My usual genres are crime fiction and thrillers. With a bit of Stephen King thrown in, of course. The Death House is not crime fiction, nor a thriller. It’s closer to a Stephen King, and in fact SK thinks this is a book you should be reading. He’s right; it’s fantastic!
This is an exceptional, contemporary, heart-breaking novel. Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test. Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium. No one returns from the sanatorium. Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes. Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.
Toby is our narrator; he’s 17 and facing death, but as the self-appointed leader of Dorm 4, he’s putting on a brave face for the sake of his room-mates. He doesn’t take the drugs (‘vitamins’) that knock everyone out at night, instead choosing to roam the halls when everone is asleep, and reflect on the limited future he knows he has. When a new batch of kids arrive, Toby’s solo night-time antics are disturbed by one of them, Clara. Initially resentful of this, the story shows Toby and Clara’s love developing against a background of the illness and death which must befall them.
This is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It takes you on an emotional roller coaster, with an ending that caught me by surprise, but which is simply perfect. If you haven’t read The Death House yet, I strongly recommend you do. It’s available on Kindle now, and in paperback on 12 November 2015.