House of Reckoning by John Saul

To be honest, I expected more of this book. It seemed pretty interesting and as a teenager, I enjoyed John Saul. I remember reading Nathaniel and loving it (although if asked what it was about now, I’d be hard pressed to answer).

House of Reckoning was underwhelming at best. Basically, it’s the story of a fourteen year old girl named Sarah Crane who is the biggest Mary Sue that I’ve ever seen in a published fiction. Ever. Sarah’s mother died of cancer half a year ago and her daddy hasn’t been the same. He spends all of his time getting drunk and letting their farm fall into ruin. One night, he goes out drinking and he kills a man in his drunken rage. Driving back home–still drunk–he hits his own daughter with his truck, crippling her. Doesn’t this already sound ridiculous? I mean, this is stuff a newbie writer comes up with. I know I’m supposed to feel sorry for Sarah, but all I did was roll my eyes repeatedly. It only gets better.

So, daddy gets arrested and thrown into prison and poor little Sarah is pushed into the foster care system. I’m sure you can already see where this is going. Yep. Sarah gets stuck with a horrible, terrible, no good, awful family called the Garveys. The dad is an ass, the mom is a bitch, the kids are spoiled brats. They only want Sarah for the county money and they treat her like Cinderella. She has to cook and clean and barely gets any food and she has to feel “grateful” for everything they give her. Yeah. Seriously.

School is torture, where everybody makes fun of her being a cripple and as you’d expect, she makes friends with the other outcasts of the town; an art teacher everybody calls a witch and a crazy boy who hears voices (only they stop whenever he’s around her). The three of them are all tied together and it has to do with the house the art teacher lives in. Which was once a penitentiary for the criminally insane. As you can expect from a Saul book, it features troubled kids with issues who can use an ability. Well, the girl draws things that the boy sees. I’m not even really sure how the three tie in together with the house, other than the fact that it was always owned by the art teacher’s family and a sordid secret later divulged in the book.

The book was written well enough. A few times the POV shifted to somebody who wasn’t currently narrating, which was slightly annoying. But other than that, it wasn’t a badly written book. It was just the fact that the plot was contrived and the characters didn’t elicit any real attachment from me. All in all, I’d say this book was dull, as the whole first half of it read like a pre-teen’s roleplay character history and the second half was actually somewhat rushed and didn’t quite make sense (to me, anyway). I wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody but previous Saul fans and people like my mother, who eat this sort of thing up.

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Rachel Aseltine

R.A. Aseltine is an author and roleplayer living in California with her husband, guinea pig, and five cats.

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