This is my first book I've read for my special October reading month. I quickly added this book to my reading list after seeing it in the stores, and I was really drawn to the synopsis. After all, what's better than a story about a house so enchanting, you never want to leave...
Funny thing, I didn’t even realize this was a “Youtuber book” until I was just about to read it and recognized “CutiePieMarzia” on the front cover. I only vaguely know of Marzia and have never watched any of her videos, so finding out that she wrote a book didn’t make any difference either way for me—just an unexpected surprise. Still, the “Youtuber book” trend is one that’s been taking over shelves and that are a bit of a topic of contention, what with Youtubers getting deals for books that, in most cases, always follow the same formula of an autobiography and how said Youtuber has come to be where they are now. So with this, it’s really impressive that Marzia has written this imaginative and dreamlike novel that stands out among other Youtuber books.
Unfortunately, despite how enticed I was by this the description, I didn’t find myself enjoying this book as much as I’d hoped. It was simply… okay. It definitely got better as the story progressed, and there were plenty of moments to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. The surprise ending was pretty predictable (or maybe I’ve just gotten good as picking up on clues), but it still did just enough to provide the haunted house/ghostly mystery aspect to get me into the spirit. So why did this book fall flat for me? Honestly, all of the promising elements were there, but it was all in the execution--more specifically, the way it was written. (Also, a few plot holes).
Overall, I thought the writing was pretty bland. The descriptions were beautiful and elegant, of course. There’s no doubt about it that Marzia has a way with words. But there’s also a point where beautiful writing gets to be overly mellifluous and long-winded. There was something else about the writing that kept it from being engaging, and for a while I was trying to figure out what that was, until I realized that it was about sentence variety. A LOT of the time throughout this novel, the author uses a similar sentence format, which is basically starting sentences with introductory phrases:
“My curiosity getting the upperhand over my nerves, I start preparing myself mentally…”
“From the old wooden floor, my eyes…
“Feeling as though someone’s eyes are on my all the time and unable to help myself from constantly peering about me, I tiptoe out of the bedroom.”
When you're reading and keep coming across a similar type of sentence over and over again, it definitely puts your brain in a sort of rut and doesn't keep you as alert and engaged as when you have a plethora of different sentences.
The other reason I just couldn't engage myself with this story at times is that the protagonist, Amethyst, has basically no personality at all. This is partly to do with her lacking a distinctive voice and the way she narrates the story as if she’s in an old English novel. The other reason, though, is that her thoughts simply aren’t compelling for someone who’s found themselves in this house, doesn’t want to leave, and seemingly has no backstory. I know there’s a reason for this as you read to the end of the book, but these mysteries could definitely be played up more to give her more depth as a character. She could be asking questions like, “Where/who are my parents? What did I do that day before entering this house?” When she realizes she doesn’t remember either of these facts, this could really have the potential to intensify her situation and make her lose her sanity a bit as she tries to figure out who she is. But instead, in the book she’s completely unconcerned about all of this and just goes about her days meandering through this house. Needless to say, this gets pretty boring and monotonous, and at one point it really starts to drag on a bit. (Plus, she passes out a lot for no reason while she's in this house, which gets pretty repetitive and strikes me as an example of lazy writing in order to end a scene.)
Which brings us to another flaw in this story: why is she so drawn to this house? At first Amethyst makes excuses for why she doesn’t leave, such as wanting to wait for the Blooms to come back so she can thank them for their hospitality. This, of course, strikes us, the readers, as pretty odd, for her to wait an entire month and make herself at home in a stranger’s house, just to wait for the owners to come back so she can thank them for letting her in their home. Talk about overstaying your welcome... Amethyst is basically that one person at a party who never leaves. At one point, a character named Avery asks her why she doesn't simply write a note and leave (which is what's on all our minds, too, to be honest), and she ponders this, but then quickly dismisses it and tells herself that she just can't leave this house. Her refusal to leave becomes even more puzzling when she frequently experiences hauntings, hushed voices, creepy messages, and multiple instances of someone trying to kill her. Seriously, what is it about this house that is worth all of this?! Again, her attachment to the house makes sense at the end of the book, but there are definitely some flaws in logic here that raise too many questions and leave the readers not quite convinced.
I think what what would help to convince the readers is if the house actually had some allure to it that would make more sense for Amethyst to be hesitant to leave. When I first read the synopsis for this book, I was under the impression that the protagonist would be in this magnificent house filled with rooms, each one holding something worth her while. One room has a massive library of books, another a full kitchen with any food her heart desires... But in reality, this house is actually pretty ordinary, and I didn't feel that the author described it in a way to truly convince us that Amethyst is enchanted by this house beyond repair.
So with all that's been said, did I enjoy this book as a Halloween read? Yeah, it was okay. In the beginning it was a bit bland but picked up momentum as the story went on and more clues came to reveal themselves. There were certainly moments that gave me Halloween feelings, from hidden dark places to mysterious shadows and voices to a little girl that keeps reappearing, along with a mystery to tie it all together. But this is definitely more of a mild Halloween read, and between the old-style writing, the pretty flat protagonist, and the moments of monotony, it can take a while for the thrill to arrive.
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That does it for this review. I hope you've enjoyed it and that it's given you an idea of whether this book would be a good Halloween tale for you. Keep your eyes peeled for my next spooky book review, coming soon...