The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Title: The Dead House
Author: Dawn Kurtagich
Series: N/A
Pages: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 15th 2015 

      “Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, ‘the girl of nowhere.’
      Kaitlyn’s diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn’t exist, and in a way, she doesn’t – because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.
      Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It’s during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.”

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“Some people say that night blooms. But night descends self-consciously. Night cuts slowly.”

Dawn Kurtagich uses unconventional methods to tell the peculiar story of Carly and Kaitlyn Johnson. Told in a variety of mediums from diary entries to transcripts of interviews, The Dead House is full of creepy scenes that will have you peering into dark corners wondering if anything is there. Carly and Kaitlyn’s situation is a paradox. Though officially diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID), Kaitlyn’s diary entries make it clear that this isn’t a case of multiple personalities, but two individuals who inexplicably share one body. After a tragic accident has them admitted into Claydon Mental Hospital, the girls get a second chance at Elmbridge High School. But something is amiss at the school and as both girls try to find how they fit into the world, something dark and sinister is creeping closer.

Through diary entries, the narrative focuses largely on the psyche of Kaitlyn. Through her we learn about the “rules” governing the two girls existence (Carly is awake during the day, Kaitlyn at night), how they communicate (through a Message Book and post-it notes), and the important fact that their parents knew about their strange condition. Even more important still is the reader’s growing understanding of Kaitlyn’s mental state. Growing up during the night made her feel very much alone. While the world around her slept, she was awake. One of the few links Kaitlyn has to the outside world is Carly. As a result, she feels very protective of her counterpart, but her affection is sometimes accompanied by irrational jealousy.

The author gives several possibilities for the strange visions, voices, and disappearances in the story — from a mental disorder to demon possession — but is ultimately a reminder that the mind itself can be a very dark place. The Dead House was really close to receiving four stars from me, but the ending left a lot of questions unanswered and while this is meant to add mystery to the story, it made the novel feel incomplete in the end.

Rating: 3/5


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