Wednesday, August 5, 2015

ARC Review: The Dead House: Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead House
Dawn Kurtagich
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Paranormal, Psychological
Release Date: September 15th, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

I grabbed an ARC of The Dead House at BEA and if I'm being honest I'm not entirely sure I actually did it on purpose. Well, I vaguely recall intentionally picking the book up (okay, I remember the straw bookmark poking out of the book) but I don't remember reading anything about the book or the blurb or whether I was even in that area for a reason.

It turned out to be a good decision.

The Dead House was so much better than I imagined it being and I kept finding myself drawn into the mystery. The story is kickstarted by a huge fire at Elmbridge High School in which three students are killed and one, Carly Johnson, goes missing. Twenty years later, a diary is found, and the case is reopened. The diary isn't Carly Johnson's though, it's Kaitlyn Johnson's. Records from their psychiatrist show a (rather peculiar) diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder, and it's implied Kaitlyn is a manifestation of this. However, as the story is told through the diary entries, video footage, tapes of their sessions with the psychiatrist, police records, online conversations, etc. another picture begins to unfold of possible something deeper and darker being at play than a personality disorder.

I really liked the way the book was put together with the diary entries and the transcribed tapes and such all put together. I thought it gave it a nice edge while still remaining cohesive enough to tell the story. I'm usually not a fan of found footage films because I find them boring and this didn't read like the literary version of those or anything so I think Kurtagich was on the right track if that was anyone's concern. Also, speaking of the diary entries, I really liked the way they showcased Kaitlyn's descent into feeling crazy and followed, because it was just the right amount of creepy and dramatic and made it really effective.

In the same vein, the actual writing style, especially of the diary entries, was also effective. For example, I thought this one line was excellently written (note, this is an ARC and any quotes are subject to change in the finished copy):

"Some people say the night blooms. I've always said it cuts. Like a guillotine." 
It was a comment that stuck and kindof shows the jarring narrative style of Kaitlyn. She crosses out a lot of words and you're left with things like "Before my parents died left went away" which gives an air of panic and choppiness and added to her character and the way she advanced the story.

The characters were interesting to read in the literal sense of the word. I mean, some of them were more fun than others, but when it comes down to it, I was more intrigued than entertained (not in a bad way). Even with characters like Naida, who was Carly's friend and went to the high school, I was waiting to see what she'd do, if she'd screw anything up or help them, or if she could be trusted. I was interested in watching her more than being amused by her toting her video camera around everywhere she goes. When it got to Carly and Kaitlyn, I was especially interested. I wanted to know about who they were and how their situation worked, like: if Carly existed in the daytime and Kaitlyn existed at night, did their body ever sleep or get rest?

I was also really interested in delving into the psychological aspects of the character -- was Kaitlyn actually an alter personality created by Carly? -- and I really liked the way the book went into that with the transcripts of the conversations with their doctor. It provided a nice solid background of information on them and set the stage for some of their actions later in the book. On the other hand, the book also delves into the paranormal quite a bit, and it's up to the reader to see which reasoning they can get behind more.

While I did which some of the parts of the book had been more elaborated on -- Naida's voodo magic for one (actually I wasn't a fan of her whole Mala thing at all I would've nixed it) -- I enjoyed the book and thought it wasn't too predictable and was nice and creepy and had an interesting (though not totally unexpected) ending. I usually probably wouldn't have gone for a book like this if I saw it lying around or on a shelf so I'm glad I took the chance and my review doesn't really capture the essence of the book. I definitely would recommend it, although if you're really easily creeped out or scared, maybe you should skip this one.

- Noor

Have you ever gotten into a fight with yourself?
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