Friday, August 30, 2013


Madeleine Roux
$17.99, Hardcover
HarperCollins, 2013

Genre: Horror 

Age: 12+

Description: Sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford is super excited when he gets to spend five weeks of his summer at the New Hampshire College Prep course where he gets to immerse himself in his scholarly pursuits among other fellow nerds and not feel bad about it at all! When he arrives at the program he makes two new friends, Jordon, a math nerd, and Abby, an artist. He also meets Felix, his “odd” roommate. He also discovers that due to some renovations taking place in the normal dorm all the students have to board in Brookline—an old asylum that closed in 1972. Felix informs Dan that the old wing of the asylum is unlocked and he went looking around the old warden’s office and found some creepy photos. Dan convinces Abby and Jordon to go investigating with him. Soon creepy things are happening. Abby gets obsessed with a photo of a young girl, not more than ten years old, who has a lobotomy scar on her forehead; Jordon goes all A Beautiful Mind on them with notepads full of complex mathematical equations; and Dan starts receiving ominous notes. Soon an RA is murdered and another friend attached and poor Dan thinks it is the work of a serial killer who was a patient at Brookline who disappeared after it closed—a man who went by the name The Sculptor.

Opinion:  Unfortunately, this book seems to be getting a lot of negative reviews. I am rather mixed. It has been compared to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children because of the incorporation of real asylum photos throughout the book. Here is where I differ with most of the negative reviews—I was super excited for Miss Peregrine’s but once I read it I was bored out of my mind and really didn’t think it was that great. With this book, while the writing may not be the next big thing, I found myself reading quickly and I was much more interested in the plot. Asylums are pretty creepy things, so I was interested in the photos. Some negative reviews commented on how the photos look doctored—if one reads the photo credits they will learn that most of the photos are original and the only doctoring of them is such minor things like putting a photo frame around a picture (because the photo in the story was hanging on a wall) and things like that. I found most of the images to reflect certain passages in the book; yes, there were some that kind of made no sense. I do agree with some reviewers—I really wish there were more photos included in the book. While some were creepy I would have liked to see even more. I like how the author was able to really incorporate some of the images, such as the name of the Warden (and readers see the faded office door and get to fill in the blanks of the warden’s last name before it is revealed). While the book’s pace moved quickly, there were some negatives. I was under the impression that this would be a standalone title and while it does end on an okay note there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of unanswered questions. For one, Dan is adopted and we never get to know what his connection was to the sadistic warden. Dan also supposedly was seeing a therapist because he was having blackouts and memory problems. This is alluded to in the book when he can’t really provide an alibi for himself when the RA is found murdered, but the reasons behind this are never explained. Jordan’s weird A Beautiful Mind moment is never given an explanation—for a few days he’s all crazy math dude and then the next he is back to normal. Abby also seems to have an unhealthy obsession with thinking the lobotomized girl is certainly her father’s sister who was committed to an insane hospital when she was young. The actual ending is also kind of confusing but maybe it’s just me. Without giving away too much, when Dan meets the person who has been killing/hurting people it really isn’t clear if everyone is just acting crazy because of the ominous nature of Brookline and its dark history or if the person is possessed by a ghost . . . it’s just kind of confusing. If one is just looking for a spooky story, I don’t think they will care all that much but if one is interested in the how and why of such things it might be a bit of a bug. Overall, it was a fast-paced, slightly creepy story that I don’t regret reading. If there is a sequel, I hope there are more photos and questions answered.  

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