Review – The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich


The Dead House

By Dawn Kurtagich

SummaryThree students: dead. 

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace. 

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. 
Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary – and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.
The Dead House was a unique book. It was structured in a way that included video footage, police interviews, psychiatric interviews, journals, and newspaper articles. Combined and ordered chronologically, it told the story of Carly Johnson. Carly was a girl with two souls. At night, Kaitlyn took over and was her own person. Carly’s parents died in a mysterious car accident, she did some time in a psychiatric hospital, and the only person who knew about her nighttime persona was her best friend, Nadia. 
The Dead House had the potential to be a really cool story. It had a unique structure and a bunch of elements thrown in. From the asylum to the supernatural creature Kaitlyn thought was lurking in her head, it had a lot to work with.
Unfortunately, The Dead House was too much. The book could have been half the length, since that’s about the time I went from being on the edge of my seat to wondering if there was ever going to be a clue as to what was happening. I feel like the book would have worked better as a shorter book or as a condensed movie, since it was essentially the gathering of various articles and tapes to form a complete story. Also, there’s a fine line between a book having a ton of great elements that add to the plot and a book just throwing in random elements and now it’s just too much crazy shit thrown into a blender.. And The Dead House fell over that line and was just a blender.
I loved the structure, but felt that it needed to be condensed to have worked. Also, I felt like it should have been from someone’s point of view, like the person discovering all the footage later on, so there would be some glue holding the pieces together. Either that, or it should have been from Carly’s point(s) of view and the footage could have been peppered in to add to the mood. I just don’t see how other reviewers can praise the writing when there was no real story being told outside of the evidence presented. All of the writing was structured in the format of the evidence. The fact that the author wrote articles and transcribed video footage and put it all together was certainly unique and cool, but I just felt like there should have been a story weaving it all together. Ultimately, it was my job to form the story. I think that works for some people, but it just feels lazy to me when the author showed real talent in coming up with such a unique idea. 
The Dead House was a mess that was over the top and entirely too long for me to feel a bit of suspense or thrill. I’m more frustrated after reading it than anything else and I just wasn’t invested in the story anymore. However, I have to admit, I’m super picky about horror and it’s rare that YA horror does it right. I’m hard to please and I acknowledge that, so I will bump my review up a star because I know I’m part of the problem. I think the book will please a lot of readers, so I do recommend it. But if you’re a horror buff or picky about writing styles, this book may disappoint you as it did me.
Star 3

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