Title: The Dead House
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 15th 2015
Page Count: 448 pages
Age Rating: YA & Up (disturbing imagery, blood, gore, violence, death, mentions of assault, and extremely vague sexual scenes)
How I got my hot little hands on it: Received an ARC to review
Publisher’s page: The Dead House
Welcome to the Dead House.
Three students: dead.
Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.
Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”
Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.
Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.
Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary – and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.
Although it can come off a bit disjointed at times, The Dead House is a fantastically dark, chilling mystery told in a very unique case-file style that uses newspaper clippings, transcripts, reports, and very detailed diary entries to tell the story of a very unique girl, two “sisters” trapped in one body, and the horrifying events involving her at Elmbridge High, an English co-ed boarding school, that ended in death and destruction.
Carly and Kaitlyn are two very different girls. Carly is goodness and light, and she only comes out in the daylight. Kaitlyn is trouble and darkness, and she only comes out to play under the cover of night. Both girls share the same body. Psychiatric experts say Kaitlyn is the alter ego of Carly, who’s suffering from dissociative identity disorder after the death of her parents, but the girls know different; they each know that they are real, no matter what anyone says.
Although we gets snippets from Carly (as well as various other witnesses, friends, officers, and psychiatric professionals), the majority of the story unfolds through Kaitlyn’s (the dark sister’s) perspective by means of first person diary entries. Kaitlyn is an interesting character – for all her little dark thoughts and strange ways, she’s an oddly relatable, if not exactly reliable, narrator.
The horror in The Dead House starts out very psychological (is Kaitlyn just an alter from Carly’s fractured mind? Is her already damaged psyche cracking further or is something more supernatural a foot?) and gets more overt as the tale unfolds. There’s no gore, well just a little, but there is blood and death and… well maybe a bit more than just a little gore in relation to some body horror through self-mutilation.
The Dead House was a unique read that kept me on the edge of my seat, the mystery keeping me guessing until the very end. I absolutely loved the imagination and creativity evident in this book, as well as the nail-biting tension that the writer so skillfully builds – I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more books by the same author.
Gloria Jean’s Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Coffee With Inclusions. I’m recommending this coffee to accompany this book because I think the duality of slightly bitter dark chocolate and sweet, fruity raspberry flavors together in a single cup compliments this story about two very different girls, one light and one dark, in a single body. The inclusions mentioned in the coffee’s name are little bits of dried raspberry mixed in with the packaged coffee, making it a very unique coffee blend, just like the style of storytelling in The Dead House, mixing first person journal entries, reports, testimonials, and transcripts of found video footage, make for a very unique reading experience.