Saturday, September 6, 2014


What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Rooms (Ecco, 2014).

What an unusual book. It is simultaneously unpleasant and compelling. Let me clarify that. Many books can be unpleasant in that they feature unhappy or harsh incidents and situations, but that isn't what I mean here. This book is full of unpleasant, unhappy, wholly unsympathetic people. There's not one who I wished to latch on to in any way; I'd be happier crossing the street to avoid them. And yet I was captivated by what was happening to them. The story is so interesting that I was willing to put up with them.

Events are kicked off by the death of a wealthy grouch named Richard Walker. His estranged family comes to his huge country home to hear about their inheritance. These are his alcoholic ex-wife, his nymphomaniac mid-twenties daughter, and his selfish, pretends-to-be-depressed teenage son. They're sharing the home with two former inhabitants: ghosts who have never left the building since their own unhappy deaths many years before. The judgmental lady who died in the 1950s and the sarcastic woman who joined her about thirty years later are still here, narrating alternating chapters from their first-person perspectives. They are waiting for Richard's ghost to join them while the family continues their bickering. They know everything and see everything, but are surprised when the ghost that actually joins them is actually a teenage girl.

But who the heck is she?

The family stays in the house, the boy contemplating killing herself and the girl taking random delivery employees to her bedroom for a few minutes, tensions escalating, while waiting for the memorial service to finally be over. Secrets are revealed, new mysteries are uncovered, and I was left enraptured, wondering where this book was going and what would need to happen for the plot to be satisfied to such a point where it would make sense to end the book. I couldn't wait for the book to be over so I could be rid of all of these unhappy people, but I stayed with it because I just had to know how such an outre and unusual story was going to resolve.

This is Lauren Oliver's first book for adult readers, but she's actually been writing YA fiction for some time, including the bestselling Delirium trilogy. I enjoyed the conceit that even ghosts can keep secrets, but you know how, when you finish a really good book, you want to spend more time with its players? That does not happen here. A very mild recommendation for its oddball premise and construction.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your books (typically comics or detective fiction) featured here, send me an email.

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