The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall: review

November 9, 2015 2015, 4.5 star books, ghosts, horror, Katie Alender, Wendy 20 ★★★★½

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall: reviewThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender
Published by Point on August 25, 2015
Genres: horror
Pages: 329 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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 », 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 » 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’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.

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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.



20 Responses to “The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall: review”

  1. Grace @ Loving My Lit

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    • Wendy Darling

      It has some niiiiiice moments of creepiness, though I’m always a proponent for more. :D

      And you’re exactly right about women and girls being imprisoned under false pretenses or for specious reasons, that’s brought up in the book as well. I could have used a bit more back story in that sense for some of the characters, but I think overall it’s a very well done book. Delia is great! You’ll be even more impressed with her after you find out what happens to her once they get to the house.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Welll….a fairy tale sort of ending, anyway! After a lot of death and destruction, of course, hah. I wouldn’t say it’s a happily ever after, though it’s a HEA of sorts. I very much liked that it’s the ending it should have had, and after reading your comment about sad endings (which I also very much like and am for), I think you’d agree.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, yes. I feel like horror’s not a huge subgenre in YA anyway, and you only get one or two good ones a year if you’re lucky. It’s been awhile since there’s been a really great one, too! But we have fairly similar tastes in horror, so I’d bet good money that this one deserves to make a comeback on your TBR, hah.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway

  2. Nikki

    Ooh this sounds surprisingly good! I don’t usually read YA horror but I think I’ll have to give this one a try.

    • Wendy Darling

      I like YA when it’s done well, but I feel like those books are few and far between! But this one’s definitely worth giving a go if you’re curious, Nikki. Hope you enjoy!

  3. Catherine

    Brilliant review Wendy! You’ve totally convinced me, this is going on my tbr mountain. I love it when books have layers of meaning. Female empowerment, bring it on! :D

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, yay! It brings me such joy to convince you. :D Will you let me know what you think of it when you finish, if you remember? This really did I have surprising layers to it–as I was saying below, a few things could have been bulked up a bit more, but overall, a very thoughtful/interesting story that could be interpreted as being very feminist. I liked it a great deal!
      Wendy Darling recently posted…The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway

  4. Carina Olsen

    Yaay :D Stunning review Wendy. <3 So glad that you loved this book a lot. I was curious about it, but didn't think it sounded very good. But now you have made me a lot more curious :D Might read it one day. <3 Hope I will love it like you did. Cause ahh. You make it sound amazing :) Thank you for sharing sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #210

    • Wendy Darling

      This really was surprisingly feminist–I wish it had brought a few things home a bit more strongly in the end, but I very much liked the underlying message and how you could interpret the story. Definitely not your typical dumb horror book! I hope it goes on sale for you guys overseas, too. If you liked the sound of this, I think you’d enjoy it.
      Wendy Darling recently posted…The Scorpion Rules: Review + Erin Bow dinner + giveaway