Book: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
Author: Katie Alender
Age Range: 12 and up
I was not initially taken by the cover of The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, by Katie Alender. However, Ms. Yingling reviewed The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall, comparing the book favorably to Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall. This piqued my interest, and after reading the first chapter I was hooked. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is a young adult horror novel set in a former "institute for the care and correction of troubled females." The main character, Delia, inherits the property, known by locals as Hysteria Hall, from her great aunt. From just about the first moment Delia enters the house, she observes strange phenomena. As things get worse, Delia learns that leaving Hysteria Hall is more difficult than she could ever have imagined.
The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is an excellent ghost story, full of chills and suspense. In the first section of the book, brief sections labeled "Observations Made After the Fact" add foreshadowing. Like this:
"As I crossed the threshold into the house, my father called to me. "Delia," he said.
I turned, one foot in, one foot out, to look back at him.
"Don't get too attached to this place, okay?" he said. "it's not like you can stay here forever." (End of Chapter 2)
Observations Made After the Fact (next page)
Can't stay forever, eh?
Wanna bet?" (Page 15-16,ARC)
One thing that I think makes Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall work is that Delia has a pretty good understanding of the nature of the other characters (living and otherwise). Like this:
"For some reason, my mother assumes strangers are interested in our lives. Maybe because her students spend all their free time kissing up to her and pretending to care about insignificant details of her existence. Mom never met a situation couldn't kablooey into an awkward overshare." (Page 7, ARC)
"Dad, for his part, had a way of making authoritative pronouncements as if we were all his royal subjects. Probably from being treated like a minor god-figure by his eager-beaver students. (Sadly, when your parents are professors, college loses a bit of its mystique.) (Page 9, ARC)
The interpersonal dynamics between Delia and the other characters, particularly her family members, are realistically flawed, and provide a good contrast with the spectral events taking place in the story. Another small thing that the author did that added a layer of realism to the story was having ghosts who lived 100 years earlier who didn't understand modern-day colloquialisms. This lent a faint dose of humor to an otherwise rather dark story.
Hysteria Hall, itself something of a character in the story, is delightfully creepy and fully realized. The ghosts that live there are complex beings. The mystery about how the Hall became haunted will keep readers guessing, and the action will keep them turning the pages. I found the ending satisfying, both in terms of plot and in heart. I would recommend The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall to anyone who enjoys reading about ghosts, creepy old buildings, or teenage struggles for identify. This would pair well with Dan Poblocki's The Ghost of Graylock, and would be a good addition to any library's YA horror collection.
Publisher: Point (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
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