Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

The story begins: young lovers, anxious to connect, agree to a first date, thinking outside of the box.

At seventeen years old, James and Amelia can feel the rest of their lives beginning. They have got this summer and this summer alone to experience the extraordinary.

But they didn’t expect to find it in a house at the bottom of a lake.

The house is cold and dark, but it’s also their own.

Caution be damned, until being carefree becomes dangerous. For the teens must decide: swim deeper into the house–all the while falling deeper in love?

Whatever they do, they will never be able to turn their backs on what they discovered together. And what they learned:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman. Published by Del Rey, 2016. Novella paperback, 188 pages.

If you read or watch horror at all, you’ve probably heard the name Josh Malerman by now. Author of the famous Bird Box, which was then turned into a popular movie. His name is mentioned often in the horror community now days. Even though I knew the name, I hadn’t read anything by this author.

I try to cram as much aquatic horror titles into my summer as I can. I saw this book at the library the other day and decided to finally give him a try. I’m a sucker for sunken town / house horror. This sounded like a great, spooky haunted house in a lake story! 😀

However… A House at the Bottom of a Lake never seemed to deliver the horror. :/ WTF? I kept waiting and waiting… but nothing ever happened! It’s weird, too, because there were a few nice moments where it looked as if the story was building up to something that could have been really creepy…. but then nothing came of it. :/ Why??

Now… I get it. This story is a metaphor for young love, and blah blah blah. BUT I didn’t WANT a metaphor for love. I wanted HORROR!! This novella was definitely not horror. If you felt the metaphor was beautiful and meaningful, good for you. Seriously. Glad you found something to like in this novella. I did not. I felt like I had been promised something that was gonna be horror and it never was.

Feeling like this plot was the ol’ bait and switch plot wasn’t my only problem with this book. There were a few things that just made no sense. :/ Like, these teens found, took, and passed scuba classes that fast? And got all the proper gear? And they could flawlessly dive right away? What? Fresh out of scuba classes they were that comfortable with their gear that they never fumbled with any settings or putting things on or even just feeling awkward on their first few dives in the lake?? :/ There was just weird stuff like that in this story that just had me constantly rolling my eyes and muttering “Give me a break!!”

I personally did not care for Malerman’s writing style. He left everything in the plot too vague. Nothing is really explained. The way he wrote off not having to have explanations just felt like he didn’t know how to explain it in the first place, not that he was being intentionally ambiguous. 😦 Now, I’m not asking to be spoon fed everything about the plot, but when not much is really going on AND it is unclear on top of that… well, that’s just not very fun to read. It left me feeling bored and restless with the story and not really caring about the characters. :/

My final complaint- WTF with that ENDING?? I legit don’t even understand what happened. :/ Did I miss a page or two? Am I too dumb to get it? I have no idea… I felt like I needed cliff notes or a wiki or SOMETHING! I just don’t get it. WTF endings aren’t a bad thing when done correctly, but this one was just extremely confusing and left me frustrated. It is one of the worst endings I’ve read in a while. 😐 Yowwie wowie!

A House at the Bottom of a Lake just left me feeling disappointed. The writing is too vague, too many inconsistencies in the plot, the story never really capitalized on any slight attempts at the horror build, and the ending was underwhelming and confusing AND annoying instead surprising and thought provoking. This novella had so much promise but the author just doesn’t live up to the hype. Not sure I would read anything else by this author. 😐


One thought on “Review: A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

  1. I saw this review and thought of the horror movie The Deep House. Which I just recently watch.

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