The Dead House

by Dawn Kurtagich

Reviewed by SA

Halloween may be over a month away, but one of the most thrilling, blood chilling, though provoking thrillers comes out today, September 15th. It’s one of the most maddening books I have ever read: part psychological thriller, part horror story, part ‘found footage’ if you will, The Dead House will have you checking behind you in the mirror, and leaving notes to yourself on purple post its. It’s terrifying… and electrifying.


Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .
Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.
Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Carly and Kaitlyn are the same person. Only, they’re not. They may share the same body, but their minds are their own: Carly runs things the day, Kaitlyn the night. They were born like this, two souls sharing a body, and they are used to it. They love each other; they are sisters, after all. They write notes to each other to let them know about their day, to comfort and love the other. Of course, no one can know any of this: they wouldn’t believe them.

And nobody does: after their parents’ death, in an accident they cannot recall, they are places in a mental hospital, where Kaitlyn is repeatedly told she is Carly’s ‘Alter’, that she isn’t real, and that letting go will let her sister heal. Only Kaitlyn is having some problems of her own: hearing voices, seeing things, losing touch…

All this may sound like major spoilers, but it is all established int he first few pages of the book. It’s one of the things that make this novel so compelling: so many stories tucked into one. You have the two sisters in one body; but you also have the question of psychosis, weather any of that is true; and on top of that, the format of the novel, which reminds you there might be more to all this than any one person is seeing.

The novel itself is supposedly the compilation of diary entries, audio and video transcripts, interviews and sessions, all putting in order the events leading up to the looming ‘incident’: a fire that burns down the Elmbridge school, taking the lives of three people and injuring many others. Kaitlyn being the main suspect, it is her life is being pieced together: but how much of it are her real fears, and how much is just the ravings of a lunatic?

That’s what kept me reading the novel with such intensity: the what if. There was a sense, as you read this novel, that really nothing is as it seems. Is our narrator reliable or not? I’d like to say yes, but if I am wrong, then the repercussions on the story are endless. As the other characters join into Kaitlyn’s life, after certain events force her secret to be known to few, the plot becomes more intriguing as the suspect pull grows. The reader is constantly left wondering what is real, what is fake, who can be trusted, and who is not as they seem.

The format that makes the story so varied was a bit of a pain to read, at least in the edition I had. It took a little while to get used to, and I didn’t think it worked at first, especially the video recaps. (I mean, video in written form?). I either got used to it, or it really started working, because it stopped bothering me so much.

While Kaitlyn seemed so read as a character, written with such depth and dimension, that she brought the horror to life, some of the other characters felt a little flat. Anybody outside of Kaitlyn’s head, practically, except maybe Naida. Possibly because everything is either seen a) through Kaitlyn’s eyes, and she doesn’t always like people or b) by transcribing footage, which is impersonal or emotionless. I guess I can’t really blame the book for that!

But this is by far the spookiest book I’ve read in YA, by far. So many questions. Not enough answers! The ending had me clutching my e-reader in anticipation. I had to keep resetting my machine to make sure there weren’t any more pages left.

The Dead House comes out today in the USA. If you want something to keep you up at night, I definitely recommend it.

Charlie, Presumed Dead

by Anne Heltzel

Reviewed by SA

This book was really nothing like I expected. I went into it expecting a bit of a friendship romp, a world tour with maybe some adventurous aspects, maybe a bit of a mystery: I came out of it shivering, terrified, my heart pounding and my hands trembling. Fair warning: this is much more than just a novel. It will psychologically leave you paranoid and feel like a dagger to your gut, letting you die slowly. And craving more, of course!


When his Cessna breaks apart and explodes over the north sea, the only thing left is a bloody jacket. The pilot, Charlie Price, is presumed dead. His funeral in paris is a small affair, attended only by close family, friends, and his two girlfriends. Neither know of the other’s existence until now: Lena Whitney, a rich, smart blonde who had been dating him three years, and Aubrey Boroughs, an artist who just graduated high school, who has known him, and dated him long distance, for a year, both realize that Charlie had been lying to them… and probably about a lot more than just the other’s existence. There is a whole lot they don’t know about Charlie Price, and it’s time they get some closure and answers. Together they must take a mind-bending trip across the planet: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? And what secrets are they both concealing from each other?

While written very similarly, Aubrey and Lena have very distinct personalities. I liked their interactions, and the bond that began to form through the novel. Understanding what kind of person they are, and if they can trust the other, is a huge struggle for them, but it leads to immense personal growth (at least for one of them) which is surely needed after being dragged along by a man like Charlie. Though I didn’t personally like either of them, I didn’t mind much in this novel, because I was more interested in their path to understanding.

Who even is this Charlie, anyways? The man is slowly revealed through the women’s stories, but also through short tidbits from his mind, short flashbacks the other lets us glimpse. As this is what really impressed me the most in this novel: how much this Charlie can surprise you. He’s one man with one woman, another with the other, and he has some serious, serious problems. Now this blog is spoiler free, that is a promise, so I won’t let you know what we discover about Charlie: but the slow buildup is intriguing, and incredibly disturbing.

It was exciting to see the world through the lens of these two traveling women! Paris is brought to life in front of your eyes – and I could quickly determine that the author was reliable in her descriptions, seeing as how I’m partially french – and then we move down to India, to Thailand… you’re not doing to tourist destinations! It was gorgeous and exciting. You see a side of the world not many get to see, led by Lena, a world traveler, and accompanied by Aubrey, who experiences things for the first time, like us.

The secrets part I was annoyed about. The characters kept saying to themselves “I can’t the other know… my secret” and it felt a little weird, a little uncomfortable. When Aubrey’s secret was revealed, however, I was a little disappointed: It was a bit of a let down. Many things that were pumped up in the book let me down a little when revealed.

In the same way, some of the things seemed a little too easy, too coincidental (though I realize now this has something to do with the ending).  When the girls moved easily from one place to the next, it made some parts of the novel feel a little dull, honestly. But hang in there! The ending itself is a roller coaster, and it really destroyed me on the inside. We neeeeeeeeed a sequel! The way the book slowly warped from girl trip, to girls bonding, to HOLY HECK PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER, was actually pretty masterful. And so incredibly disturbing.

This book was nothing as expected… it will blow your mind.

Check out Charlie, Presumed Dead on Goodreads and Amazon.