For my 7th read of the 48 Hour Book Challenge, I was inspired (by Kelly Jensen) to re-read Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall. I was an avid reader of Duncan's young adult novels in my teens and early twenties. I found them utterly addictive. Down a Dark Hall was one of my very favorites (along with Killing Mr. Griffin at the time, though I later found that one too horrifying to re-read).
Down a Dark Hall is about 14-year-old Kit Gordy. When Kit's mother remarries, Kit is sent to a small, select boarding school in rural New York. Her immediate impression of the school, Blackwood, is one of evil. Despite the luxury of the school, and the individualized attention (there are only 3 other students), and the presence of a young, attractive music teacher, Kit continues to find the school disturbing. She has bad dreams, and wakes up exhausted. Gradually, she and the other girls learn why they were selected for the school, but by then the headmistress has no intention of letting them go.
Down a Dark Hall is a ghost story, a modern Gothic horror novel. A cloud of menace hangs over the entire book, and Kit works to uncover the truth, and, eventually, to escape. Although I hadn't read Down a Dark Hall in years, I found that I remembered what was happening quite clearly, and even remembered a number of individual scenes (which is not really like me - I have a terrible memory). Remembering the story so clearly certainly took away from the suspense, but it does speak to how strongly the novel affected me in the first place. The setting is strongly depicted, the tone haunting, and the plotting solid.
If you like spooky or suspenseful stories, and have somehow missed Lois Duncan's books, Down a Dark Hall would be a great place to start. Although technically a young adult novel, the content (apart from being spooky) is probably suitable for younger readers. I've listed it for 10 and up. Fans of Mary Downing Hahn and Caroline Cooney will likely enjoy this one. I'm glad that I re-read it (and glad that I read it by daylight, instead of alone in the middle of the night).
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@lbkids)
Publication Date: 1974
Source of Book: Bought it (an older edition than the one shown)
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