Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review: Amity

Title: Amity
Author: Micol Ostow
Published: August, 2014
Publisher: Egmont USA
When's the last time you've been scared by a book? If you're like me, not in a while and not often, period. It's kind of hard to be genuinely freaked out when reading, right? Movies can be scary, especially the ones that mean to be frightening, and I've been overcome by the suspense of an audiobook more than a few times.  I think the sensory experiences of sight and sound trigger that fear reaction, as well as being out of control of the input of those experiences. But when reading a book?

As a person who enjoys a good fright, I'm pleased to say that Amity delivered some spine-chilling moments.  At one point, I even let out a hushed scream of shocked and delighted horror. It won't join the ranks of great YA literature, but Amity was a well-written, creepy novel that really shined stylistically.

The book's main stylistic characteristic is its dual narration.  We have two narrators, the teenagers Connor and Gwen, whose stories are told from the same house, ten years apart.  The book opens with Connor composing a letter to his sister, Jules, informing her that a new family has just vacated Amity, the house where their own family used to live. The new family, Connor informs his sister, lasted in the house the same length of time as Connor and Jules' family did — just under a month. From there, Connor — from the past — relates his story of his stay in Amity, interspersed with Gwen — from the present — telling her own.  Very soon apparent, to both Connor and Gwen, is that the house is... off.  In the worst way.

One of the best elements of the book, in my opinion, was the gradual revelation of Connor's character.  I don't want to spoil anything, but his narration delivered some of the most satisfyingly creepy moments.  His narrative voice was strong as well, and self-aware — which I love — and I was really taken with Connor's language early into the book.  I highlighted quite a few of his lines on my kindle.

Compared to the distinct and vivid Connor, Gwen's character and narration was a bit more watery.  Her character was timid and mired with self-denial, which made her a dull read until almost the very end of the book.  Her part of the story is still important however, and Gwen really does have a fantastic role to play in the climax.

Speaking of plot, I think it could do with some maintenance.  The novel began and ended strongly, but the middle portion sagged, due to lack of action.  I almost put the novel down at a number of times. (My digital arc did not have a table of contents, so, while reading, I was completely blind insofar as how much of the book remained.) There was a paucity of dialogue in Amity and a great deal of descriptive language.  This stylistic language was a great part of the book, but it did become repetitive at times, and I longed for action to occur.

However, complaints over the still-water plot aside, the language really was impressive.  Sometimes it was flowery and poetic, other times sparse and gritty.  Some of my highlights:

"A dusty chandelier that was still hanging when we showed up swayed, threatening, with any little breeze.  Good thing the air was mostly as thick as the mood."
"Daytime at Amity, at least that first week of August, was stagnant, lulling me into a state of suspended animation, unable to focus on more than the most distilled, deliberate thought for any real length of time."
"Amity was the cold, steady gaze of a double-barreled shotgun, bearing down.  She was the glint of pinprick pupils gleaming through a night-lit window, the rhythmic blast of a door left banging in a gale wind.  The slither of a flesh-flayed limb beneath a bed skirt, a welcome note etched in blood.  Amity's forever was reflected in the glimmering edge of an ax, in the rushing footprints, the twitching tail, the brushing fingerprints of a zephyr, a cipher, a wordless, formless shape.


 Before I wind up this review, I should also mention the title.  Many reviewers have pointed out that it probably is a nod to Amityville — as in The Amityville Horror — and it might well be so, in order to evoke a mood of horror. However, Amityville is not mentioned or alluded to in the book in the slightest.  I do wish that the name for the house — Amity — had been explored more.  It would make for a humorous scene. Who on earth would name the house with a word that evokes feelings of friendship? A desperate realtor?

To close, as a run-of-the-mill YA horror novel, Amity delivered well enough, but with its lyrical language and suspenseful, creepy moments, I think that Amity would really succeed as an audiobook or even as a graphic novel.  I can't say that I'll ever revisit Amity, but it did leave me genuinely chilled at moments and impressed me with its stylistic achievements.  I give it three stars.

And to end this review of a creepy horror novel, I present an adorable photo of my pet rabbit, Lemon, eating my computer.


  1. Great review! With Halloween just around the corner I think this would be a great read for fall!

    1. My thoughts exactly! It's a great spooky read for October. Thanks for stopping by!