Thursday, October 30, 2014

ARC Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Title: Rooms
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: September 23, 2014 by Ecco Books (Harper Collins)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways. 

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.

Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.

*** I received an advance copy of this book free from the publisher at BEA for an honest view in return. This fact has not changed my opinion ***

I'm so glad I waited to read Rooms until the very end of October. This was the perfect book to read this time of year. The writing, the complex and mysterious characters, the intricate and exciting plot all screamed fall to me.

This is the first book I have read by Lauren Oliver and I was extremely impressed by her writing style. It flowed with grace and beauty. Sometimes when I'm reading I'll find quotes that strike me as interesting or deep and I'll want to write them down on a post-it note to remember later. It has been awhile since I've done that, but Rooms had me writing down more than a few quotes. I wouldn't have predicted that a book about ghosts would have had such a deep commentary about life, but it did. The book will keep you awake at night but not in the traditional scary story sense. It will keep you awake thinking and reflecting in a way that you didn't quite anticipate. But more than that, Lauren's prose perfectly established the mood of this story. It was atmospheric and mysterious. It was spooky but not scary. Throughout the book, I felt this sense of uncertainty and wonder, all established by Lauren's style of writing.

But in addition to her prose, when I say Lauren's writing I also mean her expert handling of the intricate plot of the story. This book is extremely layered. The pacing is a little slow at times, but it is also the kind of book that you can read 50 pages without even realizing it. I wasn't sure I was enjoying it until I got about three-quarters of the way in when I didn't want to put it down. That is the point where Lauren starts to peel back the layers and reveal truths she had been keeping under wraps. From there it's like a downward (upward?) spiral. It's big reveal after shocking twist, and the last 50 pages had me gasping audibly and holding back tears on a crowded bus. If you can be patient with this book, there is a big payoff at the end.

However, it may be a little too intricate. The book is told from a lot of different perspectives and from characters both living and dead. And while I understand it was a big part of the story, it was a little confusing. At the beginning of the book I would have said that this is more character-driven than plot-driven. It was more about learning the characters to establish the basis for the story. We need to be able to slowly learn from them their story and history, to see what they are holding back and what they don't want us to know. At least a few of them were unreliable narrators and I wasn't sure who to believe and that wasn't necessarily a good thing at times. I would also forget who was talking, I would mix characters and back stories up, and I would wonder why we were hearing from that character at that time. But then when the plot started to kick into high gear then it started to all make more sense. In the end it all ended up tying together and making sense. 

Exploring old houses is something that I have always been extremely interested in. I always wonder what the house was like when it was first built, what certain rooms were used for, and what had happened there throughout it's history. I have wanted to read a book like that for some time and I found that in Rooms. It's not your typical haunted house story nor is it your typical mystery. It effortlessly combines elements of the two to make something unique and interesting. It's a book more about the secrets of a house and the people who have inhabited it. If you are looking for a "scare your pants off" Halloween story then keep moving. But for me it was perfect. It was an interesting combination of supernatural and mysterious. It was the perfect kind of mystery where the whole thing was so expertly planned that in the end little things made a huge difference. The end built to a thrilling climax that shocked me more than once. It was the essence of fall for me. It was a cold wind blowing by a dark and mysterious house full of secrets.

I give Rooms by Lauren Oliver a 9 out of 10



Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy! If you are looking for an atmospheric novel that takes you on the mysterious exploration of an old house then I definitely suggest this book. It will appeal to fans of mysteries and thrillers more than fans of horror despite the supernatural elements. And while this is an adult book with sexual content and swearing it does have some crossover appeal. If Rooms isn't already on your list, add it!

8 comments:

  1. Hmm... I've been dying to read this one so I'm glad I saw your review. I have kind of a hard time with character-driven books, but the idea of the haunted house is so intriguing! It's interesting that you say it will appeal to mystery fans more than thriller fans - it definitely seems to be marketed towards horror junkies! In any case, it sounds amazing and I'll definitely give it a try. I just hope I don't get too overwhelmed with all the different perspectives!

    In other news, I have a giveaway going on for a horror novel you might be interested in.

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I'm not sure horror junkies would like it. I'm not a big horror fan, especially when it comes to ghosts, and I like it. But that may have been because of the mysterious house aspect. I love that concept!

      I hope you check it out and enjoy it as much as I did!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for stopping my blog! Just wanted to say first that I hope you'll stop by the updated review post for the Insignia trilogy as my opinion of the whole thing changed for book two and three. And don't get me wrong, I totally enjoyed the first one but the second and particularly the third blew me away. Back to your post, Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite writers and if you haven't read before I fall yet make sure to get your hands on it! I have an arc of rooms that I need to read pronto and after seeing your review it's going to be quicker than before :-)
    Christina@ Ensconced in lit

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Christina! Before I Fall is on my list now. So is the one she has coming out next year, Vanishing Girls. That one looks really good and similarly mysterious.

      Delete
  3. I am delighted to know that you enjoyed this book and I found your review quite helpful Cassi, thanks. I do enjoy a story told from multiple perspectives, but too many can become confusing, even frustrating at times.
    Monique @ Mo_Books

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm realizing more and more that I don't really like it. It takes a rare author to make me not confused and annoyed when it's told from multiple perspectives. It was a really good book though and that didn't affect my opinion too much.

      Delete
  4. I was gonna skip this one but your review definitely made me reconsider. It looks perfect for Halloween. I like spooky things all the time so I guess that doesn't matter but thank for your great review and adding to my never ending TBR.
    ~Britt @ Please Feed the Bookworm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't skip it! It's a good one, perfect for fall and especially Halloween season. I'm glad my review convinced you to check it out!

      Delete