The Cellar was not originally on my list of must-read psychological thriller novels, but after seeing the cover and title on the desk of one of my students – I had to know more. So I inquired about the general storyline, and sure enough, The Cellar seemed to be right up my alley. Lucky for me, my student loaned me her copy of the book when she had finished reading it, and I dove right into the pages of this dark young adult novel.
I was glad that Natasha Preston skipped building character connection in the very beginning and interspersed it throughout the novel. In fact, I started reading this book while waiting to have my root canal finished, and I got to the first suspenseful event before the doctor had even come into the room. That pleased me. There’s something equally lovely about a slow build-up such as in We Need to Talk About Kevin, but I personally prefer to jump right into the crazy.
Think of this movie as a combination between the true story of the women held captive in Cleveland, Ohio and the Lifetime movie “Kept Woman” starring Courtney Ford. Not to give too many spoilers away, but the antagonist of the novel, Clover, keeps women locked away in his perfectly tidy cellar to preserve their “innocence” and “perfection”. And how does he refer to them? Not by their given names, but after flowers. Yes, that is one of the creep-tastical factors of this novel: He renames the women that he abducts after four types of flowers. It’s just one little tidbit that clues the reader into the sheer insanity of the antagonist. I love it.
Being that this is a young adult novel, I didn’t expect it to get as down and dirty as it did. Oh yes, the reading level is on par for a teenager, and so is the unbreakable bond of love between the protagonist, Summer, and her boyfriend, Lewis. (The love part is what always gets me in a novel, but that’s because I’m a cynic.) However, the author doesn’t hold back on the graphic details and horrific events that happen to young Summer. When starting this novel, I had an idea in mind of “Yes, here are some awful, terrible things that could happen to this girl while she is abducted”. I figured she and the rest of her captors would be rescued before any of the true “horror” started since it was a young adult novel. Nope. I was wrong. I am happy I was wrong. Natasha Preston does not sugarcoat the novel and paint it as a pretty picture with the perfect, happy ending. She gets down to the nitty gritty.
This book definitely hooked me. I finished reading it in approximately four days time. Now, avid readers may scoff at that, but please keep in mind that my nephews, who are eight and nine, were in town at the time, so the only time I got to read was when they were occupied on an iPad or asleep. Had they not been in town, I believe this would have been one of two books that I finished in a day. The other being 13 Reasons Why.
I was really pleased with the level of suspense that The Cellar brought to the table. It not only told the story from Summer’s point of view, but also gave us insight into the antagonist’s mind as well. As a reader, we start to understand why he is the way that he is. We also get a few glimpses from Lewis’s point-of-view as he and Summer’s family partake in a frantic search for the lost girl. If you’re worried this will be a strictly G or PG novel, guess again. There are quite a few gruesome murders throughout the novel. I won’t tell who, though. For that, you’ll have to pick up the book yourself.
The only one criticism I have about the novel is the publishing format of it. I was introduced to the public writing forum of Wattpad last year by a student, signed up, and have yet to truly figure out what it’s all about. (Of course, after seeing how Natasha Preston got her feet off the ground with the forum, I am even more curious to delve in myself.) I’m not sure how exactly the book was published. Was it taken straight from Wattpad as is and given a pretty cover and credits? Not sure, but there are a myriad of grammatical errors in it – mostly just a word left out here and there which doesn’t affect the meaning of the story at all. In fact, one would probably miss it if you’re not reading closely. I, being an English teacher, thrive on finding errors in novels. I remember brimming with glee when I found that some copies of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders was missing a period on a particular page. I then made it a game for my students to find.
With all of that being said, who am I to criticize? I have nothing substantial published, and I am sure even this blog is wrought with errors. I hate proofreading and editing. Let the words flow. Sometimes trying to make art too perfect can ruin it.
For more information – Follow Natasha Preston on Twitter @natashavpreston
And you can follow me @annah_li