Escape from Asylum: Asylum, Book 0.5

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Escape from Asylum: Asylum, Book 0.5 Book Poster Image
Repetitive prequel best for longtime fans.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Paints a disturbing picture of how the medical establishment sometimes victimized patients in earlier times.

Positive Messages

The mentally ill deserve safe treatment and respect.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ricky Desmond has a hard time disguising his sarcastic demeanor, but he learns to keep his rebelliousness hidden. He feels compassion for his fellow inmates.

Violence

Much of the violence in Escape from Asylum is implied rather than shown. In one disturbing scene, a patient is lobotomized. Ricky and other patients are hosed down with freezing and scalding water. Others undergo shock treatments against their will.

Sex

Ricky is bisexual and sometimes recalls encounters he's had with other boys, though not in graphic detail.

Language

About a dozen uses each of "hell" and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ricky takes prescription drugs as part of his treatment but does not enjoy their effects. In one party scene, adults drink alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Escape from Asylum is a historical prequel to the Asylum horror series by Madeleine Roux. Set in a mental institution, the book details mistreatment of patients at the hands of medical practitioners. Violent scenes include a lobotomy and patients being violently hosed down with freezing and scalding water. Swearing is limited to a dozen or so uses of "hell" and "damn." The volume contains illustrations based on photos from actual asylums.

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What's the story?

ESCAPE FROM ASYLUM opens with Ricky Desmond's admittance to Brookline Hospital, where he's to be treated for "deviance." He befriends Kay, a musician formerly known as "Keith," and together, with the assistance of a seemingly sympathetic nurse, they begin to plot his escape from the institution. Standing in their way is the mysterious warden, who takes a special interest in Ricky and has something undoubtedly awful planned for him. What is the source of the screams that emanate from the basement, and what secret procedures are performed on unwitting patients? These are only some of the mysteries that must be solved before Ricky can hope to make his getaway.

Is it any good?

Sometimes a prequel to a popular series can add something enlightening to what's gone before, but this supposedly stand-alone volume doesn't offer much for the interested newcomer. In Escape from Asylum, Ricky, Kay, Nurse Ash, the warden, and the other denizens of Brookline are interesting characters, but they are also somewhat static. The plot seems to repeat itself, serving up creepy dream sequences, foreboding encounters, and cryptic clues without making a break into fresh territory. Readers familiar with the series may appreciate the tidying up of some loose ends, but the uninitiated may feel left in the dark.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Escape from Asylum relates to real-life cases of abuse at mental hospitals. How has the understanding of mental illness changed over the years?

  • Ricky identifies as bisexual, and Kay is transgender. How has understanding about sexual and gender identity changed since the time when this book is set?

  • What do the photo illustrations add to the reading experience of Escape from Asylum? How can you determine if a photo is "real"?

Book details

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