"I froze as I heard those sounds. Fear tingled into my neck and down my back as the old feeling seeped into my bones. I don't believe it. What will I do now?" - Pam Smy, Thornhill
In 1982, Mary is an orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children just as it's getting ready to close. In 2016, Ella has just moved to a house next door to the closed Thornhill where she keeps seeing the ghostly image of a girl. Determined to befriend the girl, Ella begins to learn about Thornhill's past--uncovering its shadowy secrets.
The prose and graphics in this book work together to tell the story of Mary and Ella; Mary's story is all in prose, Ella's story is all in images. The format works really well to show how these two stories are parallel: both girls are incredibly lonely, just looking for someone to be their friend. They're both isolated, though in slightly different ways. Their loneliness and isolation is emphasize through the images and the text, making the reader empathize with both girls.
Though this graphic novel is intended for children, the overall tone of the story is really dark for the intended audience. Especially once you get to the ending. Mary's story in particular shows how terrible children can be to each other, with all the other girls at Thornhill turning against her, making her existence there miserable. Even when she tries to reach out and get help, she's thwarted by the girl in charge.
The images created by Smy also emphasize this dark story; when you look closely at a lot of the images, there are hidden gems that add to the tone of the story. Everything works together seamlessly to create the story of Mary and Ella.