Genre: YA, Horror
Themes: High school, haunted houses, ghosts, bullying, domestic abuse
Okay, so I sort of have a rule about not posting negative book reports, because—really—who am I to judge? Just because I didn't like a book doesn't mean I'm suddenly qualified to rant about my problems with it, and anyway, someone else may love the book for the same reasons I disliked it.
BUT....but. This book is complicated, because I loved The Haunted for a bit and then I didn't like it all. So it deserves a book report either way, and I think I can explain my feelings minus the usual slander and trash-talking one finds in popular reviews these days (ahem—I'm looking at you, Goodreads).
First off, I love ghost stories. Haunted house stories? Even better. I was raised on R.L. Stine and Stephen King (yes, probably much earlier than was appropriate, but I turned out OK—right?), so it's no surprise that I jump at the opportunity for a good spooky story.
I'll also say that I have a thing for high school dramas. What can I say, they make me feel nostalgic.
The cool thing about this book is that it hit both of these points right off the bat. Moody high school drama set in a small town—check! Ominous and unexplained past events that promise to slowly reveal themselves, and a spooky old house with a reputation for being haunted—check check! I was getting Vampire Diaries, Riverdale—and yes, Twilight—vibes early on and was loving it (what can I say, I'm a sucker for this stuff).
And yes, I'll acknowledge the cookie-cutter characters and clichés (One of the characters literally asks the new girl, "Who were you at your last high school? I need a cliché). But we're talking about high school nostalgia here, so my memories of that time are kind of like a cheesy movie anyway. I would imagine that less patience would be exercised by someone currently in high school and reading this book.
So what really bothered me about it? Well, the strong beginning started to taper off around page 100, when action and dialogue turned from something with promise to something just to fill the pages. The interactions between the characters and their behavior stopped being believable—and yes, I know this is a work of fiction, and a ghost story, no less, but in order to be GOOD, it has to at least be believable.
The second half of the book hopscotched between scenes that were pretty gruesome to scenes that were barely bland. More frustrating was the fact that these scenes didn't connect from point A to point B. Characters went from not believing a thing to taking what I imagine would be pretty terrifying events in stride. And the whole time, you keep turning the pages because you're trusting the author to give you MORE. Eventually. You swear that more back story and explanation is coming just around the corner. But no.
And don't even get me started on the end. I mean, WHAT? Silly. Just silly.
More than anything, I think this book suffers from a lack of development. Maybe the author felt like she needed to keep it short if teens were going to read it, or maybe she just ran out of gas. But I think the strong beginning indicates that she had a damn good story in mind, one that needed MORE, not less, and for whatever reason, she didn't give the story its due.
I won't say I wouldn't read another book by Vega, because she's proven to me that she can write a good story—a good SCARY story, at that—but she missed the mark with The Haunted. And she was so close!