Genres: Post Apocalyptic
The Dead Room was difficult for me to review. While I enjoyed certain elements of the story, I found myself pulled from those captivating bits far too often.
The biggest draw for me was the heroine, Ashley. She’s inquisitive to a fault, which I liked. “She can feel the secrets all around her, begging to be uncovered.” Yep, and so could I. Those secrets gave this novel a strong hook and Ashley displayed all the hallmarks of a YA heroine worth getting to know. She’s had a rough life, people. Alone on an island that stuck to mysterious rules and rituals too closely, I couldn’t help but want the best for her. Ashley had what I call a “reporter’s mind,” meaning she didn’t settle for what she was told. She chose to poke around and dig for answers, even when doing so would endanger her.
The island was a complicated place, and that’s where my lower rating comes in. The more I read, the more I found myself thinking, “Huh. This is sorta like The Village by M. Night Shyamalan.” That 2004 movie started out fine, but devolved into a cheap smoke and mirrors pseudo thriller. It ticked me off.
The Dead Room started down The Village path, in my opinion, and that annoyed me. The author is clearly talented. Her imaginative world beckons to that strange “what if” place I love to visit. What if a small group of survivors were at the heart of the world’s destruction? What if the island Elders were hiding a hideous secret that would destroy what was left? What if the heroine was involved in those dark secrets?
Instead of continuing with Ashely’s fascinating story, the novel veers off. Mason, the hero, was introduced early and I liked him. When he an Ashley are forced to leave the island on a quest to learn what’s happened on the mainland, I packed my bags and joined them on the canoe. Everything up to that point in the story had me eager for more. But…
The story–Ashley and Mason’s quest–was interrupted with disappointing frequency by the multiple Elder points of view. I stopped tracking which Elder was a good person or bad person, or what nefarious plot to gain all power was being wielded by whom. While those scenes supported the “what if” of secrets and sinister activities, I felt I’d spent more time with the Elders’ machinations, away from the main protagonists I’d come to enjoy. For me, the story was strongest with Ashley and Mason’s goals, motivations, and conflicts.
Unfortunately, the twists and turns wore on me until a game changing event occurred. Dumbstruck, I wasn’t sure how I felt at that point. Did I continue reading? Yes, but what had been a bright spot in the overall plot sort of withered after that. I kept reading because the core of the novel, the dead room, had yet to be answered. What was it’s purpose? Why was it there?
The ending was an abrupt cliffhanger that left me wholly unsatisfied. Again, I did like the book, but that ending and the other elements I mentioned did not immediately leave me with “I need more” feelings. Fans of apocalyptic stories may be cool with how the story played out. For me, The Dead Room partially lived up to the promise of an unforgettable tale. I will read this author again because I enjoyed her worldbuilding and she has a wonderful imagination. I’m just not sure this series is a good fit for my expectations.