"Alone" by Cyn Balog
As it would turn out, it’s good that I read Stephanie Perkin’s There’s Someone Inside Your House right before I tackled Cyn Balog’s Alone. Basically, Perkin’s book served as conditioning (a concept I vaguely understand but have no personal experience with. Unless you considered walking to the kitchen to get more wine “conditioning”). You see, while There’s Someone Inside Your House was gory…and a bit scary… this book was fucking nightmare fuel.
As Balog’s Alone opens, we are introduced to soon-to-be-sixteen Seda Hunt. Seda and her family (consisting of her professor/author mother, two sets of twin siblings and a forgettable father) previously resided in Boston but have been living in a rundown, mountain-top hotel in Pennsylvania. The hotel, which the mother inherited from her aunt and uncle, was a murder mystery-themed venue, so it’s basically scary AF.
The hotel is essentially The Overlook – a point that is reiterated several different times by several different characters throughout the book – Consider The Shining messed me up hardcore as a child, this particular point of comparison served only to heighten my already pretty significant fear of the setting.
When the Hunt family arrived at the hotel, the plan was to fix it up and sell it. To someone. Basically, to anyone. This changed when Seda’s mom developed an infatuation with the hotel and its potential and decided that she would only sell it to someone who agreed to run it as a ghastly murder-rich attraction.
At that point, Dad basically said, “Yeah, nah…” and left the hotel, abandoning his family in a scary ass hotel…a top a mountain…with winter threatening to arrive any day.
Meanwhile, Seda is struggling with her own issues – or, one issue, to be exact – an “imaginary friend” (Also, very The Shining… Might as well just scratch REDRUM on the wall and call it a day, seriously).
This imaginary friend isn’t just any imaginary friend, though. The “friend” manifests himself as a voice inside her head that she attributes to that of her twin brother – a vanishing twin who she absorbed in utero. At one point in her childhood, she discovered that her mother had planned to name this twin Sawyer, so this is the name she has given the voice in her head.
Seda has “talked” to Sawyer for as long as she can remember. In her childhood, Sawyer would tell her to do bad things. Seda resisted these requests as well as she could and continues to fight against the force that Sawyer exerts upon her.
As the book opens, it’s October 31st and the first snow of the winter is starting to fall. This snow fall is promising to block off any access the family has to the outsider world (because they don’t have a phone).
With this reality settling in, Seda resigns herself to spending the winter trapped atop a mountain.
But then, as Seda is fishing for stew meat in the creepy ass walk-in-freezer (that they keep locked…because that’s not fucking terrifying) a handsome stranger shows up and tells her that he and his group of four friends crashed their car and need a place to stay. Seda is hesitant to invite them in – and even refuses to at first – because something tells her that inviting them in will result in tragedy. As a compromise, she settles them in an out building and doesn’t tell her family of their existence.
Is her foreboding premonition right?
Will she be able to keep the existence of these strangers a secret?
And, most importantly, will someone go crazy and chop everyone up with an axe before the snow thaws?
These questions keep you reading…and guessing…until the very end.
I rarely say, “I couldn’t put this book down,” because:
1) It’s cliché AF
2) It’s not often true
But, in this case, it was true.
Pretty much from the moment I started this book, if I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it.
My mind was constantly occupied, trying to puzzle out the ending. Despite all of this dedicated time and attention, however, I didn’t figure it out – not fully – until all was revealed.
The writing was solid, the characters round and dynamic and believable, and the setting clearly described and effectively chilling.
There were some points that were a bit hard to believe – but this is a horror book, so would you expect any less?
All factors considered, this was an exceptionally enjoyable read that I would recommend not just to horror fans, but to readers who regularly pick up mysteries or thrillers as well.
I give it 4 out of 5 cocktails.
Do you read horror? What horror novels should I add to my TBR for next October (a girl’s gotta think ahead)? Give me some ideas in the comments, below.
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