Title: The Haunted
Author: Danielle Vega
Release Date: June 4 2019
Goodreads Rating: 3.73 (of 67 ratings)
*note: it was supposed to be With the Fire on High review today, but like, I would have to actually finish the book to review it, and in order to finish the book, I would need to read. So, Sha will probably be yelling at me that I messed up the Sunday Highlights but here we are. THE HORROR aka like this book*
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From Danielle Vega, YA’s answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.
Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.
Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of a giveaway from Bookish First. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
Well, um, I wanted a ghostie book. And I did get a ghostie book. It just wasn’t the ghostie book that I wanted. It’s not the ghostie book we all deserved. It was just, um, yeah. It wasn’t a good one.
I think the biggest issue with this book was the fact that it pointed out multiple times that people were cliches. You are now sitting there going, “Um, what’s the problem, Mandy? Sounds like this book is self-aware. Isn’t that a jam to be had?”
And the answer is YES. It is. Except, well, it decided to do nothing with the self-awareness. Everyone literally fit into little pigeonholes with no depth or anything to move on the fact that they were, indeed, a cliche. For example: the brooding ~misunderstood~ bad boy from the wrong side of the small town that only peeks out of his ~misunderstood~ black outfit for the new girl. He has a tragic story, snarky and moody personality, and he, of course, has all the answers. Everything about him SCREAMS cliche.
Then add in the literal golden boy; the cool artsy friend that sticks out from the “mean” group; the classic frenemy popular girl; and Hendricks who tried really really hard to be something else besides a Mary Sue but failed – and that’s our main cast. I just kept hoping that we would subvert the tropes and cliches, since the author was fully aware that they were there, but we did NOT. I knew instantly how each character was going to react/act/etc. because they were the cliches to the tee.
As I mentioned in the above character, I feel like the author did try to make Hendricks more than a Mary Sue, but things really did bog it down. Hendricks has a secret that she is keeping from everyone else, and it’s the main reason why her family moved to this small town in the middle of the year and so quickly. She has an ex boyfriend that abused her, and as the story progresses, we find out more about her struggle to find out who she is. When she was dating her ex, she really was only defined her boyfriend, and I really wanted to see who she would become now that she could be herself.
However, the book’s answer was to completely forget about this plotline and focus only on a) the ghosts and b) her love interests/new friend struggles. I was waiting to see who Hendricks would become, but honestly, I can’t tell you any distinct characteristics about her or what she likes. Vega did some great things with it, and she did show what the aftermath of abuse does to you, but the follow through never came through.
The plot was very intriguing at first. I was super pulled in with the first few chapters. It was chilling, and as I said, I was intrigued by Hendricks. I thought we had a lot of promise with the creepy ghost, the spooky atmosphere, and the promise of Hendricks’s personal growth story. And it worked for a few chapters, but then it struggled.
The struggle in plot came from the fact that it would be either really slow going or taking leaps that were super large. At some points, it felt too much like a contemporary, and then other parts, we jumped a lot in logic. Characters would be nothing at first, and then all of a sudden they were friends/in love? We had the ghost situation figured out, and then oh, OOPs no we don’t and BIG things are happening? All within a chapter or so.
Speaking of romances, I also felt no investments in any of them. In the beginning of the story, Hendricks continuously turns down the first love interest because she wants to find out who she is first before jumping into a new relationship. So I was ALL for that. However, she continues to get pushed into situations with him that put them into a romantic situation. But since he wasn’t the brooding bad boy and this book was so cliche, I couldn’t get invested in it since I knew golden boy wasn’t going to be the choice. It’s them moody boys that gets them girls. Take notes, y’all.
And then the romance with love interest number two? I felt like there was nothing for the longest time, and then all of a sudden there was a TON of feels and even the love word dropped and LIKE Y’ALL WE DON’T EVEN KNOW HIS NAME FOR LIKE 100 PAGES. It was way too fast, and like love interest number one and the boyfriend of the past were still things so how was I supposed to be invested in this dude???
The writing was okay, and there was a pretty spooky atmosphere. I will admit that I did have to scoot really quickly down a darkened hallway because there were some scary feels. I was intrigued by Hendricks’s character growth when it was mentioned. There is a heavy amount of gore that I wasn’t feeling and didn’t think it was necessary. But like seriously, y’all, there was a good amount of gore – about the same amount as the average horror movie nowadays – and it wasn’t the best if you’re not into it. I might have gotten a bit queasy from reading a few scenes. Skimming could be done, though. Therefore, it was sitting at 2 crowns for a really long time – until we got to the end.
The ending was a HOT mess. The big “reveal” came kind of nowhere. Everything seemed to be solved, and I think the author wanted to everyone to go GASP PLOT TWIST. But it felt really forced, and I was confused by the sudden lurch of things. And then it didn’t fully make sense, since Hendricks INSTANTLY knew things that I don’t think I fully had all the pieces to put together. There was one part that was decently obvious, but other than that, it felt forced that Hendricks knew. And then the entire ending sequence felt so forced and just like we needed a tragic ending? Idk, it just didn’t make sense overall, and everything just felt messy, unfinished, and unbelievable. It didn’t sit well with me at all, and honestly put a pit in the bottom of my stomach. It instantly dropped down to a 1 crown for me.
Well, this was far longer than I thought this review would be. I’m just going to stop now before it gets even longer. Overall, the book had a lot of promise, but it ended up being a hot mess with so many cliches, gore, and more.
rating: 1 crown & Merida rating
representation: Latinx side character/love interest, Asian side character, lesbian side character, domestic/emotional abuse survivor
content warnings: gore (heavy amount), violence against animals, violence, death, murder, domestic/emotional abuse in flashbacks, attempted rape (very brief setup of this – not much discussed but still there)
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!
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