Monday, July 15, 2013

ARC Book Review: Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Title: Asylum
Author: Madeleine Roux
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: August 20th, 2013
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
This cover is awesome.  The first one that I saw had similar shading but just featured a set of keys.  It wasn't nearly as creepy.  I believe this is the final cover and it is a great change.  The shadows draw your eye into the frame and the blurring coupled with the lace adds the perfect spooky factor.  Although, I do wish they had given the book a more stand-out name.  Asylum is just far too common - a Goodreads search provides 837 results.....

The Gist:
Dan Crawford has finally escaped the opression of his foster home and high school.  At New Hampshire College Prep, a summer program for teens, he is excited to spend his days with students that share his thirst for knowledge and geeky tendencies.  He soon discovers that the dorm in which they are to spend the summer is actually Brookside, a former asylum that featured drastic experiments meant to cure the criminally insane.  Feeling a strange connection to the building's history and suffering from nightmares that don't always come at night, Dan and his new friends begin to explore the bowels of the building and find that there are some secrets that should stay buried.


That cover is sure to pull in any horror fan.  However, the book itself is not strong enough to hold them there for long. 

The characters in Asylum are far too one dimensional.  It seems important to the plot that we understand the drastic changes in their personality that are brought on by living in the asylum, but we are given little to no time to actually get to know them before those changes begin.  We are expected to believe that the three are the best of friends after having known each other for only a week.  Couldn't the author have at least had them "meet" online, prior to attending the summer school program?  What's more, there is an underlying plot featuring Jordan's obsession with an "unsolvable equation" that seems to completely drop out of the storyline without any resolution.  Is this meant to be a series? Am I missing something?

The setting for this novel is phenomenal.  A student dorm built in what used to be an asylum and featuring a (sort of) locked basement with the trappings to spell out the horror that once occurred there.  That has all kinds of potential!  The author does do a good job of creating a tense and spine-tingling atmosphere whenever the kids are in the basement.  This is aided by the addition of pictures which puts this book in that new sub-genre of multi-media fiction a la Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, though I do wish that the EARC had actually contained more of the pictures that will be featured in the final edition - since that is what interested me in the title in the first place.
The plot of Asylum starts off strong by weakens as we get further into the mystery.  There is some meandering into the past via dreams and visions which give us a glimpse into the mind of the madman who once ran the asylum, but we never learn any real details about what went on there other than a vague notion of horrific surgeries.  One the murders start, we get to watch the cops bumble around and the kids go into Scooby Doo mode.  The constant arguing and teenage drama that comes with the three main characters gets tedious rather quickly and, eventually, when the killer is finally revealed the dialogue becomes downright laughable.  Rather than being scared, I found myself rolling my eyes and wishing the plot had gone in any direction other than the most obvious.

Asylum may represent one step towards the road to a new genre as more and more authors attempt to bank on the commercial success of Ransom Riggs.  However, until an author is able to seamlessly weave together pictures with a strong plot and compelling characters, I will be staying away.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Murder of Teens
Inappropriate Language: Asshole, Shit, Bitch, Pissed
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking


Post a Comment