ASYLUM – MADELEINE ROUX
2 out of 5 stars
I love reading, and I enjoy many different books. I picked up Asylum because of the description on the jacket of the book and the cover itself. It looked terrifying and suspenseful and amazingly creepy, and I couldn’t wait to read it. I needed a break from A Feast for Crows (let’s be honest, I haven’t met a single person who didn’t struggle with finishing the fourth book), yet I feel like I chose the wrong book.
This is first one of my (hopefully) many book reviews.
Asylum is about a sixteen year old boy named Daniel Crawford who enrolls in a summer program for gifted students at a college called New Hampshire College. The dorm where he and other students are staying for 5 weeks used to be an old asylum called Brookline that was renovated into a dorm building for the college. At this program, Dan becomes friends with Abby and Jordan. Dan and his friends explore Brookline and discover secrets of the building’s past, and odd occurrences begin to happen.
Romance, chaos, and murder ensue.
THE MAIN (and some other) CHARACTERS:
Daniel Crawford: Sixteen year old boy, who is a foster child. He also suffers from “Mild Dissociative Disorder.” Quiet, studious, shy, closed off.
Abby Valdez: Girl around Dan’s age (blatant love interest). Open, outgoing, adventurous.
Jordan: Dan and Abby’s friend. Anxious, studious.
Felix: Dan’s roommate.
The Warden (Daniel Crawford): The Warden when Brookline was still used as an asylum. Focuses on immortality and the spreading of his legacy.
Dennis Heimline: Serial killer called the Sculptor that was “cured” but disappeared after the asylum closed down.
Let me start from right before I opened the book. The cover is dark. An old black and white photograph of a girl standing in the doorway graces the cover of the book. Her head is a blur as the photo catches her turning her head to the side. A pattern that looks like possible water marks are imprinted on the photograph in an attempt to make it look old, while the sentence “Prepare to be lost in…” is typed at the top in white, and “ASYLUM” is etched in a light green underneath. It’s a creepy cover, and I was so excited to crack the book open and be thoroughly creeped out.
I love ghosts; I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal, and I was so happy to find a book that deals with the paranormal.
Then I began to read it…
I was 50 pages in when I found my first grammatical error, and I told myself that it’s a normal occurrence, editors and authors can’t catch every mistake that’s in the book. However, I began to find more and more spelling and grammatical errors, and my inner English nerd cringed in pain each time I saw a new mistake.
Furthermore, the plot could have been amazing. An old building that used to hold not only the mentally insane, many of whom were criminals is terrifying in itself; add the fact that many patients died in the asylum due to illegal procedures and a bunch of teenagers who are exploring places where they shouldn’t be, and you’ve got a pretty solid ghost story. However the plot is poorly executed; it moves incredibly fast without any real description of the sights, sounds, and goings-on, and it causes some of the plot to make no sense. You miss big chunks of the story because the foreshadowing was so incredibly discrete that Roux actually explains it again later. You meet a character with the last name Bittle. The name comes up one time before when the trio is going through medical records. The name Bittle isn’t focused on and seems to be unimportant. Time is wasted because you have to go back to re-read what you missed.
There is absolutely no character development, making the characters just seem like they are going through the motions without any real feeling or objective. Characters in a story should be carefully crafted, each having their own quirks and personalities. Dan is the main character. You learn he was adopted after being moved from foster home to foster home. He has, according to Roux, “Mild Dissociative Disorder,” but you don’t learn about his disorder until the end of the book. Dan talks about attacks that he gets throughout the book (it is written in first person), but you have no clue what it could be. I assumed he suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, so when “Mild Dissociative Disorder” was mentioned I was shocked and confused. Throughout the entire book, the reader is convinced that there is some paranormal activity happening, and towards the end, the author just drops the fact that the events that were occurring were more than likely psychological, yet you read twenty more pages, and you can’t figure out if it is psychological or something else! Furthermore, there is no actually physical description of Dan anywhere. He’s just this faceless anomaly to me.
Abby’s character serves some relevance to the plot, but not much. Her character was frustratingly dry, and she had three emotions: happy, incredibly upset, and irritatingly angry. The stereotype of women being “batshit crazy” is reinforced in this one character, and it is an extremely frustrating sight to be hold. Yes, adolescents are prone to have extremely harsh mood swings, but hers were so incomprehensible that I rolled my eyes every time. Roux takes the time to vaguely describe Abby, and the only thing I remember about her is that she was short with black hair.
Jordan was completely useless to the plot. He argued with Dan and Abby, and his mood swings were (dare I say it?) worse than Abby’s! Furthermore, his mood swings made no sense. He had no point except to maybe, and this is a huge maybe, add some comic relief to the otherwise transparent yet confusing plot. Jordan wasn’t physically described at all, and I just assumed that because he tried to exude confidence he was similar to a jock.
Felix was mentioned only every now and then, but he proved to be a huge part of the plot (especially at the end). However, not much was said about him except that he was a nerd who worked out constantly.
The Warden and Dennis make appearances throughout the book, and they are a huge part of the plot, but the only things I can say about their characters were that they both were insane.
The conflict was little to none in this book, unless you count the petty fights that Abby, Dan, and Jordan had in every chapter, and you knew they would still be friends. In fact, it felt as if Roux tried to mimic the relationship that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had in Harry Potter, but couldn’t achieve it.
There was no suspense, no tension, no passion!
It was a mess, and in all honesty, I’ve read fanfiction that was more captivating and beautifully written.
The book wasn’t thrilling or captivating or terrifying nor will it stay with me. The characters were vague and so underdeveloped. The plot had holes, and the book itself had so many typos and grammatical errors.
I was expecting creepy, but I didn’t even get a chill going down my spine. The author adds pictures of abandoned asylums throughout the book. While some are in fact quite spooky, they tend to get old and do nothing for the story. Madeleine Roux could have made this a million times better, and it’s a shame that I feel this way because it was an incredibly quick read, which is something I enjoy in a book.
I hope this review helped.