Title: The Haunting
Author: Alex Bell
Published: February 2016
Star rating: 2
Book number one for READERS IMBIBING PERIL is complete! And guys, it was a real shitshow. I desperately hope this isn’t an omen of things to come because I cannot handle 2 full months of reading duds. I’m actually considering scrapping my original TBR in favour of some new titles I’ve picked up (the mood reader strikes again!).
My first book for this challenge was The Haunting by Alex Bell, part of the Red Eye YA horror series. I read Bell’s other two books in the series, Frozen Charlotte and Charlotte Says and LOVED them, so I’m ~extra~ disappointed that this one didn’t work out.
Onto the review!
As always, I think it’s important to start with the positives, because surely, all books should have at least one, right? Right?? Right. So, here are the things I liked:
1. A+ for inclusiveness – Our MC, Emma, is wheelchair bound because of an accident (or was it? dun dun DUN) in her childhood. She has a service German Shepard named Bailey and he is 8 years old.
2. Bailey the German Shepard does not die.
3. Emma is brave as fuck. Seriously, she does shit in this book knowing she can’t make a quick getaway that I wouldn’t do even though I have working legs which, theoretically, would be able to carry me rapidly away from danger. She is an excellent MC and I hope that the YA horror audience finds things to look up to in her. I know I did.
4. Shell, our secondary but very important character is also insanely brave. Coming from a dangerous home life (her dad is an alcoholic and broke her arm), she always had a strong connection to her mother, who was convinced the two of them were witches (yeah this is where it gets a little wonky but stay with me). Her dad was obviously having none of it and was super abusive to her and her brother, Jem. Her mother died and Jem and Shell ran away after their father broke Shell’s arm. They now live in the Waterwitch Hotel, the thing at the heart of this whole book.
5. Shell grows so much and really becomes her own person apart from her family and that’s so important.
And here are the bits I didn’t like:
1. The book seems to start off much like Frozen Charlotte – teenage girl goes on a long trip by herself to visit a semi-estranged relative. Once there, she is reminded of her best friend from childhood to whom she’s not spoken to in 7+ years and wonders what they’d talk about if they met up.
2. Standard “we need to catch the audience up on this sinister backstory and the only way to do it is to have the MC read a sign describing the backstory even though she already knows it” trope. Major thumbs down.
3. The following notes I took:
**concern** there is an old woman (grandmother) in this story – will she only serve as the person who narrates the plot for us?
PREDICTION (pg 32): the waterwitch hotel is haunted by the witch that the dude who built the ship the hotel is named after sentenced to death. someone built the hotel out of the old ship wood and it’s possessed or something. there will almost certainly be a problem with a basement or cellar. our MC will need to destroy the hotel to vanquish the witch.
PREDICTION UPDATE: by page 44 there has indeed been a problem with a cellar and the hotel is built from the old ship.
pg 32: on the ‘witch bottle’ —“It’s a type of concealed charm,” Gran had told me when I asked about it all those years ago. “To provide protection against witches. People used to hide them under the floorboards or behind the fireplace. If the bottle was ever found or broken then they thought they’d have no protection against the witch who’d cursed them.” — setting us up nicely to discover the witch bottle that was supposed to protect the hotel broke, huh? (pg 44; yes, this exactly)
Overall, the book was fine, but fine doesn’t really do it for me anymore. The beginning was rough, the middle was okay/good, and the end was bad. Definitely a disappointing way to start this challenge.
I’m deviating from my previously published TBR and starting The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. I loved A Head Full of Ghosts and really hated Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, so we’ll see how this goes. Wish me luck.