Book Review: A Madness So Discreet

Posted May 31, 2016 by Kara in book review, Kara / 8 Comments

Book Review: A Madness So DiscreetA Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 6th 2015
Genres: young adult, historical, mystery-thriller
Pages: 376
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Buy on Amazon

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.

I had a dream about this book after I finished it. That so rarely happens. Though technically it had some flaws, I think it will really resonate with me over time. I also really love Mindy McGinnis’ characters.

The dark themes and violence I was expecting, and yet they surprised me all the same. I also loved that there wasn’t a romance, and this book proves that you don’t NEED a romance in every young adult book.

I can’t say that I loved this as much as Not a Drop to Drink, but I liked it quite a bit, and enough to say that I will read just about anything this author writes.

Trigger warning: View Spoiler »

Edited to add: I wrote the above the morning after I finished reading. I had just woken up, and realized an elaboration of the book had played out in my mind overnight, and though I don’t remember any of it now, was stupefied by the impact this novel clearly had on my subconscious mind. Which is weird, because that has almost never happened to me before. This made me stop and think about it and I decided to rate this book a half star higher than I would have had that not happened.

Grace really resonated with me as a character. I quickly forgot about most of the murder mystery that played out through the middle portion of the book. It almost felt entirely like filler, and I feel like it could have been added later during the editing process, once the author realized that the middle of the book might not have had enough conflict. It’s not that I didn’t like it, and it certainly helped deepen Grace’s character, and the character of Dr. Thornfellow.

Once again I loved the female friendship, and it seems a running theme in the books I am reading this year, and I am SO ecstatic about it. Female friendships can be tenuous, but when we find ladies that we mesh well with, the friendships can go deeper than most things that occur over our lifetime. It has taken me until my early to mid-thirties to find these women. So, ladies, don’t give up if you haven’t found them yet. You will at the right time. But until then, it’s books like these that keep you believing that true female bonds can exist.

The rest of this book was violent, dark, disturbing, and definitely unsettling, and I loved it. I wish the middle of the book had followed more closely with the first third and last, because those parts were definitely the most enjoyable. But where Mindy McGinnis excels the most is in her characters, Deep but flawed, with realistic characterizations that make them jump off the page. I loved Grace and her friends, but most of all I loved one particular friend that she met during a very dark time–Falsteed. And I hope you enjoy his character as much as I did. I love characters that confuse you and make you think. Falsteed did this and more.

A Madness So Discreet is gothic and atmospheric, but it also is an interesting examination of mental illness and how it was treated in the time period this book was written. I would definitely have been in an asylum if I were alive then, and most of the people I know would have been as well. Any man in your family could have you committed for almost any reason if you were a female, and good luck defending yourself. Women didn’t exactly have voices that were respected. Difficult to envision, isn’t it? And yet, it’s completely true. Very unsettling but enjoyable book.


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