I finished up reading ‘Asylum’ by Madeleine Roux this weekend. Finding the super-yummy books lately has been challenging, much less finding the time to read them. I have been pretty busy working on either getting ready to work with my publisher, getting information together for my publisher, and trying not to freak out about the idea of working with my publisher.
Yep, the brain just won't stop and I can go from angst about 'ruin and despair-style failure' to 'JK Rowling-level success' and back again in approximately 1.6 seconds, dissecting every minute possibility and how it can turn around and bite me in the butt while I go. And the book isn't even anywhere near ready to release! Which kind of makes me sound like I belong in an asylum. Worry not, friends. I'm just your average everyday writer type. Not dangerous, just a little kooky.
But I digress. On my scale of ‘Like This Book’ to ‘LOVE THIS BOOK’, 'Asylum' falls somewhere in between. I liked it quite a lot, but I’m not sure I loved it. Still, it was a great read, and kept me turning pages till 3 AM Sunday morning to get to the end and see who was behind all the creepy weird goings on.
In my opinion, ‘Asylum’ was more a psychological suspense book than horror. There is not much gore to speak of, lots of scary ideas and definitely a creepy factor, but nothing to get really grossed out over. That's a plus for me. Ms. Roux integrates strange old photos in much the same way as ‘Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children’ by Ransom Riggs, which added to its creepiness. It wasn't over the top scary that made me want to sleep with the lights on - also a plus as we've already established that I am a kook - but it made me want to keep reading to figure out what exactly was going on. Was the place haunted? Was there someone definitely corporeal behind it and if so, how?
16-year-old Dan Crawford is excited about spending his summer attending a college prep program in New Hampshire. He’s a little nervous about being housed in the Brookline Dorm, a building that was once a psychiatric hospital with a bad reputation, but he’s not prepared to let that get in his way. As he and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, start exploring Brookline's hidden and off-limits basement, they uncover disturbing secrets about what really went on here and links to their own pasts, or are they just strange coincidences?
But when a murder takes place, and strange things begin to happen, Dan finds himself under suspicion and, worse, isn't sure he isn't the guilty party. Now he must find out who is responsible if he wants to save himself and his new friendships.
What I really liked about the book – it was a page turner. It was suspenseful, and the ending could have gone any number of ways. I thought it was nicely edited - no pesky typos and grammar oopsies breaking me out of my trance, and the story moved at a nice pace. I didn't find my interest lagging.
I can’t really say there was anything I didn’t like about the book, but what kept it from being an “I LOVE THIS BOOK” book, was confusion. There was a lot held back about Dan’s back story until the end of the book, which did help to ramp up the suspense. We know something is going on with the protagonist, but it’s just not coming out. But it might have helped me to be more on Dan’s side and understand his motivations if I had been in on that earlier.
Jordan and Abby exhibited some very peculiar behavior which was never really explained. Abby would race to the most perplexing conclusions with exceptionally little thought and stubbornly cling to them, even though her friends would tell her they didn’t make sense, only to find later that, why, yes indeedy, that was a bad idea. At one point, Dan confides in her about some strange things going on and she blatantly makes fun of him. But later in the story, when she tells Dan and Jordan about some weird experiences and they don’t take her seriously, she goes bat-crap bitchy on them.
At one point, Jordan becomes obsessed with a math problem reputed to be 'unsolvable', going so far as to paper his room with his notes, and experiences a spate of ‘Dan Crawford ultra-concentrated HATRED’. Then these elements are just dropped with no explanation and never mentioned again. Was Dan just imagining it? The math obsession was witnessed by others. What the heck happened? Are we just witnessing erratic teenage behavior? It’s not easy being teen, but that’s a bit extreme.
And the conclusion confused me as well. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read the book, but it left me with same 'what-was-all-that-about' feeling. But perhaps that was Ms. Roux's goal in the first place. A creepy book that keeps you feeling off balance from beginning to end.
There were lots of story elements left dangling, which of itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These could be questions that will be addressed in future sequels, and some of the confusing parts that I mentioned could be there purely for the off-balance feeling that they leave you with. However, it did bend my suspension of disbelief just a tad.
‘Asylum’ was a fun read for a dark and stormy night, and I would recommend it as such. Enjoy it for what it is - a nice, creepy book that isn't supposed to make sense. Just grease up your suspension of disbelief so it's nice and squishy before you dive in.
Mostly loony, generally harmless. Writer & professional smarty pants. Owned by an exasperated spaniel.