Lauren Oliver’s ‘Rooms’ is haunting

U-News Staff

It’s believed that a house is a representation of the people who live there; the wallpaper, the way the floorboards creek under your feet, or the kitchen table where you eat every night. Messy or clean, somehow your house is a part of who you are. Best-selling young adult author Lauren Oliver’s debut adult novel, “Rooms,” follows the dysfunctional and unfortunate lives of the Walker family after the father, Richard, dies and the children are forced to pack up the rooms in his house.

Caroline, Richard’s ex-wife, doubles as a bitter, raging alcoholic whose two kids Trenton and Minna have enough issues of their own. Alongside the Walkers live the ghosts that haunt Richard’s mansion, Alice and Sandra. “Rooms” unearths the dirty pasts of every character, using third person for the family and first person for the ghosts. The story shows how one house can figuratively and literally set fire to these characters’ lives. The multiple points of view can be confusing at first, but the difference in tone and diction keeps from forgetting whose story you’re reading — a success on Oliver’s part.

Alice and Sandra, forced into companionship for reasons unexplained at first, seem to be in tune with the house, feeling every vibration, hearing every sound, and it gets to the point where they have control over the functions of the house. With clashing personalities, Alice is full of sighs and remorse, whereas Sandra is a firecracker with a spitfire personality. While you read this book, you unravel Alice and Sandra’s stories, why they’re trapped in this old house, and how they connect.

Oliver does a good job of unfolding the plot, and her ability to connect so many different stories is quite impressive. Oliver is well known for her dystopian YA series, “Delirium,” so this particular style of adult writing seems to be a new realm for her. The almost poetic diction and rhythm kept me most interested. Oliver seemed to put more effort into the ghost’s stories as opposed to the family. The women in the novel were interesting. Alice is from the mid-20th century, Sandra from the ’80s, and Minna and Caroline are modern day women; they all vary so much in values and lifestyles. They are not all that different when it comes down to rock bottom, but you’ll have to read the book to learn how.

By the end of the novel, I was wishing for more closure among the family. There never seemed to be a resolution to Minna’s struggles. Why do we never conclude Trenton’s mental stability? Maybe it was Oliver’s intent to leave the reader with so many questions, but frankly I think it was poor judgment for a stand-alone novel.

Although I wouldn’t consider “Rooms” to be one of Oliver’s most riveting or throat-catching crafts, she does an outstanding job of showcasing her abilities as a writer. She created a somewhat masterpiece of a plot in this particular novel, and although “Rooms” is a ghost story, it is very, very real.