ABOUT A BOOK #03: MY REVIEW OF STEPHANIE PERKINS’S THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE.
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Greetings and bienvenue, all.
In this third installment of my About a Book series, I’ll be reviewing Stephanie Perkins’s 2017 Young Adult Horror/Thriller novel There’s Someone Inside Your House.
First things first, though.
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With that in mind and without further ado, as follows is my review of Stephanie Perkins’s There’s Someone Inside Your House (TSIYH).
Title: There’s Someone Inside Your House
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Published by: Dutton Books
Publication Date: 12 September 2017
Page Length: 304 (Hardcover)
Reading Age: 14 – 18 years
*BE WARNED: MILD TO MEDIUM SPOILERS FOLLOW*
• PREMISE •
Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Osborne, Nebraska, and attending Osborne High School. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.
Then, one by one, the students of Osborne High begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
• MY REVIEW •
Though this book was published to considerable popularity in late 2017, I first discovered it a few weeks ago, when I heard of the Sydney-Park-led Netflix film adaptation that dropped just in time for Halloween last month.
TSIYH is marketed as a YA Slasher book (basically a novelized send-up of horror classics like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer), so it makes sense that it would eventually be made into an actual horror movie. However, as tends to happen with many cinematic versions of popular novels, this book’s film adaptation was widely panned among both audiences and critics, who seem to view it as a derivative and unfocused imitation of better horror movies that also tries too hard to fit into “woke” culture.
Curiosity got the better of me, though, partially because I’ve never heard of a “YA Slasher” novel before and partially just because I wanted to see how the book itself stacked up against the much-lambasted movie. So, after checking out both the movie and its press, I decided to give the book a proper read-through.
First, the good:
TSIYH easily outclasses its film counterpart both in story structure and adeptness at overall presentation.
1. This is my first Stephanie Perkins novel, but my understanding is that her area of expertise is YA romance—and it shows here. She does a very good job of timing and executing the slowly deepening relationship between Makani and Ollie, who are both essentially outsiders looking for sense and a place while coming to terms with very dark pasts and horrible parental situations.
2. Perkins also proves herself a veteran author with her strong command of diction. I’ve never had the pleasure of living in Hawaii or the misfortune of being stuck in Nowheresville, Nebraska; but Perkins describes both locations and their subtleties so well that I feel like a native of both areas for having read TSIYH. The descriptions of people, places, thought processes, and things were generally outstanding. The dialogue mostly flows well and feels natural for teenagers and adults of the sort presented in this book.
3. As could be expected of a book billed as a horror movie in novel form, there’s QUITE a bit of blood and gore in TSIYH—primarily the last fifth. All of that agrees with me mightily. I myself tend to prefer messier murder mysteries. Something about the no-holds-barred descriptions of the aftermath of fictional killings just makes the stories seem more realistic and enrapturing. (I can, however, see how some people might feel differently. And if you find that sort of thing triggering, TSIYH is not the novel for you.)
Now, the bad:
The premise of a horror-movie novel is an interesting one, but it largely fails in practice here. In fact, this book’s stalwart adherence to a basic slasher-movie formula becomes its biggest problem—because in abiding by that formula, it falls victim to most negative tropes that you’ll find in the standard B-horror movie.
1. The story is not very complex, elevating, or redemptive. Though the novel does become an unputdownable affair beginning around its last fifth, the mystery/horror/thriller elements of the tale are just barely strong enough to interestingly hold it together until then. Meanwhile, the biggest bout of character development is a general arc in which Makani learns that one major sin in her past does not have to define her and that she has friends who love and accept her, despite having parents who don’t. For YA fiction, both of these lessons are pretty low-hanging fruit.
2. As tends to happen in many modern horror movies—and contemporary YA Thriller novels, for that matter—there is a rather reductive and stereotypical main character with horrible secrets that don’t get revealed until some plot-convenient story juncture. Makani spends about half the book fearing that her new friends will uncover her dark secrets; but when they are revealed, the payoff really isn’t worth the time taken to get there. Makani’s hidden sins turn out to be very underwhelming and convoluted, involving a substantial amount of backstory with characters who aren’t even introduced beforehand.
3. There were no clues lain regarding the identity of the killer, and said identity was revealed about halfway through the book. That sapped much of the fun for me because I prefer to be kept guessing the murderer’s identity until the end of these kinds of stories. When the killer was revealed, it was some random peripheral guy with no discernible motive. The motive was the only mystery that Perkins left unsolved until the end. But once it was uncovered, it was a disappointing head-scratcher that didn’t even begin to justify the wait.
4. TSIYH, perhaps in homage to the horror movies it emulates, took the frustrating route of making the killer an unbelievably invincible force of nature. The murderer, despite being an unassuming teenager, is basically capable of invisibility, teleportation, leaving no trail of himself behind, easily overpowering armed victims who are bigger or who outnumber him, escaping armies of policemen, killing right under their noses, and sustaining critical injuries while hardly feeling pain. Enjoying the full novel, in turn, requires a high suspension of the reader’s disbelief.
5. The ending is very rushed—the wrap-up chapter gets maybe five pages—and leaves many dangling plot threads that are never resolved. The last fifth or so of the book is a frenzied, high-speed dash to catch the killer. But once the killer has been neutralized, TSIYH ends with practically no real resolution to the myriad of secondary stories that have been simmering throughout the book. (For reference, one of very few things that the maligned movie adaptation got right was tacking on a more proper finale to tie off the remaining loose ends in a somewhat satisfactory manner.)
• BRASS TACKS •
This book is a well-written and moderately enjoyable slasher mystery that outshines its film adaptation but still falls victim to many of the problems that plague most basic horror movies. A pretty good hair-salon or DMV-line read.
• MY RATING •
I give Stephanie Perkins’s There’s Someone Inside Your House 2.5/5 cronuts.