3.5 star book review for The House by Christina Lauren, a young adult novel, now available in bookstores and retailers.
[Some Spoilers; Young Adult with Mature Situations]
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
This time of year I always try and branch out and delve into the slightly scary when it comes to my reading choices. That’s why last week I decided to try my luck with The House by Christina Lauren. This is a stand alone, young adult novel, and a far cry from their two adult contemporary series.
We open with Delilah Blue finding herself back in Morton, Kansas after being sent away to a boarding school six years earlier. She came home to visit during the summers, but she never stayed for long, and she never saw the boy who she defended in a fistfight that caused her parents to ship her off in the first place. Not much has changed about Morton in the time she was away, and she certainly hasn’t either. Delilah still loves the macabre and all things otherworldly.
To her surprise, Gavin Timothy still holds the same allure he did when they were younger. He’s still tall and thin, but his hair is longer and in his eyes. The crush she had at eleven is still there. Only this time Gavin doesn’t need her to defend him from other students, but he may need her help to get away from something else. Gavin has lived in the Patchwork House his whole life. It grows and changes as he does. It meets his needs and has been a surrogate parent for as long as he can remember. He has never felt anything besides love and protection from House. Then Delilah comes back into his life, and House starts acting very different. Through the novel, Gavin has to come to grips with the realization that maybe House hasn’t been doing what was best for him after all, and what happened to his mom?
I really enjoyed this book! It was subtle in its creepiness at first. When we are introduced to Gavin and House, it’s magical in a way. As the story progresses, we, along with Gavin and Delilah, realize that something more sinister is brewing beneath the floorboards.
I think the authors did a really great job building the tension and dropping little hints throughout the story as to what was going on without dropping the storyline with House too early.
Delilah is a very strong character, and I really enjoyed how self-assured she was in certain situations. There’s a point at the end of the story where she’s trying to talk herself up that spoke straight to me:
Delilah drew strength from every heroine she’d ever worshipped: Buffy standing with her fist curled around a stake. Michonne wielding her gleaming katana. Kirsty Cotton against Pinhead. Ginny versus Jason. Clarice Starling as she faced Hannibal Lector, Alice Johnson versus Freddy Kruger—twice.
I was and still am that girl that pulled on the images of strong female characters during times of stress or trouble, especially Buffy then and now Michonne. I loved Delilah so much in that moment.
Gavin is a great character, too. He’s naïve and sheltered by House, but he’s given everything he wants, too. As long as House thinks it’s okay. Where Delilah’s parents have checked out on her, House is nothing but checked in on Gavin.
He’s adapted to his part in school as the weird kid who gets asked out by girls so they can scare their parents. All he’s ever known is House, and he’s never really thought beyond it either. It isn’t until Delilah enters his life again that he starts to question all sorts of things, which eventually leads to…well, everything crumbling down in a way.
So, why give this 3.5 stars?
Well, Gavin and Delilah are seventeen year old kids who don’t have much experience sexually, yet they talk like they’re twenty something college kids when it comes to sex. I know that teenagers have sexual thoughts, but these two are so mature in their thoughts and actions to be virgins and so inexperienced. Add into that the fact that Gavin has been very sheltered by House, and it didn’t make much sense. I know he works at the movie theater and sees lots of movies, but it didn’t feel real to me.
Then there were several instances where the dialogue took me out of the moment because I couldn’t imagine a teenager saying it.
“I think about kissing you a lot,” he whispered.
She inhaled sharply, squeezing her eyes shut more firmly. Wanting him to stop and hoping he never would.
“And other things. Like how it would feel if you bit my shoulder. Or whether I could bite you back and if you’d like it.”
Then later in the book:
“Hardly,” she said, grinning. “I spend hours thinking about your big hands.”
He turned so he was straddling the bench and spread his fingers across his bent knees.
“Yeah? Tell me.”
To me, this book would have worked just as well if it they had made Gavin and Delilah college-aged. Gavin having been isolated by House so much that he never left Morton, and Delilah coming home to visit from school and they rekindle their friendship.
Everything would have made a lot more sense to me then.
All that being said, it’s definitely worth a read. The concept of House and the genuine unsettling feeling of some of the chapters are really well done. This might be the first time I’ve ever said this about a book, but I wish they had toned down the sex a little.
That being said, for a really creepy read that will make you feel paranoid in your own home try The House.
**A Christina Lauren side note for those interested in their other projects. They were at Comic-Con this past July to talk about their upcoming book-to-film adaptation of Beautiful Bastard through Constantine Films! To learn more about their script writing process, and how they became more involved in the development of Beautiful Bastard, watch the full panel here, courtesy of Penguin Randomhouse.