The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Harrowing was a pretty good book to read around Halloween. It was nicely scary, and the story idea was quite interesting. Ms. Sokoloff integrated Jewish creation lore into this story. I thought that it gave this story an individuality for a ghost story/supernatural horror story. This was a major strength of this novel.
I also really liked Robin, the main character. She starts this story at a complete low, but shows courage, ingenuity, and strength of character that is crucial for the ordeal she will face, along with her new-found friends.
The message that no one is worthless or a discard resonated with me. We all have a place in the world, and have individual worth as people. Through Robin, Cain, Lisa, Patrick, and Martin, this theme comes to life. There was a bit of a Breakfast Club vibe to this story that I enjoyed. You see the five archetypes for young adults come together: The musician/artsy kid (Cain), the sexy promiscuous girl who no guy can resist (Lisa), the football star (Patrick), the nerd (Martin), and the depressed, black-wearing strange girl (Robin). Each character has their own issues that they are dealing with that make them feel like that are burdened down by life. On the downside, I wish that Lisa's character had been given a little more depth. I didn't really get to see why she was promiscuous, other than something in her past had driven her down that path. Perhaps she was molested and no one believed her. Also, I felt that Waverly, Robin's Southern Belle roommate, and Patrick's girlfriend, could have been more three-dimensional. I realize she was just a secondary character, but she's an important one.
The major reason I did not rate this higher was a matter of personal tastes. I am not a fan of the teen slasher horror motif. Unfortunately, that was the direction that this story went towards. I sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I didn't like all the drinking and drug use. Yes, I know lots of college students toke up and get drunk, but it made me uncomfortable. It started out nicely eerie and gothic, which I really appreciated. However, I didn't see why the possessed character had to turn into an ax-wielding murderer. That seemed a little off-course from the original direction of the story. In fact, I could have done without that element. The demise of one of the characters seemed to be too abrupt and the way in which the character's body was used seemed kind of crude and unnecessary. If the author wanted to convey a sense of risk to the characters, I think there were other ways to go with this.
Overall, this was a good book. I liked the very unique idea behind the haunting, and it had some good messages about identity, tolerance (it touches on anti-semitism) and friendship. I just wish that the story had kept to the original gothic elements and atmosphere the whole way through.
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