Book Review: The Death House (Sarah Pinborough)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 288

Release Date: May 29th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Toby is a boy who has forgotten how to live.
Clara is a girl who was born to die.

Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . .
Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House. Isolated from the outside world the inhabitants of are watched for any signs of a mysterious illness . . .

Clara was a girl who had everything. Adored by her friends and her family, her life was destined for greatness. Now, Clara is the newest resident of the Death House and she’s determined not to allow her life to end there.

This is Toby and Clara’s story.


I was intrigued by the blurb of this book and had to request a copy. Something about it just struck the right chord with me and I couldn’t wait to read it. It didn’t disappoint.

Toby lives in the Death House, a place for young people with the ‘Defective’ gene to live, and eventually die. One by one, residents sicken and are taken to the Sanitorium. And no one comes back from there. Toby sleeps away his days and spends the nights stalking the house alone, until Clara arrives and changes everything.

This book creates so many questions and hardly answers any of them. I wanted to know what the Defective gene was, how they got it, when this was set (some time mysteriously in the future) and what everyone on the outside was doing. Everything remained frustratingly vague, but on the reflection, I kind of liked that. It somehow made everything more convincing, because nothing was overly explained, if that makes sense. There’s a great undertone of tension as you never know who’s going to get sick next and what the symptoms might be. Every time things seem to lull and everything feels normal the illness suddenly strikes again and makes everything uneasy.

It’s mentioned in the book a lot, but even aside from that, this really made me think of Lord of the Flies. The way groups of young people automatically band together, the way two Alpha’s vie for power, the way the younger kids look up to them for support and guidance. It was like all the best bits of Lord of the Flies in a modern, mysterious setting, and I mean that in the best way.

While I liked Toby and his relationship with some of the younger kids, I wasn’t so keen on Clara. She felt a little too Manic Pixie Dream Girl for me: it was like she was there to sort Toby out rather than being her own person. Something about her just didn’t feel real.

There were some really heartbreaking moments in the book that made me tear up. That ending though! I won’t spoil it and I know it should be sweet and romantic but it just annoyed me!! It was tragically beautiful and everything but part of me really wanted Toby to change his mind (speaking cryptically so I don’t give anything away).

Still, this was a really intriguing book and I’d definitely recommend it – just be prepared for your heart to break a little!


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