Author: Micol Ostow
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Horror; Young Adult
Origins: Egmont USA
Release Date: 26 August 2014
Bottom Line: Fantastic old-fashioned haunted house horror
“Connor’s family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she’s recovered from a psychotic break.
But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor’s nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren’t there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?
Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again.
Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan.”
Thoughts: Simply, Amity is an old-fashioned haunted house story. In true haunted house fashion, the house has an insidious history, the townspeople avoid the site but refuse to warn newcomers about it, and the house becomes a character in its own right. The twist is that readers get to see two separate but concurrent inhabitants of the house struggle with its evilness. As both Connor and Gwen bring different attitudes and fragilities to the house, their reactions to it and the happenings that occur while they live there are different. This adaptability, more than anything else, emphasizes the idea that the house is alive and raises many new questions about the nature of the horror that resides within the house’s walls.
To further underscore the house’s reactions to its inhabitants, Connor and Gwen are as different as could be. Gwen is fragile, emotionally and mentally. Her stint in the mental hospital left her so broken and uncertain about herself and her abilities that readers will want to protect and reassure her. There is no doubt that her parents and brother love her, that they have the best intentions regarding her health, and that theirs is a close-knit family. This is in direct contrast to Connor’s situation. Connor is also fragile mentally but that is more his state of mind than anything else. His home life is not a happy one, with an abusive father and a frightened mother. His twin sister provides much-needed moments of love and affection, but even that bond is not enough to protect him from himself. While readers want to protect Gwen, they will find themselves repelled by Connor’s lack of emotion and fascination in the macabre. As the house sets in motion its plans for each character, these reader reactions simply intensify.
In spite of both Gwen and Connor’s obvious mental imbalances, there is no question about their reliability as narrators. In fact, one does not question their stories at all. For all of their problems distinguishing reality from fantasy, readers understand that they are telling the truth as they share what is happening to them. There is no doubt the visions are real, that the house is really influencing behaviors and altering personalities. It is a brilliant little nod to the myriad of unreliable narrators in fiction these days and a creative one at that because these two narrators who should be completely untrustworthy simply are not.
Amity can and does hold its own against other haunted house stories. The weather and other background images are perfect for setting the tone of the novel. Similarly, the narrators’ opposing natures highlight the house’s true intentions. There is a poetic quality to the narrative which adds a dream-like element that helps confirm the danger and terror. Horror fans will be pleased at Micol Ostow’s latest addition to the haunted house horror category.