Author: Katie Alender
Genre: horror, paranormal
Published: April 21st, 2009
Rating: 4/5 Stars
"When Alexis's little sister, Kasey, becomes obsessed with an antique doll, Alexis thinks nothing of it. Kasey is a weird kid. Period. Alexis is considered weird, too, by the kids in her high school, by her parents, even by her own goth friends. Things get weirder, though, when the old house they live in starts changing. Doors open and close by themselves, water boils on the unlit stove, and an unplugged air conditioner turns the house cold enough for the girls to see their breath. Kasey is changing too. Her blue eyes go green, and she uses old-fashioned language, then forgets chunks of time. Most disturbing of all is the dangerous new chip on Kasey's shoulder. The formerly gentle, doll-loving child is gone, and the new Kasey is angry. Alexis is the only one who can stop her sister -- but what if that green-eyed girl isn't even Kasey anymore?"
This book was such a pleasant surprise! I bought it last year (another product of the panic that ensued when Borders closed) and forgot about it. While I was rearranging my bookshelves a couple of weeks ago I found it and decided to give it a go. I wasn't expecting much, and I couldn't have been more pleased that I was wrong. This was a fun and enjoyable read from the first to the last page. The characters were well-developed and diverse and the story, while familiar, was so well-formed that I finished the book in less than 24 hours. I love a good old-fashioned ghost story and Alender did a great job of bringing the classic haunted house to a YA book.
Alexis! I love the main character. She's such a sad character at first. Her parents don't understand her (welcome to being a teenager), her little sister is klingy and she has zero friends, in fact everyone at her school is afraid of her. As the book progresses she matures and begins to realize that the stigma she has attached to other groups of kids at her school (e.g. the cheerleaders, the preps and the jocks) may not be well-founded. The author uses Alexis to get across the message that people are not stereotypes, but individuals. There were times during this book where I forgot I was reading a horror story because the coming-of-age aspect of the book was so strong. That being said, Alexis maintains her weirdness and individuality through the book. She doesn't have to assimilate to be accepted and as cliche` as that may sound, that is not a message that got through to me all of the time in high school. Alexis's love and compassion for her obsessive, strange younger sister is also very sweet and that relationship and her need to save her sister drives the entire plot of the story. The supporting characters are also well-developed and those relationships don't seem forced or fabricated for the purpose of the message of the book. The best part about the book, though, is that it is actually really scary, and not in the headless-corpses-with-bloody-stumps-for-hands way, in the best way: psychological and subtle. There were times in the story where Alexis was talking to her sister and about half way through the conversation you realize it isn't her sister at all. Little things like that mad this book super creepy in the best possible way.
There really isn't anything that stands out to me as a dislike except maybe that the romantic aspect of the book could have been explored a bit more. There is an absolutely adorable guy, Carter, who doesn't get nearly the amount of page time he deserves, at least according to me. Maybe he'll play a bigger role in the next book (fingers crossed). The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because, while it was fun, it wasn't groundbreaking. It's just a good old fashioned ghost story. There aren't really any new concepts here and it isn't profound. But I think that's part of what makes it so enjoyable. It's a good lazy read. The over-arching concepts (family, acceptance, teen angst, etc.) aren't hard to grasp so the reader can kind of sit back and relax and get a little spooked.
AND CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT THIS COVER FOR A MINUTE?
Oh my god. This is one of the creepiest covers I've seen in a long time. You can't even see her face! I literally had to flip this book over so it was cover down on my nightstand at night (I'm a giant baby). But really, it's just so creepy and for some reason her feet are what creep me out the most! As a pasty white person myself, I can promise you we aren't all vampires or ghosts, but there's just something very ethereal about this image while feeling very aggressive at the same time.
So basically, I haven't shut up about this book since I finished it and I probably won't for awhile. I also didn't realize until very recently that it is part of a series. This got me so excited that I nearly bought the second one right away before I realized I have a car payment due tomorrow and that money should really stay in the bank for the moment. I would definitely recommend this book to horror fans. And if you happen to be sitting in your giant old Victorian house on a gray day with nothing to do, you can't go wrong picking up this book.