What the Dead Want

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Release Date
July 26, 2016
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Haunting photographs and dark family secrets make this second spine-tingling novel from Norah Olson the perfect read for fans of creepy, suspenseful teen fiction. A love of photography, an old camera, and countless questions—these are all that sixteen-year-old Gretchen has left of her mother, who mysteriously disappeared years ago. Now she must return to the place where her mom vanished—a decaying mansion that Gretchen has suddenly inherited from her great-aunt Esther. However, Gretchen won’t find the answers she’s seeking without unraveling the secrets that lurk inside the house. There are stacks of photographs and letters from her ancestors that go back centuries, pointing to some kind of haunting past. But when proof of the mansion’s dark history appears to Gretchen in the form of ghostly visions and the soft, eerie whisper of her mother’s voice, there’s no doubt that something sinister has taken place there. No matter how scared she might be, Gretchen must somehow uncover the reasons why this indescribable force has descended upon her family and find a way to set everyone—even the dead—free.

Editor review

1 review
Spooky, dark mystery
Overall rating
Writing Style
When Gretchen receives a phone call saying she’s to inherit an old mansion from a great-aunt, she is more than a little unsure. Her mother’s disappearance years ago made her think she would never hear anything more from that part of her family, but now she is being sent knee deep into the mystery of the disappearance and much, much more. The great-aunt who called her, Esther, turns out to be more than a little eccentric, but when Gretchen starts to see the very ghosts Esther is telling her about, she will uncover a dark history to her family line.

WHAT THE DEAD WANT begins as a spine tingling, haunted mansion mystery, but it soon turns to a dark (and still spine tingling) story about the history of a town going back to the Civil War. In an interesting twist, this story takes place far north in New York and shows that some small towns there were full of as much hate and racism as Confederate states. The atmosphere is excellent, giving a weight to a history that has been silenced for far too long. One of the most powerful aspects of the main character, Gretchen, is how she holds her own ancestry accountable and doesn’t shy away from recognizing their guilt.

While the plot follows a fairly expectant line, the letters and journal entries Gretchen finds from one of her ancestors are absolutely stunning and are interjected in nice places to move the plot along. The only downside is that sometimes the emotion and fierceness in the letters make Gretchen’s emotions pale a little in comparison.

This spooky, dark mystery will leave readers will serious thought on accountability, history, and family ties. Readers who enjoy learning about details of history that are sometimes brushed over for the bigger picture will especially like the focus on the small northern town.
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