I have had The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich in my TBR pile for a long time, but I just hadn't gotten to it. Last month my sister and I attended the Texas Book Festival for the second time where we were able to catch a panel where Dawn Kurtagich spoke and my interest in the book was renewed. Kurtagich spoke about the difficulties in her life surrounding the writing of The Dead House. She had been diagnosed with liver failure and was very ill, eventually receiving a liver transplant. During this time, she experienced inversion syndrome causing her to be awake all night and asleep all day. She began to wonder about what life would be like for someone who could only experience life at night. This led her to The Dead House.
Kaitlyn is a seventeen-year-old girl who is only aware from sundown to sunup. During the day, she is someone else. During the day, Carly is in control. Kaitlyn's/Carly's unreliable psychiatrist, Dr. Lansing is convinced this is due to DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder, caused by the trauma of the recent deaths of her parents. Kaitlyn cannot seem to convince Dr. Lansing that she and Carly have always been together, but that their parents had always told them to keep it a secret because no one would understand. Carly's new friend, Naida, does understand. She is a practitioner of Mala, an ancient form of what many would call witchcraft and she believes that Carly/Kaitlyn are the extremely rare presentation of two souls in one body. When Carly begins to disappear, Kaitlyn is desperate to find and save her and turns to Naida for help. There are dark forces at work and Kaitlyn isn't sure whom she should trust.
Created while Kurtagich was very ill, it is choppy and fragmented, written in snippets of diary entries, transcripts from video logs and police record interviews. This was the author's intention. During the panel interview, Kurtagich spoke of writing this book one entry at a time, as she felt well enough. I felt this added to the urgency, the tension of the story. The pace was very quick, but the progress felt slow. Several times I felt like I must be approaching the climax of the story, only to look down at the progress (I read this on my Kindle) to see I still had much more of the book ahead of me.
This book is a psychological thriller, YA horror, and I'm sure many people would like it, but it just wasn't my favorite. It had some interesting elements, but it was too dark for me. There were parts described in the book that I also found pretty unbelievable. At one point, Kaitlyn's arms have been very badly cut and she asks Naida to sew them up for her. Nope. I just couldn't buy that. I will say, however, that the book approaches some very important topics: mental health and disorders, abusive relationships, uncertainty with the mental health profession. This was a strange book, but one that I know has many devoted fans. Perhaps you will like it better than I did.