Thursday, August 18, 2022

This Appearing House

Malinenko, Ally. This Appearing House
August 16th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jacqueline Price-Dupree and her mother have moved from California to New Jersey for a fresh start. Her father has not been in the picture since she was two. Jac (as she would rather be called) was very ill for a long time, and as she is approaching the five year mark of being disease free, her mother still can't stop being overprotective. She has made a friend in the neighborhood, Hazel (whose mother named him after a character in Watership Down), but also has to deal with irritating jerks John and Sam, who like to pick on the smaller and quieter Hazel. When a house appears at the end of her street, Jac isn't sure what's going on. It looks creepy, and when John declares that he'll leave Hazel alone if she goes in, she does. The three boys follow her, and things start to go wrong. The doors lock behind them, every door leads back to the room they were just in, and voices call out to them. John is quickly pulled into a room by unseen forces, and soon Sam is as well. Jac realizes that the house is meant for her; there is a key with her picture on it, and many messages to her as well. The creepiest is a room full of typewriters, all being typed on by no one, churning out messages about Jac's disease and how she is expected to die. She feels that "the only way out is through", and she and Hazel try to explore the house and figure out its mysteries. They meet gruesome characters like Mr. Nobody, the Monster, and the Keeper, who don't have positive messages for her. She needs to know the truth, and hopes the House can help her find it. But is she really ready to face it?
Strengths: Malinenko has been dealing with recurring cancer, and has used her experiences to inform this interesting and creepy ghost story. And creepy it is-- Hazel eats food that one character gives them, which everyone should know you NEVER do, and it turns out to be full of teeth. EWWWW! The page decorations echo the creepy hands on the cover, and there are plenty of things that go bump in the night that Jac must face. It's good that she has a friend with her, and this book also picks up the current philosophy that children should share their problems and "truths" with friends and not always try to be strong. Jac's mother's concern is valid, and the way the two clash is realistic. There aren't as many books as there could be about children facing cancer or other serious diseases, and certainly not as many that have such a fantastical spin. 
Weaknesses: This made me feel like I should take 7th grade language arts again so that I am better at defining literary elements; it's been 45 years since I've had to think about allegory, and found myself thinking that I was missing a lot of literary devices! 
What I really think: This is a great choice for readers who like their horror with a good dose of philosophy and allegory. Its lyrical writing and heart-print message should be popular with fans of this author's Ghost Girl as well books that combine grief with paranormal themse like DeStefano's The Girl with the Ghost Machine, Cohen's The Inn Between, or Arnold's The House That Wasn't There.

Ms. Yingling

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