A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (3 out of 5)
I look like that cover. Most of the time, either at or after I leave the bookstore. Lately, more when I am there. There is nothing, however, discreet about my madness. You’ll hear shrieking, yelling, swearing, more swearing, even more swearing, and you’ll know. Nothing discreet here. I read this because Holly loves Mindy McGinnis. Holly is the children’s frontlist buyer for the bookstore where I work. She read Not A Drop To Drink and In A Handful Of Dust, and when she got her hands on this, she made sure that it was sitting in a pile where I would see it. And of course, I took it. And it took me forever to get to it, but in this case, since it’s close to her release date, it works out okay. Because I finally did read it. This is the first Mindy McGinnis book I read. What can I say? She writes an intense young adult novel. Her characters are fleshed out so well, so intricately, that you can dive right into the time period or the character’s mind, and it’s hard to crawl out. And it was hard to crawl out. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s an intense experience. She’s an intense author, as far as narrative and her cast of characters.
I guess I should have waited to read this until I was in more of an intense reading mood. Instead, I think I needed light. I followed up a book on the Vatican and their secretive process for deciphering real from imaginary, straight into this. And well, I had a hard time. I connected with Grace Mae, but there was something here that made it hard for me to really dive in with the story. When we meet her, she’s mute and in a Boston insane asylum, pregnant and hiding a litany of horrific family secrets inside her overloaded mind. Her voice finds itself in an incident that gets her thrown into the cellars, and she becomes somewhat of a test project for a new doctor dabbling in criminal psychology. Her quick memory would make her a shoo-in as a crime scene analyst, and she escapes from that horridness into a new life in Ohio at an asylum that doesn’t blow like the one she just left. Things don’t improve tenfold, though, because she and the doctor are now caught in the vise of a serial killer who targets young women. Grace is fighting for her own sanity still, in that little water closet in her own mind. Can she find some semblance of peace, while trying to nail this nutcase? Her own past and present, coupled with the change of scenery and the implicit threat of violence, struggle with each other through the novel. The reader, in turn, struggles with it. That’s to say the author does one hell of a job getting you to buy into Grace’s mental state and her living situation as it is. Which I did, except I don’t think she would have had that great of a second chance, given that the setting of the novel at the beginning is so dark. Another thing I really enjoyed from McGinnis is that she doesn’t back down from how dark shit is at the first asylum, not to mention when Grace’s secrets start trickling out little by little. To say that it’s pretty horrifying doesn’t quite do it a fair sense of justice. I would have kicked more ass than she wasn’t able to. Grace is a tough as nails young woman with a shit ton of courage, and you’re cheering for her all the way. However, my own sense of questioning aloud while reading had me questioning a ton of things throughout the book. The new doctor? I think that was too convenient. I would have liked her to stay at the first asylum and fight like the Dickens to overcome her obstacles there. Again, likely not the right time for me to read this book. Had I read it in a month, who knows? I may have had a whole different spin on much of it. I think it was a little too neat. And the conclusion? Well, I think she did a great job of wrapping it up, but again, something was holding me back from going balls to the wall in giving it 5 stars. I’m giving it 3, although, as I said, this woman really knows how to write an intense YA novel. And she does. Thornhollow is a great character, and he and Grace play very well off one another, but the huge switch in her from being a cossetted, terrified, pregnant young woman in the throes of panic and horror at the world’s worst lunatic asylum, to someone whose seemingly a prodigy with her intellect and keen eyesight and an assistant to a doctor who seems hell-bent on solving crimes, was just a bit tough for me to swallow. And so 3 stars it is.
A Madness So Discreet is out now (as of two days ago, actually) on Katherine Tegen Books (an imprint of Harper Collins).