From New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel comes the emotional story of a grieving teenager sent to a boarding school that is nothing like she expected. When Moira Dreyfuss's parents announce that they're sending her to an all-girls boarding school deep in the Maine woods, Moira isn't fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she's been too much trouble since her best friend, Nathan, died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the odd headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn't interested in getting over Nathan's death or befriending her fellow students. On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside...and learn that they're not so isolated after all. There's another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too. Moira is convinced that the Castle Schools and the doctors who run them are hiding something. But exploring the schools will force Moira to confront her overwhelming grief―and the real reasons her parents sent her away.
The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)Featured
Moira arrives feeling rejected and highly skeptical of the school and its mission. There are eleven other girls there, who are each dealing with their own issues. They have group therapy in the morning, followed by a loose class, and then personal therapy in the afternoon. When Moira finds the lock on the window broken, she sneaks out and finds another Castle School that seems completely different, beginning with the students being boys.
As Moira spends time with the girls at the school, she begins to learn more about herself, her emotions, and how to move forward. The book is told mostly from Moira's perspective over time, with interludes from each of the girls in the school about the way that they developed the symptom that led them to The Castle School. I found the writing to be compelling, and although it seemed like a mystery/thriller, this ended up being more of a contemporary fiction about grief and healing.
The story took a few twists I was not expecting, but I found it all to come together fairly well. I appreciated seeing Moira's interactions with the others and getting insights into her therapy, as well as glimpses into her past and how these reflections change over time. The pacing seemed to change between the beginning, middle, and end, and the tone similarly changed. While it was not what I expected, I did appreciate the story. I really found the interludes of each of the girls to be particularly compelling, almost as short stories that pulled the reader in and which could have stood alone.
Overall, I found it to be a compelling YA contemporary.