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The Harrowing [Mass Market Paperback]

Alexandra Sokoloff
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Oct. 30 2007
Baird College's Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of students heading home for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone, who won't be going home, swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. As a massive storm approaches, four other lonely students reveal themselves to Robin: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons.
 
The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of another presence disturbing the building's ominous silence. Are they the victims of an elaborate prank, or is the energy evidence of something genuine--something intent on using them for its own terrifying ends? Together, they'll face three long days and dark nights before the world returns to find out what's become of five students nobody wants and no one will miss…

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From Publishers Weekly

At the start of screenwriter Sokoloff's first novel, a teen terror flick in prose, generic Baird College is emptying out for Thanksgiving break, but a few stalwart students have decided to stay on campus to avoid going home to their dysfunctional families. One night, under the influence of booze and drugs, they whip out a ouija board and inadvertently summon what they believe is the spirit of a student who died there decades before. In truth, it's something nastier, and the quintet spend the rest of the story desperately trying to send back to the void an evil entity that won't go gently. The characters, who include the mousy good girl and the nerd whose scholarly skepticism grows increasingly grating with each repeat expression, develop little personality outside of their carefully crafted types. The pyrotechnic climax, in which the kids prove unusually adept at occult subterfuge, stretches credibility but provides a suitably cinematic finale. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–Robin, an outcast college student, has problems connecting with others because of her dark past. When she stays at school over the Thanksgiving holiday, she believes that she is alone in the gothic castle of a dormitory. However, four other students are also there. The first evening, they find themselves in a lounge together, and, after drinking and smoking pot, they discover a Ouija board. When Robin and another girl use it, they connect with a spirit who calls himself Zachary, a student who died in a fire in the dorm years before. But the five students have actually contacted something far more sinister and dangerous than a ghost. Soon the question becomes whether any of them will survive the encounter. The book reads like the script of a low-budget horror movie, and the characters never rise above stereotypes. Additionally, the story is undermined by the rushed ending. Skip this derivative work in favor of more original titles.–Tasha Saecker, Menasha Public Library, WI
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid First Book Jan. 8 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Alexandra Sokoloff's The Harrowing was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel, but it lost to Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box. Sokoloff's effort is certainly noteworthy for its truly chilling moments and somewhat slanted twist on the standard ghost story. The Harrowing describes a group of five college students who, during a séance, ostensibly summon a ghost. The group eventually unravels the mystery, and what at first seems like a regular haunting turns out to be something much more sinister.

The group of students are interesting and well-drawn, and the plot was compelling although some parts seemed to drag a bit. The story has several genuinely scary moments -- especially towards the conclusion - but many will be familiar to horror movie fans (loud, banging pipes, doors opening and closing, cold temperature). In addition, Sokoloff relies to heavily on the "false scares" that pepper too many horror movies. These include descriptions of sinister-looking shadows that are revealed to be harmless. She uses this device too often, and I eventually stopped being scared by any shadowy figures.

I think this is a worthwhile read for its take on the traditional ghost/haunting story. Besides, Sokoloff must have done something right because I plan on reading her second book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  105 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A praise-worthy debut Aug. 24 2006
By Doris Ann Norris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've seen THE HARROWING compared to teen horror films, but I'm almost two millennia away from being a young adult and have never seen a teen horror/slasher movie. I avoided them like the plague even when I was reviewing a movie weekly for our daily newspaper.

But I do like ghost stories and once I started reading the book, I couldn't put it down. I thought the characterizations of the five college students was great. The build-up is superb as the five bored students, staying at Baird College for the Thanksgiving break, find an ouija board and strange things begin to happen.

It someone playing tricks or have these students actually contacted someone from "beyond," specifically a young man who died years before in a fire at the school?

The tension mounts as the "odd" group of students begin to form alliances and try to figure out what is happening to them. Did they "release" a tortured soul trying to affect some kind of closure, or has a more malevolent force been unleashed?

I found myself really caring about these young people and being pulled into their struggle. The information on the Kabbalah

and other Jewish folklore is fascinating.

The plot moves at a great pace and I certainly can see this as a movie, which isn't surprising since the author, Ms. Sokoloff, is a long-time screenwriter.

I bought a few copies, after reading the ARC, for some lucky people on my Christmas list. Highly recommended
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply Delicious! Aug. 26 2006
By Amy Aldrich - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Delicious....this book was something I desperately needed...a good light fiction read that also was interesting, scary and troubling at the same time. Oh...what's that, Baird college students leave en masse for Thanksgiving and we are left with five lone students, one creepy gothic dorm and a dark and story night...who doesn't smell supernatural thrills???!! The Harrowing is somewhat typical in it's depiction of college students (jock, loner musician, nerd, slut, invisible chick) and reminiscent of a teen horror flick made into a book, but still, I really enjoyed the flawed characters, the Freudian psychology, and the overall tense, heavy feel of the book. It was sad and depressing, desperate and hopeful all at the same time and best of all...it races along, no dead spots, no lulls...it's a nonstop front to back spine tingling tale that weaves it's way from the present day, back to the 1920's and then back to creation and the kabala.I recommend it for ghost story and horror freaks like me...though it does purport to be a ghost story, it's really not, kinda, sorta, but not totally...read it and you'll see what I mean! It even managed to creep me out, reading it home alone, foolishly enough, during thunder storm...at night...I'll leave my rating at...simply delicious, you'll want to curl up with this on a chilly night with a blanket and a good cup of tea!!
31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Sad clichés...and little more. Dec 14 2007
By FangsFirst - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It's not often I feel the need to openly review books, but I'm shocked at the praise, nominations and positive reviews being lavished on this book. I made sure to finish it in case I was just getting a silly impression from the beginning, in case something suddenly caught on at some point that was original and interesting.

