Ghosts In the House: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Originally published October 2014

There’s nothing like a good old fashioned ghost story.

Especially in the month of mystical mayhem like October. Sure, I love tripping the light spooktastic with Stephen King and am always up for a scary movie marathon with the likes of Halloween, The Exorcist and my buddy the Blair Witch, but this—Rooms—was a sweet-but-sad-totally-engrossing-reading-at-stop-lights-in-the-car kind of tale. Perfect for anyone who likes their supernatural to be nonthreatening.

Lauren Oliver’s book reads with a YA undercurrent, not surprisingly as she’s an NYT bestselling author in that genre. It’s not patronizing, and contains several fantastic twists, at least two of which are so achingly heartbreaking you wish the book wasn’t over when it is.

It’s present day and Richard Walker, left alone in life, spends his last days in his large home near Coral River, in western New York. Upon his demise, his ex-wife Caroline, daughter Minna and son Trenton return to assess the mess and make arrangements for his burial. It’s only Trenton, a sullen and emotionally disturbed teen, that realizes they aren’t actually alone. There are voices in the walls, and it’s those voices—those of Sandra and Alice—that narrate a good portion of the story.

Alice was the earliest resident of the somewhat decrepit home, along with her husband Ed. Next up? Sandra, who escaped a poverty-like existence in Georgia to eventually take up residence in Coral River. And then the Walkers—fresh from sunny California and on the road to divorce.

I’m not giving much away by suggesting Caroline is a raging alcoholic, Minna is trying to fill an emotional void with sex from strangers and Trenton is contemplating suicide. Alice and Sandra are just bystanding ghosts, existing as a natural part of the home’s fabric, in its walls and floorboards, as if their DNA effectively regrouped within that of the wallpaper and carpet.

Things get dicey when the will is read, and Sandra and Alice are forced to welcome a new soul into their world. I say much more, and I spoil the surprises. I can say this—readers should find themselves completely wrapped up in the emotion that surrounds each character, particularly that of Sandra, Alice and Trenton. Alice, my God, Alice! Yep, I went all verklempt over Alice.

And fair warning—you may end up contemplating your next life … Do you believe in ghosts? Or souls that inhabit the space in which they last existed in human form? Who is in your house? Where do you think you may set up housekeeping after you draw your last breath? A childhood home? The space you shared with your spouse? A favorite retreat?

Think about it. Tell me your favorite ghost story. And pick “Rooms” up. A fabulous read—good for a mature tween straight on up.

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