Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Horror/Paranormal/Adult Fiction
Review: Rooms is Lauren Oliver’s first entry into adult fiction. She’s already a bestseller in YA and now I’m going to have to go read all that stuff because Rooms blew me away.
Honestly, I don’t even know if I can put the right words in the right order to express this book’s awesomeness. It’s a creepy ghost story, which is why I’m loosely throwing it into the horror category for the purpose of this review. But it’s got a lot more going for it than just some spooks. It’s a love story but it’s not a romance; it’s a multiple-murder mystery where most of the victims have been dead for years; it’s not light-hearted but it is life-affirming. This thing is a genre-bender from the start.
Richard Walker has been estranged from his family for years. When he finally dries up and dies, everyone returns to sort things out. At least one thing that has to be dealt with is the massive old house where they all used to live. Its rooms are piled with tons of crap that must be sifted through, sorted, and discarded or sold. Also, ghosts. Sandra and Alice have been in the house a long time and they recognize everyone who’s returned. No one recognizes them, of course, they’re invisible. But they’re watching. They comment on the people that used to live there, what they remember, how they’ve changed.
Caroline, Richard’s ex-wife, has mostly checked out. She’s a foggy alcoholic measuring time until her next drink. She just wants whatever cash can come from this. Trent, her teenage son, is withdrawn, moody, and just plain weird. That sounds like most teenagers but Trent seriously has some issues. Minna, Caroline and Richard’s daughter, is a mess. Her alienation from her father left an expanding hole inside that’s eaten most of her life.
No matter how much meaningless sex she pours into that space, it never fills up. Her own daughter, Amy, often seems more like a burden to her than a joy.
These are the folks wandering around the haunted rooms of Rooms. The two ghosts, who can speak only to each other, watch them dig through trash and treasure, both internal and external. The more they discover from Richard’s life – and their own lives – the more twisted everything becomes.
This is a collision of past and present, and Oliver handles it expertly. Information about everyone is slowly revealed as we begin to understand motives, grievances, and hopes. We see what’s shaped each family member and where it might lead them. Oliver deals with Sandra and Alice the same way. It’s a fun effect, having the ghosts’ past emerge alongside the family’s. They’re confined to the house and have been getting on each other’s nerves for way too long. The Walkers are a welcome distraction but they stir up a shitstorm that might tear everything apart.
Out of nowhere – literally out of nowhere – a new ghost drops into the mix. She realizes that teenaged Trent can sense her and concentrates on finding ways to communicate. The last thing Trent needs is an invisible friend but he’s determined to find out who she is. Or was. This entire book, in all its creepy, lovely, mysterious, vicious glory, is a search for truth. The ghosts are bound to the house, the family is bound to each other, and the truth is what will set them free.
Oliver deftly throws together the living and the dead to create the most compelling book I’ve read in a long time. Please check this one out as soon as you can.
Buy it here:
Kindle Edition: www.amazon.com
Also see: Delirium by Lauren Oliver