Bites

Published: March 22, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Jen Noonan’s father thinks a move to Harmony House is the key to salvation, but to everyone who has lived there before, it is a portal to pure horror.

After Jen’s alcoholic mother’s death, her father cracked. He dragged Jen to this dilapidated old manor on the shore of New Jersey to “start their new lives”—but Harmony House is more than just a creepy old estate. It’s got a chilling past—and the more Jen discovers its secrets, the more the house awakens. Strange visions follow Jen wherever she goes, and her father’s already-fragile sanity disintegrates before her eyes. As the forces in the house join together to terrorize Jen, she must find a way to escape the past she didn’t know was haunting her—and the mysterious and terrible power she didn’t realize she had. (goodreads.com)

Decent concept, poor execution. The pacing was always just slightly off, the language at times stilted and at other times overly forced. And I couldn’t help but think that it was set in 1997 solely to remove cell phones from the equation. Because a cell phone would have solved this book’s problem real quick. Well, it would have removed the story entirely but, you know. Regardless, it being set in 1997 felt arbitrary. Aside from the absence of constant connection there doesn’t appear to be a reason for setting it twenty years in the past.

I like the concept of the house doing something to people, or seeming to do something to people. HARMONY HOUSE plays around with this concept and a little bit with mental illness and what fanaticism can do to someone. But because it can’t really figure out its own pacing, and the element that ends up saving Jen isn’t very developed, it all falls flat.

Jen finds out she has this power except you see very little of it. It’s mentioned a little bit at the end and then when it comes to save the day and pulls Jen out of the wreckage. Literally. Total deus ex machina plot element that I think was supposed to tie her to her mother, but didn’t.

The whole book just felt very amateur. Jen’s voice was that of what an angsty teenager in the 90s was supposed to sound like, saying goddamn a lot (A LOT, I don’t take offense to that term at all, but most of the time it felt like forced character development) and being moody and listening to classic rock. It wasn’t necessarily a caricature, but Jen certainly didn’t feel like a real person.

The situation with Alex felt really overdone. Not sure if it was supposed to be tied to the house and have it all loop back, but it felt like really forced tension because there wasn’t anything else going on.

HARMONY HOUSE feels like the sort of story that a younger person would write, or someone who isn’t very experienced with storytelling. It also didn’t answer the whole “is something evil in Jen” question because she did react to the exorcism. So was the miscarriage the purge her body needed or is the “evil” still there? Was it ever evil? Or was what’s in her good and her father was evil and it was reacting to him? None of that is really developed or answered.

It just felt unfinished, undeveloped, and all around mediocre. Definitely far better horror out there.

1

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: June 24, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

To tweet or not to tweet . . . what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school’s production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department’s “social media director” and starts tweeting half-hearted updates. She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can’t muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like “Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark . . . and a body’s rotting in the theater” are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana’s rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone’s horror, the grisly tweets continue . . . and the body count starts to rise.

There’s no other explanation; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it’s up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions . . . or she becomes the next victim. (goodreads.com)

FOLLOWERS actually has a full point lower rating than DEFRIENDED on Goodreads, however, I think this is the better of two books. At least FOLLOWERS has actual tension and the author doesn’t act like the readers like dolts when it comes to technology. Although she is rather insistent that her characters can’t live without their phones, which I found a little annoying. And I’m not sure what the creepy ten-year-olds with yellow eyes have anything to do with anything. I guess yellow eyes are mentioned once, but that’s it.

This book, I think, was a little more reminiscent of the older Point Horror books. It’s kind of campy, kind of kooky, people die in weird ways. It’s more of what I would expect of an old school reboot. It’s harkening back to those older YA horror novels. But it’s still trying pretty hard to fit into the current technological climate. It does a far better job of it than DEFRIENDED did, but it still kind of misses the mark with how Twitter is used. The entire premise focuses on this one account called Hamlet’s Ghost that’s seemingly following Bree around and her only followers seem to be her schoolmates. On Twitter. Like Twitter is a silo for only school people to know about. No.

The a ha moment at the end of the book seemed a little out of nowhere despite its subtle build-up. It’s just that one moment when Bree put all the pieces together, after everything, seemed kind of hackneyed. I wasn’t thrilled with it. There’s also not a whole lot of character development going on and a lot of suspension of disbelief that I have to go through in order to get on board with the plot. Like Forsythe students being allowed to come in and audition for a play at a private school. Yeah, no. Totally contrived. There is no outreach in something like that. Parents are paying for their children to go to this performing arts school yet they’re okay with their opportunities being shanghaied by locals who get it for free? Yeah, that school would have a lot of angry parents to contend with on that one. Not to mention one student dying under mysterious circumstances would shut down the school, let alone two, let alone continuing with a stupid play.

So yeah, while it’s a better book than DEFRIENDED, FOLLOWERS still has its own hurdles to get over. It just gets more points with me because it actually had some semblance of tension in the story. I can appreciate that.

