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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Clean slate. That's what Hendricks Becker-O'Malley's parents said when they moved their family to the tiny town of Drearfield, New York. Hendricks wants to lay low and forget her dark, traumatic past. Forget him. But things don't go as planned. Hendricks learns from new friends at school that Steele House--the fixer upper her parents are so excited about--is notorious in town. Local legend says it's haunted. But Hendricks isn't sure if it's the demons of her past haunting her ...or of the present. Voices whisper in her ear as she lays in bed. Doors lock on their own. And, then, one night, things take a violent turn. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don't take her first.…

The Haunted

by Danielle Vega

Overall Book Review:

So, I like a good ghost story. Some of my favorite books are the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and The Archived by Victoria Schwab. But The Haunted by Danielle Vega was not like those books! It was written in a rather more Supernatural TV show genre, with a heavy use of shock factor and creepy horror scenes.

To be fair, I actually really liked the main character, Hendricks. She seemed like a really solid girl suffering from a past mistake and trying to move forward with a clean slate. I also liked Eddie, the “odd” boy she befriends and who ends up being a stalwart character ready to come to her aid whenever she needs him. But this was definitely more of a horror story rather than a ghost story, which meant I usually had to read chunks of it during the day, because my imagination is much too vivid and if I tried to read too much at night, I’d get too disturbed and I could not fall asleep.

The main story deals with Hendricks and her family moving into a new neighborhood, and it’s only after they’ve moved in that Hendricks discovers their new house has a past, and it’s not a pretty one. She seems to be the only person who hears voices talking, or sees shadows moving where shadows shouldn’t be. As the story goes on, the hauntings become more vivid and horrifying, and more dangerous, with physical damage sustained by more than one character. The resolution at the end left me feeling a little flat and unhappy that it ended that way, but the overall story was really interesting. It was compelling, and it kept me reading, but I did find the horror elements a little too much at times, as detailed in my review below. There is also a very minor gay character, who occasionally talks about her off-again on-again girlfriend, but it’s not too horribly prominent.

Overall, I think this would be a book for people who enjoy horror in the Supernatural vein. I would not recommend it for anyone who is younger than 16 years.

Review of an Advance Reading Copy

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Razorbill

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  18 religious exclamations; 14 mild obscenities; 8 religious profanities; 5 derogatory names; 33 scatological words; 4 anatomical terms; 5 F-word derivatives. 

Violence/Gore:  Many instances of violence and gore, including but not limited to: A girl is lured into a supposedly haunted house; report of a murder; a character hears footsteps in an empty house; a character repeatedly has the feeling of being watched; a girl has a hallucination where she sees herself in a mirror, scalped and bleeding; a girl repeatedly hears voices; a character occasionally tells lies; report of three boys disappearing in the past; a character is alone in a cellar when she hears a voice and the wine bottles burst all at once–she sustains minor injuries; report of murder and suicide; a character almost hits someone with his car; a character wakes to a cat’s mew and has the feeling that someone is sitting on her bed, which causes a flashback to a past trauma; a character is trapped in a closet; in an extended scene, a girl hears a voice in her baby brother’s room, and when she goes to check she discovers a spirit holding her brother and mocking someone she can’t see, and the spirit throws the child against a wall (not overly graphic); a child sustains a broken leg; a character tries to tell her parents about a haunted house; characters see a warning message scrawled on a wall; in an extended scene, characters perform a cleansing ritual in a cellar, candles and lights go out, and characters are attacked by a ghostly figure, with one character being thrust against a wall, and realizing that a girl had been tortured in this cellar years ago; characters share past traumas with each other; characters perform “smudging” throughout a house; in an extended scene, a girl hears a sound in a bathroom followed by a voice whispering, turns and sees someone apparently rising behind the bathroom curtain but when she draws the curtain back there’s no one there, though after she looks away for a moment she sees a boy in the bathtub, and he comes toward her with a razor, and cuts the girl with it (disturbing, but not overly graphic); a character is thrown violently downstairs, momentarily blacking out and sustaining injuries; a character hears a friend scream in pain; skeletons arise from the earth and proceed to attack characters; a character tries to enter a house to save a friend, while windows shatter, rain pours in, and walls start on fire; a character stabs himself; characters jump out of a burning building.

In an extended scene, a character falls asleep on a couch in front of a TV, and hears the front door slam. She wakes up, and all the lights go out. When she tries to leave the house, the door locks and traps her inside. She hears someone shouting, and is compelled to go upstairs, where she sees three ghostly figures lying on the floor, violently bound and bearing different tortuous injuries.

A character discovers a friend pinned to the floor while a ghostly figure sits atop him, cutting him.

In an extended scene, a character is knocked down and tied up while her friend, also bound, is tormented by malevolent figures, who cut into his skin with scissors and staple his mouth closed.

Sex/Nudity:  Mention of an ex-boyfriend; description of a girl’s low-slung jeans; report of a parent sleeping with a coach; a boy and girl exchange glances; implication that a girl is gay; a girl notices a boy’s biceps; a girl sometimes thinks about and misses her ex-boyfriend; a girl sometimes thinks about boys; characters talk about a gay girl’s love life; characters discuss two girls’ breakup; characters talk about their parents having babies; there are a few instances where a boy and girl kiss and/or almost kiss; a girl has a flashback to a toxic relationship; a boy and girl link arms; a boy comfortingly pats a girl’s back; a boy compliments a girl; a girl is intensely aware of a boy as they sit together in a car; characters go into a shop where they see naked female statues; implication that a girl was nearly sexually assaulted in the past; a boy and girl sit on a floor together and fall asleep on each other (not sexual); a boy and girl talk about their feelings; a boy and girl sleep together in the same bed (not sexual) a girl tends a boy’s chest injury; a boy and girl kiss intimately, caressing each other (not overly sexual); girls discuss another girl’s attributes; a girl realizes she has feelings for a boy; a boy and girl tell each other that they’re in love with each other.

Mature Subject Matter:

Murder; suicide; death of a child; death of a family member; gender identity issues; homosexuality; paranormal activity; witchcraft; underage drinking; smoking; abuse.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Mention of MD 20/20; a high school boy smokes a cigarette; underage kids drink beer; underage girls sneak some wine; a girl gets drunk; a high school boy offers a high school girl a can of beer; a husband and wife drink wine; memory of a boy smelling like beer; a girl drinks wine during a ritual; mention of spiked drinks at a party; characters throw a secret party and bring kegs and Jell-O shots.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Fantasy is my bread and butter. I read and write it. I’m obsessed with world-building and fascinated with lyrical prose. I love that I can contribute to the writing community by recommending good books that can actually make a difference in a person’s life.