Book Review: The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender

The Dead Girls of Hysteria HallThe Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall
Katie Alender
Point, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-63999-6
Hardcover

Precisely what I wanted from practically every book I picked up in high school; I simply cannot wait to share The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall with “my” students.  Teen-age angst, quintessentially captured in the sharp, witty and biting dialogue creates characters that are real and relatable.  Fabulous and freaky foreshadowing sets a quick, compelling pace making this a page-turner that causes the reader to declare “one more chapter” many, many times.  The sprawling haunted house/former institution “For the Care and Correction of Troubled Females” that Delia inherits from her former pen-pal and namesake Aunt Cordelia, serves as spot-on setting for this mesmerizing mystery.

While the plot pulled me in and kept me puzzling, the charisma of the characters captured my heart.  The familial and friend drama (with a dash of romance) that distract Delia from her ghost-saving goal of finding and eliminating the source of evil feels familiar.  Plotting escape from the house, Delia matures.  Refreshingly, Ms. Alender reveals this perfectly, in an honest way by allowing Delia to backslide…maybe she learns from this mistake the first time; but just like in real life, she doesn’t stop screwing up and she doesn’t learn from every mistake as quickly.

The history of Piven Institute, where female hysteria could mean anything from schizophrenia to too many opinions, coupled with her dad’s casual dismissal of anything uttered by a female, subtly introduces misogyny and its ill effects.  Conversely, the relationships Delia builds with the girl ghosts and her growing admiration for her little sister, “the prettiest, wittiest, most sparkling complete twerp of a human being you ever wanted to backhand on a daily basis” illustrates girl-power in its finest form.

There is so much to absolutely adore in this adventure peppered with amazing zingers that one highlighter was not enough to get me though this book.  I won’t be lending this out, I’ll need to read it again….at least once; but I will most certainly be giving it as a gift for a long time.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2016.

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