The Lake House / Sarah Beth Durst / Book Review

The last thing Claire wants to do this summer is attend summer camp. A summer camp at a remote Lake House in a remote national forest is worse. It might be touted as an "enrichment" experience where "lifelong" friends are made, but Claire knows that won't happen, not for her. Not when she can barely keep her anxiety under control in a regular setting. The best she can do is keep her head down and survive--and tune out all the ways her brain says this summer could go horribly, horribly wrong.

Except maybe Claire should have listened to her anxiety for once. Because when she and two other girls get dropped off at the dock a day after camp begins, they find no friendly camp director waiting to meet them. Instead, the Lake House has burned down. The boat that dropped them off has already left, stranding them far from civilization. And if surviving wasn't difficult enough, the girls start to suspect that they're not alone. 


I loved this book. This isn't a book with twists, per se, which I think is to its benefit. Instead, it has a slow-creeping nature to it, subtle shifts in tone and feeling that mean you can't sense the brewing trouble until its right there. That unease, that tension: perfect.


  • Priorities: So often, I've found, books that start with the premise "teens stranded in the wilderness" are frustrating. The kids don't know they're stuck, or they don't realize the seriousness of the situation until hours, days, or weeks later when they're shelterless, cold, and hungry. These girls, however, immediately latch onto their situation (as, realistically, one would). Very few people would not see the problem with being left in a national forest with no way out. For once, that common sense makes its way into these pages. These girls know they have to rely on each other, trust each other, and work whatever angle they can to get out of this. I appreciate that. 
  • Up the Ante: The stakes here start pretty high, of course. Three girls abandoned in the woods, far from civilization, is struggle enough. The woods contain dangers, too, but these dangers quickly prove to be more than just exposure and rabid animals. These ladies aren't as alone as they thought. There are men with guns, murdered corpses, and signs of... something else. Each of these reveals ups the ante of being trapped. There is so much to fear here, for good reason and to good effect. 
  • Mental Health: Claire has panic attacks, which is obviously not good in a high-stress situation. But I love how  Durst handles Claire's panic attacks, because these attacks don't just happen to make the situation more difficult for the characters. Panic attacks can happen during situations that make anyone anxious. They can also happen at a time that does not, on the surface, make sense. The inclusion of Claire's anxiety here is consistent, and the ramifications are important not just for the plot at large but for Claire's character, her development, and her relationship with the other girls. I really appreciated this nuanced and true-to-life exploration of mental health struggles.


  • Silly Setup: This book ultimately veers into the vaguely paranormal, so the way we get there can be forgiven. But the whole setup feels a little... whimsical. It feels convenient. Sending these girls off without anybody thinking to check in, make sure they're okay, make sure everything's above board? That was an immediate red flag from the beginning. When nobody meets them at the dock... Would these girls really just think that everything's okay? And would their families back home have nothing to say? It feels off. Forgivable, in hindsight, but off. 
  • Psychologically Aware: These girls seem to be very in-tune with their inner lives and beings. There are a lot of psychological factors at play here, both at the Lake House and in their backstories, and they are all willing and able to vocalize exactly these pressures and how they are affected by them. It seems pretty unbelievable for anyone, really, to be so aware of their own psychological state but it is an especial stretch for young teenage girls who haven't, as far as we know, had any sort of therapy in their lives. This, too, feels a little... off. 
  • Get Moving: While I appreciated how quickly these girls realized the severity of their situation, survival-wise, they still lingered far longer than they should. This was rather provoking--get a move on! On the one hand, that's good. Durst evokes a particularly acute sense of anxiety in this book. But it still feels like girls who are as on top of it as these girls wouldn't drag their feet as long as they do. 



Fans of Laura Bates's No Accident will enjoy this survival tale turned something more. Those who enjoyed Kate A. Boorman's Into the Sublime will love the uncertain line between psychological and supernatural in this book. 


Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: April 25, 2023
Series: N/A
Add to Goodreads

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.


  1. Good review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book.

  2. This sounds like a good read and definitely something right up my street. I love a book that makes you feel uneasy!

  3. Great review, I really enjoy your pros and cons - see what you mean about the set up being a little too convenient here

  4. Sounds like a book I'd happily devour in an afternoon!

  5. Wonderful review! This sounds like the perfect summer read, and I'm definitely adding it to my list. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I have this on my reading list and now that I read reviews I really can't wait to dig in!

  7. Hmm I’m not sure about the House


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