The house that has no explanation, or my review for Harmony House

Harmony House

By Nic Sheff

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: March 22, 2016

Format: ARC

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Jen Noonan’s father thinks a move to Harmony House is the key to salvation, but to everyone who has lived there before, it is a portal to pure horror.

After Jen’s alcoholic mother’s death, her father cracked. He dragged Jen to this dilapidated old manor on the shore of New Jersey to “start their new lives”—but Harmony House is more than just a creepy old estate. It’s got a chilling past—and the more Jen discovers its secrets, the more the house awakens. Strange visions follow Jen wherever she goes, and her father’s already-fragile sanity disintegrates before her eyes. As the forces in the house join together to terrorize Jen, she must find a way to escape the past she didn’t know was haunting her—and the mysterious and terrible power she didn’t realize she had.

A classic horror story finds a terrifying home in Harmony House, drawing on favorite tropes and edgy, modern characters to create a chilling tale of blame, guilt, and ghostly revenge.

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The title of this post sums up my feelings for Harmony House. While in the moment it is seriously weird and creepy, when you put it down you don’t really know why anything is going on. There are plenty of creepy things in the house’s past and Sheff definitely plays with the atmosphere that the house lends to the book, but even with multiple flashbacks to previous inhabitants of the house, there is no lasting ominous feeling from the book once you put it down. There is no gnawing sense to check over your shoulder, no need to check under the bed or around corners. And those feelings? That's what I want when I read a great horror story. Unfortunately, I'd have to classify this book as just good.

The best part about Harmony House was sitting down to read it. I didn’t read it all in one sitting, and it was easy to return to the book after putting it down from time to time. The ill at ease feeling of Harmony House and its surroundings returned quickly, Jen’s creepy father maintained his creepy-ness without having to build up to it again, and the flashbacks were just as enthralling, sickening, and expository as ever. My main complaint would be that, while reading, the story was compelling and fast paced with little to no lulls, but instead of wildly fearing for the main character and hoping that the things that went bump didn’t grab her by the ankle and drag her under the bed, I instead was hoping that she would just get the hell out of that house and not look back, her father be damned.

And then there is that total lack of explanation. So, I understand that the house has a horrible history. It was inhabited by a bunch of crazy, overzealous Catholics and mistreated orphans. There was a little girl who was preyed upon by her own father. But my question is, why did these things stick around, so to speak, in the house? Why did they leave such an imprint, and why did they feel the need to influence anyone who so much as slipped into the house? The book offers a lot of backstory through flashbacks, and I understand that it could be difficult to explain the house’s intentions through limited snippets, but could it have hurt to tie it all together? Also, what’s up with Jen’s powers? Cool, they helped save her and she realized that they have been present in her life all along, but, um, what exactly are they and why are they important?

Basically, I have a lot of question.

With a great base to build from, Harmony House fell short of it’s potential. It left me questioning so many things, and not in a good way. It also had little things that were mentioned or happened that just seemed to be throw away creepy scenes, like the mention of how the house’s layout doesn’t make sense or how that creepy neighbor started stalking her. But most of all, I was sad to see poor Colin’s plot line sputter out so suddenly and then have no resolution.

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. A physical ARC was provided through Around the World ARC Tours, thanks for the opportunity!

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