Book Review: It That Has No Name by P.S. Kessell
After my previous review, I was genuinely hoping for a great read that would really impress me like The Haunted Forest Tour and Horrorfrost did. I saw It That Has No Name when I was doing research on another novel, and thought it might be the one. The 5-star reviews on Amazon are encouraging and the author has a Masters in Educational Administration. With reviews like "well written...", "very well written and descriptive...", and "great first horror book...", I thought that I absolutely couldn't go wrong with this one.
Well. I'm wrong quite often.
It That Has No Name is not on Kindle Unlimited, so you'll need to purchase it as an ebook for $3.99 or a paperback for $13.99.
The story begins spookily enough in Salem. An entire household is slaughtered, leaving a sole survivor, an eight year old girl. Before anyone can speak to her to find out what happened at the house on Highway 89, the little girl passes away. Decades later, the house is up for sale and Katie Carrollton's mom, a real estate agent, buys it to flip for profit. When their original plans fall through, Katie and her friends decide to hold the first senior year party at the house where they are hunted by an entity they can neither see or understand.
As a main character, Katie is young and boy-crazy. The entire first few chapters of the novel revolve around her obsession with Robbie, the captain of the football team, and her new potential love interest, Chase, who is new to Salem. The supporting cast of Melanie, Sandy, Jeb, Robbie, Gloria, Chase, and Jay are superfluous and mundane. If you have seen one horror movie from the 1980s, you've met them all already. You've met the captain of the football team who is already dating the captain of the cheerleading squad while a sweet classmate pines after him in silence. You've met the jock who fell for someone outside of his social circle. And yes, you have met the male best friend who has feelings for the counterpart to his broken heart necklace and experiences tinges of jealousy and protectiveness when the object of his affection shows interest in another. They are the cliche of teenage horror characters that you know and love.
The storyline had promise though...a potentially haunted house chosen as the site for a drunken teenage bash. I love a classic plot. But I feel like Kessell missed so many opportunities to interweave details throughout the novel to make it stronger. Too many of the twists came completely out of left field. Our protagonist spends the entire novel daydreaming about lusty interludes with the young men in her life only to be devout in her faith at the end of the novel. This addition felt rushed, hurried, and ingenuine.
As far as the novel itself, from the beginning the sentences read like the author subscribed to the "delete all adverbs and adjectives" writing style. The opening paragraph read:
"The old house suddenly became cold and still. Evie's breath was shallow and quick. She was still in shock over what had happened in the last few hours."
The choppy sentences are championed by repetitive phrases, wrong tenses, and awkward descriptions. Take for instance this gem: "Katie dreamed of her first real date. She desired it to be something a little more formal than homecoming."
Now, it has been a while since I have been in high school, I must admit. However, aren't homecoming dances formal attire situations? Would a teenage girl really describe her first date like this?
Then there is this one: "She kept one leg on the bottom of the pool for a bit as she struggled with her fear of the water and her trust of Jeb. Both feelings were very strong and powerful."
Or this one:
"The woman in the picture was in a fancy dress. He could tell that she was a financially secure woman."
My favorite, however, were the paragraphs where almost every sentence began with the same word. "There was a chill in the air. She could see her breath in front of her. As she turned to look at the door, ice formed along the doors keyhole and handle. Then it seemed to spread across the door. It sent chills up and down her spine. It felt as if someone was tickling her spine with soft fingertips. She could feel the touch against her bare skin even though her shirt was covering that area. It was the creepiest thing she had ever felt." Or this one:
"He decided to go to the basement door near the kitchen. He felt a cold chill as he stood outside that door. He opened it and yelled into the basement. No one responded. He told them that the game was over. No one responded. He heard more laughter, reached for the light, and turned it on. He decided that he had to go into the basement if he wanted to find Chase and Melanie and tell them what was going on."
Simple revisions on paragraphs like this from a good copy-editor would not only make the sentences less abrupt but also less repetitive. I even found a discrepancy with the entity mentioned throughout the novel as "It". My mind was drawn to Stephen King's killer clown more times at the mention of this name than I was drawn into the suspense Kessell was trying to create. Plus, when coupled with the sudden revelation out of no where that Katie is a devout Christian, the usage of the capitalization for the evil entity felt almost sacrilegious, adding to the overall disingenuous of the novel and the perceived underlying message that faith conquers all.
While I had high hopes for this novel, I was not just merely let down; I was taken to the highest peak and plummeted to the depths of discouragement, disdain, and annoyance. This witchy tale had the potential, as all of them do, to be mesmerizing, shocking, and suspenseful. Yet the overall story read like a monotone blatant disregard for the art.
I would not recommend this novel and hereby encourage all of you to pick my next novel, because I am obviously inept at good choices.