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Amber House (review)
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Reviewed by
Moore, Kelly. Amber House; by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed and Larkin Reed. Levine/Scholastic, 2012. [368p]. Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-545-43416-4 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-545-46973-9 $17.99 Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 8-12.

After the death of their estranged grandmother, sixteen-year-old Sarah Parsons and her little brother accompany their mother on her return to the old family estate, Amber House, to settle finances and prepare to sell the house. Already a bit of an ice queen, Sarah's mother is particularly cold and distant at her childhood home, and Sarah can understand why: although the spectacular mansion is both enormous and filled with luxury, the shadowy halls and dusty rooms are unsettling, to say nothing of the strange noises heard at night and the occasional echoes of childish laughter through the home. Things get even creepier as Sarah investigates the history of house with the help of two neighbors—both, of course, handsome and mysterious guys—and discovers that the sins of her ancestors may have cursed the house, a suspicion she thinks is confirmed when her brother inexplicably falls into a coma. Swift plotting combines with vivid, cinematic prose to make this gothic tale compulsively readable, and an unexpected ending elevates the story beyond the genre. Fans of ghost stories will appreciate the classic elements here, from the disembodied voices to the ancestral home with a sordid past, but they will also be pleasantly surprised by the time-bending element that comes into play in the latter half. Relationships are well developed, particularly Sarah's mix of animosity toward and sympathy for her mother, while the romance between Sarah and a neighbor boy begins simply enough but is then organically revealed to be a fateful, life-changing connection that will leave readers swooning. Complex, elegant, and haunting, this is a book that deserves to be read in one sitting.