Preteen girl looking at a cell phone with her parents

Family movie night? There's an app for that

Download our new mobile app on iOS and Android.

Parents' Guide to

Walking Mary

By Matt Berman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Intriguing tale with mature themes; best for teens.

Walking Mary Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 1 parent review

age 13+

The ending could be better.

The previous review essentially sums up the book. These are more of the problems I had with the book. It is basically about a teenager stalking an African American woman in the 1950’s. I thought this book was about a ghost but was disappointed when I found out it wasn’t. Then I thought it was about a witch because it is implied that Walking Mary cured her bad eyesight, but after that little bit in the beginning, it is never mentioned again. The entire time I was hoping that I would get some real background information about Walking Mary and not just speculation but that’s all you get. I was also hoping that Walking Mary would speak sometime in the book, even if it was just one profound line. But that doesn’t happen, either. It was kind of a cute story until the end. It was like “by the way, this has been happening and now I am going to kill myself.” I felt the ending, or even the entire book could have been stretched out to make more sense. So it was a big let down. But if you want a quick and easy read, this is a good book to pass the time.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

In his Acknowledgments the author says it took him 30 years to get this story right; perhaps he should have waited a bit longer. While the basic story is intriguing, the telling is all over the map. There's a hint of magic at the beginning that is never followed up or even mentioned again, a hint of ghosts at the end that comes out of nowhere, intimations of incest that are never resolved, some halfhearted stabs at comedy, and plot elements that disappear like a pebble in a murky pond.

There are some terrific elements here: a beautiful, eerie nighttime skating scene, a stalwart and appealing younger brother, and a fluid writing style that keeps the pages turning even when what's happening doesn't make a lot of sense. It seems the author never quite figured out what he wanted this story to be. This is James VanOosting's second book for children; the first, The Last Payback, was a gem with a strong voice that showed tremendous promise. We'll just have to wait for that promise to be fulfilled.

Book Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate