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The Dead House


The Dead House

Twenty years after a fire, in the scorched remains of Elmbridge High school, a diary was recovered.  The case has been reopened, and in author Dawn Kurtagich's debut novel THE DEAD HOUSE, readers will get a chance to read police interviews, video transcripts, diary entries and more to figure out what truly happened so many years ago. 

This is one of the creepiest books I have ever read.  It begins with a curse, inviting readers to continue at their own risk.  The spine-chilling plot only delves deeper into the dark as it moves on. Kurtagich created a masterful novel that will surely give readers nightmares.

Especially with this kind of story, the protagonists, Carly and Kaitlyn, are the best type of narrator to have: unreliable.  Reading their diary entries --- mainly Kaitlyn’s --- readers are able to understand everything but can believe nothing.  As the story progresses, I wanted to believe Kaitlyn, to support her on this journey through the quest to find her sister and, also, her mind. 

Kurtagich created a masterful novel that will surely give readers nightmares.

The diary entries are not the only thing readers are exposed to.  Out of chronological order --- which made for some flipping back between pages and date checking --- the video transcripts and interviews tell the story in the best way possible.  If this was written in a traditional format, the connection between Kaitlyn and other characters would not have been as strong.  Kurtagich is a true genius to compose this paranormal mystery in the way she has.

Much like the protagonist, readers are unable to decipher what happened in the past.  Kurtagich leaves clues as the characters themselves figure it out.  The anticipation of knowing what truly happened builds up, similar to the reality of what Kaitlyn’s house became.  This story is not just about a girl who has an identity disorder, it is about a girl who will stop at nothing to find her missing sister.  On this level, readers can easily relate to Kaitlyn. 

Nadia was another character which readers will be able to identify with.  She is the perfect best friend: kind, forgiving and supportive.  Her story is the most shocking; I didn’t see it coming.  Kurtagich runs through the end scenes; it happens so fast and then it's over, which is realistic and terrifying at the same time. 

As brilliant as THE DEAD HOUSE is, it is unbelievably gruesome and definitely for an older YA audience.  This novel will have you reading up late at night, watching for shadows in the dark and huddling deeper into the cocoon of your blankets.  THE DEAD HOUSE is certainly not a book for the faint of heart.

Reviewed by Jeanna Michel on June 15, 2015

The Dead House
by Dawn Kurtagich

  • Publication Date: August 2, 2016
  • Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Youth Fiction
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0316298670
  • ISBN-13: 9780316298674