Okay, there’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s, well, just disbelief. I so wanted to like Christina Lauren’s (the co-writing team of Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings) YA novel The House, but I didn’t. Actually, my feelings are more conflicted than that: I liked some things about the book and really, really disliked others.
The good: The writing in The House is actually pretty decent. At least decent enough that I wasn’t groaning over clunky sentences. In particular, the spooky scenes were well-written – propulsive and skin-crawlingly descriptive.
The two main characters, Delilah and Gavin are likeable teens. The story is told in alternating chapters labeled ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ so the reader is privy to the thoughts of both characters. Delilah has recently started high school in her hometown in Kansas after leaving a school on the east coast. Gavin has lived his whole life in “the House,” an odd patchwork house hidden behind a fence. The two knew each other as children, before Delilah had been sent to live with her grandmother. Now she is intent on rekindling her friendship with Gavin. It would seem that he is the proverbial bad boy and that Delilah is smitten.
The bad: There is no long burn here, no smolder – which is unfortunate because these stories work so much better when there is. Gavin and Delilah fall pretty much in love almost immediately. Of course, their relationship is not without its problems and that’s the part of the story that was the most problematic for me.
Things inside House can come alive in a way that I don’t think things anywhere else can. When an object is inside House…it can be alive….
Things in the house move….They take care of me. They always have. They would never leave….It’s a bit like having a really big family, but no one speaks.
Yep, Gavin’s house is alive. His parents are gone, but House has always taken care of him, anticipating his every desire, making his food, taking care of his needs. He doesn’t see it as particularly strange because, of course, it’s all he’s ever known. For most young adult readers this likely won’t seem like much of an imaginative stretch. They’ve grown up reading books where teens fight to the death, have other-worldly powers and fall in love with vampires and werewolves, but for me, I just found it sort of goofy.
As it turns out, House isn’t all that benevolent when it seems like Delilah might steal Gavin away. The novel gives new meaning to the notion of playing house, that’s for sure.