3 star, YA

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Love hurts…

Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.

Then, one by one, the students of Osborne High begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.

For a horror book, this isn’t the worst I’ve come across (among the few I’ve touched). But in reality, this book could’ve been a lot better too.

Makani Young was a good protagonist to follow. Although we get the omniscient POV wherein we witness the last moments of each victim of the brutal killer in Osborne, there are still some things we don’t know. Like Makani’s mysterious past that led to her exile from Hawaii to the Midwestern US. Things like her secret definitely kept you on your toes and wanting to reach the end sooner than later.

I also really loved the pacing. This was such a fast read, and it doesn’t feel like a lot of time has passed to get through it. I read it in one sitting (late at night, unfortunately), and the flow kept me going when I otherwise probably would’ve set it down.

The mystery behind the slasher is also interesting enough. I absolutely had no suspects in mind. But the identity of the culprit is given away around the mid point of the book and that is either something you really like or don’t. There was a reason for it, but the book then morphed from a whodunnit to a manhunt. The suspense was still present – you never know when the killer would strike next regardless if you know the name/face – but the atmosphere of the book definitely changed.

I’m normally a girl who loves guessing the culprit in mysteries, but what kept me from getting bored (besides a still-active killer loose) was trying to guess the motive. To predict who could be a next potential target, one needs to think like a killer. *insert theme song of Criminal Minds*

There’s also romance in this! I’m not sure if that’s normal for this genre but I enjoyed the interactions between Makani and Ollie. Sometimes death and the scary stuff in life can show us what’s important to grasp now than save for later. At least these moments were great respites from all the death and chaos.

But in all honesty, horrors aren’t fully my thing, especially slasher horrors. The descriptions of the murders weren’t super graphic but they weren’t nothing either. Also, I don’t love the needless amount of slayings that occurred. Sometimes I reached a page and thought, noooo, not this person too.

The ending felt abrupt and unexpected. The climax delivered, I will admit, but the fall from that peak just cut off so quickly. I was so surprised to reach the Acknowledgement page because it didn’t feel like I had closure with these characters, especially Makani. How does one deal with the aftermath of such colossal tragedy in a small town like this? An epilogue here would’ve been great, you know?

Maybe I’m just not cut out for this genre and everything I’ve nitpicked was my own bias. My rating does reflect that it was enjoyable enough for a horror so if that’s what you’re purely looking for, Stephanie Perkins’ jump from cute and swoony rom-coms to slasher horrors was done well enough.

Overall Recommendation:

There’s Someone Inside Your House is your common slasher horror book with plenty of gruesome deaths and suspense dripping throughout. Our MC, Makani, has her own sordid past to unravel as we follow her through the aftermath of these tragedies. But with her own life potentially at risk of the killer’s path, it could be anyone who is out terrorizing this small town. Not to fear that it’s just endless killing, there is also a sweet romance between Makani and Ollie as they face everything together with her group of friends. There were too many unnecessary killings in my opinion at times, and we figure out the culprit earlier than I expected, but this wasn’t the worst of horrors that I’ve come across. It holds up in this genre if that’s what you like, so if that’s your thing or you want to explore the genre a little, I’d say this book isn’t a bad one to browse.

1.5 star, YA

ARC Review: All These Bodies by Kendare Blake

Sixteen bloodless bodies. Two teenagers. One impossible explanation.

Summer 1958—a string of murders plagues the Midwest. The victims are found in their cars and in their homes—even in their beds—their bodies drained, but with no blood anywhere. 

September 19- the Carlson family is slaughtered in their Minnesota farmhouse, and the case gets its first lead: 15-year-old Marie Catherine Hale is found at the scene. She is covered in blood from head to toe, and at first she’s mistaken for a survivor. But not a drop of the blood is hers.

Michael Jensen, son of the local sheriff, yearns to become a journalist and escape his small-town. He never imagined that the biggest story in the country would fall into his lap, or that he would be pulled into the investigation, when Marie decides that he is the only one she will confess to. 

