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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

A House at the Bottom of a Lake: Josh Malerman

I've seen this book touted by some of my favorite horror reviewers, so I cheered when I was approved for this title. I'm a huge fan of Malerman's work, and having just finished Malorie, I couldn't wait to dive in.

Literally. Amelia and James are seventeen and about to go on their first date. They decide to canoe, end up at a mysterious lake, and make a startling discovery. There's a house at the bottom of the lake, and over the following weeks, they decide to explore. While I think this book will be polarizing because it doesn't scream traditional horror, I absolutely loved it. First, I'm a sucker for a coming of age tale, and rarely do we have such a quiet focus: two kids, about to fall in love, on the verge of something much bigger than themselves. The dialogue was awkward and cringey and perfect for the tone. They make terrible decisions, as most teenagers do. When they decide to explore, my first question was: wait, how are they going to see anything? Who can open their eyes under lake water? To which I realized I'm old now and way too concerned about my contacts. Their curiosity is fresh and bold, and as much as I wanted them to be smarter, I also couldn't wait to see what was inside. And it's creepy. I've read a few narratives with houses/towns submerged (The Last Time I Lied and Violet to name a few; I think there's even a spy movie on Netflix with this as the subject) and it never ceases to terrify me. There is something inherently creepy about being under water and not knowing what you'll encounter. Claustrophobic to its core, I held my breath every time they dove and read these pages faster. Malerman creates some of the most beautiful imagery in this house, and the prose alone is enough to warrant discussion. I've said this before, but Malerman is a master of literary horror, and I wouldn't be surprised to find this used in a classroom. At its heart, A House at the Bottom of a Lake is a story of first love and the unknown--of embracing something terrifying for the hope of something great, and experiencing rather than questioning. Big thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.


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