Title: The Cellar (ARC)
Author: A.J. Whitten
Expected Date of Publication: May 2, 2011
Pages: 276 (paperback)
Downloaded from Netgalley for early review. (Thanks!)
Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.
But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them? –Goodreads
The Cellar was…an interesting novel, to say the least. The little blurb on the cover is what initially caught my eye. Seriously, read the tagline and tell me you don't want to read this book: "Romeo and Juliet meet the living dead in...THE CELLAR." Sounds awesome, right? But in the end, I wasn’t convinced that this book really delivered what the tagline promised. That’s not to say that the book was terrible or anything. No, in fact, The Cellar actually offered something that most young adult fiction novels don’t—an unusual smattering of romance and gore, with a villain who was truly, truly evil. It was a nice change of pace to see the bad guy act like an actual bad guy, instead of brooding all of the time because he's misunderstood or can’t control his undying thirst for brains. But the parallels between the original play and this story were mostly surface level, not really going farther than the fact that that there was a forbidden romance (complicated by voodoo magic, really), and the fact that the school is putting on a play.
As far as other characters go, Meredith was a great protagonist. I loved that she trusted her gut to know that something was wrong, and acted on that impulse to save the ones she loved. However, Meredith’s twin, Heather, was not so great. As the subject of the romance of this novel, I didn’t feel like she had the depth and personality to really hook me as somebody I should be sympathetic towards, so I didn’t really care what happened to her in the end. She felt more like a stand-in object, acting angsty when the scene needed her to.
The narration also has some issues. The novel bounces around and changes point of view quite frequently, switching from first to third person. While Adrian's perspective is told in third person, Heather and Meredith’s POV are told in first person, with no indication of who is narrating when they begin. I often found myself guessing one or the other until one of their friends or a family member mentioned their name. After a while I got used to it, but it was still a little frustrating to read, especially at the beginning.
I feel like this would be a good book for those who don’t like horror but are looking to read horror, especially since the ending wrapped things up in a satisfying way. But overall, the book was just sort of a “meh,” read for me. I think if I wasn’t such an English nerd and hadn’t picked up the book with the intention of looking for parallels to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet I would have liked it more.