As Marie recounts her version of the story, it falls to Michael to find the truth: What really happened the night that the Carlsons were killed? And how did one girl wind up in the middle of all these bodies?

**All These Bodies come out September 21, 2021**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

TW: extreme violence, potential abuse from a father figure

I’m as shocked as anyone that this is how it went for this book, but it just did not agree with me. All These Bodies is less of a thrilling mystery than it is an ill-conceived horror. With little plot that comes to the actual crimes themselves, it solely relies on the paranormal nature of these murders to create an air of suspense and thrill.

I came into this book thinking it would be a (rather gruesome) mystery. Unfortunately, it was less a mystery than a wild chase for a story from the girl left at the last crime scene.

Michael Jensen is a solid protagonist to follow. He has a good head on his shoulders and learned to deal with the consequences of being the sheriff’s son a long time ago. With his fascination for journalism and plain ol’ being in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is roped into the string of serial killings that has swept the few states around his hometown.

The girl, Marie, sees him once and is instantly fascinated. Maybe it’s because he is around her age, against the backdrop of lawyers and police officers that are insistent on her story. Or maybe, as Michael himself believes, it’s because he’s the only kind of person who would potentially believe the story that she has to tell.

If you’re looking for some supernatural criminal and are oddly excited to read about the ramifications of explaining such a thing to rational minded people, then you’re luck because this is the book for you! But if you’re not interested in these things, then I don’t know what you’re left with in this novel.

Was it creepy? Yes, I will admit that. Kendare Blake knows how to set the environment and write with vagueness around this mysterious killer. Did I think the paranormal aspect added to the story? No, not really. I would’ve thought it could be as interesting without a paranormal angle.

At the heart of this book, it is trying to challenge belief and how people see the world, but I find that the characters were either on one side or the other the whole time. They weren’t persuaded to think otherwise no matter what “truths” were uncovered during the investigation. Which left me feeling frustrated for Michael who is the only one on the fence with belief and is therefore isolated in his struggle to make sense of everything.

In fact, I was frustrated during most of this book. People can be so awful and hypocritical. The townspeople were upset at Michael and his family for keeping the “criminal girl” in their town for questioning and investigation, so they harassed the poor family incessantly, even those who were once considered friends. But when the investigation took a turn, they were the very first to say (in a super sexist manner) that they didn’t believe she could’ve committed such crimes because she was a girl. So not a lot of warm fuzzy feelings in this book at all.

I will contend at least that I blew through this book super quickly. It’s rather short and in a manner, I just wanted to get to the end to see how it would all turn out. Would Marie tell Michael the whole story for how she came to be in that house with the murdered family? Would we, as readers, fully believe what she has to say?

However, any warm fuzzies I hoped to gain from a good ending was also shattered. I am not adverse to open endings where much is left to one’s interpretation and scope of the imagination. But, this was more than just open-ended. It was abrupt and lacked closure. It was the precipice of a reckless choice. I half couldn’t believe it ended there, but then when I thought about the set up of this whole book with its supernatural aura, I suppose that’s the only kind of ending that would work. But this is a fair warning to you all that this is DEFINITELY not for everyone.

It definitely was not for me.

Overall Recommendation:

All These Bodies comes across as a true crime mystery in its synopsis but is most definitely classed as a paranormal horror. With a fascinating premise about a serial killer on the loose and a girl left behind at the last crime scene, I came into this book thinking one thing and leaving with something else entirely. While the protagonist, Michael, was rather enjoyable to follow (I totally agreed with most of his thoughts), everything else was a let down. From the lack of plot surrounding the crimes to the lack of closure in its ending, it was hard to invest in. What little I did invest emotionally, I was left with disappointment. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, or those with high expectations. But if you enjoy paranormal horrors, then I suppose you are the exact audience this novel is meant for.