Book Review: Alone
By: Cyn Balog
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
Page Count: 278
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Thriller, Horror
Cyn Balog has a knack for writing some seriously creepy books. Alone follows in the vein of her previous novel, Unnatural Deeds, in that it features a unreliable narrator and some moments that sent chills racing down my spine. This novel is the perfect read if Halloween is still on your mind while the chill enters the air and snowflakes prepare to fall.
Seda never wanted to leave Boston to spend time at the isolated mansion atop a mountain in the far reaches of Pennsylvania, but her mother didn't exactly give her a choice. It was supposed to be a quick sojourn to put the crumbling relic in order before selling it off. The home, while historical, has seen better days and serves as a source of torment and nightmares for Seda. The entire place is full of creepy props, fake bloodstains, and eery rooms since her aunt and uncle, the previous owners, ran a murder mystery hotel. Seda can't wait to shake the cobwebs from her boots and get back to her normal life in the city, but it seems her mother has other plans as the brief trip turns into an extended stay.
The house is almost a character as it takes on a life of its own and plays such a crucial role in the plot. The images in my mind of this place as I read were enough to give me the creeps and evoke memories of The Shining. There are some parallels between this novel and the famous work by Stephen King. One of the characters even calls attention the similarities at once point which made me smile. I can certainly see how cabin fever is a real thing after reading this novel and experiencing The Shining in both written and film formats.
Seda's narration isn't reliable due to her cabin fever and the fact that she believes she absorbed her twin in the womb, but that his consciousness still lingers within her own mind. Seda talks to Sawyer frequently throughout the novel and blames him for some of her more surreal behaviors. It's unclear whether Sawyer is truly there or only a figment of Seda's imagination, but regardless, it adds another layer of creepiness to an already spooky tale.
Things with Seda get even more intense when a SUV full of teenagers from a boarding school meets with an accident on the snow covered roads. The teens seek out assistance and shelter from Seda and her family. While Seda's mother and younger siblings seem to thrill at the idea of having visitors in the house, Seda wants nothing more than for everyone to go back to where they came from before something truly awful happens.
I hesitate to say too much more about the plot as it kept me on the edge of my seat. I read this novel in one day as I just had to know what was truly happening and how things would end up. I was most intrigued by Seda's relationships with her various family members as well as the interactions she has with the stranded teens. I was pleasantly surprised to see twists and turns in this one I didn't predict along the way. Alone is one of those reads that will keep you on your toes and have you jumping at the slightest noise. There are some intense moments and some gory scenes; I couldn't help looking over my shoulder and closing the blinds while I was reading because there were a few times I felt like I might jump out of my skin.
One Last Gripe: Seda's narration was a bit odd from time to time. I felt slightly jarred out of my thoughts when she would go off on a tangent. These elements all made sense in the end, but it did provide some frustration during my time reading Alone.
Favorite Thing About This Book: The wintery time of year and the crumbling former murder mystery hotel make for a great setting.
First Sentence: Welcome to the Bismarck-Chisholm House - where murder is only the beginning of the fun!
Favorite Character: Adam - How could I not love the kid who is almost always carrying a book around?
Least Favorite Character: Seda's mom - I was frustrated by some of her choices throughout the book.
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…