Author: Cyn Balog
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4 Stars
I received an ARC copy of Alone in exchange for an honest review. Thanks goes to NetGalley as well as Sourcebooks Fire Books for this advanced copy which was recently released on November 7, 2017. Also, my apologies to NetGalley, the publisher and the author, Cyn Balog for the late posting of my review.
Dear fellow Babblers,
Alone by Cyn Balog is altogether thrilling, curious and strangely beautiful. Balog goes beyond authors to create a story that leaves readers puzzled, relieved, frightened, traumatized. The plot is unheard of. The writing style is quick paced and slow to climax; a paradox yes, a mistake no. The characters are disastrous and unknowingly on their way to their fate. The feelings provoked are doubt, sympathy hatred for things unseen. This chilling tale starts with the disturbing infatuation of a mother who inherits and old mansion, affecting her children’s contact with the outside world, especially her teenage daughter, Seda. Through Seda’s eyes we are trapped within the creaking rooms and dusty exterior of this place she fears she must now call home. All is sad, but quaintly uneventful until a group of friends lose their direction on their way to a winter resort. When these teens enter the mansion seeking safety, it is without pause that they enter a faraway, yet so close universe where fun is mixed with fear, and life becomes death.
When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda’s almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it’s fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they’re not going back to the city…or Seda’s friends and school.
As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They’re about to be cut off from the outside world, and she’s not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.
Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality…
Seda’s mom is a horror film teacher so what more of a blessing than to inherit a haunted mansion from her grandparents? With initial plans to sell the old, creepy dwelling, Seda’s mom becomes increasingly infatuated and turns what would become a historical monument for sale a home for her family. She loses her reluctance to put the home up for her comes at the cost of her husband and she is left to raise her three children on her own, but she seems perfectly beside herself with the idea.
She comes up with quirky ways to keep her two twins and her teenage daughter entertained like hide and seek games and deliciously exorbitant meals each night. This way, she is able to extend the length of their stay in the home, tucked well away from the rest of the world with little human contact other than a ski resort miles away.Inspired by the paranormal horror thriller movies from back in the day, Seda’s mom risks the unity of her family to chase a spooky ideal that cannot be found, so she decides to create it herself.
Seda is an awkward and lanky girl with troubles of her own. Her little secret is her imaginary “friend”, a potentially dangerous voice living in her veins and speaking in her ind, taking control of her with every opportunity. While it’s normal for small children to have an imaginary friend, Seda’s has stayed with her and if anything has turned into an enemy on its way into infecting her mind and contact with the world around her. She tries to hush the voice and longs to return home to Boston and live a real teenage life once again with slumber parties, boyfriends, and college applications. As the months tick by it becomes increasingly hard for Seda to keep in contact with her friends from high school and she furrows deeper and deeper into her own mind, forgetting what it feels like to breathe outside of this new universe of fear and horror. She spends lots of time alone wandering about the house, as there is little to do outside in the freezing blizzard cold.
Everything goes just as it should – banal, solemn, isolated until Seda runs into a group of teenagers one day in the forest who have lost their way to the ski resort. It is with their appearance in the house that the mansion truly does become exactly what Seda’s mother was hoping for – a paranormally haunting disaster.
The reader has to wait and make it through more than half the book to finally make it into the very core of the novel – a solitarily stifling murder mystery. The eerie tone of Balog’s writing leads the reader into a game of “who killed killed whoever got killed.” And who is the one tugging the stings of this puppet show? None other than Seda’s overwhelmingly fun, yet completely twisted mother. This late plot is what really saved the book. The beginning was slow with very little happening, which caused me to think the book was simply going to be static with little to no development. However what bothered me about this was that it almost seems as though the book should be separated. The writing style, pacing, and chain of events changes quickly and almost abruptly from a girl battling her internal demons to a girl and a group of lost teenagers unknowingly playing the characters in a fanatic murderous game. These two parts could have been woven much tighter together, therefore improving the overall quality of the story. Each part by itself I enjoyed but together, they were just too different and need polishing for greater fluidity. The spooky tone remains the same which draws both parts of the book together but that is not enough with a book which is supposed to be a murder mystery, entailing that there is action, which is not the case in the first sixty percent.
The story is told through Seda’s point of view which I loved because gave me the chance to enter her world and experience life in the mansion, and feel the voice inside her being awakened as the days become darker and more enclosed. Seda doesn’t think of herself as likable, pretty or capable of ever again being a normal teenager. The ways he describers herself and views herself in comparison to others is almost heartbreaking because it shows the affects that an absence of human contact can have on an individual’s perceptions of him or herself.
This book was scary and immensely curious. It was unlike any thriller I have ever picked up before. The tone, writing style, characters, events – everything – was unexpected and, while not as satisfying as I would have hoped, given the strange ending, left me with goosebumps and heart-pounding questions and possibilities, never to be confirmed, always to be pondered upon. A book that leaves you thinking about it, even after you turn the last page; even after you close the book and put it back on the shelf; even as you open your next read. This is exactly what I look for in literature, something that makes me feel. Little does it matter what it makes me feel. The point is, it makes me feel.
Book image credits go to Goodreads