Like all good scary stories, Rooms begins with a death. When Richard Walker passes away, his estranged family must return to the erstwhile family home to sift through a household—and lifetime—of memories and belongings. But Richard’s ex-wife Caroline and troubled children, Trenton and Minna, are not alone as they work to rid the house of the traces of the man who once lived there: Their actions and emotions are acutely observed by two former residents of the home, Alice and Sandra, each so different from the other, yet both bound to the house by dreadful tragedies.
Although death has sought to rob the two women of their voices, they manage to subtly communicate beyond the grave through the house itself, from the creak of a floorboard to the rattling of the shutters. As both the living and dead struggle to carry the burdens of the past, long-buried secrets are brought to light and the barriers between the two worlds begin to soften, resulting in explosive consequences.
Although author Lauren Oliver has had success as a YA novelist, it can be tricky making the transition to an older audience. But Rooms is written with grace and confidence, and packs the emotional wallop of someone unafraid of tackling difficult and delicate issues. Rooms doesn’t scare so much as haunt, and for a tale narrated in part by ghosts, it is remarkably full of life. Utterly captivating and electric, this richly atmospheric ghost story is excellent reading.