Review: The Gathering (Shadow House, Book One) by Dan Poblocki

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Shadow House is calling you.

Some houses are more than just haunted . . . they’re hungry. Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi don’t know this at first. They each think they’ve been summoned to Shadow House for innocent reasons.

But there’s nothing innocent about Shadow House.

Something within its walls is wickedly wrong. Nothing–and nobody–can be trusted. Hallways move. Doors vanish. Ghosts appear. Children disappear.

And the way out? That’s disappeared, too . . .

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 This book is about five kids from all across the country, who know nothing about each other until they meet at Shadow House. You have Dash and Dylan, twin actors on a famous sitcom; Poppy Caldwell, an orphan at a group home called Thursday’s Hope; Marcus, a piano prodigy; and Azumi Endo, haunted by her dreams, and a sleepwalker, who’s lost without her older sister, who went missing in a forest in Japan, behind her aunt’s house.

Each kid ends up at Shadow House for different reasons. Dash and Dylan received an email from a production company about a new project for a horror film; Poppy finds a letter in her file at Thursday’s Hope from a great-grandmother; Marcus’ mother receives a letter from a performance art school looking to recruit him; and Azumi is the only one who goes online to search for boarding schools on the east coast (she lives in Seattle with her parents), and the only “school” that keeps popping up is one in Larkspur, which is a name that appears in some form in all the letters.

This story is told concurrently with the Shadow House app. As you read the book, you find all these different sigils in the corner of the photographs throughout the book, and you go into the app to trace the sigil that you found to unlock an incident from the past. The cool thing about the app is that it’s pretty much a choose-your-own-adventure, where you read about an “incident” (that’s what they’re called) and then you have to make a decision for what you want that particular character to do. It’s a lot of swiping, and not just left or right, but up and down, too. The book provides you with present-day narration, while the app provides you with the backstories of all the disappearing children that Dash, Dylan, Poppy, Marcus, and Azumi encounter.

Things start to get tense a little past the halfway point, with the kids still split up in the mansion, on different floors, and you learn as a reader that everything isn’t all that it seems. The kids wearing animal masks that are terrorizing Poppy and the rest of the group, they’re all connected somehow, and you get a better understanding the further you go through the app to unlock the backstories. Dash has a revelation about his brother during a pivotal scene in the book, near the end, that I did not see coming at all, and it made me feel sorry for Dash for it.

It does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, but I don’t mind it, seeing as how it’s the first book in a series, and book two, You Can’t Hide, comes out two days after Christmas on December 27.

The Gathering is an easy, quick read. It is middle-grade, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading it if they want to. A book is a book, and if it grabs your attention and won’t let go, then genre shouldn’t matter. Also, the cover is absolutely chilling. You can’t see it in the photo at the top of this post, but the mirror? It’s a plastic covering and when you open it up, there’s a girl standing behind, presumably Poppy, and the plastic mirror has a ghostly face on it that delightfully creepy. Besides the story, I think the cover is my favorite part of the book. I can’t seem to stop flipping the cover open and close.

In case you couldn’t tell, I rated this book five stars. I just love everything about it, and I can’t wait to read the next one when it comes out, because I want to know what happens to these characters. Especially after what we learn about Dash and his brother.

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