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Sanctuary Bay: A Novel Hardcover – January 19, 2016
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up—Within the grounds of a seemingly perfect prep school, Burns and Metz reveal a world of violence and secrets. Sarah Merson is an orphan with a freakishly perfect memory. There are a lot of things she'd rather forget, and she has much to learn when she is unexpectedly accepted into a prestigious boarding school on a remote island in Maine. At Sanctuary Bay Academy, the people are beautiful, the academic expectations are high, and the risks are, literally, life and death. After being swept into an even more secret society within the school, Sarah soon discovers that what lies beneath the pristine exterior is a rocky foundation of blood, bones, and a cruel conspiracy that may even reach from beyond the grave. Genuinely enjoyable from start to finish, this novel would lend itself most fully to those who enjoy gritty, grotesque exposés of superficially perfect people and places. The authors successfully create an intricate environment on the isolated island, and readers will likely find it just as easy to become immersed in the plot as the characters become immersed in the school itself. The protagonist self-identifies as coming from a racially mixed and ambiguous background, which lends itself to the character's sense of alienation and "otherness." VERDICT A quickly captivating account of an outsider's new life inside a world of prestige, pleasure, and pain and her struggle to find acceptance and herself and to survive.—Emily Grace Le May, Providence Community Library, RI
"An intriguing thriller that pairs YA romance with sci-fi danger in a creepy, Gothic-like setting (foggy island with a crumbling insane asylum, anyone?), this book is a white-knuckle read that pushes envelopes and makes the reader question everything, right along with Sarah." - USA Today's Happily Ever After blog
"Genuinely enjoyable from start to finish, this novel would lend itself most fully to those who gritty, grotesque exposés of superficially perfect people and places. A quickly captivating account of an outsider's new life inside a world of prestige, pleasure, and pain and her struggle to find acceptance and herself and to survive." - School Library Journal
"This mash-up of private-school lit meets mystery novel meets conspiracy theory should keep readers guessing as the horror continues to mount. Elizabeth LaBan’s The Tragedy Paper (2013) and Jenny Hubbard’s Paper Covers Rock (2011), with their elite-school settings and dark secrets, would both make interesting companion reads." - Booklist
"Burns and Metz, who have collaborated on Crave and other titles, build a suspenseful and satisfying narrative full of subtly creepy details...teetering between a psychological study of teenage peer pressure and an over-the-top horror flick." ―Publishers Weekly
"The book is good entertainment...fun." ―Kirkus Reviews
“There's no escaping it. This story hooks you from page one and refuses to let go. Not that readers will want to be anywhere other than glued to Sarah Merson's side as she races to expose the sinister forces threatening to destroy everything good in her new life. Deliciously suspenseful, Sanctuary Bay is a twisted thriller brimming with dark secrets.” ―Barbara Stewart, author of The In-Between and What We Knew
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My Rating: 4/5 stars
Sarah Merson has been in the foster system since she was a toddler. She heard her parents die and since then has relived the moment and many other super-shitty moments thanks to her eidetic memory. The only benefit her eidetic memory has ever offered her is the ability to kick ass and take names in school. Because of her academic success, Sarah has been tapped to receive a full scholarship to Sanctuary Bay, an elite academy populated by mostly uber-wealthy kids who have more money than sense.
Knowing she hit the foster kid lottery, Sarah goes into Sanctuary Bay with the intention of doing her very best so she will have a chance when she graduates. Her first impression of the Academy is one of wonder and awe as it is a completely isolated island which the students (and faculty) never leave. The classes are easy for Sarah but fitting in with the wealthy kids is a bit harder. With two roommates, one super nice and one a bit scary, Sarah has a sort of instant social circle which she works hard to fit into. Before long, Sarah isn’t just a part of the in-crowd but is also asked to become a member of an exclusive secret society. The group is beyond weird and into some somewhat sketchy stuff but for the first time in her life, Sarah feels like she belongs. And then everything takes a left turn at Albuquerque.
Sarah has done her level best to avoid contact with her roommate’s boyfriend, Ethan. In Sarah’s estimation, Ethan generally has a very bad attitude and underappreciates the opportunities offered to him by the Academy. However, some of his crazy starts to make sense when things with the secret club start going sideways. Ethan has been at the Academy for a lot of years and when Sarah begins asking questions about Sanctuary Bay, the asylum ruins, and the island’s history, Ethan becomes a valuable source of information. When the information starts coming together into a cohesive whole, Sarah finds she needs Ethan more than ever especially if the two of them want to stay alive. Holy Hannah!! What Sarah and Ethan discover about Sanctuary Bay goes beyond even the wildest imaginings of the most ardent conspiracy theorist!!
The Bottom Line: Sanctuary Bay is one wild ride. Just when I wrapped my head around high school kids having near-orgies and classrooms filled with millions of dollars’ worth of tech, and a site so remote not even the teachers leave, the left turn at Albuquerque happens. The turn Sanctuary Bay takes is a pretty wide left turn and may turn some readers off but I found its weirdness to be right in line with everything else about the Academy. Sanctuary Bay isn’t just about a bunch of rich kids at an ultra-exclusive school. Oh, no!! Sanctuary Bay is about a bunch of rich kids (and Sarah!) ant an ultra-exclusive school that has a sordid and nasty history that involves so many levels of deception and deceit as to be nearly implausible. I sort of loved it and the deeper I got into the read the more I enjoyed the crazy. This isn’t your typical high school read and I would caution any reader to go into this with a completely open mind because the turns this one takes will leave you reeling. Now you totally want to read this, don’t you?? My work here is done . . .
The book is an interesting read but a bit cliche. Sarah has the ability to remember everything she has experienced which would have lead readers to assume it's a book about super powers. However, this is not the case, its more about a secret corporation performing very illegal operations. Many parts of the story were uninteresting and boring. I also had a hard time liking the main character at times. She was very annoying, self absorbed and woe is me! How can you want a better life but keep telling other characters they had it better than she did and they should be grateful. The book was an okay read but needs a bit of polish and excitement for the next novel.
**Disclosure - I received a free ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**
She's greeted warmly, first by two students who meet her at a floating wind generator, then when her roommates, Izzy and Karina, unfurl a huge banner welcoming her. Despite the greeting, Sarah has difficulty warming and trusting at first, partly because of her foster care experiences, but also because it seems everyone there is well off and she has nothing.
The plot cranks up quickly and involves secrets, lots of secrets-tunnels where Nazi POWs were held during WW2, an abandoned insane asylum on the other side of the island, her roommates disappearing at night and a secret society. All of these are part of an even bigger secret that fuels the remainder of the story.
I have a few problems, though. Before arriving, Sarah's told they can access the web for research, but nothing can go out, no Facebook, email, etc, yet there are extremely smart students and millions of dollars worth of technology in the labs. At least one kid could have figured out a workaround and hacked the system. I also can't buy the head of a quasi-govenment corporation bragging all their secrets to a couple teens when billions of dollars and who knows how many lives are at stake.
Even with my reservations, I liked the book and am looking forward to a more polished sequel.
Most recent customer reviews
Plot: Sanctuary Bay is the name of a very elite school that is just a bit strange.Read more
The main character, Sarah Merson, has the ability to remember everything...Read more
Sarah Merson has received an opportunity of a lifetime and it seems too good to be true.Read more