Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Title: Welcome to the Dark House
Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Publication Date: July 22, 2014
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 357
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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. 

As the person hosting the Horror Reading Challenge this year, it should come as no surprise that I am a horror junkie. I love horror movies and horror books. Unfortunately, I have been let down by quite a few horrors this year. I had seen Welcome to the Dark House around a lot in the last several months, but I wasn't totally sold on the synopsis and the carnival on the cover made me wary. Carnival horror stories are so hit or miss... But when I saw this at the library the other day, I snatched it up and took it home... and devoured it in a day.

The story is told from several points of view. There are eight "winners" of the essay contest and seven of them have a voice in alternating chapters. This way of storytelling can be really distracting in my experience, but I feel like this one worked really well.

Ivy is the "main" character, despite the six others who have their own chapters. She is not a true horror fan, instead deciding to go on the trip she's won as a way to deal with her own fears. I enjoyed Ivy, for the most part. She's dealt with things that I don't see a lot of in YA fiction, at least not described to this extent, which makes her a very sympathetic character. She's terrified while the other winners are ecstatic, and it's good to see a more universal reaction to the events that unfold in the book.

Parker is the love interest, although the romance is very back burner here. I'm just so glad there was no love triangle! Like Ivy, he also has to deal with fears (everyone does, that's the point of the book!) and they confide in each other as they navigate the Dark House and everything it encompasses.

Each of the other characters has their own backstory and problems. The fact that each one has to face their darkest fears over the course of the book makes them super interesting! I really liked every character in the book, even though some were written in a way that could potentially make them totally unlikable. There is another brief romantic side story, but romance is in no way the key focus of this book.

The Dark House and everything surrounding it is totally 100% creepy. Discovering the house for the first time with each of the characters seriously gave me chills. Their exploration of different places inside and outside and discoveries of new and frightening details was amazingly written! There were elements that were staged by those who sponsored the contest and those that they were never totally sure about...

Then there was the amusement park itself! Ohmygod! I am so excited that there's a part two of this book coming out because I can't wait for more of this park! PLEASE LET THE PARK BE IN BOOK TWO! Each character had their own ride in which they were to face their darkest fear and each one was just completely insane.

Well, I read this book in two sittings, so I have to say the plot was amazing. Fast-paced and amazing! Every single chapter ended in a way that made me keep reading, which could be good or bad depending on what other plans you have.

Laurie Faria Stolarz has come up with a story that is totally unique and terrifying! It's rare that a book seriously scares me and through the process of the contest, going to the Dark House, and finally ending up in the amusement park, I was genuinely freaked out! I'm even more surprised that it came from a Young Adult novel!

Please, please, read this book if you're a fan of horror! While this is a YA book, it's not riddled with annoying teenage drama that usually drives me crazy in YA contemporary fiction. It focuses on the characters' fears and their creepy surroundings and it totally works! I feel comfortable in saying that this is the best horror I've read this year!