Friday, 22 August 2014

Book Review: Amity by Micol Ostow

Connor's family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she's recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor's nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren't there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she's done before. As she'll do again.

Alternating between parallel narratives, Amity is a tense and terrifying tale suggested by true-crime events that will satisfy even the most demanding horror fan. 

"Here is a house; not sane, not sentient, but potent, poisonous, 
drenched with decay."

I really like horror which is weird because I scare easily and I let myself get so freaked out I sometimes can’t sleep at night after reading or watching a horror.  Every noise I hear has my imagination running wild.  The stories about Amityville and the infamous house there do scare me, I guess this is because they are supposedly true (did you know the owners who suffered through the most famous haunting there both took lie detector tests and passed?) and because a few years back I experienced something pretty damn frightening.  So I was kind of dreading reading this book but at the same time quite excited.

Amity is a strange book.  It is about some really freaky stuff but it didn’t actually scare me.  There were times when it bored me a little and other moments where I felt it went too far but for some reason it gripped me.  when I had to stop reading to get on with real life I couldn’t stop thinking about it, this books deranged darkness seemed to reach out and touch me which was more than a little uncomfortable.

Micol Ostow has done a great job at mixing fiction with the history and past story of the actual house in Amityville.  It is a clever book not only in terms of its mix of fiction and fact but also in the choice of its narrators.  Amity is told by two teens, Connor and Gwen who live in the house 10 years apart.  Both have a history of violence and mental instability which makes the reader question whether what is happening is real or not.

The writing is atmospheric and eerie.  Ostow has done a good job at building this famous and legendary house and making it feel, sometimes literally, alive.  She knows how to make the reader uncomfortable and uses this talent to good effect.   There is no holding back and although this is a YA book I wouldn’t give it to someone under the age of 15 without having a parent check it first, some parts are truly grim.

The weakness in this book comes from the characters.  Connor is just impossible to like and his reaction to things, especially in the beginning, were unbelievable.  Gwen was better I quite liked her but felt the more ‘magical’ elements to her personality were not needed.  One thing I did like was that Connor was physically and mentally stronger than Gwen yet she is the one with the most courage and power to resist Amity.   Beyond doubt the main character is Amity itself.  The house is manipulative and deranged in the most glorious yet disturbing of ways.

What Amity lacks in good characters it makes up from an eerie storytelling.  I didn’t love it but thought it was a clever way of bringing an old legend to a new and young audience.

3 stars

Find out more:

 Expected publication: August 26th 2014 by EgmontUSA, ebook ARC, 368 pages

A free copy of this book was provided for review.

Review by Kate Phillips

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