Posted in Books you might have missed, Can't-miss Reads

There’s Someone Inside Your House, by Stephanie Perkins

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆   (9/10)

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: There’s Someone Inside Your House was written by YA author Stephanie Perkins, and can best be classified as a YA horror/thriller with romance. It was released by SPEAK, a division of PenguinTeen books, in 2017 and reprinted in 2018. A review from Mashable calls it “the best new horror of the season,” while Seventeen magazine wrote, “Turn on ALL the lights before reading this hair-raiser full of serious Scream vibes.”

PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: Makani Young has been living with her grandmother in Nebraska for a year now, stuck in the midst of cornfields and high school football rivalries. However, she’s still learning to adjust to life in the states and away from her native home in Hawaii; the weather, the clothes, the vibes – everything is different. But she left for a reason, she reminds herself – one that she doesn’t care to revisit anytime soon.

Makani has become close friends with Alex – who wears torn fishnet tights, combat boots, and loads of black eyeliner – and Darby, Alex’s best friend who has recently transitioned from “Justine” and is still working on his own acceptance at the rural high school they attend. She’s also working through her disappointment after a summer fling with Ollie, a skinny, pink-haired misfit who works at the local grocery; he never called after their last hookup, and she’s pissed…but not too pissed to stand up for him after an encounter with the aggressive jocks at school, brokering a newfound peace.

It ticked all my guilty-pleasure boxes: a depraved serial killer, an unpredictable motive, a smart and feisty protagonist with her own secrets, a mysterious and alluring love interest, and the occasional POV chapters told by the victims in their last moments.”

Any semblance of calm Makani has found in her new town is shattered when first one student, then another, is found brutally murdered – and the police, including Ollie’s older brother, have no clue who the murderer is. Worse yet, strange things have been happening in her grandmother’s house…cabinets are left open, and items are moved around the house. Both she and her grandmother blame each other, but…could it be something more sinister? 

Makani and her friends – including Ollie – must band together to figure out who is behind the slayings, which are starting to intensify in both method and recurrence. But, just as importantly, who will be the next victim? And can they find the answers before anyone finds out about Makani’s own dark past?

MY THOUGHTS: This was my first novel by Perkins, and I immediately went online after finishing it and looked for more books by her…but, to my great sadness, it appears everything else she’s written thus far qualifies strictly as teen romance. (Which is great for people who love those books – just not my usual genre.)

I consider this lack of thrillers for me to catch up on a travesty, because I found this book incredibly entertaining and suspenseful. It ticked all my guilty-pleasure boxes: a depraved serial killer, an unpredictable motive, a smart and feisty protagonist with her own secrets, a mysterious and alluring love interest, and the occasional POV chapters told by the victims in their last moments. I have to agree with Seventeen magazine that this book was perfect for fans of the Scream movie series (or maybe just the first and fourth movies…?), and for anyone who loves a good slasher-movie turned literary venture.

Makani is a relatable teenage heroine – quick-witted, secretive, loyal to her friends, and begrudgingly besotted with Ollie and his own secrets. (In short, a much more likable character than Neve Campbell’s whiny and occasionally-clueless Sydney Prescott.) Makani deals with the typical teenage dramas: falling hard for a mysterious and quiet boy, guiltily lying to her grandmother, and staying up all night to talk on the phone with her crush. However, she also has heavier baggage to carry, including an emotionally distant and troubled relationship with her self-centered parents, and a new last name courtesy of her own previous misdeeds in Hawaii. This gives her a gravitas that helps her fight her way through the darkness that descends on the town as the slayings continue, and find the drive to figure out the truth behind what’s happening.

I have to agree with Seventeen magazine that this book was perfect for fans of the Scream movie series (or maybe just the first and fourth movies…?), and for anyone who loves a good slasher-movie turned literary venture.”

Perkins writes a refreshingly diverse group of misfits in this novel, with a biracial, island-loving Makani, a transgender Hufflepuff-ish Darby, a goth-y and sarcastic Alex, and a mysteriously quiet and orphaned Ollie. She also includes goosebump-inducing chapters narrating the final moments of each clueless murder victim, which really invokes a sense of fear and dread in the reader. I found that to be an extra-inventive touch, and one I’d love to see in future horror novels. And while I wouldn’t classify this as a classic whodunit, I would like to point out that the ending is pretty brutal – and the violence is graphic and gruesome, but not in a twisted or over-the-top way for horror/thriller fans. 

I was pretty amused by the Amazon reviews that refer to this book as “just a romance,” or “really more a romance than a thriller.” I wholeheartedly disagree; there was more foreboding, more disquiet, and more actual murder than there ever were mentions of kissing or *gasp* dating. And anyway – can’t the two genres meet? I mean, Heather Graham has made a killing as a paranormal romance author, and her books are almost completely centered on the romance, with murders almost as an afterthought. I found this book to be a lovely and frightening mystery starring a couple of misfits who just happen to find understanding, and occasional moments of peace and calm, in each other’s arms…which, to me, is a perfect story. Especially when a ruthless killer is hunting them down. (What can I say? We like what we like.)

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