Book Review: The Haunted by Danielle Vega
Publisher’s Book Description:
From Danielle Vega, YA’s answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.
Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.
Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.
I’m going through a bit of a terror/horror/thriller binge right now – I have a lot of new books to tell you about – and this one fit right in to my current reading trends. I’m not going to lie, a combination of the cover and the title sucked me right in. I have previously read and liked, but did not love, Survive the Night by Danielle Vega. I liked it enough to try another title by her, which is mostly successful and is genuinely pretty terrifying.
Hendricks’ parents are house flippers and because of a crisis in their old home town that involves a dating abuse/stalking subplot, the family moves to a new town quickly and takes up residence in a house that has a history of being haunted. Soon after, the bumps in the night start and Hendricks begins to question whether or not the house is haunted or her old ex is messing with her head. I liked the straight horror elements of The Haunted. I understand what Vega was trying to do in raising awareness of teen dating abuse, which is a very real problem, but I felt that trying to suggest that some of the early events that happened in the house were because of her abusive ex didn’t always make sense in terms of plot. I know that this was also to build tension and make the reader question if this house haunted or not, but again, because those elements didn’t make sense, I felt that they fell short.
I do feel that Vega dealt with the issues of teen dating violence and stalking sensitively and realistically and that it communicated to teens that these things in a relationship are unhealthy and unacceptable. Hendricks trauma was real, valid and authentic. There was a lot of good discussion in here about this topic. I also appreciate that the parents believed and cared about their daughter and were going through great lengths to keep her safe. There were a lot of good family dynamics here in the Hendricks household, especially when you consider what the family had already been through and what they were now going through.
Hendricks meets and catches feelings for a neighbor boy who is clearly not in with the in crowd. At the same time, she also has possible feelings for another local boy. However, Hendricks feelings are complicated here because of her past history of dating violence and I thought that this was important as well. She questions and doubts herself a lot, which seemed very realistic.
As the tension builds and things get creepier, I couldn’t put this book down. I wanted to know what was happening and why. And there were a few twists at the end that I was not expecting that were both somewhat stunning and satisfying. Underlying all of this is a an older town secret/mystery and this is where the real satisfaction comes.
The Haunted is genuinely creepy and engaging. There are a few misses here and there plot wise, but overall I found this to be a satisfying read and I think teens will as well. The creep factor was astounding and well done, so teens looking for a fright will find this very satisfying.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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