I’ve just finished reading the winner for the October Spooky read for a Facebook read-along group that I help run, Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn. This is a YA Horror, mental health book that was written based partially on real life experiences from the author.
Two main characters, Emilie a current day modern rockstar who suffers from bipolar disorder and severe depression with manic episodes causing periods of time where reality isn’t easily discernible for her, and a Victorian girl named Emily who was sold to a despicable wealthy society man for personal desires, of whom she tries to escape and ends up attempting suicide. Then Emily is reported for her attempted suicide by the same man and committed to the local Asylum. Throughout the book Emilie finds these letters from Victorian Emily narrating her stay in the Asylum and documenting the horrid, poor living conditions and the atrocities and nightmarish experiments/treatments performed on the unfortunate inmates of the Asylum, regardless of whether they are certifiably crazy or not. As the two girl’s worlds collide, you’re given the experience of what it was like to live back during the Victorian era with the first mental institutions and shown what it is like in modern day for someone with mental health disorders and the current treatment. We’ve come leaps and bounds, but so much is still unknown. Sad, so sad.
I am left with a myriad of emotions after reading this book, which will most likely stick with me for a while. There were moments of terror, moments of spooky happenings, and eye opening passages providing an insightful glance into what it’s like living with mental illness. I’m so glad that this book proved to fulfill our Spooky October read, but still allow readers to learn from it. I do not recommend this book to those who are very emotionally sensitive, or for those faint of heart as it is a tough story to swallow and there are some very graphic and disturbing situations. If you can tough it out, you won’t be disappointed. I gave this book 3/5 stars not because it was a story that was lacking, but because the switching of characters was hard to track in the beginning and because the ending felt a little rushed but then dragged out with the journal entries. I understand their purpose, as they played an important part to helping us understand what it is like inside the mind of someone with a mental illness, but I feel the very end wasn’t the best place for them. All in all, a good read.