illus. by Pam Smy. 544p. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781626726543.
Gr 5–9—This illustrated debut novel brings the dead back to life. Mary's story, told through diary entries, takes place in 1982 over a seven-month period at the Thornhill Institute for Children, an orphanage on the cusp of closing its doors forever. Mary has selective mutism and has turned to the art of doll-making. Her odd hobby and quiet persona make her a target for bullying. After many of the other orphan girls have been "re-homed," Mary is left alone with her main tormentor and decides she has had enough and will get revenge, no matter what the cost. Flash forward 35 years to Ella, who has moved to a home near the now abandoned Thornhill Institute and whose experiences are depicted through eerie, detailed drawings. After seeing a girl in the neglected lot and hoping to make a friend, Ella sneaks in and discovers that there is much more there than meets the eye. In Mary's old room, Ella reads the poor orphan girl's diary. Ella writes a letter to Mary asking if they can become friends. The striking juxtaposition of Mary's prose and the illustrations portraying Ella's life will draw readers into this intriguing ghost story with an ending that chills to the bone.
VERDICT The combination of diary entries and artwork makes this an excellent selection for middle schoolers and reluctant readers.

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