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.
Kindle Edition, 432 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Four stars: A dark, twisted book that will leave you puzzling over what really happened.
The ruins of Elmbridge High some twenty years after the fire still draws tourists. There are strange disappearances and whispers of a haunting, that leads investigators to reopen the case that destroyed the school and killed three teenagers. What they find is a disturbing trail of evidence: diary entries, video footage, notes and doctor interviews surrounding one Carly Johnson or is it Kaitlyn? Carly Johnson is a young, severely mentally ill girl who claims to have two souls residing in her body. During the day, Carly is in control, and at night, Kaitlyn, the darker half, takes over. Did Carly suffer from multiple personality disorder or was there something far more sinister at work that led her to burn down the school?
What I Liked:
- Whoa! The Dead House is one of those books you have to experience for yourself. It is a creepy book with creative story telling, and mind boggling happenings that will leave you stunned. This is a book that what will have you constantly guessing as to what is really happening, and in the end, you still won't be able to make heads or tails of it all.
- I am always a fan of books that utilize unusual delivery methods, and this one excels with its interesting journal entries, doctor/ police investigation interviews, notes, video clips and so forth. I loved the creative presentation of the story. Very unique.
- The story is a mind bender. It centers around Carly/ Kaitlyn, a young girl who is supposedly suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. During the day, Carly occupies the body, and at night, Kaitlyn takes over. Carly is the good side, and Kaitlyn the dark half. As the story progresses, the reader grapples with a horrifying plunge into mental illness, or is it something else? This is one of those reads where you have to decide for yourself whether Kaitlyn/Carly is severely disturbed or if there are darker forces at work. Either way, it is chilling to ponder. Creepy!
- If you are looking for a deliciously scary, horror YA novel, this is one to try. The Dead House isn't gore and violence, instead it is a look at an individual who is spiraling into madness. Sometimes there is nothing more frightening than the human mind. Yet there is also the possibility of black magic and demons, it is up to you to decide what really happened. Either way, the imagery can be downright scary at times, and this is certainly not a book that I would recommend reading alone at night before bed. You have been warned. I loved all the creepiness.
- For me what drove this story was Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn is a girl struggling with her own identity. Does she really exist or is she a construct of Carly's delusional mind? The reader is drawn into her emotional conflict, and her pain radiates off the page. Kaitlyn is absolutely fascinating, and she is a character you have to experience for yourself.
- The ending is quick, climatic and full of shocking reveals that will leave your head spinning. If you are a reader that likes a concrete resolution, this is not a book for you. If you like pondering all the possibilities and coming to your own conclusion, this is a book that I guarantee will leave you thinking on it for days and weeks to come. I applaud the author for creativity and originality.
And The Not So Much:
- I was completely sucked into the story early on, but I found that toward the middle, the book started to drag as I waited for another revelation. There is so much mystery surrounding Kaitlyn. You are wanting to know what happened to her parents, what her life was like before the accident, and what is happening to her. I thought the pacing lagged a bit, and that the book got a bit lengthy. The ending is quick and full of surprises, but it falters with an information dump. I would've loved for the author to reveal a few things earlier and explore them in detail, especially the situation regarding Kaitlyn/ Carly's parents.
- The part of the story that I felt needed way more expansion was Carly/ Kaitlyn's life before their parents accident. How were they treated? There is a startling snippet at the very end that indicated there might have been some disturbing things going on at home, that were never alluded to until that moment. I was left floundering needing more information on the parents, the sister, and what really happened the night of the accident.
- I felt that there should have been more discussion on Multiple Personality Disorder. Having studied it in college, I know it is a rare condition, and it is usually brought on by a traumatic event. The author admits this in the notes at the end, so it made sense why she suddenly threw in that bombshell regarding the parents. I only wish that she had taken the time to expand on that idea because it makes sense for the MPD. This is where the story missed the mark for me.
- This is not a book for readers who like clear, concise story telling. This is a chaotic jumble of information, and the reader is slowly swallowed in a sea of madness. It is never clear exactly what went down, and you are left to your own assumptions. I enjoyed the journey, but I can see how it would frustrate certain readers.
- The story starts in 2025 out twenty years after the school burned down. I wish that there was more time in the present, and more discussion on what was happening at the ruins. Was it haunted? Were people disappearing? I wanted more information.
The Dead House was a creepy and fascinating read. This is a book that left my head spinning as I tried to make sense of what happened. This isn't a read for those who want a straightforward story where everything is laid out and easy to understand. Instead you are presented with a jumble of information in numerous different formats and you must decide as to whether this is a case of severe mental illness or if there are darker forces at work. Either way, it is one creepy and entertaining read that you should experience for yourself. Grab this one for the upcoming Halloween season, but be sure to read it with the lights on.
I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated for this review.