One of my favorite books is the Haunting of Hill House. Shirley Jackson’s book raises the question to the reader of reality versus perception. It’s considered a horror story but at the crux of it it’s a psychological thriller. A true terror story. What could possibly be scarier than one’s mind being the true monster. Kathleen Groger dangles the same unsettling conundrum before her main character, Sam. What is more lovely is that she then offers us the same threads to hang ourselves with because this is quite possibly one of the funnest psychological thrillers I’ve read in sometime.
Sixteen year old Sam is suffering through a school holiday with her wacky uncle Eric who is a ghost hunter. He and his team have the opportunity to explore creepy Defiance Castle on the ominous Shadow Island, a paranormal location that is reported to be one of the most darkly haunted spots in America. The terrible history of the castle is owed to it’s more terrifying creator, a serial killer and maniac who tortured his way into the hearts of eager paranormal investigators. Sam’s aghast at her uncle’s enthusiasm in a junk science that scams frightened masses into misguided believers. Worse yet, she doesn’t want the people from her school assuming she is part of the circus sideshow even if the rewards would be to her benefit. There are higher stakes at risk for her to entertain his ideas, and being popular isn’t really that important to her.
I love books that can draw you into the anxiety and confusion of the characters. It takes talent to convey the sense of urgency and bafflement of someone in crisis and Kathleen Groger handles it effortlessly. The pace is addicting; you fly through the chapters of this page turner. Sam’s racing heart becomes your own. And her nightmarish experience gave me an equally alien sense of reality drawing me further into her character. The author’s handling of surreality is masterful.
Technically The Shattered Seam is in the Horror genre but the story itself is a frightening coming of age tale. Sam isn’t just a heroine who is witnessing the unspeakable. She is a young girl learning about family secrets, forcing her to question the bonds of relationships, and trying to accept what it is she is finding about who she is. And the girl is growing up in the span of a couple days and embracing her fears because she knows they are the only way to save herself.
And for some reason I was picking up some American Horror Story vibes. If you like the TV show, I recommend this book; there is a James Marsh, Violet, Kyle, Misty Day meets Billie Dean Howard, Will Drake, and a Murder House.
Why haven’t you one clicked yet!?
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