House of Reckoning by John Saul

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After the untimely death of her mother and the arrest of her father for killing a man in barroom brawl, fourteen-year-old Sarah Crane is forced to grow up fast. Left in the cold care of a foster family and alienated at school, Sarah befriends classmate Nick Dunnigan, a former mental patient still plagued by voices and visions, and the eccentric art instructor Bettina Phillips, a mentor eager to nurture Sarah’s talent for painting. But within the walls of Bettina’s ancestral mansion, Sarah finds that monstrous images from the house’s dark history seem to flow unbidden from her paintbrush—images echoed by Nick’s chilling hallucinations. It seems the violence and fury of long-dead generations have finally found a gateway from the grave into the world of the living. And Sarah and Nick have found a power they never had: to take control, and take revenge.

“Until lunchtime, he'd had no idea, really, what love was, but now he knew. It made you happy, and it made you want to dance, and it made you feel funny. But most of all, you knew you had someone you could trust. Someone you could tell everything to. Absolutely everything.”

Sarah is saddled with a friendly but mess of a father who soon lands himself in a pot of hot water. She has to depend on the grace of an unfriendly foster family who takes her in for money while meeting up with a strange boy in class who has bizarre visions. Soon the two are landed in a mystery where their deaths are a likely turnout. Sarah gathers help from an outcast teacher and eventually some from a decent social worker, but ultimately it's the kids against the adults.

John Saul isn't the strongest writer, for his prose comes across as something more suitable for the Junior High School age, yet he aims his market toward adults. Children play the main theme in his stories, but he isn't aiming for young adult horror by doing this. Sometimes it works since creepy children can be creepy, but in this case it's kind of frustrating but the unfairness and injustice with the foster family pissed me off.

I had to struggle through the beginning, but the story takes a creative, cheesy fun turn and is layered enough. Another book with a weaker first half and stronger second part. I had to browse and skim a few areas, but it wasn't bad for fans of his fiction.

Characters are generic and stereotypical, but the villains get what they deserve at the end too, which makes it better since I seriously loathed those people.

Not horrendous, but I'm sure he has to have better out there.



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