When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Sarah Merson has been in the foster system since she was a toddler. She heard her parents die and since then has relived the moment and many other super-shitty moments thanks to her eidetic memory. The only benefit her eidetic memory has ever offered her is the ability to kick ass and take names in school. Because of her academic success, Sarah has been tapped to receive a full scholarship to Sanctuary Bay, an elite academy populated by mostly uber-wealthy kids who have more money than sense.
Knowing she hit the foster kid lottery, Sarah goes into Sanctuary Bay with the intention of doing her very best so she will have a chance when she graduates. Her first impression of the Academy is one of wonder and awe as it is a completely isolated island which the students (and faculty) never leave. The classes are easy for Sarah but fitting in with the wealthy kids is a bit harder. With two roommates, one super nice and one a bit scary, Sarah has a sort of instant social circle which she works hard to fit into. Before long, Sarah isn’t just a part of the in-crowd but is also asked to become a member of an exclusive secret society. The group is beyond weird and into some somewhat sketchy stuff but for the first time in her life, Sarah feels like she belongs. And then everything takes a left turn at Albuquerque.
Sarah has done her level best to avoid contact with her roommate’s boyfriend, Ethan. In Sarah’s estimation, Ethan generally has a very bad attitude and underappreciates the opportunities offered to him by the Academy. However, some of his crazy starts to make sense when things with the secret club start going sideways. Ethan has been at the Academy for a lot of years and when Sarah begins asking questions about Sanctuary Bay, the asylum ruins, and the island’s history, Ethan becomes a valuable source of information. When the information starts coming together into a cohesive whole, Sarah finds she needs Ethan more than ever especially if the two of them want to stay alive. Holy Hannah!! What Sarah and Ethan discover about Sanctuary Bay goes beyond even the wildest imaginings of the most ardent conspiracy theorist!!
The Bottom Line: Sanctuary Bay is one wild ride. Just when I wrapped my head around high school kids having near-orgies and classrooms filled with millions of dollars’ worth of tech, and a site so remote not even the teachers leave, the left turn at Albuquerque happens. The turn Sanctuary Bay takes is a pretty wide left turn and may turn some readers off but I found its weirdness to be right in line with everything else about the Academy. Sanctuary Bay isn’t just about a bunch of rich kids at an ultra-exclusive school. Oh, no!! Sanctuary Bay is about a bunch of rich kids (and Sarah!) ant an ultra-exclusive school that has a sordid and nasty history that involves so many levels of deception and deceit as to be nearly implausible. I sort of loved it and the deeper I got into the read the more I enjoyed the crazy. This isn’t your typical high school read and I would caution any reader to go into this with a completely open mind because the turns this one takes will leave you reeling. Now you totally want to read this, don’t you?? My work here is done . .