By Madeline Roux
Expected publication August 20, 2013 by Harper Children's
Dan Crawford is thrilled to be attending the summer session at New Hampshire College Prep - not only will he get to spend the session learning, he'll be surrounded by teens just as driven as he is. What he doesn't expect is that NHCP is located at at a former sanatorium. Soon, people are winding up hurt and Dan is having strange, inexplicable experiences. Could the asylum be haunted?
In case you can't tell, I've been in the mood for something creepy. Who am I kidding - I'm always in the mood for something creepy. My last few attempts at creepy reads have mostly been let-downs and I'm sorry to say that this one is more of the same.
Admittedly, it's incredibly difficult to scare me. I've been watching creepy and gruesome horror movies since I was a preschooler and obviously grew up devouring every Christopher Pike and R.L. Stine book my library had. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate when I think something will be scary for other people or that I won't appreciate a creepy atmosphere.
I really wanted to like this book. Roux has written a couple adult novels that have caught my eye and a bookseller friend of mine read Asylum before me and praised it. I had high hopes, but the book just failed to live up to them.
On the whole, it seemed like this book was trying way too hard. Not only is it set in a former asylum, but when the asylum closed, one of the most dangerous patients was unaccounted for. Additionally, this book is taking a page from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by including vintage photos (not all of which I saw in my e-galley) to further the atmosphere that it's trying so hard to create. Maybe it shouldn't surprise me, then, that I didn't enjoy this book, as I really didn't enjoy Miss Peregrine either.
In addition to trying too hard, I felt like this book was just poorly written. Everything feels rushed - characterizations and plot twists alike. It isn't long after Dan arrives that he rushes into a relationship with a girl and starts acting a bit crazy boyfriend with her. And it's not long after he arrives that the inexplicable things start happening. Neither the readers nor Dan actually know terribly much about the girl he starts dating, and it made the whole thing seem silly to me. It felt as if Roux simply decided that she needed a couple female characters to throw in so why not make Dan's partner in crime a girl? It really did not work for me.
I felt the supernatural/paranormal bits were just a poorly executed as the real life bits. There are hints throughout that Dan has a bit of a mysterious past and was even recently in the care of a therapist. I guess this is in there to make readers wonder if the supernatural bits are actually happening or if they're all in Dan's head. If that's the case, this is a not a very successful attempt at walking that line. For a book that is supposed to be a creepfest, I spent the majority of time reading feeling rather bored.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.