Rating: 3/5 (Worth Reading)
From the author of You Must Not Miss comes a haunting contemporary horror novel that explores themes of mental illness, rage, and grief, twisted with spine-chilling elements of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.
Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.
As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….
Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?
Horrid by Katrina Leno is a unique, genre-bending novel that explores elements of grief, mental illness, and the dark side in all of us. Each page will have you wondering, is Jane really going crazy, or is what is happening to her something more sinister?
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I am a huge horror fanatic, so when my best friend gave me Horrid by Katrina Leno to read I couldn’t have been more excited. A horror novel with classic spooky elements like a haunted house and family secrets? Yes please! Going into reading this novel I knew that it was directed at a young adult audience so I knew it would be tamer than I usually seek in my horror novels, but I still couldn’t wait to read it. Leno crafted a story that not only includes classic spooky horror elements but addresses mental illness. This just about made my affections for her as a writer go through the roof. Her story kept the reader wondering whether Jane was experiencing a horror experience or mental illness – or both – and I appreciated the element of surprise she included.
Horrid follows Jane and her mother Ruth following the death of her father as they return to Ruth’s childhood home. Throughout the novel, Jane’s mental state is addressed as she begins to uncover more and more of her family’s past, and experiences some psychotic features that keep the reader wondering whether what she is experiencing is a psychotic episode or a classic haunting experience. Leno winds classic young adult themes such as fitting in to a new school and making friends with the unique struggles of mental illness and living in a haunted house to create a one of a kind novel that kept me interested until the very end.
My only struggle with this novel was that the majority of the horror elements were bunched into the last few pages of the book and it felt a bit rushed. The climax of the novel came around the end of the novel as well, and the ending seemed to come abruptly. I wish that the horror elements had been more evenly spaced and some of the events explained more thoroughly, but I do understand the author’s reasoning for piling the horror events up towards the end due to Jane’s progressing unstable mental state.
Horrid is an excellent first horror novel should you be looking to get into the genre. It is tame enough and provides the reader with enough relief to power on through without too much of a scare. If you are a fan of young adult novels you will also love Leno’s take on mental illness and grief. While this novel didn’t become one of my favorite horror novels, I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of classic spooky horror! You are in for a few hours to a few days of enjoyment.