The Death House

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It’s not easy be­ing teens

Re­lease Date: 26 Fe­bru­ary

288 pages | Hard­back/ ebook Au­thor: Sarah Pin­bor­ough Pub­lisher: Gol­lancz

Grow­ing up is hard,

es­pe­cially for teenagers. Life is al­ready tough with­out hor­mones play­ing merry hell with your mind and body. For the kids in the Death House, that’s just the start of it. Toby and his friends suf­fer from a rare ge­netic de­fect that could erupt at any time with deadly re­sults. Un­til then, they live out their lives in an iso­lated, is­land­based school/ pri­son un­der the watch­ful gaze of Ma­tron. But are the nurses help­ing the sick, or hur­ry­ing them to an early grave?

The ti­tle and gloomy cover de­sign all prime you for a ma­jor downer, but the sweet­est sur­prise about The Death House is how like­able it is. That’s down to its flawed, be­liev­able char­ac­ters. Toby reads like a real teenage boy. He’s surly, self­ish, ob­sessed with sex… but also a loyal friend, and gen­er­ally de­cent. His friends ( and enemies) are sim­i­larly well- drawn.

That’s good, be­cause this is not a book for lovers of plot. There are enough de­vel­op­ments to keep things mov­ing along, but if you’re ex­pect­ing a twisty nar­ra­tive, look else­where. The science fic­tion el­e­ments are present, but down­played and mostly there for at­mos­phere. In­stead, Sarah Pin­bor­ough’s prose is fo­cused on char­ac­ter and the theme of living with your own mor­tal­ity. It’s heavy stuff, but han­dled deftly. And while ro­mance and teenage angst runs through the novel, it’s far from mawk­ish. Im­pres­sive and mov­ing. Will Salmon

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