Author: Madeleine Roux
Publication date: August 20th 2013
Buy the book: Amazon / Barnes and Noble
For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.
As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.
Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.
(Image and summary taken from Goodreads.)
I have always been and always will be a horror junkie so when I heard about Asylum, my interest was immediately piqued. I love anything that has to do with haunted asylums, and plus points if there are any creepy clowns (disturbing? Yes, I know, but I love them). I will admit that I only got around to reading Asylum because of how awesome a person Madeleine Roux is, I was fortunate enough to meet and have an interview with her, so her awesomeness bumped Asylum way up into my reading list. The way Madeleine Roux explained the process of her research and the different creepy things she learned made me want to read her book even more... but unfortunately, I hyped myself up a bit too much.
As I started reading Asylum, I didn't really expect anything crazy to start happening immediately and I was pretty patient going along with the book. The pacing was slow but tolerable (I liked-ish the pictures but more on this later) and as the book went on, it started to kind of gain momentum. Why kind of? Well, the darkness of Asylum creeps on you and you won't actually know if the bad stuff is already happening or not, mostly because there was too much teen drama in the book. Yup, you heard me right, teen. Drama. *headdesk*
Our hero, Dan Crawford, a high school student turned college-student-for-the-summer started off super excited to finally find a place where he belonged, with a group of really gifted and smart teens. He meets his roommate Felix (whom he really doesn't connect with) and instantly becomes friends with Abby, an artist, and Jordan, a homosexual Math genius and no, he isn't a GBF. And then the three of them venture into the campus' creepy basement in a moment of rebelliousness even though the gate was locked and there was a "No Trespassing!" sign on the door. And then a bunch of crazy stuff happens. Now let's get down to business. Dan gave me... anxiety. That guy was seriously not right in the head and it wasn't just the memory loss that tipped me off, he was constantly paranoid and quite honestly, a douche. Even though he wasn't vibing with Felix, didn't mean he should just blow him off, there'd be moments when he'd consider inviting Felix to go out with him, Abby and Jordan but then he'd remember that he wanted Abby all to himself. And that's another probably regaring Dan, his constant need to isolate Abby, I mean, I get that he wants to date her but that doesn't mean he should get all territorial over her. They've only known each other for a couple of weeks, jeez! Honestly, I felt like Abby, Dan and Jordan weren't even real friends. It's like Madeleine Roux threw them all together to create some kind of pseudo-Harry Potter gang, which didn't really work. There was no chemistry between the three and definitely no trust. And each one was always hot or cold, either one person gets pissed or all of them get pissed at each other, it was so annoying. Gosh. I'm not even going to go into what happened with Jordan, his room and his legal pad. Nope. Not even.
Now, I'm sure you noticed the bit about the pictures so yes, the book does have pictures. Kind of like Ransom Riggs's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series but nowhere near that magnitude. If you were a person with no knowledge of how to properly use Photoshop and took the pictures from Ransom Riggs's books and actually used Photoshop to tack on super random torture devices into the pictures, you'd have the photos from Madeleine Roux's books. The images were so amateurish and there were times when the description of the picture being detailed in the book didn't even match the photo they picked for that part. Consistency has always been a big deal for me so I was very disappointed by this. There were some that were interesting but generally speaking, they were too "meh" for me to leave any sort of impact.
While I generally did not enjoy the book, there were still parts that kept me interested. I really liked the idea of The Sculptor, this murderer who would position his victims in whimsical poses after he kills them. The concept reminded me of an episode of Hannibal with the guy who would position his victims in religious ways (the angel praying pose was horrifyingly awe-some). I appreciated the fact that Madeleine Roux was able to still keep that character significant until the latter part of the book and I am actually curious as to what happened to him... However, the whole __________ thing didn't really do it for me. I have no idea where that came from but I do want to know more about _________ _____ and h__ role in the story. And the plot thickens...
The whole horror aspect of the book was lacking too. You will be able to feel it creeping up on you and curling around your body but once you look away from the book, the connection will break. There were no lasting impressions or fear. The build up was too slow so it didn't really work out... unfortunately.
Overall, Asylum was a series of contradictions and while I did enjoy certain parts, the ones that I disliked won out more. From character development to the whole horror genre thing, the whole thing just didn't work out. I felt like Madeleine Roux tried to save the book by adding that one nugget at the end that will leave you curious and also aware that there will be a sequel. I am still unsure whether I will read Sanctum but if I do, I won't be coming in with high expectations, that's for sure.