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Side By Side Review: IT WILL JUST BE US by Jo Kaplan

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Janelle @shereadswithcats review:
IT WILL JUST BE US by Jo Kaplan is a gothic style haunted house story that is perfect for the spooky season. I believe houses can have memories and in Virginia, on the edge of a swamp, Sam Wakefield’s family mansion has a slew of them.

Sam and her mother reside in the home but one day her sister, Elizabeth (Liz), shows up unannounced. Liz is far along in her pregnancy, had a terrible fight with her husband, and needs a place to stay. Unfortunately, this unsettling, ominous, and claustrophobic house isn’t meant for the innocent. There are darkness and anguish that has settled inside for generations and until now Sam has taken the brunt of it. But now that Liz and her unborn child are here, a disturbing ghost in the form of a faceless boy is running around wreaking havoc wherever it goes.

Oh man, do I love gothic novels with creepy old houses and scary ghosts. Although it has a slow start and some of the writing threw me off, I really enjoyed the story. The Wakefield house is alive with ghosts from its previous occupants and there is folklore attached to the swampland around it. The house will drive a person mad with locked rooms, confusion, and by messing with time. And the faceless ghost is absolutely terrifying. Overall, the language is atmospheric, vivid, and descriptive.

IT WILL JUST BE US is in many ways a familiar gothic haunted house story but with a few unique tricks of its own.

Thank you so much @crookedlanebooks for my free copy. @night_worms #NightWormsBookParty
Alex @findingmontauk1 review:
It Will Just Be Us is a gothic story focusing on a creepy house, Wakefield Manor, and a mother and her two daughters who live there. One daughter, Elizabeth, had to return to the house after a domestic dispute and she's pregnant. The other daughter, Sam, is now remembering that their house is not quite so normal. It can show you things... memories. "It is a house haunted by memory; it digests us, all of us, and spits us out again at random." Wakefield Manor is creepy enough as it is near a swamp with its own dastardly legend attached to it. Wakefield Manor has some similarities with Winchester House. Rooms appear and corridors disappear. Memories emerge at any given time as... hallucinations? Real events? It's all shrouded in mystery. Sam starts seeing a future memory... a faceless boy capable of horrible and creepy things. And he calls her... Auntie. *gasp*

So the second half of this book was really good. It was quite intoxicating and unputdownable. We got to see more of the faceless boy, see his actions, and he got to freak us out just like he was freaking out our main character, Sam. The language is more intentional and the tone just has a creepier feel to it than the beginning. The first half of the book, however, was extremely wordy and overly descriptive for my taste. There were just too many atmospheric vibes going on. Sometimes a whole sentence was used to say something that could be boiled down to one or two words. Building the house up as a character and setting the stage for the final act is almost always a slow burn in a gothic story, but it was just a little too much for me in this one. I know so many of my friends who loooooove the atmospheric buildup, so I am sure there will be many who absolutely adore the first half of this book!

In the end, however, I do recommend this for fans of ghost stories, haunted houses, and gothic literature. It checks off all the boxes you would expect. The second half and end, however, definitely saved me from rating this lower because I just did not connect with it upfront. 3.5 stars!
Richelle @n0vel.id3a review:
“It Will Just Be Us” is a mix of a haunted house, ghost story, witchy vibes, and gothic inspiration. It’s like all my favorite sub-genres of horror were dumped into a bubbling cauldron for me to drink up. I couldn’t help but think of the “Haunting of Hill House”, ”The Shining” and “The House of Leaves“ when I was reading this book.

A little context, Sam the main character lives in her ancestral home with her mom. Her ancestors are ghosts that play out memories in the house from when they were alive. Until one day, Sam sees a ghost that she's never seen before and the face is blurred. This ghost has cruel intentions. Sam’s sister who is pregnant comes back to the house to stay and Sam must rid the house of this evil before new life is born.

The house is filled with undiscovered mysteries. I enjoyed the backstories of the ghosts and how they met their unfortunate demise. Kaplan pays homage to classic gothic literature with a modern spine. It’s a slow build that leaves a trail of breadcrumbs till the end. There were scenes that literally had me saying “oh snap” aloud. I love being caught off guard in books and this one had tidbits of that. The only thing I didn’t like was there were too many details at times that I felt slowed the story down. It also took me till nearly the last quarter to finally connect with the characters and fear for them. That ending though had me stunned and gathering up my breadcrumbs to eat them as one loaf. I gave this 3 ⭐️.
Richelle @n0vel.id3a
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