A Halloween Treat for High-Schoolers and Middle-Schoolers, Too: Cherie Priest’s THE AGONY HOUSE

Lynn: Looking for a great spooky book to hand teens as Halloween approaches? Cherie Priest’s The Agony House (2018) is a perfect choice! High-school senior Denise, her mom, and new stepdad are the newest residents of Argonne House in New Orleans. Over 100 years old and standing alone on a hurricane-ravaged block, the house is literally falling down around their ears. But Denise’s family has a dream to turn the old place into a bed and breakfast. Denise misses her friends, air conditioning, and her Houston school but she is doing her best to help despite nicknaming the place Agony House.

The Agony House by Cherie Priest

The nickname quickly becomes accurate as strange and then dangerous things start to happen. At first, there’s just a faint smell of roses and the sound of humming. But then there are nails deliberately placed in the banister, a hole opens up in the porch, and the ceiling falls in. It seems like something in the house is out to kill them. At first, the neighbors are skeptical and distant, thinking the new owners plan to “flip” the house, but gradually Denise makes some new friends and begins to learn the tragic history of Agony House. When she finds an old comic book hidden in the attic, the clues start to come together. Researching their discovery, the teens learn the comic is apparently the lost last issue of a famous 1950s comic called Lucinda Might—and that its author died in the house.

Hang onto your trick-or-treat bags, because this is one terrific read! Priest expertly ratchets up the tension with each malevolent occurrence. The suspense only grows as Denise and her friends piece clues together. Truly likable characters, a vividly realized setting in which the house is practically a character, and a compelling story line make this book impossible to put down. The icing on the pumpkin cookies is the inclusion of pages from the discovered comic that are scattered throughout the book. Drawn by Tara O’Connor in an eerie blue, the comic has a perfect period feel.

Priest provides some thought-provoking threads about gentrification, censorship, and even the history of the comic-book industry but never slows the pace. The action-packed climax will please any comic-book fan and leads to a completely satisfying conclusion. Scary but not too scary, this will be great for both high-school and middle-school readers. Be sure to order multiple copies!

Cindy: Priest’s first graphic-infused story, I Am Princess X, is very popular with my middle-school readers. If you don’t have that one, add it to your order with The Agony House. It’s more mystery than horror, but still has plenty of chills along the way.






About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "A Halloween Treat for High-Schoolers and Middle-Schoolers, Too: Cherie Priest’s THE AGONY HOUSE"

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  1. marya kurwa says:

    I loved the review . Am going tonsend this to my librarians who are in charge of collection management forcteens .

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