July 22, 2014
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What’s your worst nightmare?Laurie Faria Stolarz's Welcome to the Dark House is a a good horror novel, with a very cinematic feel to it.
For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.
And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.
Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.
Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.
By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.
Seven teenagers win a contest where entry required them to write of their most horrible nightmare. The prize is a weekend with horror film director Justin Blake and an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at his next film. Most of them entered because of their love (possibly borderline obsession) with Blake and his movies. Ivy, however doesn't like horror movies or Blake - she has a much more real world nightmare she's hoping to conquer.
Things are interesting and exciting when the group first comes together, but soon it becomes clear the weekend will not go as promised.
Welcome to the Dark House alternates between the different characters points-of-view. In the ARC there was no labeling of who the narrator was. With them all together as a group and each told in the first person, the characters weren't distinct or recognizable enough for me to tell who was now narrating until another character's statement or action or process of elimination revealed their identity.
While the labeling is only an ARC issue, it's worth mentioning as it brought my attention more to the characters' lack of individuality.
As the synopsis shows, Ivy and Parker are the two characters who get more focus (and development), with Ivy feeling like the novel's main character. Her history, her nightmare and reason for entering the contest, lend the story more drama and suspense. It also poses more questions, both about her decisions and what is happening.
The other characters are similar to those in most horror movies. They play a role in the plot progression and they serve a purpose for the story as a whole but you don't really know them and you don't care all that much if/when they're gone.
I did find one of them more interesting than the others. Her character had a very unique back story and everything from how she interacted with the others to her family brought up a lot of questions. Yet, we never seemed to get any of the answers.
There are quite a few places where questions are left unanswered in Welcome to the Dark House. Whether that's due to it being the first in a series (per Goodreads indication) or just how the book was written, I'm not sure.
The horror-movie- like feel of Welcome to the Dark House is where the novel is the strongest. We spend the first half of the book being introduced to the characters - and them being introduced to each other. That part was pretty hit or miss for me. Though it was necessary for both the introductions and to setup the rest of the story.
The second half of the book is where the danger, suspense and horror came in and the stronger part of the book. The buildup of suspense is done extremely well. It's obvious something is going to go horribly wrong, it's just a question of what - and when. The closer we get to the end, the clearer it is that they're horror won't be some sort of smoke and mirrors scaring. It will be very real. As the ending approaches the suspense is really ratcheted up.
Welcome to the Dark House is a fun, quick YA horror novel. Now knowing that this is the first in the series, I like the ending much better than before I knew and hope we'll get some more answers in Book 2. This should be a good read for those who like horror movies - or who want to like them - and I'm anxious to see where Book 2 takes the story.
earc received for review from publisher through NetGalley