ARC Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

ARC Review: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
The Dead House
by Dawn Kurtagich

Genres: Horror, Mental Illness, Young Adult
Publication date: September 15th, 2015
by Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Format: ARC

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Over two decades have passed since the fire at Elmbridge High, an inferno that took the lives of three teenagers. Not much was known about the events leading up to the tragedy - only that one student, Carly Johnson, vanished without a trace...

...until a diary is found hidden in the ruins.

But the diary, badly scorched, does not belong to Carly Johnson. It belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, a girl who shouldn't exist Who was Kaitlyn? Why did she come out only at night? What is her connection to Carly?

The case has been reopened. Police records are being reexamined: psychiatric reports, video footage, text messages, e-mails. And the diary.

The diary that paints a much more sinister version of events than was ever made publicly known.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead House is one messed up book and I say that in the best way possible.It’s the kind of book that will mess up your brain to the point where you won’t be able to tell the lies apart from the truth.

This book is mostly told in dairy format and for some people that may be a turn off but I thought it was a very interesting way to look at things. We may not be inside the main character’s mind but in a way we are. We sense her desperation, we feel the doubt gnawing at her and we get to witness her downward spiral.  

Kaitlyn is at best an unreliable main character. To her, all of her experiences hold true, yet when we get to see other pieces of evidence, readers at least have to question whether Kaitlyn is the person they want to trust.

Kaitlyn suffers from DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder. Or does she? Kaitlyn doesn’t think so. The way the author explores this illness within the book is fascinating. Kaitlyn and Carly are two halves of a whole. Carly comes out during the day and gets to live in a way Kaitlyn doesn’t. Kaitlyn comes at night, when the world tends to sleep. She has never felt the sun on her skin, has never really had much of a chance to connect with people. According to her, it has always been this way. Kaitlyn is a character you pity. You wish someone would understand her but at the same time, that could just make things worse (and it did make things worse!)

One of my qualms with this book was Kaitlyn’s relationship with her therapist. I am tired of therapists always being seen as the bad guys (although that is starting to change a little). This relationship; however, was crucial to the book and Kaitlyn’s downward spiral. Kaitlyn is paranoid, she is lonely and she has no one to talk to. When the one person she should be able to trust doesn’t even think she is real, how can she not see her therapist as the bad guy?

The contents of this book are rediscovered two decades after the events of this book (with the book being set in 2025?) No the events did not take place in 1995, they took place in 2005. (Don’t judge me, I thought 10 years ago from 2015 was still in the 90s and I am not over the fact that this is no longer true. I AM GETTING OLDER. WTF?) The 20 year old case is reopened when this diary is found in the ruins and we as readers get access to the diary entries, the sessions between Kaitlyn and her therapist and videos that were recorded by Naida, Carly’s best friend.  This isn’t just a psychological thriller, this book gets downright creepy. There is witchcraft involved, visions, possessions, YOU NAME IT.

Moreover, every single character in this book is questionable. From Kaitlyn, to Nadia. The thing is, that in spite of this, Kurtagich makes you want to believe in her characters.

I know I wanted to.

This is the kind of book where readers will have varying reactions to. Maybe you’ll believe Kaitlyn. Maybe you will believe in the ghosts that have been haunting her and the voice she keeps hearing. Maybe you will believe she has been possessed. Or maybe, you’ll believe that she is a seriously ill teenager who desperately needs help and the *right* kind. Not one from a therapist who may or may not be over medicating her.

I know I am being a little vague in this review but this is just that kind of book that is best experienced on your own. You need to come to your own conclusions about what went down those two decades ago.

This is a fantastic, creepy book that isn’t about clean boxes. Nothing about this book is ‘neat.’ If you want a book that will tie everything up with a pretty knot, this is not for you. But, if you enjoy books that will twist your mind into pretty knots, you may need to check this hauntingly written book out.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Overall: 4
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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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    • Rashika says

      I love me some unreliable MCs too! I wasn’t expecting it either so when I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised.

      I hope you love the book, Rachel! :)

    • Rashika says

      OMG DRE. YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THIS BOOK (hopefully.) Kaitlyn is such an interesting character and whenever you get around to reading it, you need to let me know so I CAN FOLLOW ALONG with your updates!

