Monday, October 21, 2013

The Dollhouse Asylum ~ Mary Gray (arc) review

The Dollhouse Asylum
Spencer Hill Press
October 22, 2013
296 pages
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The Dollhouse Asylum is one of those rare books where I have to give the disclaimer I probably would not have finished it, at least not now, had I not been reviewing it.

About The Dollhouse Asylum: Cheyenne -- and the world -- thought that the Living Rot had been contained, that its threat was over. But it's back. So, when she wakes up in an isolated subdivision to news that the virus, that turns people (basically) into zombies, is back but they're safe there . . . and that its Teo the teacher she's in love with who's saved her? Cheyenne fails to truly see a downside.

Teo has built this seeming suburban utopia, free of the infected so that they can be together. It all seems perfect. Cheyenne and Teo and seven other couples all in a subdivision of large home with perfect lawns.

Only, they've all been renamed, each couple given the names of some of the most tragic literary couples. Cheyenne is now "Persephone." Each couple, as well, has to 'prove' themselves. If they can pass the test, they'll receive their reward. If not . . .
If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die.
I did like the concept of Mary Gray's novel. Placing the characters in this isolated, seemingly secure environment while a large threat loomed outside, only to have them find out there was an unexpected danger inside, held a lot of promise. It was the execution that didn't work.

The characters and their foundations are where I really had the most trouble with the story. Cheyenne and her naivete -- especially where Teo was concerned -- made me want to bang my head on the wall.  While the publisher synopsis describes him as an 'older man' who has her heart, he's really her twenty-four year old teacher; she's eighteen. What the synopsis proposed is different from what the facts proposed, which is different from what was actually in the novel.

Cheyenne is so smitten with Teo, even as it becomes clear he's very much a psychopath, sociopath or both that it's hard, if not impossible, to relate to her. We don't get enough of a foundation for her character to really understand why she would be drawn to someone like him in the first place - let alone so glued to him that she'd refuse to see what's right in front of her. Yes, we get small glimpses of a girl who did not have a lot of friends and whose father wasn't in her life, but that doesn't seem to be enough.

The scene, later in the novel, that's supposed to explain some of Cheyenne's 'falling' for Teo, doesn't seem to mesh with other parts of the story. Another scene in the story made it not make much sense (for Cheyenne's character, life). And I wasn't clear by the end of the novel if they had a 'relationship' or what the actual timeline of it all was.

There was confusion around Marcus and Teo and their lives, as well, but it wasn't as 'big' or as much as with Cheyenne. One event that was mentioned seemed rather major to be talked about so little, though - and did lead to some of my confusion regarding their history.

The events inside Elysian Fields, the subdivision, did hold some allure. It was intriguing trying to figure out how things would unfold and what would happen to the different characters. Some of the minor characters were very minor and I had a difficult time remembering them all, specifically. There was a lot of imagination in the creation of Elysian Fields and how the characters were renamed, the way that played out; in Teo's character in the 'present.'

At times it seemed like the characters could have brought the action all to a close much sooner than they did - and this is where I wish I could have cared for the main characters and understood them better.

If Cheyenne, the Cheyenne and Teo story and even Marcus and Teo's story could have been better established, The Dollhouse Asylum could have been a good book. I couldn't figure out the timeline of the characters' interactions prior to the start of the novel and understand their relationships nor could I get enough of a feel for who they were to connect with them - or, always, understand the glimpses of their past we did get. While the present action was okay, it wasn't enough without solid characters for a really good book.


received from publisher for an honest review; thank you

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