Review: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Sandpiper; Reissue edition (April 21, 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0547028644
  • Source: Personal copy

When twelve-year-old Molly  and her brother, Michael, are forced to move out to the country with their mother, step-father, & step-sister, they are devastated.  Their new home is a converted church with grave yard in the back yard.  Over the summer, they are forced to watch over their bratty five-year-old step sister, Heather.  Heather enjoys getting Molly & Michael in trouble.  Their mother & step-father always side with Heather, who lost her mother to a fire when she was a toddler.

If moving to the remote country, into a house with a grave yard isn’t bad enough, Molly & Michael discover the cemetery is rumored to be haunted.  When Heather discovers a neglected gravestone, Molly believes she has uncovered the source of the haunting.

Heather begins to act a little crazier than normal.  One afternoon Molly finds her in the graveyard, talking to someone. Molly senses a presence and hears Heather referring to it as “Helen.” 

“Something hung in the space between us.  For a moment, I felt it watching me.   Then it was gone, and all around me the insects struck up a chorus of cheerful summer sounds.”

When confronted, Heather initially denies it, but then begins to threaten Molly & Michael.  If they don’t treat her well, when Helen comes they will pay. It isn’t until Molly sees Helen for herself that she really begins to worry for her safety, and for the safety of her family. She and Michael head to the local library and learn a bit more about the house they live in and of the tragic history behind it.  Helen is quite well known, she’s reported to have caused several children to follow her into the pond to their deaths.

Wait Till Helen Comes is a truly chilling ghost story. Originally released in 1987, this book terrified me as a child!  The line “Wait Till Helen Comes” still sends chills down my back. Rereading it as an adult, the same things that made me love this book were reawakened. Something about ghost stories, the idea that a spirit can remain long after a person dies, terrifies me!  This one, in particular.  The description of Helen’s appearance, the cover (specifically the one pictured above) truly makes the story.

“Too frightened to breathe, I saw the glimmer of blue light shape itself into the figure of a girl no bigger than Heather.  She wore a white dress, and her hair, as dark as Heather’s, tumbled in waves down her ack.  Her features were indistinct, her eyes in shadow, but I knew who she was.”

Heather’s anti-social behavior & hatred toward her step-siblings really adds to the story as well. There’s nothing creepier than a bratty step-sibling whose goal is to ruin a newly formed family, no matter the cost! In addition, the stress of this family really compounds the emotion, the fright & terror that Michael & Molly fear.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, I highly, highly recommend this one! It’s the perfect “timeless” ghost story!

28 Responses to Review: Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

  1. Amanda
    Twitter: pookasluagh

    I had completely forgotten about this one as a child, then for Jenners’ Take a Chance Challenge last year, I saw someone reading this one at the bookstore and I chose it for one of the categories. Rereading it, I realized it was one of those books I’d spent years looking for (I could only remember a couple vague scenes, none of which helped me in a google search!). I was so excited to find it again!

  2. I definitely remember reading this one as a child too! Maybe I should check it out from the library and give it another go.

  3. I loved this book! I probably read it five or six times when I was in elementary school and I think it was my gateway drug to horror. (Helen to RL Stine and Christopher Pike to Stephen King.)

  4. I totally agree with your assessment of WAIT UNTIL HELEN COMES. I did not read this one until I was an adult. Well, it wasn’t written yet when I was a child. LOL

    My daughter’s elementary school librarian clued me in to many new-to-me authors many years ago while I was volunteering for her. Mary Downing Hahn has several books that are really good. This is one of them. I reread it a couple of years ago and found that it held up very well. It is really creepy!

    By the way, another really good book by the same author is DAPHNE’S BOOK. It’s not a ghost story, but is well worth the short time it take to read it.

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      I’ll definitely check it out! I’ve requested a bunch of Hahn’s previous work, and some of her more current, from the library.

  5. Becky
    Twitter: BeckyLeJeune

    Oh, I vaguely remember this one. I loved it when I was a kid!

  6. Gee, I feel old now. This book terrified you in 1987, when you were a child. I was having a child in 1987. Sounds like a great book for October!

    • Jenn
      Twitter: jennbookshelves

      It is perfect! Although it’s technically middle-grade, I think readers of all ages would enjoy it!

  7. Oh my gosh I totally forgot about this book! I read it when I was 11 maybe and it scared me soo much that I never finished the last few pages, LOL! I still can’t even have that book’s cover facing out on my shelf.

    It was so much fun reading your review :)

  8. Colleen
    Twitter: Lavender_Lines

    Ok, that is one of the creepiest cover’s I’ve ever seen!

  9. I used to love these books as a kid! I think Hahn just put out a new book (or maybe it’s a rerelease). Either way, I really want to read it!

  10. I missed out reading Mary Downing Hahn when I was a kid, because her books looked too scary for me. I think now that I am a grown-up, I could deal with them – this one sounds great!

  11. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » Bookish links for Saturday, October 16, 2010

  12. I think this bookis very interesting. Some of my friends recomended this book.

  13. this is the best boook i have ever read!
    its my very very very best and favorite book!

  14. Monica Calderon

    I just finish reading this book in i love it. Its one of the best book i ever read in am a kind of person that don’t like reading put when i started reading this book in my reading class i felt in love with it in just couldn’t stop reading.!!!!!!

  15. i also recomend deep and dark and dangerouse by mary downing hahn

  16. It is a great book!! :D

  17. I think Mary Downing Hahn is my favorite author!! I’ve read 3 of her books so far, and I even HAVE one of them, but I definitely need to read more of them!! :D

    Oh, and these 3 books I read are:

    —Deep and Dark and Dangerous
    —The Doll in the Garden
    and…of course…—Wait Till Helen Comes!!

    All great books!! 6/5 stars for me!!! ;D

  18. Im in the 7th grade and I luv this book!!! now im trying to find all the books that Mary Downing Hahn wrote!!!

  19. this is a really cool book

  20. Li will be released a film based on this book.
    I would like the child actress Mackenzie Foy interpret Molly.

  21. april bishop

    OMG i love this book! it is amazing…just wondering if there is a movie comming out? if there is can somwone tell me when it is commeing out??? thanks!

  22. Thanks for ones marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author.
    I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and definitely will come back someday.

    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have
    a nice weekend!