Am responding to this Road Trip Wednesday question: What's the best book you read in November?
My answer is not particularly YA and hideously unseasonal (and here I just broke out my Christmas music playlist), but it was Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.
I was inspired to pick it up (okay: Kindle-download it; but I picked up the Kindle with my hands) by this Nova Ren Suma post about frightening books. Seemed like a good Halloween-related read.
Holy hell that book was scary: it absolutely got under my skin, even though, as a few irate Amazon reviewers noticed, hardly anything happens.
I think it's all in the voice. It's a third-person narrator, but the only head it visits is Eleanor's, the main character's, so it feels like her voice. The voice, like Eleanor, is dreamy and watchful but also prone to sudden sharp turns into viciousness or fear. After a while it begins to feel like the story is being told by Eleanor's growing mental unbalance--like her madness is a separate character that lives in her head. I think after a while it feels like it lives in your head, too.
I am realizing more and more that for me, voice is everything in a novel. I can forgive vague or nonexistent plotting and many other sins if the voice feels like a real voice, with a whole complicated personality behind it. Almost always, if the voice feels real, the book grabs me, though occasionally even a real voice + fine writer will hit the wrong nerves (hello Paul Theroux, and sorry).
When a voice sounds glassy or put on, sounds imitative, sounds forced--sounds false--I just can't do it. Cannot get myself to keep reading.
Anyway. So in The Haunting of Hill House: brilliant use of narrative voice, scary as hell, and my best read of November.