Category Archives: Harper Teen

Review: Sanctum by Madeleine Roux

  • Series: Asylum
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (August 26, 2014)
  • ISBN: 9780062220998
  • Source: Library

Dan, Abby, and Jordan are still traumatized after the summer they spent at New Hampshire College Prep, formerly Brookline asylum.  Despite their attempts to return to their “normal” lives, their experiences still haunt them.  Then, they each receive a letter from Felix, another “survivor” of Brookline, now a patient at a mental institution. Included in his letters are vintage photographs from a carnival.  In a chilling message written on the back of the photographs, Felix insists that the trio’s work at the former asylum is not finished. Desperate to bring an end to the terror haunting them, they return to the former asylum over a weekend for prospective students.

As they arrive on campus, they are shocked to see a carnival on its grounds for the first time in several years. Given sets of coordinates, Dan, Abby and Jordan tour abandoned homes that are linked to the events at Brookline asylum.  They are soon aware that the darkness of the asylum reaches far beyond its walls, into the neighboring town.  A cult, known as the Scarlets, is ever present, following the trio’s every move.  If they are going to stop the terror that plagues them, Dan, Abby and Jordan must find the connection to the warden, ending his reign, this time for good.

When I read Asylum this time last year, I loved the terrifying setting. The photographs added another level of terror and fear to the reading experience. When I heard of this sequel, I was thrilled, hoping for the same or something more terrifying. Not so much. Rather than adding to the tone of the novel, the carnival photographs were disruptive. I didn’t really get the connection of the carnival to the storyline. If anything, it felt forced.  Carnival oddities certainly had the potential to add a haunting feel to this read, but it failed.

Additionally, while I felt I had built a connection with Dan, Abby, and Jordan, the same three characters in this novel felt like they were a mere shell of the characters they were in the previous book. Despite the fact they were supposed to be in their older teen years, their behavior and response to situations felt more like they were in their younger teen years. I wanted to reach into the book and shake them, get them to wake up and face the situation around them. Their emotional response to what was happening was completely inappropriate, brushing violence off as if it were an everyday occurrence.

In my opinion, it would have been best if the author stopped at  Asylum. I don’t feel like I, as a reader, gained much of anything after reading this book. Only a minimal amount of information/explanation was gained. Personally, I feel that a short novella could have relayed this better than a full-length novel.

All this said, I still plan on reading Roux’s future works. I loved the experience I had in reading Asylum, as well as her other books Alison Hewitt Is Trapped and Sadie Walker Is Stranded. This author has tremendous potential; one failed experience isn’t going to shun me away from her future work.

Mx3 Review: Asylum by Madeleine Roux

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (August 20, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062220969
  • Source: Personal Copy

Sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford is looking forward to starting the summer program at New Hampshire College Prep.  He’s not really part of the “in-crowd” at his high school and he’s looking forward to making some friends before he starts college the following year.  Upon his arrival, Dan learns that his dorm used to be an asylum for the criminally insane.

Dan is quick to make friends, surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Two of his closest friends are Abby and Jordan.  One night, they decide to go investigating the closed off portion of the dorm, formerly the administrative offices of the asylum. There they uncover brutal pictures depicting patients and some of the procedures performed on them.  Dan uncovers files on some of the former patients, including a serial killer known as the Sculptor who went missing after the asylum closed. The Sculptor posed his victims, over 12 in number, like statues.

Soon after, strange things begin happening. Dan begins receiving strange and cryptic messages.  Students are found dead, their bodies posed like statues.  Dan and Abby do a bit of investigating on their own and uncover pretty horrifying news about their families’ past tying them to the former asylum. It seems, though, as they get closer to uncovering the truth, the more their lives are in danger. Have the ghosts of the asylum come back to haunt them, or is something more deadly amiss?

I picked up a copy of Asylum shortly after it was released early this fall, instantly drawn to the haunting cover. As I paged through the book, I knew this would be a perfect title to feature as part of Murders, Monsters & Mayhem.  While the plot itself is pretty predictable, the photographs and overall tone of the book gave me goosebumps. It’s been nearly a week since I read this and I cannot get over the photographs.  Knowing that these pictures are from actual asylums added a completely new chill factor!

PicMonkey CollageLooking for a book that will send chills down your spine? Pick up a copy of this book. I guarantee you will not regret (or forget) it! Highly recommended!


Mx3 Review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

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  • Reading level: Ages 13 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray (September 18, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0062118781
  • Source: Publisher

Best friends Meg and Minnie have been invited to an exclusive house party on Henry Island. The two friends are looking forward to the weekend’s activities and the time spent together before Meg heads off to college in the fall. The group invited is small, only five boys and five girls. Meg and Minnie know some of the other members of the group, but many attend another school. While waiting for the host to arrive, the group sits back and enjoys their freedom. Alone on an island until the ferry picks them up the following Monday. A teenager’s dream, right?

All dreams quickly turn to nightmares when they discover a terrifying DVD with the message “Vengeance is mine.” The home loses power due to a storm, the remote location preventing a cell signal, and one by one members of the group are killed in the most unique manners possible.

Told from Meg’s point of view, readers will become immersed in the terrifying world McNeil has built. As people start dying, surviving members of the group start placing blame on one another and the intensity builds. Meg is the only individual who seems interested in figuring out who/why they have been targeted. The majority of the other members are initially reluctant to believe that a killer is among them but the rising death count soon persuades them.

One of the many things I loved about this book was the strong lead character McNeil created with Meg. At first glance, she appears pretty meek, almost a pushover. As time passes, however, she is the one person in the motley group of teens who seems to grow a backbone.  From early on, I was suspicious of most everyone in the group, not really feeling a connection with any of them, other than Meg. Needless to say, I was pretty shocked when the culprit was revealed. A truly addictive read, the intense pacing never waning. This novel is based on Agatha Christie’s, And Then There Were None; I think Christie herself would have been proud of this adaptation!

Ten is destined to become a movie; I’d be largely disappointed if it didn’t. Until then, it makes a perfect book to read this Halloween season. Highly recommended.