Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich - review

Publisher: Orion Children's Books

Through excerpts from diary entries, police reports and transcripts of videos, the book describes the run-up to 'the Johnson Incident', when three high school pupils died and twenty were injured. The diary entries belong to Kaitlyn Johnson, who is conscious only during the night, while her counterpart Carly lives in the day. 

This is a terrifically original premise and writing style. At first I thought the book's piecemeal nature might feel jarring or pretentious, but it was incredibly well-suited to the plot and characters. The writing is electrifying and felt throughout like you were given an insight into the lives of real people.

The question that hung over this gave me a lot to think about: whether Kaitlyn was real or a personality disorder resulting from trauma. From the start, Kaitlyn was portrayed as an unreliable narrator, who had suffered trauma and struggled with mental health. I enjoyed picking through the evidence to work out the truth about her.

This book was really dark and overall I liked how unflinching it was about tackling difficult issues. Despite that, I would've liked more moments of lightness in contrast. Using Kaitlyn as the main narrator worked well in a lot of ways, but sometimes felt consistently bleak.

It's a long time since I've read a book that kept me guessing and truly messed with me like this. It reminded me of my early experiences of reading Stephen King in the best possible way, and I'm looking forward to reading more by Dawn Kurtagich.*

If you like the sound of this, now try:

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys - a book of short stories which I reviewed at 
Carrie by Stephen King
Horns by Joe Hill

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