Rooms by Lauren Oliver Review: Unexpected Ghost Story

November 19, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

Rooms by Lauren Oliver Review: Unexpected Ghost StoryRooms by Lauren Oliver
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on September 25, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fiction, Paranormal
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Compulsive and powerful ghost story narrated by two spirits who inhabit the walls of an old house. It's a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways.

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.

Rooms is an unexpected ghost story filled with secrets and mysteries in an old haunted house, and horrible, horrible people. As Lauren Oliver’s debut into adult fiction, it is a solid and unusual read but I’m just not sure if I enjoyed it.

The story is narrated by two ghosts and a family. You’ve got Alice and Sandra, the two ghosts who inhabit the house and only remember bits and pieces of their deaths. The terrible Richard Walker’s family, containing an alcoholic, a nymphomaniac, a child and a suicidal teenager. Each and every one of these characters were fundamentally flawed, totally awful beings who were difficult to connect to.

It was unfair that people could pretend to be one thing when they were really something else. That they would get you on their side and then do nothing but fail, and fail, and fail again. People should come with warnings, like cigarette packs: involvement would kill you over time.

Rooms offers an experience so haunting and jarring, with these terrible, flawed people who do horrible things and have even worse secrets that you really just want to read on to uncover them. What a strange feeling, to be reading a book that gave me so much discomfort but still managed to engage my curiosity.

Slowly over the course of the book, secrets from almost every member of the family, and the ghosts themselves, are unveiled. The book does start off slow, as I struggled to remember character names and their relationships, as the ghosts recall tidbits of their own lives while observing the living. With a prevailing sense of mystery, it builds up to a crescendo of reveals, some of them predictable, and others which you won’t see coming.

Don’t think I felt sorry for myself. The way I figure it, life’s the sum total of all our small mistakes, little tragedies, bad choices. Addition on top of addition. They pile up and pile up until the cost of keeping up appearances is too high and the weight is too much.

Then: collapse.

The strange feeling that this book gave me upon completion, was an unsettling feeling. It tells a story of horrible people, but do they go through character development to make them likable? Do they eventually see the error of their ways and grow closer as a family? Unfortunately, that’s not the hero story that Lauren Oliver wanted to tell. I think she intended to leave us with that strange, haunting depressing feeling of fundamental human flaws – and it’s not sugar coated in the least.


Rooms is a depressing, haunting and mysterious read that isn’t just a ghost story. Instead, it’s a mystery exploring flawed humans and ghosts with a plethora of horrible secrets. While some secrets may be predictable in nature, and it lacks character development, it’s certainly a strong and unusual piece of fiction which may leave a (disturbing) lasting impression.

Rating: 3 out of 5

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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26 responses to “Rooms by Lauren Oliver Review: Unexpected Ghost Story

  1. I love Lauren Oliver's other stuff so I have been looking forward to this one. Great review. Looks like it may not be quite what I was expecting, but may still be good nonetheless. 🙂
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  2. Depressing? I didn't know Rooms was depressing? But I also didn't know it was a ghost story too. Hmm. I don't know if I'll be able to get through the slow parts, but I might try this just because it's Lauren Oliver.

  3. Ebony

    I've never read anything by Oliver before and this, being her adult debut (If I'm not mistaken), I've been intrigued by the reception this book has had. Most people seem to give it a similar rating to you. I'm very interested in this book based on the synopsis and what you've said. However, the unsettling feeling it left you with makes me hesitate slightly. This sounds like a very unique read, and I'm glad you thought it was unique.
    My recent post What’s Your Opinion on Weekly Recaps?

    • Yeah, this adult book is definitely quite different from her writing in her YA books. Shows an impressive range but it's not for everyone.

  4. Bec Graham

    Interesting. I've gone completely off Oliver after the train wreck that was the Delirium trilogy. But I loved "Before I Fall".
    This book sounds interesting: a book specifically written to cause discomfort. But I still think I'll steer clear. I really haven't forgiven her for that horrific trilogy.

    • A shame that the delirium trilogy didn't turn out well because I really enjoyed the first book. It was a really interesting book definitely, which is why I rated it a 3 despite not really liking it.

  5. LilysBookBlog

    To be honest I was avoiding this one since me and Oliver don't seem to have all that great of a relationship anymore. I loved Before I Fall & Deliruim but I haven't been able to enjoy anything else she's written, and don't even get me started on Requiem. That being said, I tried her other YA book, PANIC, last year and had to DNF it early on because it just wasn't working for me. I'm sorry you couldn't have enjoyed this one more Jeann and I know what you mena about the unsettling ending. Big disappointer 🙁

    • I did like Delirium and Pandemonium but I hadn\’t read the last book because of everyone\’s negative reaction to it. I didn\’t like Panic either. I was impressed by how different Rooms was, but it just wasn\’t up my alley I guess.

  6. Hmmm, I have been wondering about this one, because I don't read many ghost stories and this one seemed like a different enough one!
    BUT after reading your review I'm not sure if I'm up to reading something potentially so discomforting!
    Thank you for a great honest review Jeann!
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  7. Oh I did not enjoy this one at all, Jeann. It almost put me to sleep. Don't get me wrong, I knew going in this was an adult fiction book, but it was the kind of adult fiction that YA readers will probably have a hard time getting through. And I read my fair share of adult fiction!

    Anyway, I do like the concept of having the ghosts tell the story.

  8. This one would have been great for Halloween! I'm a little afraid to read this since I probably wouldn't be able to sleep but I must admit, you've made it seem rather intriguing!

    • Oh I am the same, sometimes I pick up books just because they were sent to me or if someone recommended it. Hmmm, see how you go Cait! I'll look forward to it!

  9. Is it weird that I'm desperate to read this one because I've been searching high and low for a tale of horrible people who don't seek redemption. There's something about that that deeply interest me. I'm sorry that the ending was unsettling for you! Hopefully I'll have better luck with it. Thank you so much for the review, Jeann (which I was super looking forward to, by the way). It was fantastic, as usual! <3 x

    • I think you'll like this one then Jess, it sounds exactly up your alley. You'd find it interesting at least. Glad to hear you enjoyed it, thanks Jess!