Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge
By Kathryn Reiss
I had so much fun reading Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge again!
When I was thirteen, I had an elective class in middle school as a Library Aid. One day, I was putting away some books for the librarian when this little gem caught my eye on the cart. I was already an avid reader, and I couldn’t resist stealing away a few minutes in the stacks to read the back and the first few pages of Reiss’s novel. I had never been the kid to read things like ghost stories or Goosebumps; I was a huge chicken and stayed far away from scary things. But this book made me curious, so instead of putting it away, I checked it out and spent the next few nights scaring myself to death reading it. It’s stuck with me all these years. (I still sometimes have nightmares involving disembodied hands. I am twenty-seven as of writing this post in April of 2022.)
It’s unclear what year Sweet Miss Honeywell’s Revenge takes place in, but I think it’s safe to assume the early 2000s. Your main characters are four 12-year-old girls: one is spunky, one is anxious, one is daring, and the last is . . . mean? They do have some development, but each girl does have a predominant emotion that colors their actions/reactions.
Personally, I found the alternating chapters between 2000-something and 1919 to be really well done. The 1919 chapters were definitely my favorites as that’s where you get all the ghost story backstory! As a child, I didn’t question Miss Honeywell’s behavior as anything more than controlling-adult-hates-children-and-wants-them-to-suffer. As an adult myself, I think there was something much more wrong with Miss Honeywell than a basic villainous intent to further the plot. I think she was mentally ill. That doesn’t excuse her behaviors at all, but it does add some depth to the character that I appreciated.
The four girls do grow up a bit throughout the story too. There’s a bit of a “found family” story mixed in with the ghost story. The girls have to learn more about teamwork, loyalty, and how their past actions can affect the future. It’s a good way to make kids utilize their just-developing critical thinking skills.
Please keep in mind that this book was written for kids; you won’t find amazing zingers and pretty prose in these pages. It’s actually repetitive enough that I found the same adjectives used too close together a few times.
But really, if your preteen likes ghost stories, they will adore this book. And possibly be forever freaked out by porcelain dolls, if they aren’t already.