Published by Harlequin Teen on September 27, 2016
Genres: Gothic, YA, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Source: ALA Annual 2016
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.
When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.
Diversity: 1 – Tokenism
Disability: 2 (Lucy self-harms)
A few days ago, I was at the local used bookstore with my best friend and I found a copy of Daughter Unto Devils. I’d read the book and loved it; she hadn’t. Meanwhile, she’d already gotten to The Women in the Walls and was terrified by it when I hadn’t even gotten to read it yet. Naturally, I peer pressured her into buying it and happened to pull The Women in the Walls out of my TBR jar the very next day. Reader, for how much I enjoyed my previous experience reading a novel from Amy Lukavics, I am disappoint.
For all I’m about to criticize, I did like it enough to read almost the entire novel in a single day. Maybe it’s due to the story and Lucy’s palpable desperation to find out what happened to her aunt Penelope and later to her cousin Margaret. Maybe it was my expectations for the book based on my fond memories of Daughter Unto Devils. Whatever the case, I kept coming back to the story all day no matter how many times I picked it up and put it back down.
So Lucy, Margaret, Penelope, and Lucy’s father all live in a massive Victorian mansion and it’s important to keep Their Reputation as Acostas impeccable as well as host dinner parties for this country club full of awful people. Why? BECAUSE. The house is supposed to invoke a feeling of both too little space (because the girls rarely leave the house) and too much space (so few people living in such a massive, empty home), but it doesn’t quite manage either. Things get a bit spooky once the house starts talking to Lucy, but that doesn’t happen until the second half of the novel.
It sounds like a historical Gothic horror novel when I describe it above, right? Well, this is set in modern times. The girls make references to watching sitcoms and use modern speech. Had The Women in the Walls fully embraced Gothic horror and been set in the past, I think it would have made the novel much stronger. Instead, it feels like a halfhearted attempt.
After 180-200 pages of little incidents, characters who inspire little emotion from the reader, and vaguely spooky Just Not Right moments that don’t do much of anything for the reader, the ending brings an explosion of strangeness with multiple dots you can’t quite connect to form the picture you’re supposed to. Its vague ending leaves things open for a sequel, but I’m not sure if this is a novel I’d want a sequel to.
I just don’t know what happened? Daughter Unto Devils had everything I could have asked for, but The Women in the Walls left me wanting and also in need of a reread of the former. THE ANTS. THE BLOODY HOUSE. THE NIGHTMARES!!!
To go back to the intro for a sec, lord help my best friend if The Women in the Walls terrified her because Daughter Unto Devils is going to make her even more pregnancy-phobic than she already is. I anticipate a call from her where she screams at me because it’s scary and how dare I peer pressure her into reading it. I’M AN EXCELLENT FRIEND, I SWEAR. Anyway, The Women in the Walls failed me, but I’m definitely here for Lukavics’s next YA novel The Ravenous. Its premise ensures the horror will be built on the characters and I’ve got a very good feeling about it.