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Sanctuary Bay: A Novel Hardcover – January 19, 2016
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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
Top customer reviews
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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**
Sarah is a hard to like character, but it works for this book. She's seen a lot of ugly in the world, questions everything, and judges everyone. You would think reading her constant inner monologue of judgement of people would get old, but it really just makes her who she is. I connected with her, with her protective layer over herself and he role as an outcast, even when she no longer was. She isn't the best secret keeper in the world, but she does have the qualities of a great best friend. The saving grace of this book though is Ethan. He's like John Bender from the Breakfast Club, like the criminal with a negative viewpoint, but he makes you think, he brings out the best in Sarah, and he really brings a lot of missing pieces to the puzzle. I really would like to know more about him and see his story line's conclusion. I definitely was surprised by everything in this book, you get the creepy crawlies just knowing Sarah is off to a school that's completely cut off from the outside world, but I didn't expect the twists and turns that did happen. I, for one, wouldn't want anything to do with a school connected to an insane asylum or a POW nazi camp.
I'm not sure if I'm just too caught up in the details, but something was missing in Sanctuary Bay. For all the background we get, I still don't feel like I really understand. The "wolfpack," or secret society, aspect of the story really threw me. I love secret society books, I will read any you give me, but this one confused me. Once you tie in the thing leading the society (removed due to spoiler), you'd think this would make sense, but no it's even worse. Was there even a meaning behind it? I certainly couldn't figure it out. On top of that, the secret society is pretty much sex, drugs, and booze, I mean is it supposed to make me think? All I'm thinking is these 16 year olds are too wild for their own good. Sarah's involvement in it is nonsensical, for a girl who thinks everything through you would think this would have a major question mark next to it, instead she's just as willing to make out with someone she doesn't even know. I get that there's something behind the other students, but Sarah follows along like a puppy and with no explanation whatsoever.
I'm really hoping this book is part of a series, because even though I didn't full understand everything I do really want to know what happens to Sarah and Ethan, as well as with the Bromcyan. There are several story lines that didn't reach conclusion, especially Sarah's life and Ethan's family. I could also easily see a prologue, one involving Sarah's parents, being written, because it sounds so interesting. Like I said, I'm a sucker for the details, but overall this book was a good read. Just enough YA/NA mixed with creepy mystery.
What stood out the most for me in Sanctuary Bay was the setting, the island created a feeling of isolation and helplessness that made the storyline more interesting. The characters however were a bit of a disappointment, I found them to be rather cliche as each filled a stereotypical role: rich girl, poor girl, popular girl, bad boy, etc. There was also the cliche love triangle that seems overly popular in young adult books which blends this book into almost every other young adult book out there for me. Same framework, different story.
The story itself was interesting and there was enough twists to keep me reading but it lacked depth and explanation. There was too much of a focus on the characters instead of what was going on behind the scenes at the school, which was the best part of the book in my opinion.
The pacing was inconsistent, it went from slow to perfect and then into overdrive. The book started out well, I was intrigued and interested after the initial scene but once other characters started to come into the story it slowed down quite a bit. The pace started to pick up around a third of the way in and stayed that way for almost the rest of the book until the ending which felt very rushed. The pacing in the last section of the book was too fast, like perhaps it had to be squeezed into a limited amount of pages, it didn't work for me.
All in all it wasn't a bad read but it wasn't a great read either. There isn't much in Sanctuary Bay that makes it stand out from other young adult books, it's built on the same framework as many others out there: stereotypical characters, girl meets boy, girl meets another boy, which boy will she choose.
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