First off, I have to say that I did enjoy the Death House. It was a really interesting premise and the plot went into a lot of detail about what would happen with a group of kids, mainly boys, who were lumped together in an isolated house just to wait to get sick and be carted off to an unknown (but presumably grisly) fate.
I really liked Toby. It was good to see a main character with faults (he doesn’t pretend to be brave about his fate and he’s kind of immature in his attitude to girls) but who also has a lot of excellent qualities. The other characters also have a mixture of good and bad qualities and it was interesting to see how they all dealt with and anticipated their fates.
Matron and her nurses flit in and out like ghosts, barely interacting with the children and leaving them to their own devices for much of the time, which allowed us to see
The problem I had was that I wasn't really sure what the book was trying to do. A creepy, isolated house on an island in the middle of nowhere where children are sent to die has the potential to be super frightening and this book could have been an amazing YA horror story, but most of the story was taken up with Toby and Clara's relationship and the tension and petty squabbles between the dormitories. Don't get me wrong - this was fine and it was still interesting to read, but it wasn't scary or tense, it read more like a high school drama. Going by the cover art (and yes, I do judge a book by its cover) and the blurb, I was expecting some kind of Blair Witch meets Lord of the Flies.
I was also confused about the nature of the Defects the kids were supposed to have. It was alluded to a couple of times that their defective genes would cause them to turn into monsters and that these monsters had somehow nearly brought about an apocalypse before testing for the Defective gene was introduced, but we’re never told exactly what happens when the Defective gene matures, or what happened before. I get that mystery keeps it tense and that infodumps are A Bad Thing, but I actually ended up feeling robbed. Instead we got a lot of background into Toby’s past with his parents and the girl he used to fancy. This was interesting, but didn’t really move the plot along.
A lot of questions remained unanswered at the end. Who was Matron really? What happened to the teachers and nurses? Why, when the Defective gene is identified, are children not just euthanized at The Death House instead of waiting for them to get sick?
Despite this, I still thought The Death House was an interesting story. It just didn’t have the Creep Factor I was expecting.