Jaime Reviews ~ What the Dead Want by Norah Olson

By Norah Olson
Published on July 26, 2016
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss/Around the World ARC Tours
16 -year-old Gretchen takes photographs to understand the world around her, a passion her mother Mona fostered and encouraged when she was still around. Since her mom disappeared years ago, Gretchen and her dad have lived on their own in New York City, haunted by Mona’s absence.

When Gretchen’s great aunt Esther calls unexpectedly to tell her that she has inherited the pre-Civil War mansion on her mother’s side of the family in upstate New York, Gretchen understands nothing except that her aunt needs her help. But what she finds there is beyond her imagination. The house is crumbling apart, filled with stacks of papers and journals from decades, even centuries past, and it’s crawling with rodents. It’s also full of secrets and a legacy of racism and violence so reprehensible that the ghosts of the past are exacting revenge on the living.

Somehow the mystery of Mona’s disappearance and the atrocities that happened on the land during the Civil War are inextricably intertwined, and it’s up to Gretchen to figure out how…before even more lives are lost.

What the Dead Want...
   ...Is a good story, quick and fun, with a truly great message that is incredibly relevant for this day and age. Unfortunately, it was missing one thing, one element, that would have made it even better.... HORROR. Even though I was interested in the mystery. and enjoyed the story for the most part, the entire time I was waiting for something MORE. As seems to be the case for me a lot lately in YA horror, the horror part just seems to be missing. For me, someone who loves a creepy, scary story, that can make for a disappointing read. Thankfully with What the Dead Want, it had enough going for it even without that missing element. 

 I don't want to give too much away, since we are still a good ways out from the release date, so I am going to try to keep details at a minimum. First off, aside from the horror being missing, I had a hard time getting behind Gretchen at first. There was something about her that felt very stiff, and it kept me distanced from her. I FELT for her, because of her circumstances, but never really loved her. But once she arrived at her newly inherited house, and met her aunt and the neighbors, she grew a lot. It was also pretty darn hilarious during the scenes when she... wasn't quite herself! The other characters in the book, her aunt and the neighbors and her bff, all added something new to the story, and because of each of them, Gretchen definitely grew. They each have their parts to play, and none of them feel like an after-thought. By the end, Gretchen had definitely grown on me. 

 The synopsis talks about the house being decrepit, and about the ghosts of the past wanting their revenge, and all of this is true. The imagery was part of the biggest appeal for me. But the most important part of this story isn't the house, or Gretchen. The important part of the story lies in the past. A heart-wrenching past. Racism that ripped a family apart, fear and anger and prejudice that brought about the murders of innocents. And the fight to bring justice to those wronged, even if it might be long after they are gone. It is NEVER to late for justice to be served, and bringing to light the wrong doings of people who were hailed as heroes, can sometimes be incredibly healing. If Norah Olson does anything right, and SHE ABSOLUTELY DOES (See:Imagery, World-building, pacing..), she brings a message with this story, and she doesn't do it in a PC way. She tells the truth, exactly as it is, and I love her for it. I am looking forward to whatever story she has to tell next!

 If you like stories with a great message, books that are on the lighter side of creepy, without diving all the way in to it, and if you just like ghosts, What the Dead Want is for you. If nothing else, check it out for the great message it holds within its pages!

Jaime Lynn

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