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Cover image for The agony house
The agony house

First edition.
New York : Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2018.
Physical Description:
256 pages : color illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"This book contains 45 interior comic illustrations in addition to the text"--Publisher.
Seventeen-year-old Denise Farber, her mom, and her stepfather are moving back to New Orleans, into the Argonne house, which is over 100 years old, and really showing its age, but which her mother plans to turn into a bed-and-breakfast--but old houses have histories, and sometimes ghosts, and a mysterious old comic book that Denise finds in the attic may hold the answer to a crime and the terrifying things that keep happening in what she thinks of as the "Agony" house.
Added Author:


Call Number
Priest, C.
TEEN Priest, C.
TEEN Priest, C.

On Order



Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family's money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast.

Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn't seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it's clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here.

Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn't budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive...

Author Notes

Cherie Priest was born in Tampa, Florida on July 30, 1975. She received a B.A. from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee in 1998 and an M.A. in rhetoric/professional writing from University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2002. She is the author of the Eden Moore series, The Clockwork Century series, and Borden Dispatches series. She won the PNBA Award and the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Boneshaker.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-10-When 17-year-old Denise's parents move her to New Orleans, planning to fix up an old house and turn it into a bed-and-breakfast, accidents start occurring and Denise quickly realizes that the house is haunted. The classic haunted house story gets an update with a story line involving a 1950's era comic book featuring a female hero that is atypical for its time. Scenes from the comic book, which are sporadically interspersed into the narrative, add visual variety to the story and intensify the mood. Each small horror within the house builds to a large climax and a twist ending as Denise uses the comics to solve a mystery. Readers will empathize with Denise's financial troubles as she and her family struggle to pay for food when all their money goes into the house. The issue of gentrification, particularly in a Hurricane Katrina-affected New Orleans, is woven in, though at times didactically. Text messages (including some dated teen textspeak), emails, and ghost whispers are printed in blue in order to stand out and match the comics' color palette. VERDICT The format of this ghost story is inviting and while never truly horrifying, younger YA readers will be satisfied with the chills provided.-Carrie Shaurette, Dwight-Englewood School, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Horn Book Review

Seventeen-year-old Denise and her family return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to flip an old house into a bed and breakfast. Soon Denise learns the house is haunted by two ghosts, whose deaths may be connected to a comic book Denise finds abandoned in her attic. That comic (illustrated in sharp monochromatic blue) is interspersed between chapters of this engaging, atmospheric paranormal mystery. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A white family's attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts.The resident spirits aren't particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as wellas a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house's violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic's author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character's race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O'Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue.Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. (Graphic/novel hybrid ghost fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Following up on a successful collaboration with Kali Ciesemier in I Am Princess X (2016), Priest pairs with O'Connor to neatly weave together the history of comic books and contemporary concerns about gentrification into an eerie ghost story set in a ramshackle house that's as much a character as the people living in it. Denise, her mom, and her stepdad have just moved into a nearly destroyed, once-beautiful house in New Orleans, and almost right away, Denise starts noticing odd things. First, they're harmless, if creepy, but later, unexplained, dangerous accidents happen as the family renovates the house. But the comic book manuscript Denise finds carefully hidden in the attic (pages of which appear throughout the novel) is the key to the source of the poltergeists. Meanwhile, Denise's neighbors are uneasy about outsiders capitalizing on cheap property in New Orleans, and Priest does a great job of skillfully including the important conversations Denise and her family have with their new community. At its heart, though, this is a ghost story, and Priest excels at building palpable atmosphere: Denise's parents' anxiety about their shoestring budget, the sweltering New Orleans summer heat, the disrepair of the house (soggy plaster fell from the studs like wet cake), and the increasingly terrifying haunting. Dynamic characters and a surprising mystery round out this sharp, satisfying, and engrossingly spooky story.--Sarah Hunter Copyright 2018 Booklist