“The fire begins in the basement.”
Lauren Oliver’s first foray into adult fiction is both complex and impressive. I never would have guessed that her roots were in juvenile fiction had I not read several myself.
When Richard Walker dies, he is alone. His estranged ex-wife and children show up after the fact only to settle his estate and plan the funeral. Caroline, the mother, relies on the warmth of vodka to quell her bitterness. Teenage son Trenton is troubled, friendless and on the brink of suicide. Minna, there with her five-year-old daughter, battles her own demons with anger and sex.
Unbeknownst to the Walkers, they are not alone. Two ghosts reside in the structure of the old house. Alice and Sandra reveal the secrets of their own (former) lives even as they observe the secrets of the Walker family.
Out of nowhere, a new ghost appears in the house, and neither Sandra nor Alice knows why, who, or from where. Even more curious — she can communicate with Trenton. The mystery of this new ghost intertwines with the mysteries of the past, for both the living and the dead.
Though a “ghost story”, this book is much more literary than supernatural. Oliver lets the reader know her characters intimately, no holds barred, with a lot of aspects that definitely make Rooms a solid adult novel.
The pacing was excellent, quick without feeling rushed. I sat down to read and had finished half the novel before looking back up. The writing is straightforward but still eloquent, with each character having a clear and unique voice, especially the ghosts.
I will say, Alice’s timeline gets confusing sometimes. She has so many revelations that it is difficult to ascertain the order of events in her past. There were also a few parts that were unnecessarily graphic — they felt more like shock value than advancing the plot.
If you’re seeking a novel similar to the Delirium trilogy or Before I Fall, this is not the book for you. If you want an adult novel with good writing and interesting characters that reads quickly but still makes you think, then Rooms is a great pick.
4 out of 5 stars