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But I Don’t Want to Go Among Mad People

Asylum, by Madeleine Roux. Welcome to freshman orientation. They once performed a lobotomy on a serial killer in your dorm room. They say you can still hear him screaming, some nights. Oh, and there's asbestos.

But I Don’t Want to Go Among Mad People

BOOK REPORT for Asylum (Asylum #1) by Madeleine Roux

Cover Story: Come Play With Us Danny...
Drinking Buddy: You've Had Enough
Testosterone Level: And Then There Were None
Talky Talk: The Freshman Dorms Always Suck
Bonus Factors: LGBT Who Cares?, Mental Health, This Town Has Secrets
Bromance Status: Friends to the end...and then some.

Cover Story: Come Play With Us Danny...

Yep, that's what you'd expect the cover of a horror novel to look like. You know. Scary.

Incidentally, this is not the only picture in the book. The novel is filled with photographs of the creepier parts of the story: bloody eyeglasses, a man strapped to a gurney, a little girl with visible lobotomy scars.

The Deal: So sixteen-year-old Dan has been bounced around from foster family to foster family most of his life. He's now found stability with a good set of parents, who have sent him off to New Hampshire for the summer for a college prep summer school. He can hang out with other bright kids, prepare for college, and maybe have a good time. He soon meets Abby, the cute, quirky artistic girl, and Jordan, a funny cool guy. They quickly bond. Summer is going to be awesome!

Local trivia: Did you know the dorm you're staying in used to be a mental hospital? The head doctor--odd coincidence, he was also named Dan--employed some rather, shall we say, creative methods of treatment. Right here in this very building. There was a famous serial killer locked up here once. They called him The Sculptor--he used to like to pose his victims. Some say he died on the operating table downstairs. Others say no one is sure what became of him...maybe he's still around. At any rate, bathroom's down the hall. Dinner's at six.

Of course, creepy stuff starts to happen almost immediately. Strange notes, weird text messages, odd occurences. And everything points to...Dan? But of course it's not him, he's done nothing wrong. Right? It's all a mistake...but where was he last night? And why does he keep dreaming of unconventional medicine and an angry man strapped to a surgical table?

Drinking Buddy: You've Had Enough

Dan is the sort of guy you'd expect to spend his summer in an academic program. Studious, awkward, and just busting to cut loose. He's totally crushing on Abby, but has a hard time coming off as cool. Maybe that's why he's willing to explore the locked and forgotten basement of the asylum...er, dorm. Maybe that's why he's determined to ferret out the history of the hospital...why are the townspeople looking at me funny? Why are the cops all up in my business? You people wouldn't be laughing without your frontal lobes! You'll pay! YOU'LL ALL PAY!

Testosterone Level: And Then There Were None

It all starts innocently enough: an odd picture in Dan's desk, a strange phone message, a cryptic link to a family member. Only things aren't so funny when a violent, senseless crime strikes campus. And again. Is The Sculptor back? A copycat?

So...where were you last night? No, I'm not implying anything, just messing with you. But seriously, where were you?

As Dan continues to doubt his own sanity, author Roux leaves us guessing and guessing as to what's really going on here.

Talky Talk: The Freshman Dorms Always Suck

I can totally buy a building being repurposed. Hell, my first apartment used to be a meth lab. However, Dan and his friends discover that it was only the cells that were converted into dorms. The hospital offices, storage, and even the surgical theater have been untouched since the feds closed down the place decades ago. This leads to a lot of Scooby Doo searching in the creepy basement, rifling through files, and having weird flashbacks. Nice atmosphere. At the same time, I find it odd that no one ever bothered to clean any of this out. Have you ever heard of a college having so much space that they didn't need some of it?

Nice setting, but a tad unbelievable, even for a supernatural horror story. Still, Dan and Abby have a nice smolder going, Jordan is a great third amigo, and the secondary characters are well-developed. And hell, it's an abandoned nut house, you can't go wrong with that.

Bonus Factor: LGBT Who Cares?

The three main characters meet something like this...

Dan: Hi, I'm Dan, the smart, awkward guy looking to reinvent himself.

Abby: Hi there! I'm Abby, the cute, artistic Manic Pixie Dream Girl!

Dan: (Yow!) Maybe sometime you'd like to...

Jordan: HEY! I'm Jordan, the wild, funny, self-confident, handsome guy who already knows Abby.

Dan: Son of a...

Jordan: And I'm gay.

Dan: Whew.

That's about it. Jordan is gay. While he is at summer school to escape from Pray Away the Gay camp, his homosexuality is pretty much a non-issue. Dan only cares that he's not after Abby, and no one else even mentions it. Kind of a nice change of pace, eh?

Bonus Factor: Mental Health

If you're ever in St. Joseph, Missouri, be sure and check out the Glore Psychiatric Museum. Trace to history of mental health treatment, from beating with whips to beating with smaller whips.

This book does a good job of portraying how the mentally ill were once considered little better than rabid dogs.

Bonus Factor: This Town Has Secrets

When Dan and friends attempt to delve into the dark history of the town, they're met with resistance everywhere. In fact, most locals would like nothing more than to see the old hospital torn down. But why? No one is talking. This onion has many layers.

Bromance Status: Friends to the End...and Then Some.

You're my friend. My best friend. You'll always be my friend. Forever...and ever and ever and ever.

Disclosure: Got a free copy of this from Harper Collins. It was all bloody and covered in gristle. No money.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.