As you are all aware, i swim for oceans always has been and always will be a young adult book blog. However, I was recently approached by Paper Lantern Lit to share veteran YA author, Lauren Oliver's, new adult novel, Rooms. I'm all about expanding my reading horizons, and I've been a fan of Ms. Oliver's work for some time, so it wasn't a stretch for me to read this one. And, my friends, if you read all genres, you certainly won't be disappointed!
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.
But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.
The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.
The beauty of Ms. Oliver's novels is that she has an intricate ability to weave together the living and the dead into a mesmerizing tale that transcends your average ghost story. In a typical ghost story, we have the worlds of the living and the dead painted very clearly in black and white. Rooms, however, presents readers with a unique sort of story that intertwines the two into a bleak, twisted and alluring palette of grey areas. Not necessarily the fastest-paced, it's a bit of a slow-burning book that worms its way into your soul, slowly building tension and suspense along the way.
In terms of characterization, Rooms soars. Caroline is drowning her sorrows in copious amounts of alcohol and Minna does the same, filling the void with a temporary relief. Trenton is probably the largest of the characters with a multitude of layers slowly unfurling as the story progresses. He can see beyond the living, too, which makes him perhaps the most interesting, as well as the most broken. Through him, we see this richly bleak world come alive, spiral out of control and slowly but surely be forced into the light.
It must be said that even with our ghosts, Alice and Sandra, we're not reading your typical horror-filled ghost story. Rather, it's largely atmospheric and introspective, analyzing the depth of human emotions and that void that one feels when they are trapped in a place from which they can't find their way out. In this way, Rooms steps out of the familiar young adult feel that Ms. Oliver's novels have always had. By delving deeper into the backstories of each of our characters and how their lives intersect, the novel plays out beautifully, if a bit tediously.
In the end though, I can truly appreciate Ms. Oliver's take on adult fiction, and I have to say that it was extremely well done. Evocative and powerful, this 11-part story houses many rooms and many different and imaginative bits that all come together for a powerful end. While not wrapped up as neatly as some might hope, I appreciate the somewhat open end, and I look forward to her next take on adult fiction. I give it a very strong 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to fans of Ms. Oliver's, as well as those who enjoy adult mysteries and ghost stories.