Book Reviews

Book Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno

From the author of You Must Not Miss comes a haunting contemporary horror novel that explores themes of mental illness, rage, and grief, twisted with spine-chilling elements of Stephen King and Agatha Christie.

Following her father’s death, Jane North-Robinson and her mom move from sunny California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where her mother grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but behind North Manor’s doors lurks a history that leaves them feeling more alone…and more tormented.

As the cold New England autumn arrives, and Jane settles in to her new home, she finds solace in old books and memories of her dad. She steadily begins making new friends, but also faces bullying from the resident “bad seed,” struggling to tamp down her own worst nature in response. Jane’s mom also seems to be spiraling with the return of her childhood home, but she won’t reveal why. Then Jane discovers that the “storage room” her mom has kept locked isn’t for storage at all–it’s a little girl’s bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears….

Is it grief? Mental illness? Or something more…horrid?

Title: Horrid
Author: Katrina Leno
Genre: YA Horror/Thriller
Format: Special Edition Hardcover

Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date Published: September 15th, 2020
Rating: 2//5 Owls

I am an extremely picky reader when it comes to mystery/horror. If I figure out all the twists too quickly, or if all the problems are simple misunderstandings, I can’t do it.

Because of this, I have largely stayed away from YA horror and mystery. I love YA fantasy, sci-fi, and most contemporary, but for some reason I’ve never been able to handle the young protagonists in a mystery setting.

When I received Horrid in my book box, I immediately planned on getting ready of it, then I decided to do this reading challenge and thought it would be a perfect book for me.

I should have stuck to my initial disposal plan.

I really wanted to love Horrid. Mother and daughter move into a creepy old family house? There’s secrets and weird things happening….it sounds super intriguing!

But then the book started with Jane eating pages of a book, and calling her parents by their first names (which sorry if you do that, I’ve just always found it odd!), and being somewhat entitled.

Things looked up a lot for me when Jane revealed she was a huge Agatha Christie fan! I was so excited! My favorite author and some of my all time favorite favorite books are being constantly mentioned! YAY!

Until I realized that they weren’t casual references, and that the books being mentioned were actually clues to the story….then it started to go downhill.

Jane is a TERRIBLE friend. She essentially ditches her old best friend immediately, suddenly unable to talk to her about anything. She is incredibly self centered when it comes to her new friends, and is just not a nice person.

Then there’s the fact that her friends tell her that her grandmothers house is referred to as the “Creep Manor”, which honestly is a terrible and boring name. Not a single person in this town thought to give it a cooler name than that?

So at this point, Jane has a “spooky name” for her house, a mother who is acting weird, and a quick change of topic and suspicion anytime she talks about her house.

Now the LOGICAL thing to do at this time would be to hop on the internet, and Google the town. Clearly everyone is hiding something, it’s the 21st century, I’m sure it’s on the internet. And since Jane is using a cell phone/ video calling/etc I know that this is possible, but alas she is not very bright so somehow the thought never occurs to her.

Honestly all her problems could have ended if she used Google.

So things at this point are getting weird – there’s lights on in the house that shouldn’t be, a locked room her mom lies about, the constant smell of roses, something weird going on with a girl Melanie and her recently deceased sister, and text messages showing up on her phone that she didn’t actually send.

Wow! So spooky! Again…zero communication happening here though. Other than vaguely trying to talk to her moth, Jane communicated with NO ONE about the weirdness happening in her life. Not a single sole. Why not?! You are A CHILD. Tell SOMEONE.

And then there’s Jane’s anger issues – her remembering being extremely scary towards a childhood bully, her best down on Melanie, why is this child not in therapy?! But apparently there is a very weird and nonsensical reason for her anger…

Finally, there’s the big reveal. Now, this “big twist” about the things happening in the house, the secret everyone is keeping from her, and Melanie’s sister is…..extremely obvious. It’s hinted at from the beginning and there’s no shock factor when the truth comes out. I had a moment of “yeah Jane, I figured that out about 100 pages ago, how dense are you?”

Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in order to fill their bodies with something other than the anger, the rage, that would otherwise consume them.

The final scene – on Halloween night, is full of tragedy, weirdness, and an incredibly vague ending that I fully do not understand. I’m all for open endings in books – sometimes I like not knowing the final date of characters, but this one was a little too vague. I didn’t fully understand what was even happening, let alone what the future held for Jane.

Overall, I wasn’t a fan of this book. The characters were all pretty one dimensional, and I don’t even remember any of the side characters names, let alone any of their personality traits. I found this odd partially because the author took great time to perfectly explain the physical descriptions of every character – just not who they are on the inside.

The plot was overall predictable, and even though it’s YA, it read really young. A lot of the choices Jane made felt more like she was 13-14, and not almost an adult.

If you’re into YA Horror, you might love this book! But for me, it fell entirely flat and I don’t think it’s an author I’ll be reading again in the future.

So far, my “outside my comfort zone” reading challenge is a bust. FanGirl was a two star read for me (review here) and now Horrid is at well. Next month I’m reading The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu, and hopefully I’ll enjoy this one a bit more!

Now, because I’m being a bit petty about the bad communication in this book, here’s a way this book could have ended in twenty pages or less:



“Hey honey, I know I should have told you this years ago, but it hurt too much to talk about. When I was 16, I had another daughter, her name was BLANK. My mom raised her since I was so young, but there was a terrible accident when she was 8 and she died. After that I moved to California and met your dad and had you. Coming back here is going to have a lot of bad memories for me, but I need you to work with me and we’ll make the best of it together”

“Hey mom, a lot of weird things are happening in this house and I don’t feel safe here anymore. I know it’s hard it believe, but I think the ghost of my dead sister is haunting it. It’s okay if you don’t believe me and I know we’re struggling for money, but I was wondering if we could please stay in a hotel for a few days? Or since this is small town fucking Maine I’m sure we can find a small two bedroom house to rent for super cheap. Could we please try?”


6 thoughts on “Book Review: Horrid by Katrina Leno”

  1. Part of me now wants to read this just to see. Just because the curiosity might eat me alive.
    Glad for the warning though!
    Great review, really enjoy the honesty!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know, I love thrillers.. but I recently read ‘Follow Me to Ground’ by Sue Rainsford and, let me just say, that book is an incredibly strange “horror’. So I might like it? I guess i’ll only know it I read it. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

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