Book Reviews Books

Book Review: The Agony House by Cherie Priest

The Agony House had an incredibly promising concept, absolutely perfect for the Halloween season, but unfortunately, it wasn’t executed very well.

Denise Farber is about to start her senior year of high school and has just moved with her mom, Sally, and stepdad, Mike, from Houston back to New Orleans, where she was born. Denise and her mom left New Orleans when Denise was just a baby, after the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina and the resulting deaths of Denise’s father and grandmother. Her mom and stepdad have bought an old rundown Victorian house that they intend to fix up and convert into a bed and breakfast, as had been Denise’s grandmother’s dream before she died. Denise isn’t sold on the idea of living in the dirty, weather-worn house, or being away from her friends in Houston, especially when she starts hearing mysterious humming, and footprints in the dust belonging to nobody. When the house starts trying to kill them, Denise needs to unravel the mystery of the identity of the ghosts living there, and how they’re related to a comic book she found in the attic, whose author died in the 1950’s inside the very house her family is trying to save.

Wow, where do I even begin. I had pretty high expectations for The Agony House. Not only did it sound like the perfect read for the spooky season, it’s also told in a multimedia format of part-novel, part-graphic novel. But man, did it disappoint.

I usually never DNF books, because I’m a firm believer that once I commit to a book and have spent time with it, I have to finish it or my conscience won’t leave me alone. Sadly, no matter what I did, I just couldn’t finish this. Every time I sat down to read, I fell asleep– no joke.

The characters were all incredibly flat and felt kind of stereotypical, to be honest. Or more like caricatures? I’m not even sure at this point, I didn’t care. Now, the main character, Denise, was the only one who made me feel any kind of emotion, even if it was just annoyance. She was supposed to be a high school senior but acted the entire time like an immature, spoiled, and whiny 12-year old. She grated my nerves. And yeah, you can be pissed at your parents for forcing you to leave your friends behind, but you at least owe them some goddamn respect. *rolls eyes intensely*

I’m a massive fan of descriptive writing, as I believe it always makes my reading experience much more immersive. In this book, I would call it over-descriptive and basically, too much. Everything, and I mean everything, was described in fine detail, but not in an enjoyable way. The descriptions were the only thing going for it, and it was sO BORING. Get to the ghosts and action, please!

Talking about action, well. I feel like there was none? Yeah, some intriguing stuff happened once in a while, but it wasn’t enough to keep me hooked. The pacing was super slow and the plot took a long time to really take off. Even to the point up to where I read, it felt like a journey with no real destination.

Out of all the elements that caused me to DNF this novel, I’d say the one with the biggest impact on my decision was the writing and dialogue. The writing was plain and basic, and I expected something much more atmospheric and creepy. I don’t know if that’s just the author’s style or whatever, but it didn’t work for me in the slightest. And the dialogue… Oh god, the dialogue. It was so stilted, robotic and felt very scripted. I feel like it’s very important to write dialogue that’s natural and real, but that didn’t didn’t happen in this novel.

The icing on the cake was, without a doubt, the overly long chapters. I like my chapters short and sweet most of the time, so I can keep paying continuous attention and not get distracted. So when you have chapters that are almost 20 pages. each, nothing but failure is bound to happen.

All of these are personal preferences of mine as a reader, so I wouldn’t not recommend this book. The art was absolutely gorgeous, and again, it had solid potential. In my opinion, it just didn’t work, and someone else could’ve written this way better. Sigh.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

The Agony House by Cherie Priest is available now on bookstores everywhere.

Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family’s money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast. Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here. Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn’t budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive…