Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Welcome to the Dark House is a scary novel that employs classic horror movie tricks and brings nightmares to life. It is a twisted story to see who survives and, as the start of a new series, leaves the reader with a cliffhanger.

Ivy Jensen has never gotten over her parents being killed and is frequently haunted with nightmares of that night. She desperately wants to get over her fear and signs up for a horror contest in hopes of doing just that. Once she wins the contest, she and six other winners travel to a "the Dark House" in order to meet the famous horror director and face their nightmares. Their first evening is filled with horror movie stunts to startle them like eerie messages on the wall and scary props. When one of the winners goes missing, along with the housekeeper, Ivy and company start to get suspicious. Then they travel to the set of the director's latest movie, only to discover that they are the movie and in order to make the final cut, they have to survive their nightmares.

Each chapter alternates between six of the contestants (you don't hear anything from the one who went missing). Initially it seemed like the author tried to make them all unique - Natalie is has deep issues, Shalya is perky, Garth is creepy, Ivy is scared, Parker likes films and Frankie...I can't remember what was exceptionally unique about Frankie because as the story went on, the guys all blended together, especially Frankie and Garth. The only reason Parker remained unique was because some of his chapters would be written like a script. Natalie and Ivy were the strongest written characters. In terms of the story as a whole, though, it felt like a classic horror movie where a group of kids are trapped somewhere scary and one by one they are "picked off". The villain of the novel was a creation of the director's,  "The Nightmare Elf" who steals your nightmares and makes them come true. For the most part it felt like your typical horror story, although not so scary or twisted enough that I was on the edge of my seat. 

To be completely honest, the ending bothered me. The book does not come out and say this, but it will be a series - which explains why there is no closure and the eerie message, "See you for the sequel" (333). That's all well and good, maybe we'll find out what really happened to all of the characters and why this happened (If this wasn't a series I was going to be very mad at the author for leaving me hanging. I want to know why this happened!). The problem for me, though, came with the epilogue. Aside from the eerie message about a sequel, all it was was the contest stories each of the six contestants wrote. I personally thought there should be some sort of hint as to where the sequel might go - maybe six new stories from new contestants who would have to face their nightmares and it was up to this survivor to save them all (Just an idea, but who am I to dictate how a story ends). Regardless of how I thought the story should end, these last few pages felt pointless to read. We'd already gotten the gist of these stories from their nightmare experience and conversations throughout the book. They didn't seem to reveal anything come the end. I simply didn't get it...Then again, maybe it will all make sense in the next book. 

If you are a fan of teen horror movies and facing nightmare situations, you'll enjoy this book. It captures the soul of the "trapped and trying to escape" storyline. If you want closure, though, you're going to have to wait for the next book. 

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