The Death House
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