The Dead House
By Dawn Kurtagich
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015. 432 pages. Young Adult
More than two decades ago, the so-called Johnson Incident caused Elmbridge High to burn down, claiming the lives of three students and causing another, Carly Johnson, to disappear.
The main suspect? Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly's "sister" and nocturnal alter-ego. For months, the sisters have been communicating back and forth via a shared diary--they use it to write each other notes, corroborate their stories, and plot against the psychologists who are trying to integrate them. Nobody's sure if Kaitlyn actually exists, if she's a piece of Carly that fractured away after her parents died; or worse, if a more sinister force has possessed Carly's body and mind.
So when Carly disappears--in part due to an occult ritual--Kaitlyn goes searching for her sister in the dark, haunted house that only exists in their nightmares.
Told through a series of diary entries, notes between the sisters, psychologists' transcripts, video clips, creepy photos, and more, The Dead House definitely keeps readers guessing as to whether or not Carly and Kaitlyn are suffering from mental illness or dealing with a demonic denizen. While I found it difficult to get emotionally attached to either Carly or Kaitlyn, I think that distance played into the novel's voyeuristic, found-footage style. The book's exterior and interior design is gorgeous; and despite being a hefty 400+ pages, this book may appeal to reluctant readers due to the amazing (and very creepy) artwork. This is a great next step for fans of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and Madeleine Roux's Asylum.