Book Review: Asylum

|+|Triggers: mental illness, torture,  serial murders, unreality |+|

“Sometimes, Dan, friends have to take a stand and say: Hey idiot, we’re here for you no matter what…we’re in this for the long haul. We’re in this for each other.” ~Abby (Asylum)


Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: Horror (Mature YA)

Summary: For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, the New Hampshire College Prep program is the chance of a lifetime. Except that when Dan arrives, he finds that the usual summer housing has been closed, forcing students to stay in the crumbling Brookline Dorm-formerly a psychiatric hospital. As Dan and his new friends Abby and Jordan start exploring Brookline’s twisty halls and hidden basement, they uncover disturbing secrets about what really went on there…secrets that link Dan and his friends to the asylum’s dark past. Because it turns out Brookline was no ordinary psych ward. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring haunting found photographs from real asylums, this mind-bending reading experience blurs the lines between past and present, friendship and obsession, genius and insanity.

My Opinion: I think what made me love this book so much was the near flawless representation, lovely writing, and the brilliant blend of suspense. To make it even better this book wasn’t driven by the pictures. The pictures were a nice treat that added to the creepiness yet the plot was character and suspense driven, just the way I like it. This book was one of my favorites of 2015, and it got a five star rating from me.

The characters were diverse. You had the main character Dan who suffered from intense anxiety. Every incidence of anxiety was accurately and respectfully portrayed. I would know cause I suffer from anxiety. Jordan is gay and ostracized from his family because of it. He’s incredibly smart and he’s the one that kind of helps the group stick together ultimately. He might be a jerk sometimes, but he’s called out on it which is great. Hands down he was one of the coolest characters and it was a tie between him and Abby the favorite character. Finally we have the amazing, well rounded, butt kicking Abby who is clearly not white, which I appreciate, but at the same time I was confused to her ethnicity. Every girl, no matter their ethnicity can wear feathers in their hair.

Despite their differences Dan, Jacob, and Abby came together really well. Their interactions, the good and the bad, were all realistic. Sometimes individual motivations came together and sometimes they caused arguments. I could get behind every one of the main characters. The minor characters had a lot going for them as well. They were fleshed out yet nothing was just handed to the reader on a silver platter. Although minor, the characters all contributed to the mystery surrounding Dan and his friends.

Of course the core of the book is insanity and the asylum. This book is very subtle in its creepiness and it uses what we don’t know about the human psyche to really drive the creepy home. But what’s so wonderful is that the events that went on in the asylum were not only historically accurate, but they were never glorified or sexualized. The monstrosities that happened are seen as just that. Monstrosities. The people that did them are not cool or looked up to-they are terrifying and looked down upon by everyone because their actions earned that kind of treatment. They have clearly shown that they are not sorry for their actions, nor do they want to change.  And that was so refreshing to see. There is no justification, ever, in this book for the action of any bad guy. There is an understanding of what drives them, but it is never glorified and is only used to further show how awful these people are. I seriously can’t get over how cool that is because it’s something that I rarely see.

The horror from this book stems from the fact that people really can be terrifying when all is said and done. Even the best of us have a monster within. Is the monster insanity? Maybe, maybe not. But how can you know until it’s too late to escape it? This book isn’t so much of a “oh stuff happens to you” it’s a “stuff happens to you, you happen to you. What are you going to do about it?” This book is an outright challenge on how you perceive yourself and suggests that you don’t see yourself quite the way you really are. And to me, that’s what makes it scary.

What do you mean I slept with the closet light on when I finished this book? What are you talking about?

THIS BOOK ALSO HAS A CLIFF HANGER THAT NEARLY KILLED ME. WHO SAID IT WAS OK TO WRITE AN AMAZING BOOK AND END IT LIKE THAT?  The ending really does cut off in the middle of the action, yet it didn’t feel cheap. And let me tell you that is hard to pull off. This book is incredibly well crafted considering the fact that it’s on the short side (just over 300 pages, paperback print edition).

TL;DR: This is a fantastic book! It brings on the creepy yet somehow manages to challenge readers in their views of the world and themselves while being encouraging. It’s intensely dark yet the evils are never glorified. If you know you can handle dark and creepy and are looking for a book that will entertain you and make you think, check out Asylum.


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