What drew me into the book? The fact that it took place at a seaside amusement park. I can’t help it. I’m weak. It’s not like I was expecting any LostWhat drew me into the book? The fact that it took place at a seaside amusement park. I can’t help it. I’m weak. It’s not like I was expecting any Lost Boys references or anything; I just have a love of carnivals, especially those by the sea, thanks to that movie. So it hit on a big heart spot immediately. And the premise sounded interesting enough so I might as well give it a try.
WONDERLAND didn’t blow me away but it certainly kept me engaged. If I don’t have too much pushing me out of the story then I like spending my time nuzzling in and really trying to figure out what’s going on where, when, and why with these types of books and I definitely did that here.
It had a few moments, though, where it pulled me out of the book, mainly surrounding Oscar and the dick that leads him. It’s tiring seeing that stereotypical man character in books whom is an intended love interest for the protagonist but an ex flashes her cooch and he just can’t control himself. It’s lame. It didn’t add to the drama for me; it just made me think Oscar’s a dunce. That’s about it.
There were a lot of red herrings flopping around in the story and I’ll admit I was drawn into some of them. Hillier did a good job of setting those up, I think. There was a lot going on with a fair amount of people that it stayed just below overwhelming and played right around intriguing and convincing for long enough to throw you off the scent. That’s not to say she doesn’t set some people up as a little left of center but finding out WHO the culprit was was definitely a good game to play.
I liked how there were multiple points of view going on throughout the story. Aside from Oscar there weren’t any other characters there I would have stayed away from when it came to reading more (although Bianca did become a little much toward the end so I was glad her accounts were limited) and they were a good range of diverse to really keep the story interesting. Maybe it’s because I’d just recently read POP GOES THE WEASEL but it reminds me a little of MJ Arlidge’s work. The blurb mentions Lisa Gardner too and I agree with that comparison too so I guess it’s indicative of the genre, all the point-of-view hopping going on. It really does keep the story fresh and engaging.
Hillier did a great job of wrapping up the ending too, having all roads lead to the one prevailing place that strung itself along as the story proceeded. Plus all the storylines of the various points of view ended there too. It was a solid ending that wrapped up most of the elements of the story (the important elements, I should say) and just left little tidbits dangling that were pieces that would have been nice to have more information but it wasn’t integral to the plot to get it. On top of that all of the characters really had me. I even liked Oscar until about two-thirds of the way through the book. In that same vein none of the characters were all that stand out to me either. They were good and really roped me in but they didn’t leave an impression. They lent themselves to a good story but that’s about it.
Overall I’d read more of Hillier’s work. I certainly liked WONDERLAND enough and she gets into an area of creepy that speaks to me (namely dark crevices of amusement parks) so I’m interested in seeing what else she’s written.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
What really encouraged me toward this book was that Christopher Pike said it was creepy. I don’t normally choose what I read based on author blurbs buWhat really encouraged me toward this book was that Christopher Pike said it was creepy. I don’t normally choose what I read based on author blurbs but considering this was a one-in-a-million blurb that Pike did and I love Christopher Pike it was kind of like, ‘okay, I’ll try this one out.’ But it ended up on a lot of top lists for horror, books to read for Halloween, and all that jazz. So I requested it.
Initially it reminded me of the set-up of HOUSE OF LEAVES just in how it’s presented as journal entries and witness testimony and recorded psychiatry sessions and whatnot. I’d attempted HOUSE OF LEAVES over the summer and just couldn’t finish it. The style wasn’t for me and I couldn’t get into it. THE DEAD HOUSE, however, was engaging and fast-paced and it took little effort to jump right into the story.
When THE DEAD HOUSE starts we meet Carly and Kaitlyn, two distinct individuals who happen to be co-habitating a single body. At this point we don’t know whether the narrator is unreliable and this really is a case of dissociative identity disorder or something else entirely. As the story goes on it’s presented in a way that really challenges what you think you know about what you’re reading. That line is blurred as to what’s really going on with Carly/Kaitlyn and you honestly have no idea until toward the end where reality really starts rearing its ugly head but by then it’s too late and you’ll end up with blood spatter across your face.
I liked how Carly/Kaitlyn was presented as unreliable but associative. The logical part of your mind goes to the rational, that this girl is ill and she needs help. But as the entries unfold and the plot thickens rational gets drop-kicked right out the door and your grip on the safe really starts to slip. I really started to question whether Carly/Kaitlyn was the result of a single sick individual or something else entirely and I really started to feel bad for the girl(s), especially when the catalyst happens and Carly really starts to slip away from anything even remotely stable. It’s almost heartbreaking because there’s so much love and protection of the two girls for each other that you don’t want the other one hurt and you want everything to be okay and you start to get desperate but the story isn’t coming back out of the spiral and OMG WHAT’S HAPPENING?
Carly naming her diary Dee only lends to the instability of the character and really shakes up any idea you have as to whether Carly/Kaitlyn is one person or two. When the heavier supernatural elements come into the mix the pressure increases that Carly/Kaitlyn is merely “fixing” herself after her trauma but no she’s not because THERE’S SOMETHING ELSE and no one knows what and things really start spinning.
