August 20, 2013
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Then Dan learns that the dorm he'd be staying in was known as Brookline, "a 'retired mental health facility'." Which Dan knows means an asylum. It's later that he learns Brookline housed the criminally insane.
With the friends he makes soon into the NHCP program, Ally and Jordan, Dan decides to explore the abandoned - and off limits - wing of Brookline left very much as it was when the asylum was shut down some forty years ago. As the friends explore, they discover that it may not be entirely coincidental they all ended up at the college. Brookline still has its secrets; secrets that should stay secret.
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.
Asylum is an incredibly read-able book. It's great for a quick Halloween themed read and/or for reluctant readers. The story starts quickly, with Dan arriving in New Hampshire at the college program and we get a feel for who he is quickly with his distaste of those he normally attends school with, his hopes for those in the program. While his character -- he was judgmental, there was something that worried him about himself and handing being at NHCP but we didn't get a clear idea of what it was -- was a bit off-putting he was an okay central character.
The other character: Ally, Jordan and Felix, Dan's roommate, each had something that made their stories interesting. Some of it seemed a little heavy for the little bit of development, time it was able to be given but it still made them intriguing and propelled their stories and the central plot forward.
Asylum is almost a ghost story and almost a horror story and almost a thriller. There are elements of psychology, especially when it comes to Dan's character, and some questions that we're just barely presented with - some of it is the character trying to avoid thinking about, acknowledging things, some is just an omission - but not enough. Certainly not enough to move Asylum into psychological thriller territory, though the possibility was there.
The 'creepy' factor is there in Asylum, more so, definitely, in certain parts than others. It amps up in some places and wanes in others. The ending is where it didn't work for me. Things seemed to really be coming together, with the plot, the characters and how their stories were interwoven, even with the 'creepiness' bit . . . and then it didn't.
If this had been the first in a series or there had been an epilogue, even, I would have liked it much better. As a standalone novel, however, it was too ambiguous, especially for the type of novel it was. The horror-movie type of ambiguity where they killer may be dead . . . or they may not be is fine. Frustrating but good. With Asylum I was just too unsure of too many things after the last page.
While the ending may have slightly soured my review, I did enjoy reading Asylum. I wished that the little things Dan kept barely hinting at, that he worried were affecting him, had been either a larger part of the novel, or more explained but otherwise my only major issue was the ending. The photos add to the novel giving you a better picture, literally, of some of the places and images described by the characters. They help to set the mood and make the Brookline of old seem more real.
thank you to the publisher for the copy to review