Book Review: The Dead House

The Dead House


Title: The Dead House

Author: Dawn Kurtagich

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Series? No.


Book Depository

In the name of getting into the mood for Halloween, I went on a little horror movie and horror books binge last week. Note to self: you’re too much of a chicken to ever attempt this again. I found The Dead House incredibly riveting and engaging – I also adored the epistolary nature of the novel!


Creative Formatting!

I fancy myself an amateur designer, so I get all excited when I see books that are told through special formatting. At times, this can come across as a little bit gimmicky (*cough Illuminae, I am having some doubts about you*) – I though The Dead House benefited from this form of narration.  We got a mixture of diary entries, video logs, interviews, and police files that patched together a story.  The missing information and the non-linear style of the writing truly elevated what would have otherwise been a mediocre plotline.

It also helped that the writing was stunning in the way it portrayed Kaitlyn/Carly’s slow descent into madness.  The prose was always dark, atmospheric and unpredictable. I didn’t even mind a couple of pages where a single word was just repeated incessantly! In fact, I have a couple of graphics in this post that was inspired by the unique way this story was told.


Kaitlyn & Her Unreliable Narration

“They think I don’t exist . . . they think I’m like a disease. I’m infecting Carly.”

The main character of this book is Carly Johnson, the primary suspect in the burning of Elmbridge high school in what became known as The Johnson Incident. Carly is referred to by all the reports and professional personnels by her legal name – but the star of the show is actually Kaitlyn, her nocturnal alter ego.

Carly/Kaitlyn was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, with Carly representing all that is warm and light – while Kaitlyn lives on in the darkness and exhibits deviant characteristics. Despite her instability and depedence on her diurnal alter – I found Kaitlyn a very easy protagonist to root for. I loved that as a reader, we had to constantly second guess all the information she is giving us. There’s never a clear answer on whether the voices that haunts her are supernatural or a product of a decaying mind. I also enjoyed the fact that the authority such as Kaitlyn’s psychiatrist do not have all the answers, and may also be implicated in the bigger mystery.

The author definitely excelled in painting a teenage girl who’s looking for acceptance and yet only finding madness. I was kept guessing throughout the book, which is ironic, as I saw the final plot twist from a mile away.


It’s Creeptastic!

“Hang up.”
“But why? What is it?”
“I can hear someone breathing on the line”

Finally, the book is definitely delivers the scares – which is more than I can ask of it.  While I am very susceptible for TV/Cinematic horror, I find myself a bit more immune to books (perhaps because I admittedly don’t have an active visual imagination, for shame!) However, I still found myself double checking the mirrors and turning on all the lights while reading this book. More than that, the book also made me ponder about the mental illness that Kaitlyn may suffer from – and whether she was mistreated all along. This particular line of thought is even more chilling than any supernatural happenstance.

Overall, I highly recommend this unique book, especially with the spooky season looming near!  If you’ve read it, please share with me your thoughts and let me know whether you were scared?

43 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dead House

  1. haha, your camera log is such a winner! I hope reading this book doesn’t bring long-lasting after effects. I absolutely adored the characters and the writing style, it worked wonderfully to create the atmosphere. ❤ I'm glad you enjoyed reading this book, I hope we can find another one like it soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I am glad your own review partly helped me to choose this book! You should check out Illuminae, it utilises formatting cleverly (though I think I might like this one a bit more!)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooooh, loving the sound of this book and it sounds like a book that would be more appreciated in physical form?! Is it YA? I’m guessing it is from the age of the characters but that wouldn’t put me off as I love anything with a psychological/ scary element 🎃

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually read a digital version of the book, but I think the physical format would be a lot better! It’s YA, but so was Carrie (age wise) and that was so scary as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Omg I don’t think I can do this. I get creeped out so easily! I could barely even look at that graphic you made T_T It sounds like such an interesting book though, with successful formatting… but I just can’t. Lol when I went to see The Martian, one of the trailers was for Paranormal Activity. I had to cover my ears and close my eyes the whole time. My friends laughed at me for ages but it was TERRIFYING.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad my graphics strikes fear!! I wanted to make the reflection move in gif form but I thought it would be too cruel haha. WHAT Paranormal Activity is basically the tamest horror movie ever, I am judging!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh yea this sounds awesome! I feel like this sort of plot would be better done as a book then a cheesy under budgeted movie. We tend to see a lot of those with multiple personality disorder and I’m glad to see there is a well done book out there. Love the spooky graphics as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I get what you mean! I think this book is definitely best as a book rather than made into a movie! I hope you get a chance to check it out.


