DWJ: The Time of the Ghost
|My copy from the UK.|
To me, this is easily the scariest DWJ book there is. It's practically a children's horror story, it's so creepy. I think it's great. Four neglected and oddball sisters set up a game of worshiping an old rag doll they call Monigan, and accidentally wake up a real and ancient presence. Time of the Ghost is also where DWJ put the most direct descriptions of her own family, though she said that she toned them down for believability.
The sisters are trapped in two ways, by Monigan and by their own parents. There is no help for them except what they can do for themselves to break free of both prisons. It's interesting to me that the sisters have to fight both a mythic and a real danger--and they act in similar ways, though the parents are kept at a distance--in one story, since more often in a fantasy story, the protagonist's fight against a mythic evil is a symbolic stand-in for our more prosaic struggles. Here is where we see most clearly DWJ's preoccupation with a devouring maternal figure as Monigan prepares to consume the girls, while the mother does pretty well the same thing at a remove, through neglect and manipulation.
In our house we are particularly fond of Fenella and her bell. We have been known to go around intoning "Unclean! Unclean!"