Genres: YA, Horror, Paranormal, Ghost Story, Mystery, Fantasy
Synopsis: After learning that she inherited her great-aunt’s old house, Delia Piven visits the old building with her parents and younger sister to clean it up in preparation for selling. Delia quickly learns that the house used to be a mental institution and holds more secrets than she was prepared for.
Review: Katie Alender’s The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall offers a reasonably quick-paced read with some interesting characters. Perhaps not the scariest ghost story out there, I still found it enjoyable.
Delia’s character is pretty decent and relatable. As a teen with overprotective parents, she’s still suffering consequences from an attempt at sneaking away for spring break with friends. I feel she’s pretty relatable as a teenaged character who just wants a bit of freedom from overbearing parents. The other major characters, Florence, Eliza, Theo, and Janie, were interesting, too. Florence, Eliza, and Theo are three of the ghosts living in — or, in Theo’s case, around — the asylum. They try to help Delia with her situation and have interesting back stories. Each one of them is compelling, and I like how Alender allows them to be ignorant of modern slang. I’ve found in a few books that characters who are supposed to be from different time periods understand more modern slang that would not have been used during their era and it’s quite jarring. One of these characters has a twist that I absolutely did not see coming at all. And I loved it. Then there’s Janie, Delia’s younger sister: loud, attention-seeking, and annoying to Delia. At least that’s how she is when we meet her. She changes later in the book when reintroduced and is completely different.
As for secondary characters, two other ghosts named Maria and Penitence are pretty compelling and somewhat creepy before you really get to know them. Delia’s friends weren’t terrible characters, but they weren’t really there enough for me to feel one way or another about them.
…And then we get to Delia’s parents. Holy overreaction to everything, Batman. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but let’s just say that they go beyond helicopter overprotective…
An upside to the book is the lack of emphasis on a romantic subplot. There’s a bit of romance in there — Delia remembering an old romance and a little bit of fuzzy feelings for someone new — but it doesn’t even really develop into a fully-fledged subplot. I love that in a book. Not every YA novel needs a romance.
One downside to the book is that I sometimes found the pacing a little wonky. I know that time flows differently for the ghosts of Hysteria Hall, but at times it felt a bit awkward. Still, the novel flows at a fairly quick pace so I never felt bored reading it.
Perhaps not the scariest ghost story, The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall is still a fun and entertaining book.