Book: House of Secrets

"House of Secrets"

Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San francisco, and all the portable electronic devices tehy could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff–a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.

By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they’re banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren’t alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver thant hey ever thought possible–and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection tot he secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they’ll discover it’s not just their family that’s in danger… it’s the entire world.

I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. So why did I buy the book? Well, I was intrigued. And there was a lot of press about it, this book being the brain child of Chris Columbus (yes, the director) and Ned Vizzini. How was I supposed to know that when you sign up for a Chris Columbus book, you’d get what you ask for: a Chris Columbus book.

I am aware of how that sounds, read aloud.

What I mean is, you get what you ask for. Chris Columbus films are not known for their subtleties, their complicated plots–or any logical progression of story. I’m telling you that the House of Secrets will not be known for them either.

If you’re into books like this, well, this book is for you. If you’re looking for something more, I don’t know, intermediate and not elementary, I suggest looking at another title.

Now, if you think I’m bad-mouthing the book, you wouldn’t be wrong. I am doing that. A little bit. Because House of Secrets is a waste of a pretty good premise! Not an original one, but a good one.

Three fool-hardy kids from the Apple generation get stuck in actual books? Awesome.

None of the kids are the meek type who embrace their heroism as they learn to value their selves? Sign me up.

Alas, as with baking, having the right ingredients doesn’t mean you’ll get a good product. There has to the right measurement, the right pace, the right everything–and House of Secrets has none of the latter.

I don’t think it even had a structure. There were times, while reading the book, that I felt as if the writers (there’s two of them!) were making it up as they went along. And I know this because this was a writing exercise I did with a friend back in high school! She would set up our characters into predicaments that would seem impossible to get out of, and I’d find a way to do so–or device a loophole to their dilemma

It was a fun exercise, but it does not make a good story. Because you end up with a story that tries to be smarter than it should be. You get a book that feels like it has a split personality. And that’s not what you want when you’re trying to escape into a world of fantasy.

When things are unreal, you want them to make a little sense. If only to ensure that no one’s getting cheated out of a good resolution in the end.

Too bad the House of Secrets is more about cheap twists and thrills. It could’ve been the new Inkheart.

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