Published by Point on August 25, 2015
Pages: 329 pages
Amazon • Indiebound • Goodreads
In this asylum, your mind plays tricks on you all the time…
Delia’s new house isn’t just a house. Long ago, it was the Piven Institute for the Care and Correction of Troubled Females—an insane asylum nicknamed “Hysteria Hall.” However, many of the inmates were not insane, just defiant and strong willed. Kind of like Delia herself.
But the house still wants to keep “troubled” girls locked away. So, in the most horrifying way, Delia gets trapped.
And that’s when she learns that the house is also haunted.
Ghost girls wander the halls in their old-fashioned nightgowns. A handsome ghost boy named Theo roams the grounds. Delia finds that all the spirits are unsettled and full of dark secrets. The house, as well, harbors shocking truths within its walls—truths that only Delia can uncover, and that may set her free.
But she’ll need to act quickly, before the house’s power overtakes everything she loves.
From master of suspense Katie Alender comes a riveting tale of twisted memories and betrayals, and the meaning of madness.
INSANE ASYLUM FOR GIRLS. That’s enough to get anyone’s attention, but unlike many slick, cheap-thrills books that quickly bore me, The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is one of the most well-crafted YA horror books I’ve read in ages. It’s a short but surprisingly thoughtful book, with good creepiness and suspense and sadness, as well as the right balance of teenage snark and feeling. It’s hard to juggle humor and darkness, but the author does a great job of that here.
I also very much appreciated the writing–I loved the way the passage of time was described, which places the reader in an unsettled frame of mind, as well as the sensory experiences of being in Delia’s mind and body as she adjusts to living in the house. There are good plot twists, a well-written back story that doesn’t slow down the pace, and logical progression in character and plot developments.
This could’ve easily been a 5 star book for me if a few things had been pushed a little further: more detail in the creepiness, more detail once you find out the secret behind the house’s history View Spoiler »specifically involving old Mr. Piven…and really, probably a bit more with the other girls as well « Hide Spoiler, and also a bit more feeling. Make no mistake–all these elements are present and well done, but I would’ve loved this book even more if the circumstances and feelings had been further intensified.
Still, I was very touched by the stories of the ghosts in the house. View Spoiler »I loved Maria and Penitence’s story in particular, as well as the reversal in the way you look at them. « Hide Spoiler Delia’s relationships are also tense, complex, and completely relatable–from her exasperation with her parents to her frustration with her little sister to her all-encompassing rage at a crucial point in the book, she grows in unexpected ways, which is pretty amazing, considering View Spoiler »she dies about a hundred pages into the book « Hide Spoiler. She’s one of the most interesting heroines to emerge this year.
You can certainly read this as a story of feminine empowerment, since so many women were once committed to mental institutions due to headstrong behavior–and you can also read this as a story of redemption, for nearly all the characters involved. How delightfully strange to have a horror story give us a nearly perfect fairy tale ending.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.
PS–looks like the book is only $4.75 for Kindle right now! If you like your horror novels to have meaningful stories and interesting characters, grab this deal before it’s gooooone.