I received this book for free from Disney Book Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by Disney Hyperion on July 22nd 2014
Genres: Horror, YA
Source: Disney Book Group
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What’s your worst nightmare?
For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.
And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.
Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.
Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.
By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run
Welcome to the Dark House is a pretty great horror story, especially for horror-movie loving readers. However it reads just like a horror movie as well – you barely get to know the cast, and when one dies/disappears you’re not going to care all that much.
Ultimately told in multiple viewpoints, we’re first introduced to Ivy, who I consider to be the main character in this story. She’s the only character that we get to know with any amount of depth. We learn of her tragic past and how it haunts her, and her motivation to join Justin Blake’s latest project. Soon enough, we’re joining others inside this Dark House and meeting our other POVs – I never counted, but there must have been 5 or 6. Obviously they’re not so memorable, not helped, I’m sure, by how identical their voices were. It also didn’t help that my eARC was badly formatted and didn’t say which POV we had switched to – though I was told the finished copy would, so you might have a better experience with remembering who’s who than I.
That’s not to say I didn’t like any of the characters. They’re all fairly interesting with an array of personalities and dealing with problems of their own. We see themes from suicide to body image issues to PTSD; it makes for an intriguing cast of people. There’s a bit of romance that blooms between some of them to lighten up the overall darkness of the plot. Though some of it’s a bit silly: getting angry because the girl you met 2 seconds ago and flirted with is now on the couch with another guy. Ooookay! The intro to the characters and the whole Justin Blake premise takes about half of the book. Once the tone of the story is set and you’re made to feel uneasy about this ordeal that feels way suspicious, this is when the real horror begins.
The horror aspect was my favourite part of the book. It has great scare tactics and an awesome eerie vibe throughout. The suspense is well-paced, with just enough dread and anxiety to keep you on the edge of your seat. There are things you do have to ignore, however. The fact that there seems to be a ton of people running this thing makes it a bit unrealistic – one person could not possibly have been all those “dream” characters. And I find it hard to believe so many people would be involved in such a sick and twisted killing spree without being caught. Unless it was meant to be paranormal in nature. The whole Harris ordeal hinted at that too, though I read that as being her subconscious telling her this wasn’t right. You also have to forgive how oblivious they all are to what exactly is happening. Especially Ivy who admits things are definitely off, but still goes through her dream sequence. WHY!!
The ending is what disappointed me the most. We’re left with a slew of questions and not many answers. I didn’t expect to – or want – everything to be tied up with a bow, but we don’t even know what the heck happened to Taylor for instance. Why did she leave? Is she missing too? Why didn’t she get them help (she was on the phone so she obviously knew something).
If you’re looking for a quick scare that’s a whole lot of fun if you don’t think about it too hard, then I would recommend this one. It’s got great horror-movie qualities to it, but in my opinion, what works on screen doesn’t always work in a book without adding more substance and solidifying characters.
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