Review: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

28. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Publication: Nan A. Talese (June 23, 2009), Hardcover, 240pp / ISBN 0385526059
Genre: Horror, Teen
Challenges: GLBT Challenge 2010 (#2) & Colorful Reading Challenge (#2)
Read: February 9-10, 2010
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power.


Oh my GOD is this a creepy book. It’s creepy because of many things– sentient houses, ghosts, incest and the pica situation. It’s sort of like a Southern gothic book, with the moodiness and the no-one-talks-to-each-other and the messed-up family stuff, except that it’s all set in England and it’s CREEPY. Also very, very good.

A lot of times when I was reading White is for Witching I thought “wth am I reading and why am I so scared,” and it’s because of that that you have to get this book RIGHT NOW. Remember how much I liked The Ghost Writer? Well, this is MUCH BETTER and the ending isn’t even disappointing or confusing!

Why exactly do I like this book so much? It’s not that I particularly liked the characters, or identified with them. It’s mostly because of the writing and the story, and if an author can make me keep reading about people I don’t like? That’s some good freakin’ writing, okay.

I really like how Ms Oyeyemi weaved together the story. It’s got four perspectives: the twins, Miranda’s girlfriend, and the house. (Houses that can think and make moral decisions about the people who live in it? CREEPY.) That almost seems like too many perspectives, but it actually works really well. Especially because Miranda herself obviously can’t be trusted to have a good grasp on reality– so it’s nice to have some other views on what’s happening.

And another thing I liked was how the pica came into play. it’s not just being used as a shock tactic, or to be cool. It’s a definite part of the story, and I think it was handled without making it sensationalistic. Pica isn’t fun, and if it isn’t treated it’ll kill the person afflicted because they’ll starve to death. Ms Oyeyemi showed that, and unfortunately it just made me dislike the characters even more because no one was doing anything. Miranda was dying! Why wasn’t her father putting her into a hospital so they could give her nutrients? Absent parents just make me frustrated. (But maybe it was the house making him ignore her troubles? It’s possible, I suppose.)

I think the writing is honestly the best thing about this book, and for its sheer wonderfulness alone you should read this book. But I also think it’s worth reading because it’s just a darned good story! If you can’t handle horror then maybe you’ll have a hard time, but it was more psychological than physical horror. Hm.

Anyway, one of the best books I’ve read this year. For sure.


Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: A Striped Armchair | Coffee Stained Pages | Torque Control

House that are alive are ever scarier than ghosts, because how the heck do you fight against your own home? (Demolition?) More scary houses:
Rose Red. Totally terrifying Stephen King miniseries. I never seem to make it all the way through this– it just gets too scary somewhere around hour four. Eek!

The Haunting. This came out the same time as House on Haunted Hill (the remake), which is more ghosts than house. Anyway, I think The Haunting counts! Maybe it’s the ghosts moving the bits of the house around, or maybe it’s the house itself. Both? Plus, it’s got Liam Neeson in it. Score!

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10 thoughts on “Review: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi”

  1. I am excited to read this, but saving it until I’ve finished reading her first two books. Yay I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it too! Do you know that author is really young? She’s maybe twenty-six. I equal parts admire and hate her. 😛

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