Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Gothic horror for young adults

The Women in the Walls

By Amy Lukavics


Publisher:  Harlequin Teen 

Pub Date: September 27, 2016

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


There is always room for a good Gothic horror novel. The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics fits the bill and has the plus of being a horror novel for teens that doesn't run from the rough stuff. It's main protagonist is Lucy Acosta, a girl whose mother died when she was three. She lives in a large Victorian mansion (is there any other kind of house in a Gothic horror novel?) with her cold and unemotionalt father, her cousin Margaret. and her Aunt Penelope. Her father, an Acosta by marriage not blood, seems to be more interested in maintaining the property in his name and pleasing the upper class country club members that have their own mysterious interest in the mansion and the Acosta name. Shortly after Lucy's aunt disappears in the woods, Margaret begins listening to voices in the walls and acting strange. It isn't long before tragedy strikes the Acosta household again and Lucy starts hearing voices.

Oh, the things that Gothic horror is made of! At first, the reader is not sure if we are dealing with the supernatural or a queer form of madness but it isn't long before the scales are tipped and we are in for the hunt. Lucy is not the most sympathetic person for a story like this. She seems as strange as her family and not always the most perceptive. At times, it seems like she strayed out of a Shirley Jackson book. Her teen attributes, which include a tendency to self-mutilate, makes her an odd but appropriately vulnerable choice for a heroine of a young adult horror novel. Yet it alk works and we find ourselves on her side as she attempts to unravel the mysteries in the house.

But there are a few things that did not quite move along the scares. I was not sure of the time frame. The era of the story sometimes felt as Victorian as the house. Even the dialogue was rather stilted toward that era. it wasn't until Lucy mentions search engines and computers that I realized it was meant to be contemporary. I would have liked a better grasp of the time period from the beginning. Also, sometimes the Acosta family felt too off and distant. Although there were ample attempts at a backstory, they never really gelled enough to bring the family's odd behavior together until the very end. It finally led to a somewhat shocking climax but I wished I had just a little more info earlier to bring the family's strange reactions into the reality of the plot.

Nonetheless, The Women in the Walls is an interesting and brave work of horror for the young adult set. it doesn't flinch at sensitive issues and doesn't back away from the horrors especially at the end. Gothic horror is here to stay.

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