This was a rather gruesome YA horror book that I found reminiscent of The Shining. Noelle and Art are the teen night clerks at a hotel with a horrifying history, and when the book begins, they are among the many dead found in a strange massacre that takes place on the anniversary of one of its most infamous events. The book is written as Noelle’s diary and it contains various annotations from the police investigation and the movie executives who have gotten their hands on it. Readers should be prepared for a lot of gore and generally disgusting descriptions of everything from bowel movements to an insidious sore. This was a three star read for me, but horror isn’t my thing. Mature high school readers can probably handle it, but many authority figures will find it objectionable.
Noelle takes a summer nightshift job at the infamous Boy Meets Girl Inn, even though she’s well aware of the grisly murders that happened there decades ago. That’s why she has a diary—to write down everything she experiences in case things go bump in the night. But the inexplicable freezing drafts, the migrating rotten-flesh smell, and the misplaced personal items don’t really scare her. Noelle has bigger problems: her father’s ailing health, her friend Alfred’s inappropriate crush, and the sore spot on the back of her head that keeps getting worse.
When a party commemorating the anniversary of the original killings ends in a ghoulish bloodbath, Noelle’s diary becomes the key piece of evidence for investigators. But the cryptic and often incoherent entries suggest there is more to the bizarre case than can be rationally explained…
Since readers know what happened, the mystery is how and why this happened, and my own curiosity about these questions was what kept me reading despite my initial gag reflex. I have to say I wasn’t completely satisfied with the answers, but the narrative voice at the beginning warns that is the case for everyone involved, so I can accept it. The pacing is designed to introduce an atmosphere and establish the setting, so things are pretty slow going as they build up to the climax. The annotations were not formatted to fall at the ends of pages in my ebook ARC, so I found them either disruptive or too far from initial text to be terribly helpful. I did like the information they gave me, so when they are properly formatted, they will add to the experience. It was interesting how much I liked Noelle, even when she was writing truly awful things, but Herman was my favorite nutcase. This man could give Norman Bates’ mom lessons on creating a psycho. I’ve never seen an emotionally dependent dad like this before, and I loved it. Readers who pick this up probably aren’t looking for anything more than an escape read, so they won’t be upset that there really isn’t any deeper themes or universal lessons about the human condition. While there were things I liked, horror isn’t my genre of choice and I didn’t enjoy so much as endure this book. However, if you are someone who truly enjoys old school Stephen King or horror films, this book will probably be right up your alley. There is a lot of mature language, graphic violence, and disturbing imagery, so this isn’t something I can include in my classroom library.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.