Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: The Cellar by A.J. Whitten

Title: The Cellar
Author: A.J. Whitten
Reading Level: Young Adult
Publisher: Graphia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
e-ARC, 282 pages (via NetGalley)
Date Published: May 2, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
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?
Zombie books are awesome, they really are, but The Cellar just did not cut it for me. The premise has so much promise, playing off of Romeo and Juliet, but with a zombie and a depressed girl as the leads. It’s the execution that just didn’t work for me.

The chapters alternate between Meredith’s first person POV and her depressed sister Heather and zombie boy Adrien’s third person POV. This style allows the reader to see more into the story and the characters, but also makes it harder to connect with them.

I felt next to nothing for all of the characters. There were moments when Meredith would shine through, but The Cellar is mostly a plot-driven story. And sort of a gross one at that. The scenes with Adrien and his ‘mother’and their tasty human treats are too graphic for my liking. If the story had been centered more on the creepy, ‘there’s something wrong with my neighbor and he gives me bad vibes’ feeling, then I probably would have gotten into it more.

As it is, The Cellar is more of a weird zombie lovefest. Adrien has some odd power over women because their minds are easily influenced – this thought alone bothered me – yet he is, at least to me, a tool. He’s a zombie sure, but in trying to blend so he can seek out his next victim, he takes on the role of a pretentious, ‘I wear my sunglasses at night because my eyes are infested with worms’, high school kid with a hold on everyone, but Meredith. Heather is his chosen victim and instead of seeing him for what he is – or even seeing him as more than a sex symbol – she falls in love.

And then we have a mindless gaggle of girls who are gaga over Adrien, simply because he can plant nice ideas of himself into their thoughtless minds. The saving grace is Meredith, whose will to find the truth and help her sister carry on throughout the book. She’s also the best thing about the book, along with Heather’s ex Sam, because she (and Sam) see right through Adrien and don’t trust him one bit.

The Cellar
has some good tension and more than a few gross-out scenes, but its predictability and insistence on Heather and Adrien’s forever love is contrived and flawed. By the end of the book, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to view Adrien as the manipulative, people-eating bad guy who only wanted to kill Heather and keep forever her as his zombie bride, or as a zombie with feelings. Either way, The Cellar was not for me. I could see fans of paranormal stories with a substantial amount of gore appreciate the more disgusting scenes though and if that’s your thing, pick this one up.

Opening line: “Some days, Meredith, I just . . . I just wish it was me who died,” my sister said that Tuesday morning in early September.

Favorite lines/passages: Maybe my father’s death was just now hitting me, making me see and imagine things that weren’t real, and I needed a vacation or something. Or a whole lotta Prozac and a box of Ho Hos. ~ pg. 122

*This is the e-ARC version and lines, pages, cover art may differ from final copy

1.5 - It held my attention long enough to finish it, but it wasn't for me
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

Find A.J. Whitten online:
A.J. Whitten is a mother/daughter writing duo, they can be found: 

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3 comments:

~The Book Pixie said...

Okay so I had always been interested in this one based on the premise. I'd started to see a lot of iffy ratings but this is the first review I've actually read. Honestly, I don't think I'll be reading this one. I think there is just too much that would annoy me and it seems the bad out weighs the good. Thanks for the thorough review though. :D

~Briana

X-treme Reader said...

You're right - the premise sounds really interesting. Good to know why it didn't work for you. I doubt I would like it either. Thanks for the great review!!

Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) said...

Book Pixie - I tried so hard to like it, but I couldn't. There's definitely and audience out there for it, but I'm not it.

X-Treme Reader - Thanks for stopping by and reading my review! If I don't enjoy a book, I always want to be specific about what didn't work for me because it could easily work for others.

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