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BOOK REVIEW: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

| 2 October 2015 | 2 Replies

BOOK REVIEW: The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

October 2015
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



Imagine, for a moment, that you have a sister. A twin sister you communicate with every day, with whom you’re close, closer than close.

You can never speak directly, because you never exist at the same time, but you share a single body. She gets the day, you get the night, and there are always notes waiting from her when you… “wake up”.

When I was five, I asked Carly what they sun felt like, and she wrote: ‘Warm, Katie, so warm. Like a hot bath.’

And then your parents die, and you and your sister are discovered and diagnosed.

They say your sister is suffering from dissociative personality disorder. They say that you’re not real. You’re a symptom.

Your sister’s best friend is convinced that it’s a case of two souls trapped in one body, rather than one soul, cracked. Either way, you’re the one who gets the lonely end of the stick, you’re the child of night who can never have any friends, not really.

And lately there’s been this Voice, you call him Aka Manah, and at first he was far away and shouting, then he got closer and started whispering.

(AL): ‘Kaitlin, use your words. You can do it.’
(KJ): ‘I don’t want to talk about him. He’ll hear me.’
(AL): ‘Is he here now?’ [Pause] ‘How do you know he’s here?’
(KJ): [Barely audible] ‘He’s closer. He’ll hear you.’
(AL): ‘How do you know? Is he shouting at you?’
(KJ): [Barely audible] ‘No. He’s whispering.’
(AL): ‘Whispering at you? Right now?’
(KJ): [Whispering] ‘No… at you.’

You’re not sure what he wants from you, but as he’s gotten closer, your sister has grown more distant. She’s stopped writing you notes, stopped replying to yours, and there’s nothing you can do because no one will listen to you. You’re not real.

And now you’re dreaming for the first time in your life, and the Dead House that fills these dreams seems to want to swallow you whole.

As the blood rose in the Dead Rooms, I grew more and more panicked, sure I would drown in whatever the blood concealed. Dee, I did; I drowned in my sleep tonight, and when I woke, I found blood and stitches and skin caught in my teeth, and my arms had been ripped open anew.


The Dead House is told completely in a “found footage” format, with diary entries, post-its, and transcripts of recorded interviews, therapy sessions and videos. Found footage is a particularly fitting term for this title, as the reader can’t help but visualise the events unfolding, drawing on memories of thriller and horror movies they have watched in the past.

The author is quick to draw readers in and keep us there. From the very beginning we are told that three people died and that the main character, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Then we jump back in time to 157 days before the event, just before Kaitlyn starts to notice a change in Carly.

While there are some rather creepy moments within this book which will make you regret reading it in a dark house when no one else is home, the creep factor could be a lot higher, but it’s not too shabby for a young adult book. There were also some rather cliched horror movie moments, but they didn’t detract too much from the awesomeness of this ride; nor did the unanswered question as to why this story is set fifteen years in our future, according to the blurb, when the events within are all from between August 2004 and December 2016, but it would have been nice if this had been explained.

There are sessions with the psychiatrist who firmly believes that Kaitlyn isn’t real and that Carly needs to let her go, and there are also ghostly incidents. But are the ghosts simply delusions of a traumatised mind, or is the dissociative identity disorder diagnosis simply a way to explain away the real ghostly happenings?

Well… I guess you’ll have to read to find out!


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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