Thoughts on… The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Full disclosure: I chose this book for its cover first, and for its blurb second. Shallow, but true.

Initially, the blurb actually put me off reading the book. In part, it described a tale of “a sixteen year old girl who is grieving the untimely death of her mother when her father’s new girlfriend moves into their home… When a fellow classmate, Jake, takes a sudden interest in her, Krista feels excited for the first time in two years”

To me that was code for Tragic, Depressing Experience and Teen Drama Resolved By Cute Boy. I was ready to hit backspace but the words, “Distancing herself from those around her, Krista spends all of her time obsessively watching a mysterious house, the house at 758” that peculiar sentence along with the lovely cover made me just curious enough to give the book a try.

I am so glad I read it.

Let me tell you what this book is not:

  • this is not a depressing book
  • it’s not a teen angst book
  • it’s not a cliché YA romance
  • it’s not what I expected

Berla writes this story beautifully, her prose is descriptive but not wordy. Her character development is lifelike and endearing. She writes from the point of view of Krista, an introverted teenager struggling to adjust to life after the death of her mother. In this story we are not given an in-depth confession of her grief and pain, but it does become subtly apparent (which I was glad of seen as I wasn’t in the mood to read a book in the tone of The Bell Jar.)

Krista’s summer is the timeline in which this 158-page novella is set. Short, huh? And yet, just long enough. We are taken from her listless days before her best friend goes away for the summer to stay with family, right up to the resolution of the mystery of the house at 758.

The romance with Jake features in this story as much as I feel it should – just enough to progress the narrative yet leave you wanting more. A lot else happens in Krista’s journey, and the lack of focus on the romance was both refreshing and realistic. Krista is tasked with looking after her grandfather for the summer, I was expecting my interest in the story to decline with his arrival, but to my delight he was so charming, interesting and fundamental to Krista’s progress in moving on with her life that I was sorry to see him go.

There were times I just couldn’t work out where the story would go, which is something I love in a book. There was far less dialogue than I have become used to, having read a lot of YA recently, but I didn’t miss it much. I guess that since Krista is more wrapped up in her thoughts than in conversation, it is only natural that we would get more summaries of conversations than play-by-play until we get to something worthwhile. Perhaps this is the author’s style, I don’t know since I haven’t read her before.

Berla made me care about the characters, especially Krista, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen to her. I guessed what the deal with the house at 758 was, but the way events unfolded with that was unexpected. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book like this, and it has made me interested in reading more books by this author.

I would recommend this novella to anybody who likes to read empathetic but non-melodramatic stories, enjoys a little romance, and is marginally interested in either San Francisco, Budapest or the Holocaust. I don’t go out of my way to read books on any of those three topics, which made this even more interesting since it offered me first person glimpses into events and places I’m not very familiar with. This was a 4 out of 5 for me and I’d definitely read it again.

Publishing Date: 17 Oct 2017


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