No such luck. The characters are blatant stereotypes--the "jock," the "slut," the "nerd," the "bad boy/rocker," and our homely heroine Robin who is depressed.

The back of the book proudly proclaims that Sokoloff built the "psychological undercurrents" from her experience dealing with "emotionally disturbed and incarcerated teenagers." I kept waiting for an "undercurrent" behind the blatant pop-psychology and complete lack of understanding applied to all of these characters, and it never came. I had to wonder if she ever really listened to these teenagers, or asked them anything. I've known my fair share of "emotionally disturbed teenagers"--and they don't act like this.

Robin is a stereotypically depressed teen/college student, but doesn't act much like a real one (I've known my fair share). Martin, the "nerd," is written like someone trying to sound smart, rather than the smug, self-assured legitimate intelligence that comes from the type of character Sokoloff seems to be trying to write. It's clunky, awkward and feels like it was carefully but ignorantly constructed.

The plotting, while I applaud the interesting and unusual inclusion of Kabbalistic mythology (I even learned a few things), is standard at best, which offends me far more in horror than something unusual that misfires.

I knew as soon as the five of them pulled out a Ouija board that it was going to take a lot to restore my faith in anything "original" coming out of this book. Unfortunately that "lot" never came either. They play with a Ouija board, it seems benevolent, then seems threatening, spiritual forces stronger than them appear, blah blah blah--if you've read or seen any story involving the supernatural and seances or Ouija boards, move along, there's nothing new here except that peculiar Kabbalistic bit, which is nice, but surrounded by so much stereotypical characterization, poor description and general feelings of "haven't I seen this all before?" that it just can't be saved.

When even the horrid cliché of "Eek! A stranger!...oh gosh, silly me, it was just a coatrack!" was reeled out, I nearly gave up. Of course, first, I thought, "What dorm has coatracks in the hall? How many students these days wear hats? Who would leave their hat on a hatrack over break? Did she even think about any of this or just jump at a cliché and move on?" I say this as someone who did in fact wear a hat in college, just to be clear, but I was one of very few, and I don't think any of us had hatracks--certainly none in dorm hallways.

A shame. If "The Breakfast Club meets Poltergeist" sounds intriguing and like it's not a nightmarish collision of two pretty fun things that shouldn't really collide to you--have fun! You might enjoy this. If you've read about Ouija boards and seemingly clique-separated kids before and find them tired--stay away. Stay far, far away.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Debut Horror Novel Aug. 27 2006
By Vincent H. Oneil - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Alexandra Sokoloff's debut novel The Harrowing is simply jam-packed with all the things that make for a good horror story. Baird College's creepy Mendenhall dormitory, known to its residents as The Hall, (Hell?) is the feature location, with wings that become distressingly similar once the place empties out for Thanksgiving and all the doors are closed. A stormy Thanksgiving break leaves the five main characters together in The Hall, where they quickly come to recognize the broken, empty, or lonely places in each other. Unfortunately, a malevolent spirit also recognizes those frailties, and manipulates them into releasing it from its dark realm of nothingness. The story is fast paced, but also plenty intellectual: It is filled from cover to cover with references to psychology, spiritualism, and religion that would seem out of place if the characters were not all college students. The action is not confined to The Hall, either, as the students move about over a landscape which includes a Stonehenge-like portion of the campus known as The Columns and a graveyard which holds the remains of a 1920s Baird student who had a fatal run-in with the same entity. Despite the dark nature of the conflict, Alexandra Sokoloff injects plenty of humor as well, from the main character's wry observations about her detestable prom queen roommate to the hilarious appearance of two teen slackers at a moment of high tension. The characters are well drawn, with voices and personalities of their own, and the ending is far from predictable. Don't wait for Hallowe'en to pick this up.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars NOT a book you want to read when you go to bed unless you plan on sleeping with your eyes open and listening fo Jan. 30 2009
By Bookaholics Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff
Mass Market Paperback - October 30, 2007
4 Stars

Robin Stone is a troubled young woman. Her means of escape from her unbalanced mother was by running away to college paid with guilt money from her absentee father.

Still, she remains unhappy and depressed in the academic arena and feels like a shadow nobody will miss if she's gone. When Thanksgiving comes, she stays in the echoing Mendenhall dormitories rather than going home to her mother for the long holiday weekend.

She finds that she's not alone and on the first night with the help of drugs and alcohol she makes friends with the unlikely mixture of remaining students: Martin, Patrick, Cain and Lisa.

Lisa finds a Ouija board. Its uncanny responses freak everybody. Have they really contacted the spirit of Zackary Prince or is she the blunt of a practical joke? And then it gets stranger.

The Harrowing is not a book you want to read when you go to bed unless you plan on sleeping with your eyes open and listening for the bump in the night. Especially when you read Chapter Twenty-One!

Ms. Sokoloff is a talented writer. She drew characters with personal insecurities, placed them in a recognizable setting, and then threw in paranormal elements, causing me to become quickly caught into the story. I accepted that stretch when reality told a step away. I look forward to reading her next book.

Reviewed by Jackie from Bookaholics Romance Book Club
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