      Thanks <3

    • Rashika says

      RIGHT?! I have no idea what to really make of anything that happened and I LIKE that I don’t. Idk if I should believe Kaitlyn or what the people around her are saying. I feel like this book would actually make a fantastic movie.

      Glad to hear you liked this one too, Ali! :)

  1. says

    Questionable characters… check!
    Unreliable narrators… check!
    Mental illness portrayed well… check!
    Messed up book… check!

    Great review, Rashika. All your points basically convinced me. I didn’t even know about this book before reading this review. :)
    Vane J. recently posted…Review: Survive The NightMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      Same! Plus that little bit at the end about the therapist made me feel like that the particular therapist just sucked and that the book wasn’t looking down on all therapist-patient relationships. :)

  2. says

    This is one of my most anticipated books for September Rashika, so you have no idea how happy I am to see you liked it so much! I am a huge fan of books that twist your mind and make you gasp in surprise, and this sounds like it will do just that! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that is a psychological thriller and a horror novel all in one, but just from what you’ve said here it sounds like that combination will be incredible. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥
    Zoe @ Stories on Stage recently posted…The Shadow of BlackbirdsMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      I hope you love it too, Zoe. This was definitely the kind of book that will twist your mind and keep you guessing!

      Thank you, Zoe <3

  3. says

    I love books with unreliable narrator and make me doubt my own judgement, it’s so hard to be surprised as a reader that I really appreciate a good and complex mystery! This book sounds amazing, though I will wonder how the completionist in me will feel about the unanswered questions haha.
    Aentee recently posted…Book Review: A Thousand NightsMy Profile

    • Rashika says

      I feel like I am a completionist but there are times when I’d rather have open endings? It really just depends. I think in this book, the openness really worked and just added to the creepiness of it!

      If/When you end up reading this, YOU GOTS to tell me what you think so we can discuss :D

    • Rashika says

      WOOT. I hope you like it, Jeann!!!! :D Also the witchcraft gets mixed in in the most interesting way and just makes the book even creepier O_O

    • Rashika says

      LOL! Would it be weird if I said you just made my day by calling me a tease? :P YAAAS. I HOPE YOU LOVE IT, JOY! If you don’t , I AM REALLY SORRY.

  4. says

    Hmmm, this sounds like the kind of creepy book that will keep me up at night but I will love nonetheless, because I really love me some unreliable narrators!
    And I agree with you that therapists need to stop being made into the bad guys in books, getting help and treatment for mental illnesses need to stop being demonized because for some people it’s the only thing that can help!
    Great review Rashika!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…ARC August: Final week recap!!My Profile

    • Rashika says

      EXACTLY! Getting help should NEVER be demonized. In some ways though, this book does manage to make it work because the MC herself is questionable so it isn’t so much that the therapist is a bad guy, but potentially both of them? ITS SO WEIRD AND MESSED UP, PILI. And I loved very bit of it!

      Thank you, Pili <3

  5. says

    I had never heard of this book before but it sounds pretty cool actually. Reading the synopsis it bases as a horror story, but the DID sounds like a very unique condition to include in this kind of book which definitely puts a new spin on things. I am a bit tired of the bad guy always being the therapist as well, but this book sounds fab in so many other aspects!
    Olivia Roach recently posted…Life Update: Paris Trip and Summer is Over…My Profile

    • Rashika says

      The DID really did put an interesting spin and in some ways, just made the book even more terrifying! And yeah, therapists just need to stop being the bad guys :(

  6. says

    I am looking for a creepy Halloween read and this might just be the one! I loved messed up in a good way books. I am way past being scared by any book at my age, so Horror genre novels have to not rely on the shock value storyline for me to be invested. They need to really have a story and it sounds like this one does. Thanks for the review. I had been wondering about this book for a while now. :)
    La La in the Library recently posted…TELL ME TUESDAY #59My Profile

    • Rashika says

      You’re so wise and mature, Linda. *bows down to you*

      I am the kind of person that gets scared while watching/reading but am almost completely fine afterwards? Does that make sense? It’s why I can do horror novels without really freaking out since most of the freaking out happens *during* rather than *after*.

      I hope you enjoy this one! <3