What role were we playing? The ghosts or the haunted?
Published: August 1, 2017
Pages: 265 (Nook Edition)
Series: N/A – Standalone
“Whatever this thing is, it’s inside of us now. We can’t shake it.”
Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move—prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check—is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between ocean and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple.
As Julie and James try to settle into their home and their relationship, the house and its surrounding terrain become the locus of increasingly strange happenings. The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink. Together the couple embark on a panicked search for the source of their mutual torment, a journey that mires them in the history of their peculiar neighbors and the mysterious residents who lived in the house before Julia and James.
If you know me at all, you know I love a good ghost story.
I watch a lot of paranormal TV shows, I listen to creepy podcasts, and I’ve been partial to a good thriller with a supernatural/paranormal element to it. It’s just a comfort thing to me; my mom and I used to watch the OG Ghost Hunters show together nearly every night when I was younger, so this has just become one of my favorite things.
Every now and then I get the need for a spooky read, and while horror isn’t usually a go-to genre for me, I decided to pick this up after reading some great reviews from some of my favorite bookish people. While I enjoyed this read and thought it was a really spooky, fast paced read, it ended a bit flat for me. Let’s break it down!
The first thing I want to talk about is the first thing that caught my attention; the writing style. It’s very different from anything I’ve read (at least recently) and is very flowy and almost like a constant stream of consciousness. It’s told through both Juile’s POV and James’s POV, both in first person. It took me a while to get used to, but I didn’t dislike it at the end. I will say that it sometimes got confusing because there wasn’t an indicator who was narrating, like the chapters weren’t labeled, and some of the descriptions were confusing in that way where an author tries to overly describe things and I just get lost. Overall, however, I do think the writing style helped propel the story and I appreciated it.
This story has that classic horror story trope where people move into this gorgeous, old house that seems “too good to be true” and it’s menacing and haunted. Classic horror story, yes? Yes. And it was damn creepy at times. Especially in the beginning, where the events are just starting to unfold, Julie and James still have their clarity of mind, and some clues are emerging about the house’s history. It had a great first half, a great lead up, but then it starts to lose me.
It also has that classic horror story aspect where a lot is kind of left up to interpretation and you get to puzzle out some of the happenings on your own. While I appreciate these aspects of ghost/haunting stories, this one just left me wandering too much. Like I said, it had a great first half and a great lead in, but then the mystery of it all doesn’t really get explained properly and it just fell off for me. It was almost like the book didn’t have an end. The creepy stuff happens, they learn some clues about the house, the end (not really, but that’s how I felt).
I think the other aspect of this is that I didn’t really like Julie or James. They both seemed like crappy people, in a way, and while I was rooting for them to figure everything out, I also cringed at some of the things they said and did. Even before they started to go crazy the way most people living in a haunted house do. I didn’t dislike them, but I also felt no connection to them, if that makes sense.
Overall, it was a very interesting and enjoyable read for the most part, I think I just left feeling unsatisfied, which is why I kept it at a 3-star rating. I was having a hell of a good time in the beginning, but it dropped at the end. There was a lot of promise there, and I’m interested in seeing what else the author comes up with in the future!
P.S. Do you read horror? What are the best horror books you’ve read?