Written by: Madeleine Roux
Paperback: 313 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Series/Horror
For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.
As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.
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.
There is something about abandoned asylums. All of the things that are left behind, the tragic history, and the ghosts and echoes that haunt the halls. They also have been on my mind of late. I just recently watched Session 9 again, which is a great creepy little horror film despite having David Caruso in it. And this past week I finally got around to watching Season 2 of Bedlam on Hulu. Asylums are a great setting for a horror book especially an abandoned or converted one.
I am also a big fan of young adult horror. In fact, I grew up on Christopher Pike and the Fear Street novels by R.L. Stine. Some of the books were genuinely creepy and would have made great horror films. Secretly I really wanted Fear Street to become a television series like Friday the 13th the series. So I was excited to see what a new generation of authors would bring to the table.
Dan Crawford is excited to spend a summer at New Hampshire College Prep. It is a chance to get a headshot on college before his senior year. What he didn’t know was that his dorm used to be an asylum, one for the criminally insane.
With his new friends, Abby and Jordan, Dan explores the abandoned wings and basement that have yet to be converted. They soon discover that it isn’t a coincidence that the trio ended up there. Something lingers and it has been waiting for them for a while.
Things I liked: I picked up Asylum as I thought ‘Allison Hewitt is Trapped’ was interesting. The cover was creepy. It made me give it a chance and pick it up. I also like the premise, the serial killer plotline (despite being cliched…most horror films are after all), and I loved the idea of using old photographs to accentuate the overall story. Photo novels are great. Of course Miss Peregrine being one of the most popular ones of late. However, sometimes books disappoint. This was one of them. Unfortunately, I wound up being disappointed as I know Roux can do better than this.
Things I didn’t like so much: I don’t like any of the characters. I do not believe them. Instead of acting like 16 year olds verging on their senior years in high school, teens who are willing to forgo amazing summer vacations by going to yet more school, they act like junior high kids. They are immature. They behave foolishly (even for a horror book) and unevenly. Even their friendship seems forced and unrealistic. I don’t buy that they’d become besties after such a small period of time especially based on their interactions.
I want to like Dan, really I do. I like that he has a troubled past and that he has some flaws. Sure he fits the awkward but brilliant teen cliché. Then again Jordan and Abby are cookie cut as well. I get being awkward. I was there as a sixteen year old, but he doesn’t act like a teenage boy. Unfortunately he is poorly written. I just wanted so much more from him. From all of them. I wanted to be engrossed a new horror series. It just didn’t happen.
The prose is a bit lacking. It’s not overall terrible, but simplified and underwhelming, certainly not what I expected. I while novel feels like there was a predetermined checklist. Asylum plot – check. Romance – check. Artsy hot girl and gay besties – check. Go into the scary basement after receiving a note from a notorious serial killer – check. Oh and don’t forget to tie up all the loose ends – check. None of it really works. Like I said it all just feels forced. I couldn’t escape into the book and that’s what books are supposed to do.
But the most disappointing thing about Asylum was the utter lack of suspense. No thrills. No horror. No dread. No tension. Nothing. I don’t care that anyone is scared, because I have had more creepiness in a kids book (read Doll Bones by Holly Black). The twists are ones you see coming from a mile away. And the photos…they do nothing. Most of them feel staged and photo shopped. They don’t add to the ambience. And the ending was an utter disaster.
Buy or Borrow: Borrow. Maybe the series gets better, but I am not willing to give it a try.
Part of: Series.
Also Recommended: For horror books that actually give a sense of dread try some old school Christopher Pike (The Remember Me series is great) or even some Old Fear Street. I am also a big fan of The Scary Stories collection by Alvin Schwartz.
1.25 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks