Sunday, March 30, 2014

Insanity by Susan Vaught

"Never, Kentucky is not your average scenic small town. It is a crossways, a place where the dead and the living can find no peace. Not that Forest, an 18-year-old foster kid who works the graveyard shift at Lincoln Hospital, knew this when she applied for the job. Lincoln is a huge state mental institution, a good place for Forest to make some money to pay for college. But along with hundreds of very unstable patients, it also has underground tunnels, bell towers that ring unexpectedly, and a closet that holds more than just donated clothing....When the dead husband of one of Forest's patients makes an appearance late one night, seemingly accompanied by an agent of the Devil, Forest loses all sense of reality and all sense of time. Terrified, she knows she has a part to play, and when she does so, she finds a heritage that she never expected. 

With her deep knowledge of mental illness and mental institutions, Susan Vaught brings readers a fascinating and completely creepy new book intertwining the stories of three young people who find themselves haunted beyond imagining in the depths of Lincoln Hospital."

So this was an advance copy--I didn't realize until today that that means it won't be at any of the libraries, but I'm still going to go ahead and review it and you can find it if you want. As a whole, I'm not sure exactly what to make of this book. There's a couple different angles you could take with your opinion of it, and I ended up in the weird situation of relating to a lot of them. So for one thing, it was kinda disjointed. It's split into four parts (with four different points of view) and each tends to summarize an "arc" of action, so to speak. I felt like each one gave an interesting view and backstory of each character, but they were pretty episodic; events happened, then didn't actually end up contributing to the plot at the end. The characters were tied in with each other, but the concluding plotline of the book was just contained in the fourth section and didn't reach back any further. 
Similar with the character development: it definitely took sudden jumps between sections, like the author decided on a late backstory plot twist and forgot to go back and add foreshadowing or context. But I can say that by the final section, when everything and everyone had settled in, I really liked reading the characters. I honestly quite liked them all the way through, ignoring the weird shifts. Yes, they occasionally fall prey to tropes, but in such a way that makes you still invest in them. There was a romance, but it took the background to the action and subtly wove its way through--I really liked its presence and the extra interest it gave to the characters (and it was really sweet, too). 
And speaking of tropes, be warned: they pop up in the action a bit. Some stuff was a little expected or cheesy; I suppressed a small eye-roll at the creepy horror-movie children's music floating out of the scary cave, and I kind of had a hard time with the demonic tree. I mean really, any time you put features on a tree and call it a "witch-tree" I have a hard time taking it seriously. But things were appropriately creepy most of the time.
So all in all, though the book felt like it would work better as four novels than as one, you can sometimes appreciate that it was kept shorter and faster to get through. If you suspend a little disbelief, it's honestly a pretty compelling book to read. Just leave your literary critic behind and you'll enjoy yourself. I'd give it just under four stars. There might be a copy at Old Harbor, and there definitely is online.

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