Are you in love with horror? If you need convincing, check out Colleen Seisser’s review of The Haunted!
I go in and out of love with horror, and right now I am all in! I am a big fan of Danielle Vega’s The Merciless, which I listened to right after it was published. Narrator Amy Rubinate was a fantastic match for that production, as she was able to portray the wide cast of characters and really convey the true horror of the story. I thought it was the most vicious YA horror novel that I have read in a long time! So, I jumped at the chance to listen to Vega’s latest, The Haunted. And while The Haunted is not as much of a visceral horror as The Merciless (since it is a ghost story and not a possession tale), it did not disappoint–both in the story and in the audio production!
The Haunted is set in a small New York town called Drearford. Hendricks and her family (mom, dad, and baby brother) have moved to Drearford from Philadelphia. Hendricks’ parents are fixer- uppers and have bought a very old, abandoned house called Steele House. Nothing better than a creepy, big, old house!
At first, the house just seems old and like it needs a lot of fixing up. However, as Hendricks starts navigating being the new kid in school, she begins to learn more about the history of her new home. She discovers that a few years earlier, a young girl was murdered in the basement. To make matters worse, Hendricks is dealing with PTSD as a result of an abusive relationship that she left about a year ago. Her troubles with her ex-boyfriend were one of the main reasons that her family decided to seek out a fresh start in Drearford.
Hendricks easily makes friends with the more popular crowd at her new school. As the eerie occurrences ramp up at home, frightening the nanny and harming her family, she turns to her neighbor, Eddie, who is an outcast and someone Hendricks knows she should stay away from. However, she can’t help feeling drawn to him. Plus, he knows about Steel House and believes Hendricks when she describes the terrifying hauntings and ghost encounters. Why? It was Eddie’s younger sister who was murdered at Steel House, and he hasn’t been the same since.
As with most haunting stories, the terror in this novel builds until you think it’s over, and then it comes back around once more to keep you truly horrified. Narrator Holly Linneman is a great pairing for this production as she excels in unveiling the creepy with her slow, measured pace as she carefully reveals the grim exposition details.
Linneman also excels with this cast of characters, providing good character voice variation and consistency. Once example of this consistency is at the beginning of the book, where a welcome email to Henricks from her new school is read in Linneman’s upbeat and chipper voicing for the character Portia, who also becomes Hendricks’ new bff. That small detail of reading the letter in that character’s voice is what makes a production stellar! I also really enjoyed the voicing that Linneman gives the support character and Portia’s other bff, Raven, who talks in a much slower, deeper, and lackadaisical tone that plays really well off of Portia’s breezy, fast, and upbeat tone. It’s a nice dynamic!
I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t highlight where Linneman got all the horror right and made this production feel very creepy. For example, I could hear the shivers of fear in Hendrick’s voice as she begins to encounter the strange occurrences in the house. The opening scene that takes the reader to the murder of Eddie’s younger sister is read with such anxiety that you just know it will not end well (and what a way to start off this novel!). At one point after they have just moved into Steel House, Hendricks’ younger brother’s vintage doll becomes an ominous clue of bad things to come: It is an old doll that sings, but its voice is worn out. And then… it starts singing out of nowhere! Linneman sings it as raspy and robotic, and it made my skin crawl. Finally, the pure hatred that Linneman gets across with the ghosts’ threats is really well done. At first I wasn’t sure that I liked it, as it didn’t sound like what I thought a ghost should sound like. And then I realized that I didn’t like the voicing because I wasn’t supposed to like it!
If you, like me, can’t get enough of horror be sure to pick this audiobook up. It will not disappoint. One note, too, this is a ghost story, so it really is more tame than a book like The Merciless, but there are definite points of scares and not-too-nice things happening. You have been warned, hahaha! (cue Dracula laugh…)
The Haunted, by Danielle Vega, read by Holly Linneman. 7 hours, 23 minutes. Listening Library, 2019.