Looks like my streak of reviewing the best books ever in one year is continuing. I loved The Death House even if it is a Young Adult book. I will also throw this out there. I think it is the best young adult book I have ever read. In fact it is so good, parents might hold off on giving this one to their kids until they are a little older. Perhaps the 16+ range. Although I would have devoured it at age 13 myself.
This novel revolves around Toby who, along with a few dozen other children has been sent to a cold island located off the shore of Great Britain. These children were removed from their families because they have a deadly disease that will eventually kill them. The author keeps the world and the disease vague and focuses more on the children and their lives.
Anyone who reads my reviews knows that I get a little tired of reading the new wave of YA fiction that appears to be becoming more and more common these days as so many authors hope to cash in on the Harry Potter fad. But with this tale being young fits. It would not have had the same impact if the characters were adults. Their youth makes them more vulnerable, confused, and afraid. So for perhaps the first time, I am glad it was a young adult novel.
Toby is the leader of his dorm, but does not really fit in. He tends to sleep all day so he can sneak around and have some time to himself at night. This changes when Clara arrives and also finds the night more rewarding. Soon they fall for each other, but between frictions with the Matron that rules over them and the other children, Toby's life is far from simple. That and he and everyone else there expect to be carted away as soon as they show signs of their sickness.
The author does a great job making us care about so many of the children. We feel we are there and experience their hurt and worries as well as brief glimpses of joy, which makes them only seem more childlike. Often there are tender moments that could threaten to have some tears soaking your pages. Also her subtle building of tension makes you want to rush through the novel to see if Toby has any hope of somehow surviving this lonely Hell he is trapped within.
If you take the novel for what it is, there are few downsides. I might have liked to learn a little more about the sickness and I might have enjoyed seeing a few more scary moments. Still it had a fine balance of believably mixed with tension. If it got messed with too much this could have been lost.
Great book here. Adult friendly. Would be a great gift for the smart teen you know. I am impressed and would certainly read anything else by this author that I could.
Michael D. Griffiths