Review: Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn


Print Length: 184 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins, Inc (November 2, 1987)

From  Beware of Helen...

Heather is such a whiny little brat. Always getting Michael and me into trouble. But since our mother married her father, we're stuck with her ... our "poor stepsister" who lost her real mother in a mysterious fire.

But now something terrible has happened. Heather has found a new friend, out in the graveyard behind our home—a girl named Helen who died with her family in a mysterious fire over a hundred years ago. Now her ghost returns to lure children into the pond ... to drown! I don't want to believe in ghosts, but I've followed Heather into the graveyard and watch her talk to Helen. And I'm terrified. Not for myself, but for Heather...


My Rating: 1 star out of 5

This was a story that I hadn't thought of in years, so when it caught my eye on Kindle Unlimited, I knew I had to snag it for a re-read. 

And man... I wish I hadn't. 

When I read this story as a child, I remember it being quite creepy. I also remember feeling sorry for Molly having to deal with Heather's tantrums and feeling like there was no one else she could count on. And from what I remembered of the ending, it was fitting for the characters and the journey they had been on. 

However, as an admitted cynical and jaded adult reading it for the first time in probably 2o+ years? I had A LOT of problems with it. 

To begin with, it is obvious to anyone with a working brain that Heather is a deeply troubled child. And who wouldn't be after losing their mother in a fire when they were three years old (although admittedly, I'm not sure how much of it she would have actually remembered).  But instead of getting her help, her father not only uproots her life but then foists her upon her step-siblings. Arguably, Heather is a brat throughout the majority of the story, however, none of the other characters are particularly likable either (except maybe the groundskeeper). 

Molly is an overdramatic pre-teen (or is she a teenager? I don't think the ages of her and Micheal are ever properly given), who at her age should know better than to let her imagination run wild (even if she was later proven to be right). She also obsesses over death far more than is healthy. Michael spends most of the story either out of sight collecting bugs, or making Molly feel stupid for the way she feels (going so far as to say embarrassing things about her to other people). 

And the supposed authority figures here? Are so wholly focused on themselves and THEIR wants, that they literally spend the majority of the story doing one of three things. 

1 - off the page, presumable in their respective workshops creating art. 
2- yelling at Molly and Michael that it is THEIR responsibility to watch over Heather ALL DAY EVERY DAY. 
3 - yelling at Molly (sometimes Michael) over some perceived slight, or over an outright lie that Heather is told. At one point Dave even goes so far as to call them "little monsters".

Yet neither of them at any time seem to question Heather's behaviors in all of this even when some of them were glaringly obvious. 

As for the story itself, it is not nearly as creepy as I remember it being. In fact, coupled with the ending it all seemed very anti-climatic. After everything, not only was it way too easy to rid themselves of Helen's ghostly presence but in only a couple of pages, EVERYTHING Heather had done was immediately forgiven as well. 

Now I get it, this story was meant for children, not world-hardened adults. And had I reviewed this story when I first read it, it likely would have been a solid four or five stars. But, I'm not going to sugarcoat a bad story just for the sake of fond childhood memories.


                            Wait Till Helen Comes is available from 
                                  (for free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited)

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