A good thriller can be hard to come by, especially young adult thrillers. It just seems to be difficult to come across a carefully crafted, truly gripping novel that will pull you in and keep you reading until the end. Sanctuary Bay is one of those rare beauties that you just won’t be able to get enough of! There simply aren’t enough books like this one.
Let’s see…boarding school, secret societies, a creepy abandoned asylum…there are plenty of elements in this book that all tie together quite amazingly and make for a chilling read…coupled with interesting characters, a mystery, and a well written plot that will be sure to keep your attention.
While I’ve never attended boarding school, I have seen multiple horror movies (albeit most of them pretty terrible, but sometimes that’s what makes them good, right?) about boarding schools, and they’ve always had a sort of creepy allure to them that always seems like a great place for a horror story. I haven’t read a lot of thrillers with a boarding school as the setting, so Sanctuary Bay was on my list of books that I was incredibly excited for. I hadn’t read any reviews about this book, because I didn’t want to get a biased opinion of it before I even started reading…and let me tell you, this was simply one of the most amazing thrillers I’ve read in a while, and I can’t wait to read it again. The authors know how to create exciting characters that bring the story to life, and they were so enjoyable to get to know. The secret society aspect of it added to the book’s creepy-factor, and there was a great ending that you can’t even imagine until you read the book for yourself (and I’m not giving it away, because it’s a good one!).
Let’s talk a little about the actual plot of the book, shall we?
Sarah Merson has had a difficult life. Blessed (or cursed?) with a photographic memory, Sarah can remember pretty much everything from her childhood – including the day her parents were killed. Since then, she has been in foster homes, and has never had the kind of life that other kids take for granted. One day, she receives an invitation to attend Sanctuary Bay Academy, a special school that pretty much gives whoever goes there the chance to get into whatever college they want. Baffled, Sarah tries to research the school, but can find no information about it, even online. While Sarah is sure there must be some mistake (her grades aren’t that exceptional), she decides to go along with it and hope for the best. When she gets there and realizes that there was no mistake, and that she has indeed been accepted into Sanctuary Bay, she is over the moon – a chance at a new life, and something wonderful for once.
She immediately makes friends, and soon after that, is invited to join a secret society known as the Wolfpack. At first, the “missions” they are tasked with seem harmless (such as kissing a roommate’s boyfriend), and Sarah loves feeling included and important, for the first time in her life. But soon after, things start to seem a little strange. One night, the group plans to take things a little far, and the next day, Sarah seems to be the only one who remembers any of what they did the night before. Sarah starts to become a little confused about what could possibly be going on, and starts to wonder if the Wolfpack is as harmless as it once was, or if something else is going on.
During the book, Sarah has flashes of memories, usually brought on by outside experiences that remind her of them. These are scattered throughout the book – the most important one being of the day her parents were killed.
Although the ending of the book seemed a little bit rushed, it didn’t really bother me, because it was really well done and tied everything together nicely. The pacing in this book was perfect for being a thriller – there really weren’t any dull or boring moments.
Sanctuary Bay is a delightfully creepy and exciting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat from the first chapter through the very last page!
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Authors
Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz have written many books for teens and middle-grade readers, including the Edgar-nominated mystery series Wright and Wong and the YA novels Crave and Sacrifice. They have also written for the TV shows Roswell, 1-800-Missing, and The Dead Zone. Laura lives in New York and Melinda lives in North Carolina, but really they mostly live on email, where they do most of their work together.
“Where did you come up with the idea for Sanctuary Bay? Did you base it on anything?”
Everybody’s heard the writing advice “Write what you know.” We don’t have any experience with most of what happens in Sanctuary Bay. With this book, our motto was more “Write what you’d like to read.” With this book we decided to combine pretty much all of our favorite story elements.
Like boarding schools. And new friends. And bad boys. And nice boys. And secrets. And more secrets. And places (and people) that have dark and mysterious histories. And onions. There’s even a brief appearance by a dog. We really love dogs.
We were both enamored with the notion of boarding schools when we were growing up. They were very far from our experience and seemed like they’d be so fun—like an endless slumber party with your best friends and no parents to tell you to go to bed. So the school at the heart of our story is a boarding school.
But an endless and endlessly fun slumber party didn’t seem like quite enough to support a book, so we put the school on an island with a dark and mysterious history. (It has the ruins of both a POW camp and an insane asylum.) We added some twists and turns and secrets and more secrets. We can’t even talk about them, because Sanctuary Bay is an onion of a book (told you we love onions), and the fun comes from unpeeling layer after layer and realizing you still haven’t quite reached the center.
Of course we had to have boys of both the good and bad-ish variety Who to trust? Who to kiss?
Oh, we also love superpowers, so we kind of gave Sarah, our main character, one. She has a phenomenal memory. She can remember every detail of everything that’s ever happened to her. She actually re-experiences moments from her past in sense-o-rama, with sights, scents, sounds, tastes, and physical sensations. Like all superpowers, it’s a blessing and a curse. (And comes with great responsibility.)
And that’s how we came up with Sanctuary Bay. We talked about what we love in stories, and then we tried to put it all into one book.