Monday, September 08, 2014

Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Title: Rooms
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Ecco
Release date: September 23rd 2014
Pages: 320
Genre: adult paranormal
Source: BEA 2014
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Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really don't know what to make of Rooms. I feel bad criticizing the novel in any way because it might just not be for me; adult paranormal is pretty much as far away from my comfort zone (aka contemporary YA) that you can get, and I only read it because it has Lauren Oliver's name on it, to be honest. I really liked the premise and concept behind Rooms, and the story is definitely intriguing. But for some reason, I never really connected with it; I could appreciate that it's well-written and expertly plotted, but there wasn't anything I could absolutely love about it.

I enjoyed Minna's, Caroline's, and Trenton's parts of the narratives. They're not exactly sympathetic characters, but they're definitely intriguing. They each have a very distinct voice that painted clear pictures of each character. All three of them have issues and are some seriously messed-up characters, but they work. They're very well-written, and yet, I couldn't love them quite as much as I wanted to. I'm not one to complain about unlikable characters or pretend I only want to read about the kinds of people I would want to be friends with, because that would be boring. But even though it's not necessary for me to like the characters, it is necessary to make me somehow emotionally invested in them, and that wasn't really the case: I found it hard to get myself to really care about their stories or what happens to them. Like I said, rationally I could appreciate how well-crafted they are, but on a more personal level, I couldn't love them or root for them the way I wanted to.

I'm not sure what to make of Alice and Sandra's stories. Honestly, the problem is that I couldn't tell them apart - and I don't know if that's the book's fault for not being clear enough or my fault for not being attentive enough in my reading. Alice and Sandra have very different personalities now, so whenever they are talking to each other (i.e. bickering), they are very easy to tell apart. But when they were telling us about their lives and how they ended up here, I found it really hard to keep their stories straight, for some reason. This might just be because I wasn't paying enough attention, but either way it made it really hard to get to know or fully understand either character.

I think Rooms could also be categorized as mystery, because you don't find out what is really going on until the very end. There is a ton of plot twists that explain how the various stories tie in together. These revelations are (at least in part) surprising and intriguing, but it bothered me that so many of them take place at the very end of the novel. While of course it makes sense to not want to reveal anything earlier than that, this meant that the implications of these plot twists are not explored in an emotionally satisfying way, which significantly decreased their impact, for me.

Lauren Oliver's writing is exquisite, as always, so on a purely aesthetic level, I did enjoy Rooms. But I wasn't personally invested in the story in any way, and the plot twists aren't explored enough to get me to love the story. I do recommend Rooms for the intriguing premise and the beautiful writing style, but I won't be calling it a personal favorite. 


  1. Sorry this one wasn't for you, but great honest review!
    Amber Elise @ Du Livre


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