Harrow by Amanda Troyer Book Review

I love this book. I pick it up as a free eBook from Amazon without thinking about its content simply because I love horror stories. The cover is very simple, looking much like a book full of horror tropes, making me think of it less. But upon reading Harrow, I found that it covers elements of horror but it's not clichéd. Harrow has a unique story with enough background for the characters to justify their actions and to develop the right atmosphere and nuances for the plot. It was a worthwhile read.

Harrow by Amanda Troyer
Title: Harrow
Author: Amanda Troyer
Publishing Date: August 27, 2014
Publisher: Ivory Deer Books
Language: English
Genre: Horror, YA, Paranormal
ASIN: B00MT5B3DW
Edition: Kindle
Size: 273

Sixteen-year-old Brenna doesn’t believe her vivid imagination can hurt her, until she wakes up in a church, covered in blood. Blood that isn’t hers.

She thinks her life can't get much worse, but when she finally finds a way to escape her abusive home, her imagination turns to nightmarish hallucinations.

Niven likes staying inside the abandoned church, hiding from his violent father. The two bond through art and misery, but Brenna knows good things in her life don’t last long.

Her delusions take a horrific turn when she thinks she sees two men gruesomely murdered by a monster in the church basement, but in the end, she’s the one with blood on her hands.

Review

I don't know where the author drew her inspiration from for this book because I could relate so much to it.

Brenna is a 16-year old girl (as old as the girl of the book I read about the other day and most YA books, if not all) hailing from a dysfunctional family. Her mom's been missing her entire life, leaving her and her older sister with a drunken father. She feels neglected at home if not brutally abused when in his drunken state, her father would toss her with enough force that would leave her with bruises. Worse, her sister makes trouble all over the place that makes other people hate her too. A lonely girl without friends, she finds comfort in an abandoned haunted church where she found a lovely boy that will make her stomach go in mushes.

Brenna is too imaginative, like every once in a while there'd be an interlude of some morbid thoughts of hers. Some, her own imagination and some, hallucination. As a reader, it was hard at times recognizing which ones are her own imagination and which ones are not, much like the confused Brenna. I think the narration was deliberate to have this effect. I just don't know whether I like it or not.

If you were a troubled teen, like psychologically or paranormally troubled teenage girl, the events in this book are easily recognizable. For others, Harrow might be traumatizing, for others still, deliciously refreshing. I'll get to that later.

For the sake of horror, there isn't that much horror in this book. There's only a semblance of what I call emotional exploration. Horror junkies are up for the scare (if you want, an easy read would be Jonathan Stroud's Lockwood and Co. series) while I on the other hand, is up for the feels when it comes to horror books. Yes, I love the horrible feeling but I love the emotional journey more. This book delivers on the emotional part.

The story revolves around 4 places mostly: Brenna's house, the library, her new close friend Wyatt's house and of course, the haunted church with an ugly urban legend of a monster in the basement that could eat a man whole and grows stronger by consuming their souls. Brenna wasn't deterred by any of the rumors surrounding the church, she was much taken by the boy who claims to need her, the boy with a very beautiful almost glowing green eyes and a wide intoxicating smile. Niven is a runaway who takes shelter in the church and shelter in the warmth of Brenna's company.

Shit things happen in Brenna's bouts of hallucination. She's been dreaming of running away from it all long before she met Niven but she's more determined now when the ones she loved are hurting from her shit storm.

“I’m not a doctor, so I can’t give you medical advice.” He begins. His words feel rehearsed until he leans closer to the mesh. “But from a spiritual point of view, you could be experiencing symptoms of demonic possession.”

Let's pause for a personal interlude here. My biology professor said that if the brain produces dream hormones 50% more than normal, you can become a lucid dreamer. At 85% more, you're either demented or schizophrenic. I came from a clan with mental illnesses, with two in my family suffering from schizophrenia.

Since I hit puberty until my early 20s, I'd been suffering from hallucinations after the onset of sleep paralysis. So yes, I hear voices (technically a single man's voice) and feel things in my half-lucid state while I couldn't move on the bed. I told some of my friends (most of them unfriended me) about what's going on with me during those times. They claimed I could be in a relationship with an incubus.

For a long time, I'd been entertaining the idea of demonic possession until the day I finally enjoyed uh, things. Since I felt the comforts of my own body, the hallucinations stopped which is just so frustrating. Just when I start to bask in the pleasures of sleep paralysis did my "incubus" left me. And for what reason? That's how I realize such things are all in the brain.

This book is very much relatable especially to young teenage girls who could be suppressed for various things and in effect, suffer some mental issues. I wasn't diagnosed with anything by the way but the confession room had been my go-to when I was 8 until I was 15 (though I don't go there always) when I could not tell anyone about my "problem". After that, I go to psychiatrists for free counseling in college.

Tread slowly here for some R-rated scene. Else, skip to the next paragraph.

I remember how "this thing" (it's just your brain's capacity to conjure things in the subconscious state) would paralyze you with fear, build up tension as you cower in fear. A little noise in here, the sound of the door creaking as a huge shadow man enters the room and he slowly approaches you in your bed... It was terrible back then. And then he would just disappear. Just when you feel relief in his absence, a part of your bed dips and you feel hands roaming your body, the phantom feeling of your clothes being dragged down your legs, and then the bed would move and suddenly, some heavy weight lies on top of you and... There's pain as he enters you. I was stripped of my will for years. I didn't like to sleep back then. If I could only skip sleeping, I would. Forward some years later when the dreams stopped coming, in retrospect, my "incubus" gave me the best orgasms in my life! And there are different kinds of orgasms.

Hah! This is what I meant by the book being "deliciously refreshing". When you have my experience, for a time you'll be traumatized but as you grow older, you can't help but feel grateful that you experience something extraordinary. Come to think of it, you only have your brain for company. When you enjoy sexual dreams, you didn't do it with someone, no emotional hangups, no exchange of bodily fluids, no risk of transmitted diseases.

Spoiler alert: There's no sex in this book. Don't even bother to look.

This book left me with a great feeling after reading. It hooked me up from the very first page and didn't let up with the emotional tension until I read the last word as the story ended.

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