Darkhouse (Experiment in Terror)

Darkhouse - 

Karina Halle

TW: cutting, self-harm, victim blaming

 

I need to make it clear I did not finish this book, for various reasons I'll explain.

 

I'll be honest, I really liked how this book started! The narrative voice of the main character was very natural and amusing. And I feel bad for sounding all preachy but these things really matter to me and they were very poorly handled in this book:

 

1- I get that this is a 22 year old but on the other hand... this is a 22 year old! If anyone is supposed to be aware of these issues, it should be someone in her age group. The problem here is that, mixed with some petty jealousy towards her little sister (which made me start disliking the character) she says this: "When I see her posing flamboyantly in a skimpy outfit on display for the entire world to see, I can’t understand what she’s after. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting myself out there like that. But the last time I mentioned she could become a prime target for stalkers (or even worse), she just brushed it off and made the point that mom approved."

I mean... I mean really? Slut shaming her own little sister? I'm not going to go on some rant about how trying to police what women wear as if it's any indicative of her self-worth and how harmful that is, but I did not expect this sort of thing coming from a young woman about her little sister! Furthermore there's the insidious and revolting comment about how the way she dresses makes her responsible if she were to attract stalkers "or even worse". I'm so tired of this shit! When are we going to stop hearing about how women should stop wearing revealing clothing so as not to attract rapists, and instead hear something like, "Hey, don't be a rapist. It doesn't matter what she's wearing, she could be wandering around naked, just don't be a rapist. Or a stalker."?

Yeah, I am being preachy, but I'm so tired of this!

 

2- Serious trigger warning for self-harm here. So, the main character talks about her "wild-phase" when she did drugs and wrote bad poetry and... well, that was basically it. Then she gives us this gem (again tw!):

"Going with the territory, I also started cutting myself on my arms for attention"

 

First of all, it's fucked up for this to come up so casually in a YA book - a demographic where self-harm is most common. Second, it's revolting to have it dismissed as something you do "for attention". This is one of the most damaging things commonly believed about self-harm and it leads most people seeking help to give up. Most self-harmers are ashamed of what they do, they go to great lengths to hide their wounds, their scars. They change their entire wardrobes to make sure none of their scars can be seen. They do it in secret, and in shame. They do it because they're in so much emotional pain that the only way to stop it is to injure themselves. It's a messed up double life, full of shame, and pain, and regret and it takes all the courage in the world to ask for help. But they usually don't get that help because it's dismissed as attention seeking behaviour. And since this is an addictive behaviour, it's one you really, really need professional help, or at the very least help from your loved ones, to overcome.

 

I get so upset when I see it perpetuated in books as an attention-seeking behaviour! It's irresponsible and damaging to say that. And to be perfectly honest, it hit me hard, because, in case you don't realise it, bringing up self-harm out of the blue is a trigger: meaning it'll bring up extremely strong emotional responses and flashbacks and can even, in the case of people who self-harm, cause them to self-harm.

 

Honestly, I'm not rating this book because I can't finish it. I know it may sound absurd, but after that self-harm stunt I read every new page with extreme anxiety over what else I should brace myself for. The book may very well be amazing and all that, in fact, people I respect gave it nice reviews, so if you're not part of the demographics for whom the subjects I mentioned are emotionally triggering, go ahead and give it the chance I cannot give.