This book had a lot of potential. Sadly, most of it was unused.
Let’s start with the prologue. It was probably the creepiest part of the book, and I actually liked it. The girl has demons in her head and can only get rid of them by killing herself. I LIKE THAT PART, THAT’S GOOD. I like horror where the monster or demon isn’t just something running around jump-scaring people, but it’s actually in your head. Monsters are so much creepier when they’re part of you. I was hoping that this would have a lot of stuff like that in the rest of the book.
But it’s all downhill from here.
First, the creepy girl from the prologue only comes back as a ghost that grabs people’s hands and walks around the house with a noose around her neck. She doesn’t even do this frequently. She literally shows up in one scene in the book (possibly two, but it’s possible that the ghost who grabbed Jen’s hand in the basement was a different one) and in that scene she’s not that scary.
I found Jen’s character to be weird and unlikable. For the entire book she would take pills her best friend had stolen from her dad EVEN AFTER SHE LEARNED SHE WAS PREGNANT. Let’s talk about that for a minute. She had no idea that she was pregnant until one of her friends sarcastically suggested that that could be why she was throwing up. There’s no mention of an ex-boyfriend, but she doesn’t seem that surprised to be pregnant. By the time the book ends, she’s miscarried and she can go on with her life and everything’s fine.
What point did the baby have, other than her father finding the pregnancy tests? It seemed like that was its entire purpose. Since her father seemed to be barely hanging onto sanity as it was, I don’t know if the baby was the best idea? There could have been something else, maybe? Her father finds her hanging out with Colin? Or maybe he just finally loses it. The baby escalated a little too quickly and I think it could have been done better. Or perhaps the baby could have been her father’s? Her father does seem pretty abusive, so maybe? I can’t find anything online that brings this up, but a lot of YA books seem to have this kind of thing as a sudden plot twist at the end (*cough, cough* The Accident Season *cough, cough*), so I wouldn’t really be surprised if that was what the author was going for.
I wanted more backstory for Colin. For most of the book he seemed normal and alive. Then at the end it was revealed that he had actually been murdered by his best friend in that house, and his body was hidden in the woods. And then they dropped it. Maybe she could have found his bones? Or she could have talked to him about how his death and afterlife as a ghost? I don’t know. Something. I like when characters seem alive but are actually dead because it can be really emotional if the author handles it right (like The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater). But in this Jen just had a psychic flashback dream, saw him die, and there was no mention of him after that.
Speaking of Jen’s psychic dreams, I found her whole psychic thing kind of unbelievable and weird. I’m totally okay with stuff about psychics and flashback dreams, but in this it seemed kind of forced. Especially when she could throw picture frames and open locked doors. That’s not even a psychic power, that’s telekinesis. Like I said, I’m totally fine with someone having psychic powers or superpowers or whatever, but this seemed really forced.
While she was having the flashbacks about her mother taking her, I honestly thought this might have happened when she was around seven or eight. At most ten. She didn’t do anything to stop her mother from drinking or doing anything. She was seventeen. She should have tried to stop her mom or done something else to help her. Honestly.
I kind of feel like this book might have been better as a horror video game. It really reminded me of Outlast at the beginning (and even a little towards the end, but less so, because Outlast was disturbing and creepy the whole way through and this kind of failed at that.), so maybe it could have been good that way. Obviously some things would have to change to be a horror game; however, this book doesn’t have a lot of long detailed character development that would be weird in a horror game, and it’s not that long so… Maybe that would have been a better idea? And they could have had the girl from the beginning jumpscare you. It would have been good.
In my opinion, there was too much religion. I’m not religious, so that’s probably why I didn’t like this. Outlast also had bits that were kind of about religion, but that character was a side character and Outlast had more than enough horror. Also, the religion wasn’t as much of a part of the plot line as it is here. In the epilogue, it shows that her father had lived in the house a long time ago and someone he loved had been killed. I think that’s enough of a reason to be kind of crazy. Maybe he was already a little crazy and when he saw that it pushed him over the edge? I think that would have been better than all the religion. A little is fine, and in this book possibly necessary, but the way it was written it was shoved in your face repeatedly. It made it irritating.
Some of the reviews I’ve read suggest that this entire book could just be a metaphor for addiction. I guess I could believe that. The demons in the girl’s head in the beginning could have been addiction instead of literal demons. But if this is all about addiction, it seems kind of preachy. Like, if you want to write about addiction, write a boring contemporary novel told in poorly written poetry about a teen who has some kind of addiction. Don’t write a novel that looks like it’ll be a good horror novel with a twist plot meaning about addiction. I understand that addiction is its own little horror story, but it wasn’t the kind I was looking for nor the kind the book seemed to tout.
One out of five stars, because this had potential but it was ignored, and in the end it just ended up being irritating.