Review: The Cellar

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The CellarThe Cellar by A.J. Whitten
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children on May 2, 2011
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster. But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?

The reason I wanted to read The Cellar was because it advertised itself as Romeo and Juliet with zombies, only not in a Quirk classics way. That sounded like it could be hilarious. It wasn’t for an assortment of reasons. 1: It took itself way too seriously. 2: Having the school do a modern version of Romeo and Juliet does not make this a modernization of said play; the story has to back it up. 3: These zombies are totally not following the rules and are, perhaps, other fantastical creatures. All in all, some seriously false advertising. Now I will expand on these points.

The Cellar is supposed to be a horror, sweet romance and tragic romance all in one. Whitten wants you to go ‘Ack!,’ ‘awww’ and ‘boohoo.’ I did none of these things. There were no joke attempts. How can you have the premise of Romeo and Juliet + zombies and not think it should be hysterical, especially if you’re completely changing the plot until its unrecognizable as the original play anyway? I think part of why Whitten (another mother/daughter writing team) wrote this book was because they thought it would be awesome to write a story about a sexy zombie. Here is an excerpt of Adrien (totally a zombie) meeting Heather for the first time:

“‘You look lost,’ a deep voice said from behind her. ‘Like me.’
Heather turned, about to blast whoever was bothering her this time. She stopped. Stared.
At the very guy who has moved in next door to her. From far away this morning, she hadn’t seen any details, but now—
Oh, now she did.
Up close, he was…gorgeous. Dark hair, a bit long in the back, just enough to curl over his collar, long dark jeans, a black suit jacket, something no other guy would have dared to wear, very A&F-ish, over a white T, untucked. He wore sunglasses—not Ray-Bans, but something very similar and very…mysterious. They reflected back her face, the shock in her eyes.” (9)

Holy misuse of punctuation, Batman! These ladies are definitely from the Twilight/Lisa McMann school of writing. Also, is this guy supposed to sound like a stud? Because what he sounds like is a pompous asshat.

In this book, the school is performing Romeo and Juliet. Conveniently, Heather is Juliet and Adrien is Romeo. Because of this, they decide that they are exactly like the bard’s star-crossed lovers, especially since her family is against them. Oh noes! Only not really, because of everyone but Meredith ends up supporting them. Mostly its just Heather thinks everyone wants to keep her from happiness. The frame of the story doesn’t fit at all, nor does the fact that they don’t both die. Fail.

Most disconcerting perhaps were the ‘zombies.’ Adrien and his ‘mother’ Marie are obviously something else altogether. Marie has to get herself a new skin with magic and soul-sucking every so often. So, basically, she’s a witch from Stardust. Adrien apparently looks perfect and doesn’t smell like decay; the only sign that he’s not human are the worms in his eyes. Umm, what? For some reason, he really reminded me most of the Oogie Boogie man, thus the song. I think it was the way he commanded legions of creepy crawlies and the way he criticized all of his enemies/prey. Even the regular zombies did not necessarily act like zombies are supposed to. One of them was able to focus on more than commands from its maker or its hunger. Weird and out of character for how the others were. It was a necessary plot point, but I’m not buying it.

So yeah, I kind of hated it. However, fans of books like Cryer’s Cross, another incomprehensible horror fantasy, will probably enjoy this.

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