Starling House by Alix E. Harrow

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Starling House starts with a slow burn.  A classic Gothic horror story that from the beginning evokes feelings of the Overlook Hotel and the House of Usher.  There are so many threads in this book…  There is the predominant theme of “not belonging”.  None of the main characters in this story, even Starling House itself, are part of the tribe and it is their otherness that defines them in their relationships and their actions.  There is the theme of “complicity to conceal” within the community that the story is set in as people choose to believe only what suits their collective narrative.  Finally, there is also the theme of personal growth as the characters question their roles and their own self-limiting beliefs.  A coming-of-age story with a difference.  This book drags you in and before you know it, you are sitting up too late, reading the next chapter and the next.  While Starling House is not a difficult read and is quite compelling, this doesn’t mean that the writing style or language is simple or unsophisticated.  It is descriptive and evocative without being overblown.  The characters have depth and motivations that are believable, even in their otherness.  While a younger YA reader may pick up this book and enjoy it, I think that it is more suited to an older audience to understand the nuances.  There are a couple of sexual references in the book but touched very lightly and as an important part of the story.

Themes: Gothic mystery, Horror, Supernatural.

Gaye Howe