The Ultimate Ghost Story
by Jamie Borenstein-Laurie
October is here, and that means that Fall is getting into full swing: the leaves are changing colours, baggy sweaters are making their annual comeback, the lineups for Pumpkin Spice Lattes are longer than ever…and the countdown until Halloween has officially begun. What better way to celebrate the start of October than by getting nice and cozy with a good ghost story?
Rooms, the new adult novel from bestselling author Lauren Oliver, is far from your typical horror story. It details the aftermath of Richard Walker’s death as his estranged family reunites in their old country house to receive their inheritance. Unknown to the members of the Walker family—spiteful ex-wife Caroline, damaged daughter Minna, and angry teenage son Trenton—they are sharing the house with the spirits of Alice and Sandra, long dead former residents bound to its walls. As the living and the dead revisit forgotten memories, an intricate web of shameful secrets is unraveled in this poignant family drama.
As a longtime fan of Lauren Oliver’s young adult novels (the Delirium trilogy, Before I Fall, Panic), I was curious to see how she would make the leap from a teen audience to the readership of adults. But, as is clearly a testament to Oliver’s skill, Rooms is a soaring success.
The novel manages to straddle the gap between the two age groups with total confidence. It is not a superficial love story as one would expect from a typical teen book, nor is it a dry Oprah’s book club pick. Rooms is packed with drugs, sex, danger, séances, morally ambiguous characters, more alcohol than I was able to keep track of, and, obviously, ghosts. It’s a sensational novel that will keep mature teen readers hooked and even the most seasoned adult booklovers desperate for more.
What impressed me the most about the novel was the depth of its characters. At its heart, Rooms is a story about a family. For a fictional family to be believable, it must be composed of believable individuals. As I breezed through the book in a matter of days, every single character fascinated me; each was perfectly imperfect, with a distinct motivation and voice. I loathed each character as much as I pitied them, and then, with another shocking twist in the plot, I was filled with empathy. Ultimately, the author managed to breathe a remarkable amount of life into them—even the dead ones!
I could go on forever about my awe at Lauren Oliver’s skill, but Rooms truly shines. Her prose flows with such poetic elegance that it’s almost shocking when she drops an F-bomb.
Before this review morphs fully into the love letter of a fanboy, I’ll simply conclude by saying that Lauren Oliver’s Rooms has my stamp of recommendation, for whatever it’s worth. So grab a copy of Rooms (and a comfy sweater…and an overpriced latte) and get ready for a book that’s scary good.