“There’s Someone Inside Your House”: Full of Horror and Lacking Suspense


“There’s Someone Inside Your House” was published in 2017, the cover art was designed by Anna Booth

It was early in the 2021-2022 school year when I picked up Stephanie Perkins’ young adult (YA) slasher/horror/thriller novel “There’s Someone Inside Your House”. It isn’t something I would have read if one of my friends wasn’t also reading it because I have a very low tolerance for violence on screen and was hesitant to try it on the page. Throughout the course of the week, we read the book and occasionally discussed plot points before finishing it and coming to the conclusion that it was lacking in all categories. It didn’t balance out the aggressively gory parts with suspense, had little character development, and unnecessarily complicated the plot through character’s lack of communication.

The main character of “There’s Someone Inside Your House” (TSIYH) is Makani Young, a teenager who moved to her Grandmother’s home in rural Nebraska after a mysterious incident forces her to leave Hawaii. As Makani navigates her senior year at Osborne High, her friend-Alex and Darby- and her crush- Ollie Larsson- a killer enters the town of Osborne and begins serially killing teenagers. In her efforts to stay alive and keep her friends safe, Makani faces not only the truth of who the killer is but the truth of her past.

Perkins got her start writing the YA series “Anna and the French Kiss”, a trilogy of romances. Her background becomes obvious early on in “TSIYH” when the focus shifts from the violence in the town to the underdeveloped romance between Ollie and Makani. Now, I’m a fan of horror/suspense stories using character’s mundane emotions to highlight the terror of their situation, but Makani and Ollie aren’t strong enough to support the story, and end up being overpowered by the plot. Instead of their romance being a reminder that people connect in strange circumstances, it prompts questions about why two people are risking their lives to sneak around while a killer runs unchecked in their town.

The town itself is also culpable in the lack of gravity given to the situation. The killer is revealed just around the halfway point (“Who?” my friend and I asked each other when the reveal came) and the rest of the book switches from a string of grisly crimes to an ineffective manhunt for the perpetrator. Despite the large amount of media coverage the crimes get near the beginning of the novel, the killer is able to hitchhike in and out of Osborne because numerous truck drivers are somehow unaware of what’s going on. Osborne itself also does nothing, school still runs, there are no curfews put in place, and people still leave their children alone – so what’s the point of the reveal? It doesn’t create suspense, it just makes the town look incompetent, and not in a ‘We’re a hick town’ kind of way.

The smallness of Osborne does factor into how the characters act and view one another. Notably, the killer is motivated by how Osborne has influenced people’s futures, and the core cast all feel cramped and like outsiders within the town. Makani is biracial with a Native Hawaiian and African-American parent, and Darby is a transgender boy. The book succeeds in creating a claustrophobic atmosphere in Osborne, the difficulty of going against the ‘norm’ and the cloying feeling of a place where everyone knows everyone, but it never delves into this in a meaningful way. 

Given the identity of the victims and the killer in the book, it would have been interesting to see what happens when people who don’t lock their doors suddenly can’t trust their neighbors. What happens when people are living in unsafe situations but have their roots deeply planted in a small town? What happens if they don’t want to or can’t afford to leave? (Osborne is clearly not a well-paying town). But all of this is pushed off and becomes the very interesting background you wish had been the focus.

When it comes to the characters themselves, I do like the main cast. I found Makani likeable and easy to root for, though her hidden backstory (SPOILER: A team hazing gone wrong- though hazings can’t go right-Spoiler ends.) is overly-drawn out and ends up feeling shoe-horned in. Darby and Alex were fun and I loved their dynamic: they aren’t free from their faults but that makes them all the better; though occasionally they exist just to be dramatic. Ollie has moments where he’s interesting but most of the time is characterized by how much he rebels against Osborne. Ollie’s pink hair and lip ring are  mentioned nearly every time he’s in a scene. His lip ring is on page just as much as the killer and has a character arc to rival the rest of the main group. It’s a fine addition to his description, but isn’t served by the repetition.

All and all, TSIYH had a lot of potential to be both an in-depth look at small town life in the midst of a tragedy and a fun Halloweeny read, but doesn’t fully commit to either. While the characters are interesting and could have layers, they are overpowered by the rest of the plot- which drives the book. As perfectly said by my friend: “[TSIYH] Leaned more on blood and gruesomeness than an actual great story.”

4/10 would not get a lip ring again

Further breakdown:

Writing Quality: 6/10                   Enjoyability: 5/10

Pace: 4/10                                       Visual elements: 6/10

Plot development: 5/10                Insightfulness: 5/10 (but it wasn’t trying to be insightful) 

Characters: 6.5/10