The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Released: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .
Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.
Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?
Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.
| My thoughts |
Rating: 5/5 stars.
I don’t even know how to start this review. There is not a single thing that I can think of that I didn’t like about this book. Even reading other’s review of this book gives me no ideas about things that I didn’t like.
This book. If you don’t like creepy things, this book is not for you. This is the book I was most looking forward to during the month of October and boy, did it deliver! There are some scenes that straight up gave me goosebumps and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I never felt like I couldn’t read this at night, but it definitely gave me that giddy adrenaline rush that I love scary movies so much for. I don’t want to give anything away here, but some scenes….
just plain spooky! I felt like there was a handful of occasions that I forgot to blink for long periods of time, and I’m sure I looked a bit crazy whilst reading this one. Bug eyes tend to do that.
The first page of this story opens with the newspaper article detailing the “incident.” Thereafter, most of the chapters open with either a countdown to the incident or days after the incident. This really helps us to get a picture of how things are happening relative to one another. But I think this mainly just puts you on the edge of your seat. As I was nearing the “30 days until the incident” I felt like I was biting my nails as I turned every page.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this book: you’re in the mind of someone as they’re losing their mind. Some people complain about this book jerking you left and right – I actually liked that. You ever play first-person shooters? This book is like a first-person mindbender. When Carly and Kaitlyn are being treated by their psychologist, you’re put in a tough position. Since we can see it from Carly’s perspective, we want to believe that she’s not crazy, but then her doctor can explain away all of her “symptoms.” We’re left questioning what to believe, and that’s exactly how Carly feels. As a reader, you feel like you’re losing your mind along with Carly and Kaitlyn. You’re a witness to everything happening, right then and there.
Also, the fact that the main character is actually two people in the same body gives you some interesting things to think about. For example, Carly and Kaitlyn have never met one another even though they share the same body (don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler, you find out in the first five pages). They write and hide little notes to one another but have never actually spoken to each other. Carly gets the day time and Kaitlyn gets the night. Neither of them dream and neither remembers anything the other did.
I love, love, that this is like those paranormal “found footage” movies. We know the accident happened and years later, Kaitlyn’s diary is found in the attic.
“In it, Kaitlyn reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind…and a much more sinister version of events than was ever made public.”
Every chapter presents multiple ways to tell the story. Diary entries, newspaper articles, audio recordings, video footage, testimony. Sometimes there’s dark smudges on the diary entries that look like blood. Bloood! There was just so many things that were creepy about this book! Dawn Kurtagich did such a great job with jumping between different media but still making the story flow really well. There were times when we are revealed a key piece of information at just the right time. Or, if it had been revealed earlier, it wouldn’t have had the same effect.
This novel was really unlike anything I’ve ever read. I tend to stay in Sci-fi/Fantasy, but this takes mental health, science fiction, suspense and horror and ties it all together with one gorgeous cover (two counting the UK version). I’ve not read many books where the main character suffers from a mental disorder, but this one definitely opened my eyes to DID (dissociative identity disorder). What makes this really special for this book is that Dawn Kurtagich mentions someone in her family who suffers from DID:
“I would like to make a special thank you to the person in my family who suffers with DID. You are the most intriguing person I know. All of you.”
Part of me wishes I knew that beforehand. I think someone with a personal understanding of a mental disorder has so much more to tell than anyone else. In a sense, Kurtagich probably felt compelled to help others understand the difficulties of this disorder and I think she nailed it. Actually – not just DID, but anyone suffering from a mental health issue.
Who would I recommend this book to? Those who love that tingle in your guts when you read about ghosts. Those who aren’t afraid of the boogeyman under your bed, or afraid of seeing more than just your reflection in a mirror. Really, this book is for someone looking for a spooky October read that leaves you questioning everything that happens. I would recommend this book to everyone and their mother!
Have you read it? Please, please tell me you liked it if you did! If you didn’t I’m not sure we can be friends…
But you better have a good reason!