Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

Malerman_A House at the Bottom of a Lake.jpg

Published: This is Horror, 2016

Genre: “Horror,” fantasy, young adult

My rating: 1/5 stars

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes. It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories. It’s got a garden. And the front door is open. It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains: Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.” (Goodreads)

This was my book club’s May read, and it’s taken me a while to get my thoughts organized enough to write a review. We had read Malerman’s Bird Box in the past, and had high hopes for A House at the Bottom of a Lake. Unfortunately, we missed the mark.   

If you’re really looking for horror, you won’t find it here. I think that might have been my biggest disappointment. This is more a story of two teens’ minor adventures and short romance than anything remotely horror.

For the majority of this book, it felt like nothing happened. At the very least, it felt like the same thing happened repeatedly: they explored the house. But the thing about it was, for a book labeled horror – nothing happened. There were no monsters, no scares, just the house. The house itself was mysterious – placed there for seemingly no reason, with furniture somehow not floating and everything fully intact, but that just wasn’t enough.We were never given any explanation to anything, and when I finally finished I thought, ‘Okay, but why.’

As for the two main characters, the only relevant ones, they were bland to me. There was more lust than personality. I felt like I was reading about two caricatures of teenagers falling in and out of love. Two things mattered to them: the house and each other. Which might be okay, if they were a bit more well-rounded rather than paper dolls.

The writing was very stilted. While I thought the author’s style worked quite well for Bird Box, this one was different. Words, sentences, and phrases were often repeated several times in a row, and much of the book was 1-3 word lines. I kept wishing the narrator would stop repeating themselves and get to the point, and the short, choppy lines with little to mix it up became repetitive and slightly annoying.

Overall, I was highly disappointed by this book. This had an interesting premise and Malerman has proved to be a talented writer, but this was a flop for me.

(That cover is beautiful though…)

Buy the book: Amazon, Book Depository

Find more reviews here!


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