and their stepfather are supposed to look after them, but these plans don't quite work out. Their stepfather is an abusive, mean drunk who soon finds himself in a steaming pile of trouble and the older sister is distracted by her new boyfriend, who may or may not be as bad as the stepfather. Instead the girls must depend upon the charity and kindness of their neighbors for meals and such.

Troo and Sally O'Malley are nine and ten years old respectively. They spend the summer roaming the neighborhood generally raising hell and getting into trouble. Sally's imagination works overtime with ideas about who the killer is that's stalking the neighborhood and why she might be next on his list of girls to molest and kill. The story is told through Sally's eyes in her own unique voice. The author seamlessly inhabits the perspective of this imaginative, wild, and outspoken girl. The time period in which the story is told adds another layer of complexity to the novel. The 1950's were a time of limited options for women--particularly one with children. Adults may not have believed in telling children exactly why they were going into the hospital or how serious the situation may be, but we witness how Sally tries to fill in the gaps of what the adults don't tell her by observation, by how they talk to her, and failing that, with her imagination.

This book is available upon request from Annville Free Library and Lebanon Community Library, and I highly recommend you check it out. This novel is part drama, part mystery, and part coming of age tale; there is something for everyone to relate to or enjoy in it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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