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Young Adult Fiction 334
intriguing suspense read
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THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE is an intriguing suspense read that follows Hannah and Jordan. The reader first meets Hannah while she is having a breakdown in a store, accosted by the police, and then taken to a mental institution. She has been in and out of there for years, and they do not really know how to treat her. She has some features of schizophrenia but does not quite look like the textbook. Hannah experiences a life in the 1300s where she was a peasant, and she frequently escapes there mentally.

Jordan is a college student who wants to learn more about mental health facilities. On his first day of shadowing, Hannah is brought in, and he feels a connection with her, wanting to help her. As he talks with her, he begins to consider what could have caused the psychosis and how it might be treated.

What I loved: The story was intriguing with the 2 timelines, primarily the historical timeline seems to be stronger as Hannah is living a full life surrounded by death there. The timelines are interspersed with documents from the mental health facility and police, primarily regarding Hannah, but sometimes about other residents as well. It certainly created an intriguing mystery that readers will be eager to see played out.

What left me wanting more: I struggle with the representation of mental illness here, as the therapeutic approach versus Jordan's were a bit of a mess. Other residents seemed superfluous and it was tough to get to know and care about them. I think it could have been a stronger story if we had focused more on the present Hannah and her time in the institution as well as seen some of the benefits (maybe for other residents) of treatment. The resolution provided at the end did not feel like enough given all the build up, in terms of how the timeline skips at the end (being vague so as not to give spoilers). I also struggled with some of the personality flips/rapid changes and evolving power dynamics, though I suppose this was also representative of the way things begin to unravel.

Final verdict: Overall, THE GIRL IN THE CASTLE is an intriguing suspense read, but I would have liked a stronger impact of the mental illness themes and a more focused story overall.
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