Book Review: ‘A Madness So Discreet’ by Mindy McGinnis



What I love most about A Madness So Discreet is its attempt to be unlike any other young adult novel or any historical fiction piece set in the 1800’s. However this same attempt to be unique also is the novel’s greatest flaw; in trying to focus on the true gore and horror of asylums of the past, the author fails to recognize the true horror of the crimes committed against Grace and fails to make the entire novel shine.

What Grace Mae knows best is how to lock things away: she locks away madness, her voice, and her secrets. But these secrets come with consequences; they, 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 cellars, where a visiting doctor – Dr. Thornhollow — decides to utilize her keen eyes and sharp memory. Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship, hope, and the life she should have had. But this life is tinged with gruesome nights, nights that bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. To save others, Grace must hunt down a murderer. To save herself, she must confront the demons in her past.

As for the characters, Grace initially is the book world’s greatest heroine. She’s headstrong, smart, and brave. But soon this headstrong quality takes over her personality entirely; the decisions she makes throughout the book are risky at best and downright stupid at worst. I did not care for the rest of the characters. Obviously I shouldn’t care for the rapists or murderers, but the other characters were just too bland to connect to. Unfortunately, I couldn’t even connect to Thornhollow.

I also had issues with the plot. Aside from the slow placing of the first half, I just couldn’t agree with the ethics of the plot. The author paints a rapist as someone with a mental illness rather than as someone who is a genuinely horrible person. Additionally, I don’t believe in the eye for an eye philosophy that was preached by some of the characters. After all, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right? Apparently not in A Madness So Discreet.

Yet this book was mostly an enjoyable read; the prose was great, and the book overall is a commendable attempt to expand the scope of young adult fiction.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (October 6th, 2015)
Length: 384 pages (Hardcover)
ISBN #:  9780062320865
Source: ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Valerie is sixteen. She attends a boarding school near Boston, where she writes, reads, and attempts to be a studious student. She's too lazy to write the rest of this bio, so follow her on Twitter @torquoiseworld because shameless self-promotion is alive and thriving!