Book #68

Girl in the Walls by A.J. Gnuse

Elise knows every inch of the house. She knows which boards will creak. She knows where the gaps are in the walls. She knows which parts can take her in, hide her away. It’s home, after all. The home her parents made for her, before they were taken from her in a car crash. And home is where you stay, no matter what.

The thought of a human body wandering around inside the walls of my house, creeping out when I’m not there to eat my cereal, and to use my bathroom, is something just far too sinister to imagine. Those little house-settling noises actually being made by a hidden being? Unfathomable. Gnuse has found an excellent premise here.

We soon find out the girl’s reason for being within the walls, and her story is heartbreaking one. Gnuse comments on bereavement, of letting go, and of accepting reality, no matter how difficult it is to bear.

As Gnuse’s narrative never strays from the four walls of the house, the plot begins to feel oppressive, making us feel shut in. I felt this mirrored how the girl would feel - a tight and claustrophobic feeling of isolation which never dissipated throughout the pages. It was an incredibly sensory use of setting.

Sadly, nothing really happens here. After being introduced to the girl, and the family living in the house, there are a few near misses where she’s almost discovered, and a couple of frightening scenes, and that’s all. The characters were pretty flat; I would’ve liked more depth to their personalities - why were the brothers the way they were? Why was the girl so determined to live there? Nothing was really reinforced enough for me, and it led to feelings of detachment.

Generally, this is a fairly quick read with merit in its setting and writing style. If you’re looking for a fast-paced thriller, this isn’t the one - I waited for a heartstopping twist which never came. But if you’re seeking something which explores the human mind and body, and to marvel at the things they can allow us to do under pressure, you should definitely pick this one up.