Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on April 6, 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Horror, Fiction
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.
Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.
As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.
The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.
I’ve heard a lot of hype about House of Hollow on bookstagram, and was immediately curious due to the absolutely stunning cover and the story of three sisters with a strange mystery surrounding them. I was so excited picking it up, because of early reviews promising a really great time with the story!
Now 24 hours later, I’m here to say that this story will absolutely grip you and not let you go. It was mysterious, enveloping and entirely addictive, and I can’t stop thinking about it!
So what made House of Hollow so good?
1. The gothic magical realism setting
With doorways that lead to nowhere, missing children returning with dark eyes and baby teeth, and wild flowers sprouting from beneat the skin, the gothic setting within House of Hollow really brought it to life. The first half of the book focuses on Iris and her rockstar sister Vivi as they search for their supermodel sister Grey, with little glimpses of their compulsion and the occult that their sister is obsessed with. Iris also has visions of a bull-headed man stalking her and it’s super creepy.
2. The mystery surrounding the sisters
The three Hollow sisters disappeared without a trace 10 years ago, and returned with no memories of where they went or what happened to them. Their past comes back to haunt them as Grey mysteriously disappeared and we also hear of their parents not being able to cope with their change, despite having their three daughters return in one piece. We see little clues here and there of what happened to the sisters in the past, and it ends up forming the basis for the central mystery in the book. The pay off is high as you reach the end of the book as you find out what happened and I have to say – it’s something that you’ll never expect.
3. The absolutely compelling enigma that is Grey
Each of the sisters have such a different personality, but Grey definitely shines off the page as someone who is incredibly enigmatic, compelling and strange. Grey is a super beautiful, confident and frightening supermodel and a fashion designer with a penchant for gothic fashion (including bits of animal taxidermy in her fashion and foresty scents in her creations). It was fascinating hearing how she could make the world worship the ground she walked on, and how she manifested her looks and abilities into a sharp and dangerous weapon.
4. The sisterly love and queer rep
There’s a huge focus on the sisterly bond in House of Hollows, and I loved how they would do absolutely anything for each other. Each sister was so different, with Grey as the leader, Vivi being the edgy one and Iris being the follower and idolising Grey. The casual queer rep was also fantastic, with Vivi being lesbian, Iris being bisexual and Grey being straight. The story prefers to focus on sisterly love rather than romantic love (with the exception of Tyler, a Korean supermodel who is dating Grey).
5. The shocking twists and turns that ended up being super disturbing
Perhaps the most compelling thing about House of Hollow is how it slowly draws out the mystery – and adds enough twists and turns that will catch you off guard. This is definitely a page turner, as you want to find out what happened to the sisters in their past and who they’re being chased by. Will they find Grey? What does she remember from the past? It was all super fascinating and takes a very dark and horrific turn that definitely leaves a disturbing impression.
Some things to note:
- This is definitely a horror read, with gruesome, dark scenes that were super scary.
- There’s a passage in the book that features slut shaming, about girls wearing short skirts and revealing tops and practically begging to be attacked by predators. I wanted this to be addressed later on, but it doesn’t really loop back to it.
- There are a whole heap of damaged family relationships in here, particularly domestic abuse between daughter/father/mother.
- There’s also a scene where Iris gets attacked by another girl with non-consensual kissing, but it also doesn’t end up being addressed later either.
- The book places a heavy emphasis on beauty of the tall, blonde and skinny type, but also repeats several times about how much they can eat without being full. This can certainly contribute to issues of body dysmorphia, particularly given the YA audience.
House of Hollow is a witchy gothic horror story that takes an unexpectedly dark turn, and I can’t stop thinking about it! I read this one in 2 sittings because the mystery was so enveloping and I just needed to find out what happened. With a strong sisterly relationship, witchy magical realism and a scary gothic setting, I definitely recommend this one, just with some reservations for the triggers that it has.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for sending me a review copy!
Trigger warnings: suicide, blood & gore, disordered eating and body dysmorphia, slut shaming, domestic violence, child deaths
House of Hollow is available from Australian bookstores for RRP$19.99 or from The Book Depository.
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