The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Pub Date: Sep. 15th 2015
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, “the girl of nowhere.”
Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.
Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.
I kind of feel like a broken record, but I received my copy of this gorgeous book when I was at BEA and BookCon. I knew nothing about it but the cover was so haunting and beautiful- so I had to have it!
The Dead House was receiving major hype around two months ago, which was when I had just started reading it, and the hype made me super nervous. All I knew at the time was that the novel can be classified as a psychological thriller, which intrigued me. Despite my wariness due to the hype, I ended up really enjoying it. There were so many elements that contributed to make the story as haunting as it was.
I believe I’ve only read *and loved* one psychological thriller before, so I was ecstatic to start The Dead House– especially when I heard that the main character was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, which basically means she has more than one ‘identity’. Other than that small fact, I didn’t know much about the plot, which made the story SO much more suspenseful. Honestly it was a bit slow after the hooking intro until around page 130, but that section was really important to the plot, so once you get through that part you won’t want to put the book down.
Kaitlin is a very…interesting main character. She is the self-hating, dark ‘half’ to Carly who only makes an appearance at night. I don’t want to give too much away, but I have to compliment Dawn on how thought provoking her writing was while presenting Kaitlin’s character. I read that the author was inspired by a condition she had that caused her to stay awake at night (no it’s not insomnia, the name is slipping my mind right now), so she had a brief experience of how different life is when most people are asleep. One detail that I loved was when Kaitlin asked Carly what it felt like to have the sun on her skin. That detail is something so obvious, but it didn’t hit me how different her experiences must be until I read that scene.
As dark and confusing as Kaitlin’s character was, I couldn’t help but to really care about her. As the story progressed she became more of an unreliable narrator and my concern for her grew exponentially.
The novel is told in various assortment of media, there is a collection of newspaper clippings, letters, therapy transcripts, therapist notes, diary entries, police reports, video transcripts, and stunningly haunting pictures. I adored these different modes of storytelling because it gave me so many different sides and interpretations of the story. Personally, my favorite style to read from was the video transcripts because we got to ‘see’ what was going on as well as hear it. Another great thing this collection of media did was mess with my mind! Reading everyone’s opinion on what’s going on with Carly/Kaitlin (including Kaitlin) was so confusing because I couldn’t figure out what was or wasn’t true. In fact, I still flip back and forth whenever I think about the ending and I love it! The truth lies with the reader.
As much as I’d love to discuss all the different possibilities of what ‘really’ happens, I’m afraid I cannot do so without spoiling the book or rambling on forever. All I’ll say is that this book definitely gets inside your head and messes around in it to make you question everything. I also find it amazing how even though all of your major questions you hold throughout the book are answered, you still end the story still wondering what the hell is going on. This is literally a perfect Halloween read, so pick it up as soon as possible!