Plagued by nightmares from their summer in the Brookline asylum, Dan, Abby, and Jordan return to New Hampshire College for a prospective students’ weekend, only to find themselves caught in a dark and dangerous mystery.
Right off the bat, let me just say that this book isn’t my favorite in the trilogy. I really struggled in the beginning to get into this one because, for me, the story started off boring.
We start of the book with Dan getting a letter from Felix’s mother (Felix is the kid in Asylum who may or may not have been possessed by a dead serial killer known as ‘The Sculptor’), asking him to give her a call. He does, and soon finds out that she wants him to go to the mental hospital where her son is currently staying to speak with him because, apparently, he’s been asking for Dan for some time. Again, he does, and so Felix’s mother picks him up and the car ride is awkwardly silent.
Felix and Dan have a conservation about what happened in Brookline, with Felix insinuating that Dan “sees things that he shouldn’t be able to see,” as well as “know things that he shouldn’t be able to know,” like other people’s dreams. If you recall in the first book, Dan pretty quickly started having dreams about a past warden at Brookline who happens to share his name, Daniel Crawford. Because of that, Dan refuses to let anyone to use his elongated name, insisting on the shortened version, because he doesn’t want to acknowledge any possible connection the two might have.
Anyway, Dan’s visit with Felix quickly takes a turn, and ends with Felix screaming and Dan what I can only assume was confused, but not before Felix places something in Dan’s hand with the warning to not let them take it. Turns out, Felix had given him a piece of the same photograph that Abby and Jordan had said they’d received (they talked via Skype, or whatever, just after he got the letter from Felix’s mother), and the back of the photo was a row of numbers and one word that Dan quickly realized that it completed a sentence. That’s basically how they find themselves back NHCP, and just in time for a carnival long forgotten.
Dan, Abby, and Jordan meet their respective hosts for the weekend, Micah, Lara, and Cal, who’s a bit of an asshole, but we find out near the end of the book why. This is where the story gets more boring for me, because Dan, Abby, and Jordan aren’t really doing anything about why they’re at the college for about a day, a day in a half, just doing the standard meet-and-greets with other “prospies,” which is what the hosts call prospective students, as well as meeting more of the student body. It stretches on for a few chapters.
Eventually, they get back to the reason why they’re even in New Hampshire and all three decide to duck out of a campus party early to go sleuthing for answers but with no success that first night. We don’t get much detail about these houses, now that I think about it. We get two, maybe three pages of them going in, smelling mold, barely searching the house to find whatever it is they’re looking for, and then get out. So, while I can appreciate that the story picked up its pace, it all felt rushed, and some of the reactions to what was witnessed is kind of unbelievable to me. (Spoiler Alert: the kids witness a live lobotomy, and not one freaked the f**k out.)
There’s mention of an old campus cult called the Scarlets, and I honestly don’t know what their purpose was in this story, other than to reveal to the reader that the female professor from Asylum was the head of it and brainwashing students with a special hypnotic stone used by none other than Daniel Crawford, warden extraordinaire. Which, by the way, we do get some back story about why the Warden was the way he was; it was all about control. He was teased by his older brother and had dreams about controlling him, making him do whatever he wanted him to do, which was inevitably to make him fall off of the roof of his childhood home.
The trio breaks up, heading their separate ways after they find the body of Abby’s host and Abby is adamant about telling the police, but Dan thinks it’s a bad idea. Jordan takes her side, leaving Dan alone. Out pops Cal (I think) and dials the police to let them know about Dan’s friends heading that way, so now we know that Abby and Jordan are in trouble, and Dan gets a tranquilizer to the neck, and things come to a head inside Brookline, in the warden’s office.
There’s really no mention of Dan and Abby’s budding relationship; not that I care, but Dan has his concerns early on in the book, and then it’s just forgotten until the end after everything’s been somewhat resolved with both parties wanting to “see where it goes.” The reviews by other readers over on Goodreads are tearing this book a new one, but despite any issues I may have had, I still enjoyed the sequel, just not to the same extent as the first book, and I’m hoping the third and last, official novel will be better.
I won’t rate this a one- or two-stars like others have, but I will give it a three. It could have been better, but unfortunately, it was not.