Thursday, February 18, 2016
Sanctuary Bay has an interesting premise. Sarah Merson is an orphan who has recently been offered a full ride to Sanctuary Bay academy, an exclusive prep school off the coast of Maine. It's set on an isolated island and one of the rules is total immersion- none of the students can leave until they graduate. See where this is going? Sarah's story is tragic- she saw her parents killed when she was very young- and she has no idea why the academy would want her, as they cater strictly to the rich and powerful. Sarah accepts the offer however and soon finds that Sanctuary Bay offers her a new beginning- but when strange things start to happen and her roommate disappears, Sarah realizes that Sanctuary Bay hides a dark secret.
Sarah has a photographic memory and that comes in handy when trying to figure things out. Her two roommates, Karina and Izzy, are fun characters who take her in immediately- she can't believe how friendly they are- and the academy itself was well realized. The island setting of course is suitably creepy, with the ruins of an old asylum on the other side of the island, and lots of foreshadowing of things to come. The characterization might be a bit thin at times but there was enough there that I cared about the characters. And I really had no idea where this story was going- it starts off as a YA boarding school book and has a bit of a science fiction vibe.
The middle of the book has a shift that had me thinking maybe Sarah was an unreliable narrator- things get a little crazy and I wondered if I had to reexamine the first half in light of new information- but no it's just a crazy plot twist! I think some readers will like where this goes and some won't- I loved it. It just depends on what you're looking for from a boarding school read. You may find yourself facing uncomfortable questions about Sarah as well- in her desire to fit in she may be too willing to go along with things that turn dangerous- but then again in high school peer pressure is an enormous issue and this book examines that as well. How far is too far?
Sanctuary Bay is a suspenseful read and a quick page turner. I flew through in two sittings and was pulled into the world from the get- go. If this sounds like your kind of read I recommend it and would look forward to more. The authors are working on another project so if you like good stories that are done in one book this is a good choice. There is room for a sequel but the story ends well, with just enough wiggle room that you can go wherever you want with how you think things turn out in the future.