What the Dead Want by Norah Olson | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.5-ish)
As a note, a printed galley of this novel was sent to me by the
publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my
opinions in any way.
With a premise as unique and chilling as What the Dead Want, it's easy to see why I was so excited to receive a copy to review. But overall, there were a lot of problems with the novel--for me--that felt like every page and promise lacked something. It felt like a world of wasted potential because there were so many things that could have made this spooky tale, well, sparkle.
Firstly, the summary was so eye-catching that it just felt like this was going to be it. Do you know what I mean? I went into What the Dead Want with a world of expectations that just weren't met--and maybe that was my problem, but the pacing was slow and lackluster and felt like it could have been so much more than what it was. I didn't necessarily hate the novel, but I certainly didn't love it and felt that there was so much that could have been improved. There was so much potential for a richly drawn world upon first glance but there was a lot that just didn't fit.
You see, there was this unique tone to its description that felt like it would be in a similar vein to Ransom Riggs' work and maybe--to an extent--improve on it. I liked the idea of fantasy and ghost stories in this one and went into it thinking, hey, this is going to be the perfect read for autumn. But all my hopes were brushed aside within the first quarter of the book. I don't think it was that the writing was bad--indeed, Norah Olson has a solid prose that could be built on and it had its moments of greatness.
Truly, it felt like there was something building up a great deal of the time only to... fall apart in the sense that it just felt pointless. I think that with the story and its creepy undertone/simple prose, the target audience will eat it up. Maybe I'm just well outside of that window of reach at this point, but there are surely some moments that will have younger readers on the edge of their seats in anticipation and for that, I definitely applaud the story.
Then there's the matter of the mystery. I can't explain it without spoiling it but there were moments that will peak just about anyone's interest yet at the same time, it drags on and on and on. Perhaps if I were a more patient person or I didn't read as much mystery-thriller types as I do, I would have liked the novel more than I did. But something about the way everything unfolded and the path it lead us down was deeply unsatisfying for me, that even its triumphs couldn't improve my view of it.
Overall, younger and less picky readers than I will appreciate this for what it is. I think it's a relatively solid release for its target audience but perhaps not for those who are slightly older. If you are looking for something light with just a bit of a creepy tone to it, you're definitely going to enjoy this one. My opinions are pretty divided on this and it makes me wonder if only I hadn't gotten my hopes up over this one.
I still recommend giving it a go but taking it with a grain of salt.