Title: Amber House
Genre: YA Horror
Series: Amber House Trilogy (Book 1)
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
ISBN-10: 0545434165 (Arthur A. Levine Books)
ISBN-13: 978-0545434164 (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Reviewed by: Kayla
“I was sixteen the first time my grandmother died. . . .”
Sarah Parsons has never seen Amber House, the grand Maryland estate that’s been in her family for three centuries. She’s never walked its hedge maze nor found its secret chambers; she’s never glimpsed the shades that haunt it, nor hunted for the lost diamonds in its walls.
But after her grandmother passes away, Sarah and her friend Jackson decide to search for the diamonds–and the House comes alive. She discovers that she can see visions of the House’s past, like the eighteenth-century sea captain who hid the jewels, or the glamorous great-grandmother driven mad by grief. Sarah grows closer to both Jackson and a young man named Richard Hathaway, whose family histories are each deeply entwined with her own. But when her ghostly visions start to threaten the person she holds most dear, Sarah must do everything she can to get to the bottom of the House’s secrets, and stop the course of history before it is cemented forever.
Quick & Dirty: An old house holds the key to a gift in Sarah’s family. A type of time travel mixed with ghosts and mystery creates an amazingly complex plot with beautiful writing to boot.
Opening Sentence: I was almost sixteen the first time my grandmother died.
Give me a second while my head stops reeling. Ever read the Time Paradox (Artemis Fowl) by Eoin Colfer? Well this book has about the same mind boggling situation of time travel that makes sense and yet doesn’t at the same time (yeah, it confused me too.)
The story starts at Ida Parsons’ funeral. People came from all over the state just to see the inside of the Amber House (not many of them even knew Ida well.) To Sarah Parsons, her grandmother was a crazy woman that she hardly knew. But after a night of staying in the Amber House, Sarah realizes it’s more than just schizophrenia that plagued all of the ladies of the Amber House. She starts to see visions from the past — echoes — whenever she touches an old object or her emotions are high. According to Jackson, the grandson of the house keeper, the “gift” is genetic and they can’t hurt Sarah. This gift isn’t so bad once she gets used to it. She might see a dance in the ballroom or her ancestors kissing in the gazebo. But then the visions start to become more recent — her mother as a younger kid. A mystery starts to unfold that started hundreds of years ago. And it soon threatens her younger brother Sam. Sarah soon finds out that the visions aren’t one-way, but can she accept the fact that she can talk to ancestors from the past? Can she even survive the massive sixteenth birthday party her mother plans to have in order to up the price of the Amber House? The authors spin a marvelously complex story about time, love and family.
I deserve a slap on my hand for poor reading. Really, my English teacher would be disappointed in me for not catching the phrasing of the first page of the book (so much for preparing for the SAT…) I didn’t know this story would have to do with time travel at all until the end — but the book warns us in the very first three paragraphs if you read close enough (see notable scene.) I’m not sure it would have changed how I read the book, but it would have at least prepared me for the major twist at the end of the book.
I love the characters in the book. Almost all of the characters are deep and complex. They all aren’t surface deep. Even the background characters such as the Senator or Jackson’s mother aren’t as they appear to be. But the real characters that shine are Sarah and Sammy. She overcomes her flaws and steps out of her own shoes to understand her mother and the other people in her life. Sarah develops so much throughout the book — she became a totally different character by the end (cough, cough.)
The love triangle I thought could have been better developed. Mainly just the transition between the two was abrupt (no I’m not telling who she ends up with — I didn’t even know until the end.) But the two guys that are vying for her attention are defiantly swoon-worthy. Richard Hathaway is bad-boy supreme with a major ego issue but is broken and has his own issues he keeps hidden. Jackson is a quiet, mysterious guy with his own secrets he’s hiding. Both are great guys. But can Sarah choose?
This is a great book! Although this is considered a horror, don’t let that scare you away. You can go to bed with the assurance that it will not give you nightmares or have you paranoid during the day. The ending is a major cliffhanger, yet not at the same time. Really the book could end like it did, but it’s already known that it will be a trilogy. I have no idea where the next book will go — there are so many possibilities its impossible to guess. But maybe you can figure it out. So read this impeccable (maybe my vast vocabulary will make it up to my English teacher…) story! You’re only losing time by dilly dallying!
I was almost sixteen the first time my grandmother died.
It was mid-October. Warm still, like summer, but the trees were wearing their scarlets and golds. Back home, in Seattle, we had evergreens and faded browns. Those absurdly vivid colors along the banks of the Severn River were the first thing I fell in love with–autumn the way it was intended.
It’s hard, now, to remember that first day, like looking at a photo underwater–the image shifting, in motion, never quite in focus. But there’s a part of me that doesn’t forget. And it’s important to tap into that part, to will myself to remember. Sometimes, if I really concentrate, the memories come flooding back. All of them. Beginning to end. Then back again to the beginning. A full circle.
Amber House Trilogy:
1. Amber House
FTC Advisory: Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic provided me with a copy of Amber House. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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