Number of pages: 320
Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1
Rating (out of five stars): 4
Release Date: September 26th 2017
*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher (Amulet/ABRAMS Kids) for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.
I really enjoyed House of Ash. I had a few problems with it, but I will probably end up purchasing it when it comes out, which I would not do if I didn’t like it.
House of Ash sounded perfect for me. It’s a YA paranormal fantasy with historical elements, and it shows a character dealing with a mental illness (more on this later). It was surprisingly gripping after the first few chapters. I would read ARCs on the bus on the way to school, and I-almost-missed-my-bus-stop-reading levels of gripping were experienced. I even had tears well up on occasion, which is pretty rare for me.
I really wish the side characters had been more developed. I want to know more about Sage and Avi and their relationship with Curtis. I also want to know more about what Curtis’ dad was like before he became seriously ill. Mila and Curtis are great, but I want more of the other characters.
On the subject of Curtis and Mila, the romance felt a little under-developed, but I can still see where it came from. They are both broken people who found each other and are determined to save the people they care for, including each other, despite living in different centuries. I get it, and I get that it’s hard to develop a romance across centuries, so it makes perfect sense the way it is, but having personally read a lot of YA books I want a little more development.
House of Ash is set in the fictional town of Willowhaven, Ontario. Living in southwestern Ontario, I always find it interesting when authors chose to set things here. I’m not sure if there are any towns like it in Ontario, so I’m curious as to what inspired the author, but I can kind of picture a run down, but once beautiful town here.
Let’s talk about Curtis’ mental illness. Before we get into this, I am not an expert on mental illness. I do struggle with depression and undiagnosed social anxiety, but I do not struggle with what Curtis and his father do.
The longer I’ve taken to write this review, the more I have accepted Curtis’ dad’s mental illness. At first I was worried someone would read House of Ash and think all mentally ill people were violent (Curtis has violent tendencies as well), but then I remembered there are people out there like Curtis’ father. However, I’m still iffy on Curtis’ mental illness. For starters, I’m confused as to if he is actually mentally ill. Because of events too spoilery to share, Curtis appears to not be mentally ill at the end of the book. The whole thing could be some sort of metaphor, but it seems unlikely given that the fantastical elements of the book seem to actually take place, rather than being hallucinations.
On the other hand the fear and defeat Curtis feels towards his mental illness is so raw, real, and accurate it brought tears to my eyes. The powerlessness I feel because of my mental illness(es) is so similar to what Curtis felt, that I can’t help feeling conflicted on whether or not to call this a mental health novel.
Overall, I enjoyed and appreciated House of Ash, but am a bit conflicted on some aspects of it, earning it 4 out of 5 stars.