Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE HARROWING by Alexandra Sokoloff


by Alexandra Sokoloff

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-312-35748-6
Publisher: St. Martin's

Poltergeist meets The Breakfast Club as five college students tangle with an ancient evil presence.

Sokoloff’s debut concerns Robin Stone, a very lonely freshman at an Ivy League–type college who tangles with an evil spirit from the distant past over Thanksgiving break. It begins with her discovering that she’ll be sharing the dorm that long weekend with only four other students: Patrick the athlete, indie-kid Cain, seductive Lisa and studious Martin. (The jock, the musician, the party-girl, the nerd and the confused protagonist with the lousy home life: Here’s a perfectly serviceable teen movie in the making.) Whiling away a holiday afternoon playing with a Ouija board, they manage to awaken an ancient demon that’s haunted the dorm for close to a century. As tends to happen when you awaken ancient demons, things go downhill fairly quickly, in this case with the spirit stalking each of them as it looks for a body to inhabit. Robin and her cohorts turn to the mystery of Zachary Prince, the former owner of the Ouija board, who died in an unexplained dorm fire 80 years before. If they can unravel his story, they might be able to learn how to send the demon back from whence it came. In any event, there’s sure to be plenty of sexual tension and overwrought angst as the five kids band together to banish the spirit. Screenwriter Sokoloff litters her story with all the standard movie tropes and often writes as if with a soundstage in mind.

A little scary, a lot silly: This boasts the big-screen virtues of quick pace and an engaging plot, but in the end, it reads more like young-adult fare than a book for grownups.