08. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fiction, Horror, Paranormal, Teen Books

Asylum by Madeleine Roux, 310 pages, read by Courtney, on 12/06/2013

Ugh. I got suckered into reading this one for a few reasons: 1)it’s about an old asylum and things really don’t get much creepier than places like that, 2)it has pictures and those pictures looked pretty creepy and 3)in spite of mostly bad reviews, I found one positive review and decided to give the book a chance. The premise is pretty simple: Dan Crawford arrives on campus for one of those college-prep-for-high-school-kids summer programs. He’s pretty excited about it since he’s a bit of a nerd and looks forward to taking college level classes with other smart kids. The weird thing is, the college is renovating its dorms and has decided to house the high school kids in the abandoned asylum that the college bought since it was adjacent to their property (and, presumably, for some sort of research/historical purposes). So all the kids are staying in the old asylum, and the desire to go exploring in the closed-off parts of the building is too strong for Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan. During the course of their explorations, they discover a bunch of old photographs and documents from the old hospital. Then Dan starts having strange dreams and the occasional hallucination. Jordan gets inexplicably mad at Dan and Abby moves on to another group of friends. It continues like this for awhile, with none of the main characters talking to each other, until a townie turns up dead and all signs point to a former serial killer who was held at the hospital prior to its closing years ago.
There are a lot of problems with the premise and the characters that I simply couldn’t look past. First of all, what type of college/university decides to renovate ALL their dorms at the EXACT same time and thus sends a bunch of minors (for whom they are legally responsible) to live in a building that probably violates a ton of building safety codes (from the sound of it, anyway)? Seems a bit on the irresponsible side, right? Then there are the main characters. Dan is probably the most well-developed of the bunch, but even he reads like a stock character. There’s evidently some sort of mental health issue that he’s dealt with in the past, but the reader never really finds out what or how it connects to the rest of the story. His roommate, Felix, is a painfully stereotypical nerd, right down to his manner of speaking. Jordan is similarly stereotypical, except his stereotype is “flamboyant funny gay guy” who also may or may not have some sort of bi-polar thing going on (that’s not really developed much either). Abby is the love interest that’s really not all that interesting. Her stereotype? The artsy “manic pixie dream girl”. Yawn. I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. The photos that part of my reason for picking the book up in the first place were so-so. The vintage ones were cool, but there were quite a few more recent photos that were altered to fit the story, which was disappointing. I was really hoping for photos more along the lines of those seen in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or Shadow of Blackbirds. Alas, it’s clearly what the author and publisher were going for, but fact that some were constructed exclusively for the book takes a lot of the excitement out of it. What kept me going was the pervasive sense of dread that the book did manage to accomplish in spite of all its shortcomings. It was genuinely creepy. There’s definitely going to be a readership for this book, but I have a sneaking suspicion that many will be just like me: hoping for more and being left empty-handed.

Comments closed.