Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Length: 373 pages
My star rating: ★ ★
[5/15 novels in November]
Delilah Blue returns to her small Kansas town after her grandmother, who footed the bill for her Catholic boarding school, enters a nursing home. She discovers that she is still fascinated by Gavin, the local outcast boy in whose defense she beat up two bullies six years earlier. They quickly become involved with each other, only for Gavin to reveal to Delilah that he has no parents, but occupies a living house, one which raised and apparently loves him. But it doesn’t take long for Delilah to suspect that there is more to Gavin’s incredible House than meets the eye…
The concept of this book was okay—not particularly original, maybe, but okay. I picked it up knowing it would be a little cheesy, but it’s YA horror. Cheese is to be expected. And it had a good review from the author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which seems to be beloved by many.
What really sank it was not its predictable plot or its run-of-the-mill horror sequences (I won’t lie, some of them gave me the shivers, though of course once you’ve read things like The Shining, YA doesn’t quite stack up).
No, it was the characers.
The bland, dime-a-dozen, stereotypical, one-dimensional characters.
What do we know about Delilah Blue, the heroine? That she likes horror movies; that she craves being afraid; that she doodles “Goth” stuff in her English notes—and that she is (as you probably guessed already) “weird.” That’s…really about it. As in Wicked Lovely, she lives in a bland room with no signs of her personality and wears bland clothing that reflect the uniforms she once wore at her Catholic school, because “trying to fit her personality in her clothing had always just felt like so much work.” And as in Wicked Lovely, I felt like this was a total cop-out on the authors’ part.
Oh, I forgot: we also know that she is absolutely obsessed with the hero, Gavin Timothy, and that she has been for her entire life. This is not only because she finds him hot, but because he is also “weird”–a loner whose favorite color is black (ohh, edgy) and about whom we know almost as little as we do about her. He used to like to build model planes. He plays the piano. He, too, likes horror movies. And he is almost as
obsessed in love with Deliliah as she is with him.
Their names are also really awful. I mean…Delilah Blue? Gavin Timothy? Those sound made-up.
And if our Goth Couple isn’t fascinating and charming enough, there’s also Dhaval, Delilah’s token Minority/Sassy Gay best friend, and Delilah’s lovely
conservative Christian straight-laced-but-neglectful parents, who apparently don’t care about her as long as she comes home by sunset and doesn’t have sex with (or “thoughts” about) boys.
I mean, the possessed house setup is kind of interesting, and to their credit, the authors even address some of the “really?” questions that their scenario creates—mostly as in, “Really? No one noticed that Gavin had no parents for sixteen years? Really?” I mean, it still strains credulity, but at least they acknowledge as much!
But if you’ve seen any films like Poltergeist, or have read any paranormal stories in your life, or even if you just have a functioning brain, you can see where the plot is going long before it gets there. I kept reading in large part to find out what happened to Gavin’s family, and the eventual answers neither surprised nor thrilled me.
I wasn’t expecting a lot, to be honest. I didn’t get a lot, either. But I did get a lot more angsty teen romance (complete with some uncomfortable sex scenes) than I wanted, and a love story way more unbearable and unbelievable than the one in Twilight. Maybe if it hadn’t been instalove, or maybe if either Delilah or Gavin had had a personality, I would have rolled my eyes less often as they fretted and angsted and preached about their love for one another and about how they wanted to be together forever.
Or maybe not.
Had it not been for the dreadful characters, I would give this book three stars despite the uninspired premise and unremarkable execution of it. As it is, I’m giving it two.
This is a tiny nitpick, but this particular passage really bothered me:
Delilah drew strength from every heroine she’d ever worshipped: Buffy standing with a fist curled around a stake. Michenne wielding her gleaming katana. Kristy cotton against Pinhead, Ginny versus Jason, Clarice Starling as she faced Hannibal Lecter, Alice Johnson versus Freddy Krueger—twice. (348-9)
Okay, it’s just a personal pet peeve, but a) The Silence of the Lambs is not a horror movie, and b) Hannibal Lecter is NOT the villain of said movie; sure, he’s the best-known character, and yeah, he’s a serial killer, but the way he’s included in this paragraph is totally misleading. Clarice’s life was in danger only when she confronted the actual villain of SOTL, Buffalo Bill—he, not Hannibal, was the character most like Freddy/Jason. Why, why, why do people have this misconception? SOTL is just a well-done crime drama, an FBI thriller—a better, longer precursor to modern CSI/NCIS-type shows. GAH!