Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz
ISBN-13: 978-1-4231-2124-4
Hyperion, New York, 2007
272 p.

GENRE: Horror

TEASER: If spending the night in a haunted metal hospital wasn’t bad enough, now the hospital won’t let them leave.

SUMMARY: Danvers State Hospital, built in 1878, is an abandoned mental hospital that is said to have been the birth place of the lobotomy. It’s been closed since 1992. Before its demolition, six teenagers plan to break in, spend the night, and film a movie about their experiences. Derik is there to win a film contest so that he can escape the family restaurant business. Lisa is determined to get into Harvard and an extracurricular can make or break her application. There’s Tony and Greta who are drama students, intent on getting their fair share of film time. Chet thinks this is the perfect opportunity to get away from his angry, drunk father for a night. Then there’s Mimi who has a hidden agenda for this project. Inside these crumbling walls they will begin to unravel the stories of those left behind.

CRITIQUE: This book is told in first-person perspective through all of the teens. Each chapter is written in a different character’s point of view. I felt that by switching the character’s perspective gives the readers a different look at each character. Through Mimi’s point of view, Derik is judgmental and vain. This is a side to his character that I did not pick up on when reading his perspective.

There characters are stereotyped a tad. It reminded me of The Breakfast Club in that way. They all go into the building as strangers, aside from the couple, and come out with a better understanding of one another. I did appreciate Mimi’s first chapter in which she addresses this issue. She talks about how much it bothers her that people assume she is an artsy, depressed, goth girl. Derik is one of the people who misjudges her, referring to her as “Halloween” for the first part of the novel. Then there’s Lisa. She suffers from her family forcing her into the overachieving Ivy League girl. Until her college counselor asks her is she wants to be a doctor and go to Harvard, she assumes that this is what she wants as well. She’s never asked because it was so deeply engrained into who she was.

The story is not very scary. However, there are parts of the novel that leave the reader feeling unsettled, mainly when the one character is off alone. Stolarz did a wonderful job at depicting the atmosphere at Danvers. In some ways reader is left feeling and eerie sense of sorrow and hopelessness. This is emphasized by the fact that you are aware that this place existed and that some of these things really happened at the Danvers Hospital.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laurie Faria Stolarz is an American author who grew up in Salem, Massachusetts. She received her MFA in Creative Writing at Emerson College. On her website, she gives a number of personal facts. Her interests are vegetarian cooking, holistic nutrition, aromatherapy. Her hobbies include napping, cooking, walking, shopping, interior decorating.

Other titles by Stolarz are Dirty Little Secrets, Bleed, and Blue Is for Nightmares. She has a new book scheduled for this fall Deadly Little Voices.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.lauriestolarz.com/

READING LEVEL: 15+

CHALLENGE ISSUES:> N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES:> N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: The main characters are stereotyped in the novel. Do you feel the other breaks those stereotypes not?

WHY INCLUDED: Vampires and werewolves aside, I wanted to include a horror novel in my collection. I originally found this book while researching the Danvers Metal Hospital. I love when books are inspired from real events or places. For me, this makes Project 17 more creepy.