House of Secrets begins with the Walker family trying to find a new house. Mr. Walker recently lost his job after an "incident" in which he carves a symbol onto one of his patients. While house hunting, the Walkers are offered Kristoff House by a real estate agent at a drastically reduced price. Famous author Denver Kristoff built the house but now it is being sold to a family in need. It seems like everything is looking up for the Walker family but the Kristoff House does have its secrets and even mysterious statues and shadows are lurking around. When next door neighbor Dahlia shows up, the family soon finds out that she is the daughter of Denver Kristoff. Dahlia is also very unhappy with the Walker's moving in. She transforms herself into a Wind Witch and uproots the house into a whole other realm. The children soon find themselves in the world of Denver Kristoff's books in which a British World War I pilot, giants and pirates make up the characters that they meet. It is up to the Walker siblings Cordelia (8), Brendan (12) and Eleanor(15) to find a secret book that Dahlia wishes to possess in order to save their parents and themselves.
After seeing the gorgeous cover and accompanying illustrations, I knew there was something that spoke mystery and adventure to me. Yeah, I know the title House of Secrets says that too, but that is seriously one creepy looking house. I also really wanted to know why the pirates are on the roof and how the house ended up in the water. Plus when J.K. Rowling calls it " A breakneck roller coaster of an adventure," I just had to check it out. House of Secrets is defiantly an adventure story filled with action that feels like watching a movie. Given Chris Columbus' background in the movie industry, it seems only natural that it would possess that quality. I did find the intermingling of current American culture (Cell phones, Playstation and even TV/Music icons) into the story line a little off putting at times but I see that this was mostly to add humor. I think my only issue is whether this book is more Middle Grade or Young Adult? I think that what I found is that it is very subjective. My criteria for what is middle grade usually centered around the idea that it is roughly for children 8-12 years old, with length that is somewhat shorter but the focus is on the main characters. I purchased House of Secrets out of the middle grade section and as of June 9th it comes in as tenth on the New York Times best sellers list for Middle Grade. So it probably brings to mind why the concern over middle grade versus young adult. First, House of Secrets comes in close to 500 pages but does length usually guide which category it fits in? If ages of the main characters were any indication of category, the Walker siblings cover that spectrum too. Then there is the action itself which moves it from middle grade over into the young adult category for me. Common Sense Media states "House of Secrets can get gory, too, with talk of live autopsies performed by the pirate captain, a couple of fatal stabbings, kids removing an arrow and stitching up the wound themselves, and an eyeball pierced by an arrow and then plucked out intact." Ultimately, for me House of Secrets kind of grays the line between the two but personally I really enjoyed the story for its adventure. Yet, parents may want to check it out for themselves. For a great review check out this one over at the New York Times House of Secrets and Lokis Wolves review by Marjorie Ingall
Coming up next: Tunnels by British authors Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams.