Laura J, Burns & Melinda Metz
Source: Netgalley e-ARC
*I was provided with this ARC by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.*
This was my WOW post a few weeks ago. I love boarding school stories and I was really hoping for a creepy, atmospheric read. While it wasn’t exactly creepy, I think the authors did a great job at bringing the setting to life.
Sanctuary Bay Academy is the most elite prep school in the country. Located on an island off the coast of Maine, once you arrive, there is no leaving. Total immersion is how the school describes the situation. There is no contact with the outside world until you graduate. But when you graduate you are almost guaranteed a spot, and probably a scholarship, to your pick of Ivy League colleges. And for Sarah Merson, a foster kid who has been tossed around the system, the school is a godsend. It is her best shot at securing a better life for herself. So she goes all in and decides there is nothing she wouldn’t do to better the chance of achieving that future. But she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems. There are secrets within the walls of Sanctuary Bay and it is up to Sarah to find out the truth.
For the most part, I liked Sarah. She’s bi-racial, half black and half white. In fact, a lot of the characters in the novel are POC, which is a nice change. They didn’t seem to be tokenized either. Sarah’s had a rough upbringing. Thanks to her eidetic memory she is able to remember in full detail her parent’s brutal murder and sometimes suffers from flashbacks where she is totally immersed in memories from the past. There are brief mentions of sexual abuse at the hands of foster families, although it’s brushed over pretty quickly. I said for the most part I liked her, because her poor-me attitude did get a bit tiresome. She of course has every right to be angry with her lot in life, but she has a hard time recognizing that other students, even the rich, more privileged ones could have hard upbringings too.
There was a little bit of romance, and even a possible love-square situation, but it’s not really focused on that much. In fact, around 30% through the book things get weird and any real romance is set aside.
It’s hard for me to talk about the other characters without giving away plot details, but I will say that I did like Ethan, her roommate’s boyfriend. Yeah he comes off as an ass, but sometimes those are my favorite types. Plus, he’s not really as jerky as he seems.
It’s a “psychological thriller” but it’s also a lot more than that. There were many different turns in this story. It started off as one thing and ended up somewhere completely different. Towards the end I kind of guessed where it was headed, but if you had told me within the first 20% of the book I probably would have been shocked.
The writing style kept me engaged throughout all of it. I gave it 3 stars, so I did enjoy reading it, but there was a lot that felt off. There were a lot of questions I had that were kind of answered, but also not really at the same time. And the ending is definitely set up for a sequel. In fact, if there isn’t a sequel, and I haven’t seen anything to suggest that there will be, I would totally move this down to a 2 star rating. If there ends up being a sequel I would probably feel better about that nagging feeling.