  5. I’m like you, Aentee. I am way more susceptible to being scared while watching TV than reading a book. I did read You by Caroline Kepnes this year, and that one did manage to freak me out a little bit. I want to find something that terrifies me, though. I can’t wait to read your review for Illuminae. I’ve been scared to read it because of the crazy amount of hype surrounding it. :\

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had You on my list since reading your review, I hope I have time to check it out sometimes this year 😀 I found Illuminae OK plot wise, but stunning design wise!


  6. This sounds like creepy deliciousness!! It wasn’t really on my radar but I love heroines that you can’t trust and the format sounds very interesting too. And it delivers! So yay! I’m usually too chicken for horror movies/books, but I’m for this one.
    Lovely review, Aentee! Loving the graphics too!


  7. I didn’t find this one particularly creepy or haunting, I did love the premise and the execution, and I was left scratching my head at the end. Definitely one heck of a ride.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. YES. YES. I shall read this! But I think I’m going to get the physical copy because I feel that my Kindle just wouldn’t do it justice you know? I still have to read Iluminae because pfft of all the good things I’ve heard about it! ♡ Believe me, I’ll be letting you know how I feel about this one as soon as I read it.♡

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read it on Kindle, but if you have the chance grab a physical copy! I just finished Illuminae, which was really pretty! Look forward to hearing your thoughts, Keionda ❤


    1. Thank you for your kind words about the graphics ❤ Hahaha yeah read this during the day with people around haha.


    1. I’ve read Illuminae as well, which is freaking stunning aesthetic wise, but I still felt the plot was missing a little something? I am excited for all these creative formatting though!


  9. Yes, wasn’t this so much fun? I really enjoyed it, despite my doubts going in. Like you, I am very skeptical of books with such a huge visual component because yes so often they ARE gimmicky! I’ve enjoyed both this one and Illuminae though, so maybe I should give future books like this the benefit of the doubt 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will definitely try more of these epistolary books as well – I’m eyeing House of Leaves at the moment even though that one looks SUPER weird.


  10. Loved, loved, loved this one too Aentee! I think what made it so good is you never know what actually happened. Was it a story of a mentally unsound teenager, or was it a paranormal story? How you interpret it is what really makes it shine. So glad you liked this as much as I did and, as always, fabulous review! ❤ (This is the perfect book for Halloween, isn't it?)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also really liked that the ending was left ambiguous! It leaves you unsettled which is EXACTLY what you want when you leave a horror movie/book! Glad you also enjoyed it!


  11. As always Aentee you give the best reviews ever. Even though I crossed this book off as “too scary for me to read EVER”, you make me want to read it so badly! I feel like yours is the first review of this book I actually get a glimpse into what this story is actually about!
    And its got a mental illness aspect! MY FAVOURITE!
    But alas, the scaredy-cat within me won’t be able to handle it! 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you won’t reject this book for good, Josephine! It’s actually not THAT terrifying (then again, I recall you not being able to handle Accident Season) — I WISH I COULD CURE YOU OF THIS FEAR.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Oooh, I love epistolary novels! All the ones that I’ve read so far have been fantasy of manners/Regency era fantasy, so horror might be a nice change. The “slow descent into madness” trope appeals to me so much – it reminds me of all the Gothic novels I had to read (and ended up loving) in university. I’m glad you were able to love this even though you’re a scaredy cat, because I totally am too. Fingers crossed it won’t creep me out too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Regency era fantasy? I need to fly to your blog ASAP for some recs! If you like the whole madness thing I think you would adore this book! Hope it won’t keep you awake at night too much though XD


  13. This book became one of my favourites! I picked it up on a whim after seeing how it was written/formatted, and I’m so glad I did! I absolutely flew through it, I think I finished it in a day and a half, which I hardly EVER do because I’m a slow reader 😀


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