Horror, Young Adult

Wildcard Wednesday: Kayla thinks Lois Duncan’s DOWN A DARK HALL is Shamefully Underrated

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Down a Dark Hall is a young adult novel written by Lois Duncan (author of I Know What You Did Last Summer and Killing Mr. Griffin).

The novel’s main protagonist and first-person narrator, Kit Gordy, is one of four girls chosen to to attend the illustrious Blackwood Hall. It’s not really clear why she is chosen as she is not the best student and claims not to have any artistic talent. Even still, Kit’s mom jumps at the chance to dump her daughter off at the school so she can go on a ridiculously long honeymoon with her new husband. (Some A+ parenting right there, folks!)

Despite her misgivings, Kit wants to make her mom happy, so she tries hard at school, and within a few weeks starts to excel at playing piano. The other three girls also start to improve drastically in various subjects—poetry, art, and math. How are these regular teens suddenly becoming prodigies? And why does Kit feel like the more she gains in talent, the more she loses herself? There is a great darkness in Blackwood Hall, and you’ll never guess at its source until the end.

If you know me at all, you know I’m not terribly fond of the YA genre, but Duncan’s a master of the modern gothic novel, creating an air of suspense even before introducing the notorious Blackwood Hall boarding school. 

My only issue with this novel was that its subject matter seemed limited by its youthful target audience. I felt that the “horror” was watered down and some of the dark themes of loss and corruption merely played with instead of fully explored because it’s a novel meant for young people. Perhaps that’s my fault for waiting too late in life to read it, but I can’t bring myself to give it more than 4 stars.


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