Julia’s Letter Essay #3: Deep and Dark and Dangerous

In the past week I have been reading the novel Deep and Dark and Dangerous. It is a 187 page fiction novel written by Mary Downing Hahn. Mary Downing Hahn has also written novels such as, The Old Willis Place, The Doll in the Garden, All the Lovely Bad Ones, Time for Andrew, and Wait till Helen Comes. I would also say that her novels are also mystery novels. She always tries to make her books as scary as possible. This makes the reader think about the book more and as you are reading you are always on the edge of your seat. This novel was published in 2007 on May, 21. This  book has won the Edgar Award for Young Adult in 2008 and also won the Maud Hart Lovelace book award in 2011. The average stats for this mystery novel are 4.7 stars out of 5.

The reason I started reading this novel was because I was originally looking for the book after, ” Stolen Children.” I couldn’t find that novel so I  checked out this novel because it was in the same section as Stolen Children. I also started reading this novel because I love mystery novels. I like mystery because it is always packed with problems and suspense. Also when reading mystery, you always have a question and that makes you read on. This is another reason I chose to read Deep and Dark and Dangerous.

In this short book Deep and Dark and Dangerous there is a girl names Ali. Ali is a thirteen year old and is the main character. One day Ali was going through the attic when she found a picture. In the picture there was three girls, her mom, her aunt Dulcie, and the third girl was ripped off of the picture only leave the letter T for her name. All Ali could think about was the picture. Who is the third girl. As you read aunt Dulcie comes in, she has a nine year old daughter named Emma. Emma loves hanging out with Ali but doesn’t get to a lot due to the fact that Ali and Emma’s mom don’t get along. When aunt Dulcie and Claire (Ali’s mom) were younger they used to hang out with each other all the time. One spot they used to go up to in the summer was called, Gull Cottage in 1977. That’s when the photo was taken. Dulcie arrives to Claire’s house proposing an offer for Ali to babysit Emma for the summer at Gull Cottage. Claire refuses to let Ali go. She is hiding something. Does she know who the third girl was from the photo? Claire would say, “ The lake is deep, and dark, and dangerous.” (Pg.5-8) The mother Claire finally allows Ali to go up for the summer. Nobody has been there in years, but Ali knows she will find out who the third girl is there because the lake was the same lake in the photo. Also throughout the novel there is endless suspense leaving you always questioning what is going to happen next. Lastly, towards the middle of the novel Ali meets a nine year old girl named Sissy. Siddy is mean and is determined to ruin Ali’s summer. But, apparently Sissy has a secret. Does she know about the third girl in the photo? Ali only has 2 months to figure out who T is, without any complications. But in most mystery novels there are complications.

I liked the way the author of this novel created suspense. Mary Downing Hahn would leave you hanging all the time making you read on. For example, right from the start there is suspense. When Ali finds the photo in the attic with the missing person there was so many thoughts racing through my mind. Who is the missing girl? Where was the photo taken? I wanted to answer these questions so I kept reading. When Ali asked her mom about Gull Cottage I knew she was lying about not knowing about it. This is another way the author creates suspense, by using actions. When the mother was hesitating and wouldn’t talk about it or wouldn’t let Ali go to Gull Cottage, I wanted to know what she was hiding. Does she remember who T was? Why won’t she tell Ali about T if she remembers her?

I liked how in this novel the characters had many confliction with one another. For example, how Claire and aunt Dulcie don’t get along, and how Sissy and Ali don’t get along. These conflicts between the characters make the novel interesting and sometimes in the novel it causes characters to act on one another. I believe that this makes the novel stronger because it gives the book even more suspense. For example, Emma and Sissy were playing in the water together until, “ Sissy dove in and disappeared. A few seconds later she popped out of the water and ducked Emma. The moment Emma came up for air, Sissy ducked her again. And again. And again. Her face was angry, her eyes were cruel.” (Pg. 77-78) What was Sissy thinking? The conflict of the characters creates problems, that creates suspense, and that makes the book more interesting.

This novel reminds me of the novel, “ Stolen Children,” by Peg Kehret. Stolen Children is also a mystery book and is full of suspense and action like Deep and Dark and Dangerous. Lastly, both of these novels have characters that have conflicts with each other, suspense, action, and a problem.

Finally, the passage that I enjoyed reading was when Sissy started to drown Emma.

“ I’m hot,” Sissy said. “ Let’s go swimming.” Emma jumped up and splashed into the lake behind Sissy. I followed, letting the cold water creep up my legs, chilling my skin. When she was waist deep, Sissy dove in and disappeared.

A few seconds later she popped out of the water and ducked Emma. The moment Emma came up for air, Sissy ducked her again. And again. And again. Her face was angry, her eyes cruel.

“ What are you doing?” I shouted at Sissy. “ You could drown somebody that way!”

“ I was just fooling around,” she said. “ Don’t get so worked up.”

“ You scared Emma.”

“ Can’t you two take a joke?”

“ It wasn’t funny!” I yelled.

“ You go home, too, Sissy. And don’t come back till you can be nice.” (Pg. 77-78)

What I enjoyed about this passage is how you get to know a character by actions and dialog. Why dialog? The dialog in this passage can tell me their personalities by their tones of voice. Why would this matter? This would be efficient because then would get to understand how characters act better. For example, I now know that Sissy is mean and can be dangerous sometime with her jokes. I also now know that Ali sticks up for Emma and is also supportive to her. I recommend this novel to people that enjoy reading mystery novels, and I am glad that I picked up this book because I really enjoyed it. Deep and Dark and Dangerous is a 10 out of 10.

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1 thought on “Julia’s Letter Essay #3: Deep and Dark and Dangerous

  1. Julia,
    Wow. And this letter-essay is a 10 out of 10. It is really, really well done. It’s a model, actually, for how to do it. Thank you for working so hard. And I hope by elaborating as much as you did in your Reflection that you actually gained a new idea about the book; that’s the point of thinking about our thinking. . . . I am familiar with this book (Sara W. read it, like, 18 times last year [just kidding, Sara]), but have never read it nor anything by the author but I should read more mystery and this seems like a good choice. And, yes, continue to pay close attention to dialogue; it is a wonderful tool to have in our literary arsenal if done correctly, and the best way to get better at writing dialogue is reading good dialogue. So if you find an author who does it well, read more of their stuff. Keep reading.
    Mr. Jockers

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