3

Published: May 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Jason has met the perfect girl. OK, so maybe he hasn’t actually MET Lacey yet, but they talk online all the time. Yet despite spending most nights chatting, Lacey refuses to meet up in person. Suspicious, Jason googles multiple newspapers. Lacey fell off a balcony and died a year earlier. Jason meets Lacey’s best friend Jenna, and they try to find the truth. (goodreads.com)

Isn’t it unfriend? Whatever.

This is an incredibly lackluster book written by an adult who desperately wanted people to know she knew about technology and social media and how it worked. I think anyone age-appropriate for DEFRIENDED would have been rolling their eyes at the complete breakdown on how something like Facebook, and a computer, works. It was completely unnatural the way things were described in this book, as if it were speaking to an audience that might not know what any of these things are.

One, target audience for a Point Horror reboot isn’t that old. We still grew up with technology. We know what it is. I don’t need it barneyed down for me. And Two, Point Horror needs to find its audience and stick with it. Are you writing for those adults who used to read Point Horror all those years ago? Or is it specifically for a new age of readers? If it’s the former you’re grossly underestimating your reader. If the latter you don’t know the current market.

At least with the Fear Street reboot it is very obviously a reboot. It’s not trying so hard to aim toward current readers. It’s keeping it’s old format, its old kitsch, and playing to the adults who will be reading it. If an age-appropriate audience happens to like it, great! But they’re really there for nostalgic purposes. Not sure what Point Horror is doing.

As for the story itself, it was devoid of tension. Absolutely nothing. Maybe because it was obvious from the beginning that Jason was being catfished so I was like, this is going nowhere good. But there was no build-up to the climax. There was some fake tension but I saw right through it and by the time anything of interest came around I didn’t have any wind left in my sails. I read it and was like, that’s it? Okay.

I’m definitely more of a RL Stine and Christopher Pike fan than anything else. I only got into Point Horror at a much later date, but this just isn’t good. The book doesn’t know what it is. How am I supposed to know what it is? And I loved how, for a book that came out in 2013, Jason was waiting until he had access to a computer to check his Facebook. Like I said about fake tension. He had a smart phone in his pocket the entire time, yet he really only checked Facebook when he was on a CPU or laptop. No. Silly.

1.5

Published: February 2, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Jocelyn and her best friend, Madge, arrive at the gates of Brookline sanatorium—fresh out of nursing school—they are eager and excited to start their new careers. But from their very first meeting with Brookline’s austere warden, they can tell their new boss will be . . . difficult. Then Jocelyn wakes up in her room one night to the sound of screaming, and she starts to wonder if the treatments in this asylum are entirely humane. But the warden has his eye on Jocelyn—and the treatment of patients should be the least of her concerns. (goodreads.com)

THE WARDEN, I think, is the creepiest out of all of the novellas Roux’s written within the ASYLUM world. Not only is it set within the asylum itself, but you get to interact with the warden himself in a very tangible way. He’s no longer a flashback or something seen out of the corner of an eye or whispered about in passing. He’s a living character in this snippet of a story and you get to see firsthand just how manipulative and insistent he is about his way of doing things and experimenting. You see how he plays with people and actively distorts their realities in order to achieve his ends. He’s more terrifying than any jump scares could offer.

Within a short number of pages you see how the characters spiral despite their best intentions and greatest efforts. Really no one’s any match for Warden Crawford. Once you’re in his web he’s got you and there’s no getting out.

Considering I just bought the book that has this complete set of novellas in it, I’d say THE WARDEN is an excellent addition to the spooky, creepy world of ASYLUM. It’s not overwhelming, it’s not about cheap scares. It’s far more insidious and will dig into the heart of a person’s fears and uncover it for all to see.

4.5

Published: August 5, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Dan and his friends meet Cal in Sanctum their impression of the privileged New Hampshire College student is less than stellar. But Cal wasn’t always the cold, sarcastic guy he is now. In this digital original story preceding the events of Sanctum, we meet Cal when he is experiencing college like any other kid with a group of close friends and a dad who piles on the pressure. Only, when the pressure starts getting to him and Cal accepts an invitation to meet a selective group of students and alumni known only as the Scarlets, the course of Cal’s life changes forever. And the price of joining the Scarlets might be higher than he can pay. (goodreads.com)

Another great addition to the Asylum series, I think a little more overall creepy than THE BONE ARTISTS, THE SCARLETS digs into the asylum itself (pun intended) and pulls out the strings of the Scarlets a little more, showing Cal in a different light all together.

Here things are more supernatural, creeping up on your shoulder when you least expect it. They’re more conniving as Cal’s father gets his hand in Cal’s life, forcing him in a direction he doesn’t want to go. Introducing him to a lifestyle he originally wants nothing to do with. It shows just how deep the Scarlets’ influence goes and it makes the world all the more chilling. Can anyone ever get away from them?

If you’re a fan of the series you won’t want to miss THE SCARLETS. It’ll make everything a little more robust and just a hint scarier.

4