Sunday, October 6, 2013
Review and Giveaway: The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray
Review: The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray
Release date: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Spencer Hill
Source: ARC from the publisher for review
Rating: Yet again, we go from near-DNF to can't-put-down. A creepy, psychologically disturbing, action-packed tense novel, with flaws.
A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.
At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.
The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.
If they play it right, then they'll be safe.
But if they play it wrong, they'll die.
Yet again, I find myself conflicted. I thought the beginning of this book was a little bit of a hot mess. All right, it was quite hot mess, but the last two thirds were so completely awesome that it's difficult for me to rate this book. I want to give Mary Gray all the points for the unique set up, viciously high stakes, and the fact that I don't have a heart anymore because I'm pretty sure it exploded from horror, but the few issues were so problematic that it's kind of a bummer. I want to shake the book and say, "You were almost amazing! Why didn't you fix these few tiny things? Why don't you live up to your potential, book?"
We first meet eighteen-year-old Cheyenne in a very mysterious situation. She awakens from a drugged haze in a completely baffling place and never thinks to herself, "Where the bleep am I?" Whereas I, the reader, was mentally screaming, "WHERE THE BLEEP ARE YOU?" And then there's a snake. I don't know. (Well, I do know, actually, but I didn't then.) For the first thirty or so pages, nobody acts like a real person would act. Cheyenne is in love with her math teacher, Teo, who is young and handsome and clearly a sack of vomit in human form. But Cheyenne wuvs him, even though he has kidnapped her and brought her to this totally bizarre utopia he's created and left the rest of her family to be eaten by zombies (sort of).
Teo is a romantic and an idealist deeply in love with classic literature. As the outside world is overtaken by the Living Rot, he builds a sanctuary for sixteen teenagers, including Cheyenne and Teo's own brother, Marcus. Here, they can lead safe, peaceful, vaccinated lives--so long as they follow his rules and play the parts he's given them to play.
Before I talk about how awesome all that stuff is, I've got to address my main issue with this book: Cheyenne. Cheyenne, you're a twit. Your boyfriend is a sadistic, psychopathic, festering sore. And yes, perhaps you didn't see that from the get go, but he considering her was your math teacher, can you perhaps realize he's not the healthiest dude to get into a relationship with? It's nearly impossible to relate to Cheyenne at the beginning. Teo is so clearly a creepy, sadistic sexual predator that her blind admiration of him is actually quite distancing. I understood that this would be her character arc, but girl, you are so stupid. So very, very stupid. Girl needs to have some get-a-grip sense slapped into her, stat.
The concept is completely genius and creepy, though. The execution isn't all there, to me. It would have been better if the creepiness slowly arrived, so the reader was tricked into thinking Elysian Fields was a utopian asylum away from the zombie scourge. Instead, it's totally obvious to everyone with brain cells (so, not Cheyenne) that his place is jacked up and you'd be better off being gnawed on by the undead. I get that Cheyenne is meant to be brainwashed by the horrific Teo, but since Teo is pretty much the worst from page one, I never got why she'd ever fall for this guy in the first place. Evey single thing about him got my alarm bells ringing. To me, there wasn't even one redeeming quality for Cheyenne to latch onto.
Also, Cheyenne takes an immediate disliking to Cleo because Cleo's dressed "slutty" and has big boobs Can we stop doing this please? To paraphrase Ms. Norberry, we need to stop calling each other hussies and sluts. Also, a few more moments of agony that everyone you've ever known has been eaten by zombies would be nice, Cheyenne. Shed at least ONE tear for your murdered mother, please. Also, the casual suicide jokes. Not cool.
I hate to admit I was near DNFing. Most of this stuff was piled into the first eighty pages, and I was huffing with impatience. BUT THEN.
Oh, but then.
"I'm not sure which bothers me more: that I actually wanted to be his puppet, or that he clearly enjoys cutting our strings."
Teo shows his true colors in such a HORRIFIC WAY that I'm actually lost for words about it. I can't even... I can't. WHOA. ARRRRGH.
Teo's particular, literate version of twisted is so inventively creepy and terrible. They say that the make of a great villain is one who, if he were the author of his own story, would see himself as the hero, and Teo definitely does. Once this unnamed appalling event occurs, it becomes a completely different book. Cheyenne is no longer too stupid to live (most of the time), and everything about Elysian Fields becomes a thousand times worse. i couldn't put the book down. I was so tense I had to get up and stretch a few times. Marcus is a nice character who brought out some strength in Cheyenne, and while I would have liked all the characters to have more depth (especially Cheyenne), I was pretty entertained by the last two thirds. I wanted something a little different from the ending, but it was still satisfying.
I'm going to grade this book on a serious originality curve, and for creeping the pants of me. Seriously. I'm going to have horrible nightmares about Teo forcing me to act out his literate fantasies and then... *DOES NOT SAY BECAUSE SPOILERS* And trust me, you WANT to be unspoiled for these things. Because GULP.
Want to get your hands on a copy of The Dollhouse Asylum? Well, you're in luck! The lovely people at Spencer Hill have given me an ARC, and now I get to give it out to one of my lovely blog readers. US only.
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