by Mindy McGinniss
To be published on
October 6, 2015
by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: eARC for review from the publisher
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
My take: There were things I really liked about A Madness So Discreet, and other things that frustrated me a little.
On the positive side: Grace is a strong, admirable heroine who goes through a lot in the course of the story. When the story begins, she's locked in an asylum in turn of the century Boston, a place with terrible conditions. As the synopsis indicates, Grace is also pregnant. The asylum scenes were really hard to read, but I think the real-life story of Nellie Bly shows that conditions for the mentally ill were definitely horrific at the time. A Madness So Discreet offers a lot of great feminist themes and storylines.
However, for me the book also had some issues with consistency in its pacing and story goals. Grace got out of the asylum about a third of the way through the book, and I thought I'd be relieved to have the story move out of that dark place. But after Grace escaped, the plot started to drag. The story switched to a murder mystery, as Grace and some new associates tried to find the person responsible for the serial killings of string of young women. The plot did gain some tension again as Grace valiantly tried to protect someone close to her from harm, but in its last quarter, the book seemed to shift into something else yet again: a revenge story. Grace does something pretty shocking, something that made me wonder if she was mentally ill all along. It's possible that creating that ambiguity was the book's intent, but when the story spent two-thirds of its pages trying to convince me that Grace -- and many of the other asylum patients -- had been locked up unfairly, I was confused. Is Grace an innocent victim or a dark avenging angel? I think the book wanted her to be both, but I needed to see her trajectory more clearly. Overall, I wanted more cohesiveness from this story-- of plot, of pace, and of themes.
Though A Madness So Discreet wasn't perfect for me, it definitely had its high points. If you've loved YA historical fiction with strong feminist themes like The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters or A Mad Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller, you should definitely give this book a try.
It sounds like you relatively enjoyed the book. I think I can appreciate its darkness as well, but the slowing down of the pace towards the end makes me wary.ReplyDelete
I usually love mysteries but this one didn't feel that connected to the story. Things did get back on track again though ...Delete
We're review twins today! I really enjoyed this one!! Though those exact things didn't really bother me, I can definitely see where you're coming from. :)ReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it! Off to check out your review :)Delete
This sounds really good, the dark atmosphere with mystery, murder and new hope for Grace who seems like a strong heroine. But, I think I would be let down a touch with the ending - those vague ones sometimes frustrates me.ReplyDelete
Lovely review, Jen :)
Sounds like an unfortunate genre mash-up that didn't quite work. Pity, because the premise is nothing short of mind-blowing!ReplyDelete
Oh I hate when a book drags!! But I am super curious now to find out what she does that is shocking - Great review!!ReplyDelete
I really need to read something by Cat Winters.ReplyDelete
After reading Not a Drop to Drink, I knew that me and this author would have a love/hate relationship. I liked some elements of it, but really didn't like others. I can see the same happening with A Madness so Discreet. But yaay feminist MC!
I have this one to review and it sucks that the plot started to drag, I'm not sure how I'll feel about that as I'm usually not great with slow plots :/ And it seems like it would be confusing with all the switching plot lines. I'll have to lower my expectations before picking this one up.ReplyDelete
Excellent review, Jen. I am a little leary about this book too…but I think I’m going to read it anyway since I do love YA historical fiction and it seems like it has some good parts. :PReplyDelete
It sounds interesting, but I am like you I don't like it when books aren't consistent!ReplyDelete
I think I will give this one a try, bearing your critique in mind. You had me with the Cat Winters comparison. Great review!ReplyDelete