Author: Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
Genre: Young Adult // Mystery // Thriller
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson's shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?
When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn't sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate's dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay's glossy reputation.
In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah's new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this "school" is something much more sinister (goodreads).
If I had to sum Sanctuary Bay up in one word, it would be "silly."
Plot: Sanctuary Bay is the name of a very elite school that is just a bit strange. For example, no one can leave until graduation - that includes staff, and there just so happens to be a POW camp from World War II and asylum on the same island as the school. On top of that, there is a weird secret club and rumors of ghosts. It sounds like a great time, but it took physical effort for me to finish this one. There is just so much that happens and nothing sounds plausible. It reads like a very corny TV show in which there is an entire monologue to explain the sinister activity taking place on the island and there are secret clubs that desire human sacrifices and blood but yet dare new initiates to kiss a boy. No, no, no, nothing makes sense and I no longer want it in my life.
Characters: I was really excited when I first opened Sanctuary Bay because we have a diverse cast of characters. Sarah, our main character, is biracial, her roommate is Indian, and a handful of characters are Hispanic. I found it very interesting that because Sarah is biracial, she had difficulty placing her own identity, so she made a point of classifying others by race when first introduced. The diversity is the only thing believable about this cast of characters; their dialogue feels forced and only necessary to move the plot along. These kids are opening up about their tortured pasts and they've only known the other person for four weeks.
There is some awkward love story that isn't touched on whatsoever throughout the novel. I firmly believe that it had no place in this novel but was just added so that it could complete the YA trifecta (misunderstood girl, creepy school, LURVE).
World Building: The dean of the school explains that the school believes in a total immersion program, so no one can move leave the island. There is some strange cell phone technology that will even give you the exact GPS location of students and faculty which I thought was...breaking several laws. There isn't a lot of space to work with given that Sarah and her friends can only move around this island, and even though there are asylums and POW camps, I felt that the creepy factor was missing from this one.
Short N Sweet: Sanctuary Bay sounds good in theory, but reads like a poor 90s TV show.