REVIEW: Lauren Oliver’s ROOMS Is a Haunting Character Study Full Of Intrigue

The ending of DELIRIUM punched me in the guy too hard for me to say this with any sort of decisiveness, but ROOMS may be my favorite Lauren Oliver book to date.

That being said, it may come as a surprise to some of her usual fans. It’s an adult book, the author’s first. Her books have always been a little more realistic, but this strays pretty drastically from the typical YA fare. ROOMS is very much a character study– a haunting, unforgiving one at that. It exposes the dark underbelly of human nature. It’s not going to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but it will leave you thinking, even obsessing, about the effects we all have on the world around us.

After years of living in solitude, Richard Walker has died. His estranged family returns to the old house secluded old house in which their lives first fell apart to clean up the remnants and claim their inheritance, but alcoholic ex-wife Caroline, insecure, angry Minna, and parasuicidal teen Trenton are not the only ones there. Inhabiting the bones of the very house itself are the ghosts of two former residents. Alice was a lonely wife in the wartime era, Sandra was a cynical, boozy lady of the 80s. Both died in the house and have lingered there ever since.

The already shaky family is truly put to the test in the aftermath of Richard’s death. A large chunk of money left to a mysterious outside party becomes an obsession for Caroline. Minna’s encounters with old friends and the life she left behind bring her to some not-so-pleasant conclusions about the person she’s become. Trenton is almost as obsessed with the alleged murder in the house and a recently missing girl who may also be dead as he is with ending his own life, so much so that he begins to notice the presence of something other.

As Alice and Sandra observe and comment, they also delve back into their former lives in the house. First impressions give way to shocking reveals as the novel slowly, carefully peels back the layers of their individual stories, including why they linger as ghosts in the house still. Fans of Lauren Oliver know that nothing is ever quite as it seems in her novels and ROOMS is no exception. You’re forced to constantly reassess the attitude, motives, and likeability throughout the tale, but it adds a frantic sense of intrigue to the mix.

ROOMS is not perfect. At certain times, the characters’ various problems can feel like a checklist of stereotypical “adult” issues like alcoholism, sex addiction, depression, and money troubles, to name a few. There’s no one character that’s inherently likable from beginning to end, certainly no one character you’ll squeal about loving, but that’s because they’re all so devastatingly complex. If you’re looking to stretch your legs beyond the typical action adventure and take a surprising look into the depth of human nature and spirit, you’re really going to love this one.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

ROOMS is out now!


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