YA Weekend Audio: The Haunted by Danielle Vega
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Young Adult
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Listening Library (June 4, 2019)
Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins
Narrator: Holly Linneman
Even though I love reading YA horror, I know enough about the genre conventions to not expect that much in the way of thrills and chills. Still, from an author being promoted as “YA’s answer to Stephen King”, I did originally think The Haunted was going to be a lot more frightening or, at the very least, somewhat spookier. Instead, I was presented with a rather tame paranormal novel about a girl who moves into a haunted house, but most of the plot actually revolved around her social relationships and boys. Not that there’s really anything wrong with that, but I wish I’d had the chance to adjust my expectations before I started.
The Haunted follows Hendricks Becker-O’Malley, a teenager who is determined to begin her new life with a clean slate in the small town her parents moved them to following an incident back at her old high school. For you see, Hendricks had thought she was dating the perfect guy, until an incident on prom night made him show his true colors. Now she realized she had been moving too fast and had allowed herself to fall in love with someone without knowing them at all—a mistake she vows she was never going to make again. Which is why, at her new high school, Hendricks has decided to lie low and take things slow, even though shortly after her arrival, one of the most popular guys has already started showing interest in asking her out.
From her new circle of friends, Hendricks also learns more about the fixer-upper that her family has recently moved into, called the old Steele House. Apparently, its bloody history has made it something of a local legend, with the townspeople whispering that the house is haunted because of the infamous murder-suicide that took place in it not too long ago. Hendricks, however, not being the type who takes much stock in ghost stories, isn’t too bothered by the rumors—that is, until she starts having these strange visions and hearing the disturbing voices. Not wanting to worry her parents, who already think she’s suffering from post-traumatic stress from what happened with her ex-boyfriend, Hendricks decides to keep what she saw and heard to herself. But then she meets her neighbor Eddie, the town bad boy who has had his own tragic history with the Steele House. After hearing about his experiences, she begins to wonder if her house might be haunted after all, especially when her baby brother suffers a horrific accident in the upstairs bedroom. Together with Eddie, Hendricks must get to the bottom of Steele House’s mystery and find out what its resident ghosts want before more of her loved ones get hurt—or worse.
As a horror novel and a ghost story, I have to say The Haunted was a wide miss for me. Up until maybe the very end, it just wasn’t that scary or even mildly creepy at all. In fact, if you’re an avid fan of horror, this is probably going to feel pretty cheesy and clichéd, presenting the reader with a formulaic plot and an avalanche of familiar genre tropes, such as catching a flash of something that isn’t really there in a mirror, or like all the glass in a room shattering at the same time. In many ways, this felt a lot like the literary version of a B-horror made-for-TV movie—which I guess has its perks, if you’re into that kind of thing. To be sure, stories like that have no shortage of interest and amusement, but then you also have to accept that the overall experience will be fairly predictable and not that deep.
I also wish the author had developed her characters a bit more. To be honest, I didn’t really get the sense that Hendricks was a genuinely well-rounded individual at all, because the story focused so much on her romantic relationships, using them to define her as a person. All we know about her past, for example, is her situation with Grayson, her ex-boyfriend. Similarly, in her new school in the present, most of what occupies her mind is whether or not she should be going out with Connor, the boy who shows interest in her. I just about threw out my back from cringing so hard when she started waxing poetic about missing the feeling of having someone who loves you most in the world. After finishing this book, I also realized I actually had no idea of this girl’s interests, hobbies, or aspirations…well, other than finding love again, that is. I mean, is this really all there is to Hendricks Becker-O’Malley? Apparently so.
Still, from purely an entertainment value standpoint, The Haunted wasn’t too bad. Definitely decent enough, even if it doesn’t set itself too far apart or rise much above the average when it comes to YA. While it didn’t offer me much in the way of horror, if you’re looking for a ghostly read that is light and quick, I think it will do just fine.
Audiobook Comments: Holly Linneman narrates the audiobook for The Haunted, delivering a good performance which added an extra dimension to Hendricks’ character, despite the limited development the author has given her personality. Overall, she was also easy to listen to, which made this book fly by.