Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

Title: Welcome to the Dark House
Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Source: Purchased
Publication date: July 22, 2014

I wish Welcome to the Dark House was a horror movie because it would be the perfect one for me. It’s just the type I like to watch. As a book, it was fast-paced and really held my attention. I started reading it before bed one night and when it was time to turn off the lights, I was halfway through already. I read pretty fast but I get distracted easily. There was none of that with this book.

Seven young adults from different parts of the country were among the twenty-thousand entrants to submit their worst nightmares to a contest. The seven winners — Ivy, Natalie, Shayla, Garth Vader (yes, Garth Vader), Parker, Frankie, and Taylor — won an all-expenses paid weekend trip to Stratten, Minnesota, for a behind-the-scenes look at a companion film to the Nightmare Elf series and the chance to meet the famous horror director Justin Blake. As Ivy, who was not a horror fan and only entered on a whim, was looking over Justin Blake’s website, she read about The Legend of the Dark House and the Nightmare Elf. They sounded so good! I want to see those movies! Too bad they’re only fictional movies in a book.

The weekend started out fine, if a little strange, but it didn’t take long for creepy things to start happening for real. As the group of strangers got to know each other, they started to realize that things weren’t quite right.

It’s well-known that horror movie characters make the worst possible choices — it’s part of the fun — and there was plenty of that in Welcome to the Dark House, too. I wanted to yell at the characters not to enter certain places, or to run. But of course if they did that, the book or movie wouldn’t be nearly as good.

It wasn’t until the group was dropped off at an abandoned amusement park — now turned into a Nightmare Elf theme park — that they realized they were in over their heads. They were locked in and forced to confront the nightmares they wrote about in their contest entries — and some of them might not make it out. That’s when things turned terrifying for the group.

My only complaint about Welcome to the Dark House was that there were six POV characters. I often complain where there’s more than one, so six was just way too many for me to keep track of. I had trouble remembering which backstory belonged to each character, especially with the guys, and if I wasn’t paying attention at the beginning of a new chapter/POV switch, it wasn’t always obvious who was narrating. My favorite character was Ivy, possibly because she was the first character introduced — I got attached quickly — and possibly because her backstory was the most interesting and the most well-developed. I would have preferred to have the entire book from Ivy’s POV, although that would have been problematic late in the book when each character went off alone to face their nightmares. She was really the only one I connected with and I didn’t care that much about what happened to the others, not even the one Ivy ended up being attracted to.

Welcome to the Dark House ends on a cliffhanger, with a sequel due out in July 2015. I can’t wait for more Nightmare Elf-style horror and to find out what happens next.

five stars



  1. This definitely sounds more up my alley. But is it an MG or YA? I just want to make sure it’s not an MG, because I’m not a fan of those.
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