Review: “The Girl Who Played with the Ouija Board” by William Malmborg (2020)

I’m always looking for new authors to discover, especially in the horror genre. So when I saw this one had jumped above Stephen King’s “If It Bleeds” on the Amazon charts and was available on Kindle Unlimited, I definitely had to check it out.

The story picks up with Penny, the main character, who had to move in with her aunt and two cousins following the death of Penny’s mother in a car wreck. She finds some kinship with Olivia, one of her cousins, and is soon trying to fit in with the local community, especially at school.

And while Penny is aware of it and fine with it, she does begin receiving aggressive text and social media messages related to her deceased mom’s career in porn. However, that career left her very well-off and makes Penny the beneficiary of that estate when she turns eighteen.

So she moves along, dealing with high school with as much grace as any of us really can. Then, there’s the party. And the Ouija board.

Following her use of the Ouija board, where bizarre events unfold and are caught on cellphone video shared widely at school, Penny begins experiencing hallucinations and doubting her sanity. Is there a Satanic origin to all of her troubles? Or is it more mundane? Or is she simply going crazy as a result of the head injury she received from the car crash that killed her mother?

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Warning, it does have some brutal, violent scenes, including some of rape. But, they are germane to the story and not gratuitous. The plot definitely builds up quickly toward the climax, and you want to keep reading to see what happens next.

While I did enjoy the story, I did have a couple issues with it. First, while it starts off pretty brutal at times, it seems to level off after that. It may be hard to qualify, but to me, the later parts of the story felt more thriller than horror. I get completely that horror is subjective, but it didn’t feel as intense in the latter half. But that’s me, I love extreme horror, and the beginning led me to believe it would be that way throughout the book.

Second, I really never felt Penny was truly in danger in the second half. There were a lot of machinations to cause her harm, but most of them were planning and things that got in the way of some of those plans being carried out. Yes, in the climax she was indeed in danger, and I won’t spoil it by saying how it turned out. But leading up to that, I was more curious if she would find out the cause of her hallucinations than whether or not she would die.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. The “yeah-buts” I mention are more toward personal taste than a knock on the writing style of Malmborg because, after all, I did feel compelled to read to the end. That said, I will definitely check out his other works, as it’s obvious I enjoy his writing.

If you want to pick up this book, it’s available for purchase on Amazon or via Kindle Unlimited. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

Rating: Four Stars (Out Of Five Possible)

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