I read If You See Her for the Ladies of Horror Fiction Group discussion at Goodreads. I’ve read several of Ania Ahlborn’s books and enjoyed them all with the exception of The Bird Eater. That one wasn’t meant for me! Anyhow, if you’ve read her work you already know that she writes a slow burn, atmospheric, moody creep-fest whose characters are typically stuck in a bleak situation. Her books have a melancholy feel to them so you need to be ready for that. If You See Her features several suicides and a character that chooses to revisit them over and over again in his head so please tread carefully if this is a trigger for you. Suicide features strongly in many horror novels but it’s not something I choose to purposely dwell upon for personal reasons so I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to drop this book completely numerous times for this reason alone. But I stuck with it for the sake of the group read and I’m not entirely sure I should’ve. The things I do for you people, haha.
The prologue starts out strong. A group of teens head out to the local dilapidated haunted house. Three go in, two come out and you’re left wondering what the heck just happened. I was anxious to keep reading to learn all of the secrets despite and because of the thing that happened. I needed to know all of the answers. Chapter one picks up 19 years later where the memories of what happened in that house still linger with Jesse and Casey. Casey shows up at Jesse’s house one night disheveled and all worked up and convinces Jesse to visit the old house again. I screamed, “Don’t do it you dummies!” but they do it anyway. No one ever listens to me! As I suspected, things go very wrong. Jesse, who is still wracked with guilt over the first episode at the house, now has another horrible thing hanging over his head and spends the rest of the book attempting to hold his family, job and life together but it is difficult to keep it together when you’re possibly being haunted by a young ghost girl.
This book was well written and had a constant sense of dread and gloom looming over every page. I liked the dread. I love a slow-creep and I love creepy atmosphere and Ania Ahlborn is very good at creating it. With that said, I struggled to finish it because I didn’t connect to any of the characters on an emotional level. I don’t know if it was me, it certainly could be me, but I found them all a little too lifeless for my taste. Jesse was gloomy and obsessed and self-destructive and his wife was such a non-entity to me that I found it too easy to disconnect from the story.
The story is a slow burn, the "dream" sequences were effective and the ending was very fitting but I had too many questions about the origins of the paranormal aspects than I feel comfortable with and I felt myself slipping into a funk while reading it due to the suicides so I think I’m settling with a 3.