I received this book free from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 15th 2015
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness, Mystery
Source: The Novl
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
The Dead House is a chilling psychological horror that will keep you guessing even after the final page, from debut author Dawn Kurtagich.
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.
‘Some people say that night blooms. But night descends self-consciously. Night cuts slowly.’
Is it possible for two souls to inhabit a single body? By day, Carly is in control but as soon as the sun sets Kaitlyn takes over. Every day, the same pattern. The two are aware of the other’s existence, calling one another sister, writing notes back and forth to each other. When they lose their parents in a car accident and they are committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, Kaitlyn doesn’t handle this very well. The counselor sees her as the “wrong” identity, the one that needs to be dealt with and gotten rid of. Kaitlyn begins hearing voices, seeing a frightening girl that she’s not sure is real or simply a figment of her imagination, and nightmares of a house of terror. Kaitlyn has to deduct exactly what is fact and what is fiction in order to find out the truth about Carly and of herself.
Flash forward to two decades later and we learn that a tragic fire took place at Carly’s school killing several students with Carly herself being declared missing. Not until Kaitlyn’s diary is uncovered do we learn of what really caused the fire and what took place that disastrous day. It uncovers much more than a simple psychological mystery; there is dark magic and murder and horror. The story unfolds through a series of e-mails, medical transcripts, diary entries, and notes between the duo. Epistolary stories are a favorite of mine, giving me the feel that I’m sorting through documents attempting to uncover the mystery and solve the investigation and The Dead House definitely gave me that feel. The writing was terrific and while it didn’t necessarily scare (few stories do these days though) several passages did leave my skin crawling.
‘I am lucky to be here. The Dead House descended like music curdling into time, and as it did I grew wet and cold, and it was dark and I was so alone… It had devoured me.’
While I loved the feel of this novel I did feel it bit off more than it could chew adding a few too many side stories that weren’t ultimately necessary to the already tangled mystery and the strangeness of the dark magic inclusion that never felt fully fleshed out. The romance(s) were equally trivial putting a melodramatic spin on things that definitely could have been omitted to maintain clarity and focus on the real story. What really brought this one down for me was the ending. I’m all for endings of ambiguity that leave me to make up my own mind about how things turned out, but this one ends like you ran into a dead end. There were just far too many unresolved questions and too few answers for my liking, but if you like concocting your own ending then this is the book for you. I still very much enjoyed the premise and the execution and look forward to reading more from this debut author.