Release Date: April 5, 2016
Length: 300 pages
Source: eARC from the publisher, Month9Books
Life for Patient 29 is full of medicated day dreams of a life outside the walls of Soothing Hills Asylum. But fantasies are not all that consume her. A monster roams the halls of the sanitarium she reluctantly calls home and three girls have been found dead. The dead girls share one common thread . . . each was 29’s cell mate. As the investigation gets under way, she retreats into her mind, listening to the voices that call to her. She is endowed with the cursed gift of perception. Through it, she hears messages carried upon the notes of music, discerns words hidden among the strokes of paintings, and minds pleadings for help from the corn field outside.Could the key to the murders lie within 29’s broken mind? Mason, an orderly, does not see 29 as a lunatic and as his belief in her grows so does her self-confidence. The possibility of one day leaving the asylum seems less and less like a fantasy. But the monster has other plans for her. Leaving will not be so easy, at least not while she is alive.
This is probably going to be pretty lengthy, so I’ll just say I’m sorry now hahaha
First of all, I will say that I think the summary being used for the book is not a very accurate summary of what actually happens in the book. The whole mystery surrounding the girls’ death and the “monster” in the asylum takes a back seat for the most of the novel and what the monster is and what it wants doesn’t get answered until the very end. Meanwhile, we never get an answer as to why those girls were targeted, nor does it seem to be very important.
In my own words, this book follows two girls, Jane and Jules. Jane is a patient in an asylum and has lived there her whole life. Jules is the daughter of the head doctor at the asylum. You get the sense right from the beginning of the book that these two girls are somehow linked. I personally think the plot centers much more around trying to figure out how they’re linked than it does around the monster. (And to be honest, I figured out how they were linked pretty early on in the story.)
I did have problems with this book. For one, it annoyed me that the summary of the book didn’t really match up with the actual story. Because of this I felt like the book was completely missing a plot for almost the first half. I think if I had gone in with the expectation that the story centers around Jane and Jules and their connection to each other, I would have found the first part of the story more in line with that plot. But because I was expecting this monster and mystery, I was confused as to what was going on. However, once I figured out what the actual plot was, I found it interesting and entertaining. But I still don’t feel as though the plot should be a puzzle to solve.
A smaller, but still frustrating, issue I had was that throughout the book, the wards of the asylum are described as having different purposes. For example, in the beginning wards 3, 4, and 5 are mentioned as being the children’s wards. Then later on, ward 3 is described as a tuberculosis ward, 4 is noted as the women’s ward, and 5 as the men’s ward. Later still, ward 3 is then mentioned as the “convalescent” ward which kind of lines up with it being a TB ward, but not really. This was immensely confusing to me. The wards seemed to constantly be changing. I hope that this was fixed before the final copies were printed, but I couldn’t write this review without mentioning it just in case this issue remains in the final copies. It didn’t really interfere with my understanding or enjoyment of the book since knowing what the wards were for didn’t really have any impact on the story. It was just annoying.
I didn’t really have any other issues with this book. The only other thing is maybe that the romance between Jane and Mason seemed sudden. I liked their relationship more and more as the story progressed, but in the beginning it definitely made me feel a bit weird. It seemed as though they went strictly from an orderly-patient relationship to Mason sneaking into her room at night to be with her. I felt like there could have been a bit more development in the beginning stages. But like I said, I liked their relationship more and more as the story went on and by the end I was really rooting for them to be able to be together.
I really liked both Jane and Jules. Given that this is set in a time when women were not viewed as equals, I thoroughly appreciated how independent they both were and how they didn’t let anyone stand in their way. This could be seen in both characters, but I think I noticed it more with Jules. Her father is incredibly controlling of her and she is engaged, so she basically has two men telling her what to do all the time (although her fiance is actually really sweet and I liked him quite a bit). However, she doesn’t let either one of them control her. She sneaks around and does what she wants, despite knowing that if she were to get caught, she could be in a lot of trouble.
There was definitely a lot of creepy stuff going in the book. Besides the paranormal elements, I found the “treatment” (more like torture) of the asylum patients to be especially creepy and upsetting. I don’t doubt that these were tactics used by doctors in asylums at this time. They really were quite disturbing and upsetting at times. Seeing Jane suffer for literally no reason made me wish there was something I could do to help her. More than once I found myself super angry at Dr. Frost for how he treated her. It was eased slightly by how empathetic and caring Dr. Grayjoy was towards Jane and all the other patients.
Another thing that I really liked was actually the author’s notes that were included at the end of the story. Brynn Chapman includes a note about asylums during the 1800s (mentioning that the “treatments” used in the book were all really used), historical forms of address, ablation (lobotomy), and two more that I won’t mention because they’re spoilers! These helped to clear up a few questions I had and also just provided some additional information that I found interesting and heartbreaking.
Overall, I liked this book just fine. Because of the confusion towards the beginning, I did find it hard to get into. However, once I realized that there was a different plot going on and focused more on that, I found it much more enjoyable and towards the end I felt like I couldn’t read the book fast enough and found it very difficult to put down. This has actually made it very hard for me to rate it! Oh and the book ends on a HUGE cliffhanger which has me dying a little bit (okay, a lot) inside.
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, asylum stories, or just generally gritty/creepy stories, you might want to check this out when it’s released in a few days. Just know that the summary given is not really what is focused on for much of the book and with that in mind, I think you’ll find it even more enjoyable than I did.
Final note: I have no idea why the post is formatted weirdly. I put plenty of space between paragraphs, but WordPress does not seem to care. Sorry guys!