The fact that neither of her parents wants to deal with her is nothing new to Penny. She’s used to being discussed like a problem, a problem her mother has finally passed on to her father. What she hasn’t gotten used to is her stepmother…especially when she finds out that she’ll have to spend the summer with April in the remote woods of Washington to restore a broken-down old house.
Set deep in a dense forest, the old Carver House is filled with abandoned antique furniture, rich architectural details, and its own chilling past. The only respite Penny can find away from April’s renovations is in Miller, the young guy who runs the local general store. He’s her only chance at a normal, and enjoyable, summer.
But Miller has his own connection to the Carver House, and it’s one that goes beyond the mysterious tapping Penny hears at her window, the handprints she finds smudging the glass panes, and the visions of children who beckon Penny to follow them into the dark woods. Miller’s past just might threaten to become the terror of Penny’s future….
Title: The Bargaining
Author: Carly Anne West
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Publication date: February 17, 2015
I received The Bargaining from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
The main reason I use Tumblr (when I use it) is because of the photos of abandoned properties. My favorites are the derelict hospitals and mental hospitals (empty wheelchairs in darkened hallways: so creepy!), which makes sense since those are the subjects of my favorite episodes of the ghost hunting shows too. There are plenty of pictures of regular homes, though. Once loved and lived in, these houses are now in disrepair. Some are even falling down. Some of them are virtually empty. Others are surprisingly full of the stuff we fill our houses with today. It’s as if the owners just stepped out for a minute and will be back any second — except for the dust, the dirt, the mold, and the signs of vandalism left behind by others who got there before the photographer.
When Penny and April first arrive at Carver House, it could be one of those houses in the pictures on Tumblr. Most of the upstairs bedrooms are empty except for a bed frame (no mattresses) and maybe a dresser. Penny finds all the mattresses and the rest of the furniture crammed into one of the bedrooms and notices strange handprints of children smudged on the outside of the windows. The upstairs windows, and at angle that would impossible to reach from the inside. That sets in motion a terrifying summer for Penny, who’s already unstable and unhappy to be in the North Woods with her stepmother in the first place.
I’m not sure how I feel about Penny. She does a lot of dumb horror movie heroine things, like chasing ghosts into the woods, and refusing to turn back even when facing horrifying sights. She even stays in the house alone and leaves her stepmother April alone there when she knows there’s something terrible happening. I’m also unclear about what exactly happened in her past. The details of that story are revealed so slowly and in pieces that I don’t know if I ever got the whole story. It feels like something’s missing from Penny’s retelling. I actually could have done without that whole story. Although it ties into the main horror plot, it’s unnecessary and leaving it out would have made things a little less confusing. There are already enough elements to the story and I really don’t care anything about Penny’s friend Rae or what happened in Penny’s life before going to the Carver House. Those events led her there but they don’t just interest me.
I really like the relationships Penny develops with her stepbrother Rob and with April. She’s been living with her mother in Phoenix and doesn’t know them well, but that changes over course of the summer. Rob isn’t even at Carver House, but she keeps in touch with him through texts and a visit, and it seems like those relationships are a lot stronger when they return home.
Overall, I enjoyed the story and would recommend it for horror fans, but with reservations. The Bargaining is super creepy. It’s also super confusing. There are parts that I loved and parts that I just couldn’t get into because I had no idea what was happening. Those who, like me, like a more straightforward story will have a more difficult time with it.