THE DEAD HOUSE really is a good creep fest. It’s told in a “found footage” sort of way that as you’re reading the story it’s counting down to the main event interspersed with sporadic accounts happening after this unknown incident that it’s nothing but constant build-up. Carly/Kaitlyn’s instability only grows, things start getting more and more terrible, and the line between reality and fantasy gets so blurred it might as well be moving. The unapologetic way it ends is shocking because this type of ending really is so rare in young adult. People like their neat, fairly tidy endings that don’t necessarily have to be happy but have to show some semblance of hope. THE DEAD HOUSE dances on the grave of your murdered hope. I love it so.
Kaitlyn is the dominant personality in the story (for a reason that I won’t divulge) and she initially develops as selfish and standoffish but forms into a character that you end up taking pity on, feeling bad for, because her comfort is quickly dissolving. She’s losing everything she loves and she doesn’t know how to adjust and there are these other things happening that she can’t cope with and it’s almost painful to watch her dissolve. You don’t end up knowing a whole lot about either Kaitlyn or Carly because of the way the story is presented but they’re such strong characters with strong personalities (at least Kaitlyn is) that they’ll drag you into their orbit without even trying.
THE DEAD HOUSE is unsettling and rattles your perspective as a reader. It makes you question whatever it is you think you’re interpreting and flips it on its head to make it look completely different from how you’re seeing it. The ending will leave you stunned, which only adds to how unsettling it all is because it’s one of those PROBLEM SOLVED . . . or is it? type of endings. I love books that can get into my head and shake up my perceptions and get all psychological on me because it makes me question what’s really going on. It reminded me a little of the movie Session 9 in that it really played with the ‘is this a separate personality or separate entity’ deal and it makes you THINK. I love thinking. Mainly because I tend to spiral and I only end up freaking myself out even more.
I’m happy that THE DEAD HOUSE has now been added to the lexicon of young adult horror. It’s an excellent addition to it that really digs into your brain and plucks all your fear strings. It’ll make you uncomfortable in your cozy reading chair, make you second-guess that “good idea” to use a Ouija board, and did you hear something?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more
I wasn’t all that impressed with THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME. It sounded far more exciting in the blurb than how the story actually played out. I wasn’t nI wasn’t all that impressed with THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME. It sounded far more exciting in the blurb than how the story actually played out. I wasn’t necessarily bored by it but I wasn’t really gripped by anything I was reading either. There was one moment in the book where I thought finally, something was going to happen, but it was a false alarm. That’s about as excited as I got about this one.
I haven’t read any other Zoe Goldman books and this one kept referencing an event that happened to her, I assume, in the last book and I didn’t have anything to go by with it. I got that it affected her but it didn’t detract from the story at all that I hadn’t read the other book. There was enough going on here that I was able to get a well-rounded picture of Zoe and her life without having to read back.
With that being said not a whole lot really happens in the book. She gets this patient in that starts of catatonic and then switches to having a split personality but they can’t figure out who she is. The pieces start to come together but as far as any kind of external threat there is none. Zoe studies for her RITE exams (not sure what those are), sees her psychiatrist to help her deal with her mom’s death and her ADHD, and has some discussions with her boyfriend Mike. There is literally nothing outside of her interactions with the patient in the hospital that fuel the story. It’s not intense, it’s not gripping. There’s nothing to grip.
Her new attending appears to be on shaky ground and Zoe does uncover a less than savory past around him but that’s about it. Nothing untoward, no hints at what’s going on. In reality I felt kind of blindsided by the ending. In hindsight I guess there were some hints that could have potentially pointed toward the culprit but not a lot. And again, no outside force was at all threatening Zoe. She was just having regular sessions with the catatonic/split personality patient and slowly unraveling her story as she spit it out.
Of course Zoe is set up as somewhat unreliable because she’s on probation and she comes across as erratic, especially when her meds are tweaked so people get annoyed by her. She seems incredibly insistent on her point of view while disregarding others and does some things that are entirely unethical but are wholly justified without repercussions at the end but it’s not unreliable in a way that would really drive the plot. It’s an unreliable that made sense. As someone who doesn’t know the jargon these characters are using I’m guessing that Zoe is the oddball here, judging by her previous behavior, and she needed to do more to prove herself.
THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME was just lackluster. I like suspenseful books but I also like sudoku. Both challenge my mind but when a book turns out as uneventful as a game of sudoku I just get disappointed. I couldn’t help but compare this to the Temperance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs. You have that same level of technicality with the protagonist’s job but where Brennan comes through and Goldman doesn’t is that there’s actually some thrilling going on in those books. Both take place in rather limited areas of the protagonists’ world and both are solving puzzles but there’s a difference between watching someone solve a Rubix cube and watching someone solve a Rubix cube while being shot at. It’s that external challenge that makes a book engaging for me. Without that I’m literally watching someone use Google and talk to a patient and that’s just boring.
I mean it was a decent enough story and it was mildly interesting but it’s unengaging. Zoe isn’t that great of a character to like as she comes off erratic and off-putting. There’s zero external threat until the last few chapters but even then it’s not directed at Zoe. The ending came somewhat out of nowhere and again, without that external threat, it was all rather dull. It’s was like oh, okay. Neat. Moving on. The book was just . . . bleh. I probably won’t pick up any more Zoe Goldman books if this is what they’re all like. I need more than just psychoanalyzing a patient and studying for tests in the books I read.
I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more