Monday, August 3, 2015
The Dead House
Carly and Kaitlyn Johnson are two people in the same body. They have been this way their entire lives no matter what Dr. Lansing tries to tell them. Carly is awake during the day while Kaitlyn is awake at night. They each have their own journals, which are kept private even from each other, and they communicate through notes. After the accident, the girls stayed full time in a psychiatric care, but are now allowed to attend Elmridge High, a boarding school. One day, Kaitlyn sees a figure and dismisses it. These visions, whether real or imagined, then recur with alarming regularity and realism. Kaitlyn then seeks help for these attacks. Does Carly/Kaitlyn have dissociative identity disorder? Is she being haunted or is she just delusional?
The Dead House takes place years after Elmbridge High burns down and after a number of students die or disappear during that time. It's an unsolved mystery that has gained popularity over a decade and the authorities are still trying to find out what happened. The book is a compilation of all the evidence related to the case: singed journals, descriptions of video clips, post its, testimonies, transcripts of therapy sessions, flyers, newspaper clippings, and instant messages. The amount of detail is insane. The edges of Kaitlyn's journal are burned throughout the book. Tons of fonts are used to detail the different mediums and handwritings. Some papers have bloodstains or doodles. The different perspectives and sheer detail involved are the book's strongest aspects.
There are two interpretations of the plot: either Kaitlyn is plagued by demons and an evil spellcaster or she is delusional and others play into that delusion as reality. The two sides are pretty thoroughly explored. Dr. Lansing, Kaitlyn/Carly's therapist, insists that Kaitlyn is a personality created by Carly's mind to protect her from the trauma of witnessing her parent's deaths, which neither of them remember. The visions and attacks could simply be delusions that were worsened by improper medication that causes psychosis and improper treatment. On the other hand, one of Carly's friend is a practitioner of Scottish witchcraft insists that she is possessed by a demon and targeted by an evil magic practitioner. The text never really picks one side or the other. I didn't connect with the Scottish magic stuff and I greatly preferred the psychological thriller aspects. The demons and magic parts simply weren't as strong.
The first half of the story is the stronger half because it focuses more on the psychological aspects of the story and introducing all the characters. Even though Carly is assumed to be the more dominant personality, we only really get to know Kaitlyn. She has never seen the daylight and mostly keeps to herself. Her friend circle has only a couple of people. I like Kaitlyn even though she is sometimes selfish. She isn't perfect and copes in her own ways, but cares for her sister unconditionally. The second half of the book has her descending into all this magic stuff and doing uncharacteristic, horrible things. She really lost my sympathy at that point and the book felt like it lost its way. I would give another book by Dawn Kurtagich a try because most of the book was interesting and addictive.
My rating: 3/5 fishmuffins