Monday, September 14, 2015

The Dead House ~ Dawn Kurtagich (earc) review [@dawnkurtagich @lbkids]

The Dead House
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 15, 2015
432 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich is dead on in this terrifying psychological thriller!

Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy - only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace...

...until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn't exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.
The Dead House has a really great concept: Carly and Kaitlyn are two girls who are either sisters who share the same body thanks to some sort of paranormal or otherworldly occurrence or the product of Carly's dissociative identity disorder.

Through diary entries, messages between the girls, transcribed video footage, emails and IMs, interviews and therapy notes, we begin to get the story of what happened at Elmbridge High.

I like that The Dead House gives us the story both prior to the 'incident' and after it, alternatingly. It is an interesting mix of what is happening to Carly and Kaitlyn, snatches of their past, and what happened after the fire, in the investigation.

I did not get as much out of most of the 'post' incident parts of the book as I would have liked. They do a good job of balancing not giving away what's coming, while still hinting at it nicely. Still, I never felt like the officer doing the questioning had an understandable theory. His larger view was easy to see, but there wasn't as much there as I wanted.

The romance was weird or 'off' for me but it's hard to tell if that was on purpose, due to the character's possible mental state, something only I didn't like/get, how it was written or some combination of any or all of that. As that wasn't the main focus of the story, though, I didn't really care.

Some of my favorite parts centered on Naida, Carly's roommate and friend and the voodoo-ish Mala. I thought Naida, her past, what we learn about her and where the story takes her, were excellent - and very original. She has an unconventional background and sees things differently than you'd expect. I loved what she added to the story and her influence.

I do not think The Dead House was particularly terrifying or scary, but it does, absolutely, leave you with something to think about. Carly and Kaitlyn's mind(s) are a complicated, confusing, twisted place and in The Dead House we get a bit of a peak inside. Whether one is the product of the other's mind or they are two, originally separate beings, well, that is the question.

The Dead House did not completely work for me, but I love the concept (and its uniqueness) and am absolutely looking forward to what the author publishes next.

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