The Cellar by A.J. Whitten
Meredith Willis is suspicious of Adrien, the new guy next door. When she dares to sneak a look into the windows of his house, she sees something in the cellar that makes her believe that Adrien might be more than just a creep—he may be an actual monster.
But her sister, Heather, doesn’t share Meredith’s repulsion. Heather believes Adrien is the only guy who really understands her. In fact, she may be falling in love with him. When Adrien and Heather are cast as the leads in the school production of Romeo and Juliet, to Heather, it feels like fate. To Meredith, it feels like a bad omen. But if she tries to tear the couple apart, she could end up in the last place she’d ever want to be: the cellar. Can Meredith convince her sister that she’s dating the living dead before it’s too late for both of them?
I had never heard of this author before and I'm relatively new to the YA market, but I am a mother that is always looking for new books to recommend to the younger crowd. I want to foster a love of reading, especially in my own children, so I figure I should test the waters and read some of this stuff myself. The Cellar is my first attempt at YA horror and I was mildly surprised at how well this book does at scaring a seasoned reader like myself. I'd rate this book as having a fairly high ick factor and not for the squeamish at all. Eating flesh is nasty no matter how old you are.
I thought the characters were actually very well done. At first I found the sisters to be slightly annoying, but it wasn't from poor writing at all, more like that age group is annoying in real life and I am pretty far removed from that scene. So it seems only fair that I label that as having authentic and genuine characters.
Adrien, the boy next door, isn't anyone that I'd want my daughter hanging out with. He is creepy and sinister, yet at certain points I could actually sympathize with him. Can you imagine how awful it would be to have an extended lifespan and be trapped as a teenager forever? As you're reading you can't help but get that evil mastermind vibe from him. He is constantly plotting to overthrow Marie, his elder monster companion, and after that...the world. Like I said, creepy and sinister.
The ending was tragic and sad, just like the original Romeo and Juliet, if not a little rushed. I would have liked a longer path to resolution but for a YA novel it seems sufficient. It was actually a surprise to me when Adrien makes the ultimate sacrifice at the end and his reasons for doing so were sweet. Not something I'd expect from a monster, especially from a teenage monster.
If I had to make a comparison I'd say that The Cellar is a zombified Romeo and Juliet, and should appeal nicely to the Twilight crowd. My criticism is that I don't like the whole high school love equals obsession theme that seems to run throughout many of these YA books. Heather is just sure that Adrien is "the one" and that they will live happily ever after, at age 17, even when she sees things that aren't right. As a mom I'm just not sure that this is the right message to send. But on the other hand, I certainly hope that I have raised my kids to know the difference between love and obsession, and that they aren't making life choices based off popular books or movies.