Today, we're reviewing a couple of excellent winter break reads, including the seriously creepy book The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender!
I went into the book thinking it would just be a scary (albeit, awesome!) tale, but it actually turned out to be so much more than that!
Published August 25th 2015 by Point
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.
But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.
And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.
Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.
But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.
* A scary story,
* A tough female heroine
and overall, great writing.
However, I was still surprised at how eerie and wistful Delia's story turned out to be. Delia ends up trapped in the house in the most horrific way possible; she's literally stripped of free will through no fault of her own, and despite desperate attempts to circumvent this foregone conclusion.
So as Delia adjusts to life as a ghost, trapped with other unwilling house guests, it's not that surprising to see her suffer from some serious self-pity at first. Alender does a good job of emphasizing that this isn't just ghostly teenaged angst; but the feelings of someone who is struggling with the idea that her life has been taken away from her, in the blink of an eye.
With that understanding, it's actually inspiring to see how Delia evolves from lying on the lawn in a prolonged fit of self-pity, to actually being proactive about her situation. Though she ends up uncovering a lot of creepy, spine-tingling obstacles - in true Alender fashion, mind you - this all gets her closer to her end objective of finding the truth, and finding her strength back.
Alender manages to ramp up the character development and the supernatural tension to a final, shocking conclusion that will make readers shudder, but also feel relieved that our characters have finally found what is waiting for them.
Katie Alender has written a complex, thrilling character study, on how one girl fights against a destiny that has been thrust upon her, to learning how to make the best of a strange and troubling supernatural world. Delia grows in leaps and bounds through the novel, and concludes her tale as an atypical but inspiring heroine.
Strongly recommend for readers who like unusual tales - e.g. Doctor Who-esque ghost stories, and layered horror movies.
About the author:
Katie Alender is the acclaimed author of several novels for young adults, including the Bad Girls Don't Die series; Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer; and Famous Last Words. A graduate of the Florida State University Film School, Katie now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, her daughter, and her very spoiled dog, Winston. She enjoys reading, sewing, and eating delicious high-calorie foods.