Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

But that's neither here or there in the darkness. This particular darkness, anyway, the one you and I find ourselves denizens of. We are here because we're the sanest people in this establishment, so they put us down here as the bedrock on which to gain a foothold for the wanderings of their own minds. They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human. Heedson and Croomes are but examples of the greater world, love. They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold to our truths in the dark..."

I really loved Mindy McGinnis' post-apocalyptic book Not a Drop to Drink, as you can see in my review here. A Madness So Discreet is a lot different, but it's got a lot of elements that I enjoy.

Grace Mae was the pretty daughter of a senator. Now, Grace is no longer a Mae. Her father had her committed for getting pregnant out of wedlock. I know this will come as no surprise, but the asylum is terrible, worse than terrible. The patients have to fight to get the small amount of food they are given. There is an awful nurse, Croomes, who takes pleasure in tormenting her, and the treatments are barbaric. Grace only survives by retreating inside herself, something she already learned at home.

Her fellow patient, Mrs. Clay, tries to help even though Grace never speaks a word to her. She was committed by her husband, a real gem who later divorced her, took her land and her kids, then married the lawyer's sister. Nobody can save Grace when she attacks the asylum's doctor, Heedson, (In her defense, he deserved it) and receives a  punishment that causes her to lose the baby. After attacking Heedson a second time, he moves her into the hospital's basement to rot away in the dark.

Thankfully, the basement contains a peculiar patient who knows everything that goes on upstairs. Falsteed is a great comfort to Grace, and he introduces her to Dr. Thornhollow. The doctor is there to perform lobotomies on particularly difficult patients. Grace begs him to take away her memories, to make it so she won't have to feel ever again. Thornhollow notices that she has a bright mind, and instead offers her a proposal. He will help her escape, and she will assist him with his special project: finding murderers.

Thornhollow is studying a new technique for creating a profile of the killer based on clues from the scene of the crime, and using the profile to find the killer. The pair move to Ohio and into a new asylum, but a really nice one. It's much more humane than the other hospital in Boston, and the patients have a lot more freedom. Grace pretends to be the doctor's assistant, and that she cannot speak. She makes friends with fellow patients Nell, who has syphilis, and Elizabeth, who believes that an invisible string sits by her shoulder and tells her secrets.

Grace is called upon to assist the doctor when a dead body is found. Her job is to observe the scene, looking for clues that the doctor might miss. Because she appears to be a mute patient, people speak freely in front of her. After two dead girls are found, both with hands folded as if they are still alive, they realize that they are looking for a serial killer.  

I really liked A Madness So Discreet. The beginning was very upsetting. I absolutely hated that nurse and doctor. It would have been nice to see them receive some sort of punishment, a little karma. Asylums at that time were really scary. It is absolutely terrifying to think that at one point a woman could have been locked away just because a male relative signed a statement. I was much happier when Grace moved on to the better asylum, which was based on a real asylum that is featured on Mindy McGinnis' Pinterest (I'm sorry, you can't see it if you don't have a Pinterest as well; You can see the building here, and look at more images in those archives). Grace was very strong and smart, but also a bit scary. You do not want to get on her bad side. I'm not sure if there is going to be a sequel, but I would be interested in reading more adventures of Grace and Thornhollow.

I received my copy of A Madness So Discreet from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

"And even if there's no one in my family or my circle of friends who's going to be the Chosen One or the Beacon of Peace or whatever the hell it's going to be next time around, I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies..."

I love, love, love Patrick Ness. The Knife of Letting Go was amazing to the extremest levels. I have been wanting to read more of him for so long. I read The Ask and the Answer, but I never finished Monsters of Men because of dumb reasons (Anxiety over too many books too read, reading going slowly, and wanting to reread the entire series). I have also planned and failed to read A Monster Calls and More Than This, which is just shameful because both are award winners. On the upside, my failures have led me to make sure that I actually read his newest novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I'm glad that I did because it's a great, unique story.

It's four months until they graduate from high school. Mikey has to deal with his unrequited invisible love for Henna, as well as a relapse of OCD and anxiety. His sister Mel, who is a year older than the others, is finally graduating after losing a year to her struggle with anorexia. Jared, Mike's best friend, is gay and part god (God of cats, actually, which makes me jealous of him). He has been sneaking around and Mike knows he is keeping secrets. Henna is dealing with conflicts over her feelings for Mike and for new boy Nathan, issues that are made worse by her upcoming mission trip to war-torn Africa. Nathan is somewhat mysterious, having moved to town so close to graduation. Mike dislikes Nathan because of the Henna issue and because he seems suspicious, but mostly because of Henna.

At the beginning of every chapter, there is a short recap of what is going on with the indie kids. They have names like Satchel, Kerouac, and Finn (There are a lot of Finns, actually), they use card catalogs instead of computers, and they read poetry and listen to jazz. The indie kids are the ones who have to face zombies, vampires, or whatever is happening now, with the blue lights. They often end up dying and/or blowing up the school. They deal with big, apocalyptic things that have the potential to effect all of the characters, but Mike and his friends don't really focus on them much because they can't do anything about them.

As Mike said,
"The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part."

It's like the book is written by the background characters in a YA science fiction/fantasy novel. Their struggles are more relatable and their names are less obnoxious. I loved hearing a different side of the typical story. I laughed and I cried and I cried some more. I wrote down pages of quotes and now have a wrist cramp. When I get some money together, I am going to purchase my own physical copy of the book so I can read it again and again (Bonus: the cover glows in the dark!).  
I received my copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.