Review: Harmony House by Nic Sheff

February 27, 2016 Reviews 4 ★★

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Harmony House by Nic SheffHarmony House by Nic Sheff
Published by HarperTeen on March 22, 2016
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: the publisher
Goodreads
My rating: two-stars
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.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. Because I need to rant and I can’t rant without spoilers. You’ve been warned.
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…You’ve been warned again…
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…Seriously.. Stop RIGHT HERE if you don’t want to be spoiled!
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Okay.. Harmony House was one of my most anticipated books of the year. Based on the cover, title and synopsis, I was gearing up for something creepy and spooky that would make me want to sleep with the lights on. And… I didn’t get that. At all. This book was basically one giant metaphor for addiction. Which, with Nic Sheff’s past, I guess that isn’t so surprising; however, it was disappointing. It wasn’t scary and despite the fast pace and moments of intrigue, it was an overall boring read with a disappointing ending that left me feeling unsatisfied.

The characters in this book were all.. off and.. I don’t know..? I felt really detached from them and their stories. At first, I thought it was just the typical Horror Character Disconnection – where you refuse to let yourself like the characters because you don’t know who will survive and who won’t, so you refuse to get attached. But after finishing the book, I think it’s more that I just didn’t like them. Jen was odd and aloof when it came to the things happening to her. Like, “Oh, hey, I’m sick and hallucinating and having visions, cool!” Also, apparently she was pregnant and never questioned it, even though an ex-boyfriend is NEVER mentioned. Ever. Colin seemed like an intriguing character but he literally just showed up and disappeared and then… Nothing? Like, legit, nothing. We never found out who or what he was (except for that one flashback, but we received no confirmation after that) and then he just never showed up again.

I liked Christy but her character didn’t do much. I’m pretty sure the only reason she was in the book was so it would be less weird when Rose spoke to Jen. Also, because Christy’s accident allowed for Jen to leave the house and for Rose to get her alone to talk. That was it. Alex was an asshole and we never found out if he was JUST an asshole or if he was drunk or possessed or whatever. And that attempted rape scene? Why do male writers always do that crap? Please, can someone tell me why? And finally, of course, I hated Jen’s father and his asshole-ish behavior.

Now, speaking of Jen’s dad, that brings me to one of my biggest issues with this book (besides the fact that we were misled into believing this was a horror story and it wasn’t): Religion. Religion in books annoys the crap out of me for two reasons – First, I’m not a very religious person, so I don’t enjoy books that are overly religious. Second, most of the time, books with religion go the Carrie’s mom route and religion is just used as a scapegoat to make someone seem crazy, overzealous and righteous. Also, abusive. And Harmony House did just that (the latter, that is). Now, I might not be religious, but I don’t care if other people are – to each their own! And it isn’t fair to those who embrace their religion, who believe in God, to be portrayed as crazies all the time. And speaking of Carrie, this book definitely had a little bit of a Carrie vibe, what with the religious stuff/crazy religious parent and the way Jen’s anger manifests into telekinesis (which was completely random and never explained, either, by the way).

Now, I will say that this was a fast book and it had me intrigued and guessing until the end. I read half the book in two hours and then finished it off throughout the course of the day. It definitely had “Just One More Chapter” syndrome and I didn’t want to put it down. At least for that first half. With the second half, things began to feel… Well, I started to get that sinking feeling that this “horror story” wasn’t actually a horror story. And it wasn’t.

The ending was dreadful. Sometimes, horror novels with open endings are epic and keep you guessing, even after you’ve finished reading and you just can’t stop thinking about what you read. But Harmony House had me feeling like I missed something, like I wasted my time. SO many things were left unanswered and so many things lacked explanation.

I’m so tired of this trend of alleged horror novels that are not really horror or supernatural, just delusions or potential mental health issues or people playing tricks on other people or just a confusing ending where they don’t tell you if it’s real or supernatural. It’s so frustrating! I just want a straight-up supernatural horror read with an actual haunting and ghosts and WHY CAN’T I HAVE THAT?!? IS IT ASKING TOO MUCH FOR A LEGIT HORROR NOVEL?

*Takes a breath.”

Okay, rant over. So yeah, I don’t recommend this book if you’re looking for a creeptastic horror read. Because this is not a creeptastic horror read and you’ll be sorely disappointed. I know I am.

4 Responses to “Review: Harmony House by Nic Sheff”

  1. Michelle @ Pink Polka Dot Books

    I hate when books end and leave you feeling like that. It’s one thing to have it be something where you can see where it’s going, and completely another for it to end and you’re like WHAT???? That is infuriating. I read Nic Sheff’s bio book Tweak and thought it was good… not the best writing I thought though. I wondered where he would go with a fiction career and so far none of the books I’ve seen from him seem to be ones I’m interested in reading. This one I thought MAYBE, but after reading what you wrote, I’m going to pass :( Maybe next time Nic Sheff!

    • Meredith

      Exactly! I was like.. “Wait.. that’s it? That’s the ending..?” It was So disappointing :( I’m sorry you’re choosing to pass on the book, but I really don’t recommend it if you’re looking for a super scary read because this was NOT a super scary read :(

  2. Alyssa Susanna (The Eater of Books!)

    Oh dear. So, so many things went wrong. I love your spoiler alert preface, nicely done with that. :D I would absolutely hate this novel! It can’t just end and not have a good explanation for things! I’m disappointed on your behalf, because you really need a good YA horror book! Maybe someone is working on one now. :) Anyway, I’m sorry this one was no good! But your review is excellent, Meredith. <3

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Meredith

      Haha! Thanks! 95% of the time, I do spoiler free reviews, so I always try to do EPIC spoil warnings when needed. But yes, sadly, many things went wrong with this book. Sad panda! I really do hope I find a good YA horror soon.. Fingers crossed! <3

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