YA review: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Title: The Death House
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Series: N/A
Acquired: Review
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 26th February 2015

Blood tests can change everything and Toby knows that all too well. The day his blood test showed him as Defective Toby was taken away from his family and taken to The Death House, where all the Defectives go. 

Toby, along with everyone else in The Death House, don’t get to live a normal life. They’re monitored by Matron and the nurses, go to classes that mean nothing to them and they wait for the sickness to come. 

Sickness means going to the sanatorium, the place that no one comes back from. 

Sometimes when I get an email from a publicist about a book I get super excited; not because it’s about a book I’ve been dying to read but because they bring something to my attention that I hadn’t heard of yet and it’s something that sounds amazing. This was how I felt when I got the email about The Death House. Although I do have my preferred genres or books I do still like to try something new and different now and again. 

The Death House is set in a world where some people are classed as Defectives. Well, not people, children. They’re forced to have a blood tests which reveals if they have the gene or not and if they do, they’re taken away from everything they know and are forced to live in The Death House with the rest of the Defectives. Isolated from the outside world, the Defectives soon give up hope that they’ll be able to go home or hear from their families. Days are spent in meaningless classes, cleaning and trying to get through another day without getting sick. 

Protagonist Toby seems to have come to terms with his new life in The Death House. Okay, he isn’t happy to be there just like everyone else as he knows what he has coming to him eventually. He is the oldest in his dorm though and that makes him their leader, the guy the others look up to. It isn’t until newcomers enter the house that everything changes and Toby begins to change how his time is spent. He actually begins to live instead of waiting to die. 

The Death House has such an eerie and creepy setting. The house itself is on some unknown island, cut off from society and none of the children know where they are. They have no knowledge of what is going on in the outside world or how their families are. All they know is that they are Defectives and at some point they are going to die. The thing about this book is that it never really explains what being a Defective means. I don’t see this as a bad thing though and I quite liked not really knowing much about it. The story really isn’t about what is wrong with the children but instead, what happens during their time in the house. 

Not only is there the mystery of being Defective but also of the sanatorium which honestly would have scared the crap out of me. Makes me shudder just thinking about it. 

Sarah Pinborough writes a host of extremely likable characters whom you can relate to. Toby is quite the realist. He tells it how it is and doesn’t hold any false hope. I loved Toby’s honesty with his dorm-mates and he was just the sort of person I’d want to have around because he didn’t sugar coat things. Will is a younger boy in dorm 4 who just doesn’t really understand what is going on and he just wants to go home to his family. There are also the bullies and the kids who think they can do whatever they want. It’s like a secondary school setting with the jealousy and rivalry. 

The Death House is really a journey of self discovery for Toby. There are a few really exciting twists over the course of the book and especially the ending. I didn’t see that coming at all. I couldn’t put this book down and it really is as exciting as it sounds!

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