I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 6, 2015
Source: the publisher
Grace Mae knows madness.
She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.
When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.
In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.
A Madness So Discreet was nothing like I expected it to be. It was my first Mindy McGinnis book and I really enjoyed it! The beginning was a bit odd (though not necessarily in a bad way), but after that, it got super intriguing. McGinnis’ writing style takes some getting used to but she really dives into the world she creates and you can’t help but dive in right along with her!
The first 90 pages were very blunt, in-your-face and completely unapologetic. Honestly, the whole book was like that, but it was especially apparent in the beginning, when we saw the way Grace was treated in a less-than upstanding insane asylum. The way women used to be thrown in asylums simply because their husband or father (or any male in their life) said, “yep, she’s crazy. Lock her up!” was completely horrifying, sick and twisted.
Grace was a pretty amazing character. She faced a LOT of hard times – and that’s an understatement. One thing that happened to Grace – the thing that got her sent to the asylum in the first place – was truly heinous. I don’t want to spoil it and, to be honest, it’s not something I’ve dealt with very much and I don’t think I could discuss it properly/do it justice, so I’m just going to say that it was horrifying and no one ever deserves to go through what she experienced, never mind the fact that she was deemed “crazy” to hide the heinous act of another. Though I won’t elaborate (because spoilers) and I don’t know much about the subject, I will say that it felt like McGinnis handled it very well in the context of this book.
With everything Grace went through, I feel like she was a very strong, fierce character. She didn’t let what she experienced harden her. She didn’t lose herself in the asylum – though there was that one moment…. But in the end, she faced the things that haunted her and saw justice served. She found a place for herself and made her own happiness.
Thornhollow was an interesting but frustrating character. It was hard to get a good read on him. He rescued Grace from a very bad situation, but he did it more for himself than for her. He had a bit of a one track mind when it came to his work. Sometimes that was a good thing, but sometimes it made him very stubborn and he refused to listen to Grace or accept alternate theories on a certain subject. I also didn’t see much character growth in him. He stayed pretty much the same throughout, though he had a few moments where he learned important lessons and seemed to embrace those lessons.
Adelaide was an epic character. She said whatever was on her mind, never holding anything back. I thought she was hilarious and sarcastic and loved the way she sided so quickly with Grace, rather than Thornhollow. Their bond was awesome.
There were a lot of secondary characters that I really came to like – and some I strongly disliked. I appreciated the way McGinnis showed that there were good and bad people in this world and not everyone was who they seemed. At the first asylum, you had Croomes and Mr. Heedson, who were evil and horrible. But then you had Mrs. Clay, who was a kind old lady. And then there’s Falsteed, who was super creepy and weird and who seemed to be straddling that line of good versus evil. But there was still something likable about him.
At the second asylum, Grace met Nell and Lizzie, both of whom I really liked. Despite their circumstances, they still managed to hold their heads high. Nell was fierce and spoke her mind, while Lizzie was more perceptive that people gave her credit for, as well as fiercely loyal.
This book’s pacing was a bit odd. Sometimes, it slowed down and I had to push to get through certain sections. Other times, I sped through 50 pages without even realizing it. The beginning was hard to get through because of the conditions of the first asylum and the things that Grace was subjected to. But once I got through that, the pace picked up and stayed up for awhile before it began slowing a little bit. The ending, though, will have you flipping pages as fast as you can!
Overall, this book was Criminal Minds in the form of YA historical fiction. If you like criminology and criminal psychology, you’re going to love this book! The characters are complex, flawed and wonderful. McGinnis is an amazing author and her writing will pull you in and refuse to let go. Trigger warning for sexual assault – If books with that topic bother you, you may want to avoid this book or read with caution. I highly recommend this book for fans of psychological thrillers and historicals!