Thursday, October 1, 2015

Book Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Dead House
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Publisher: Little Brown, BFYR
Pages: Hardcover; 432
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Source: NetGalley
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Content Screening: Mild Violence

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a slow burn, and prefer their stories less gory and more haunting.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
Welcome to the Dead House.
Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

The one downside to enjoying horror themed books and movies so much is that it takes a lot to impress me. Take a minute to think about the very onslaught of "found footage" horror movies that have been made in the recent past. In order for this pseudo-documentary style to work, the creator has to put in the effort to make the experience seem real. We all know what happens when they don't. Enter, The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. Very much the book equivalent of the "found footage" movie, I wasn't sure to make of this book at first. It pieces together interviews, diary entries, random notes, and even video transcriptions. I'm still not convinced that it entirely succeeded either.

Let's start with the good. Our main character is a fascinating individual. Carly/Kaitie is a perfectly unreliable narrator. Is she two souls living in one body? Is one of her identities the cause of mental illness? Kurtagich sets up a reality where the reader never really knows. Oh, you might think you've figured it out. I did. Then something new is unearthed and suddenly it's back to wandering in the dark. I'll admit that, above all else, what kept me reading was the simple fact that I wanted to know what was going on with our protagonist. Was she insane? Or was there something else, something deeper, at work here?

Which is why I think that the style of this book was so rough for me. Only getting to know Carly/Kaitie through weird and broken snippets was frustrating. I understand that it was supposed to build tension. For a while, it did. Especially towards the middle, as things slowly descended into madness. However I was also never able to get a handle on who these girls really were, and what made them so different. By the time that the ending came and went, I was baffled. I'm all for twists. I like something to be turned on its head. Still, setting a character up in a certain light and then waiting until the end to throw in a shocking tidbit is just maddening. Add in the fact that I was never actually given any sort of ultimate climax, and you'll see why this book and I are still having a staring contest.

For what it's worth, this would be an excellent horror novel for people out there who don't read them very often. If you're put off by blood, and gore, you won't have to worry about that here. There are a few passages that mention some slightly violent things, but overall this is more of a thriller than anything else. Lots of mystery built up. Plenty of unsolved deaths. Even a bit of romance. I do believe that readers who enjoy being lost in a character's head might like this book. Just don't expect it to take off right away. It's one of those that is a slow build up. I'll leave it to you to decide whether or not it's all worth it in the end.





FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

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