Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Sanctum Book Poster Image
Creepy, violent Asylum sequel has some gore.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The weird, historic photos and some of the plot allusions (such as the CIA's mid-20th-century experiments with LSD) may inspire readers to explore dark chapters of the past.

Positive Messages

Be a loyal friend ... because you can't really trust anyone, and evil forces seem to never really go away. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The teen protagonists have a noble objective in trying to stop the evil forces that first appeared in AsylumThey share a strong bond and try to keep each other safe while waltzing into one deadly peril after another. However, they routinely lie to their parents about where they are and what they're doing.


Murders, torture, ice-pick lobotomies, and mind control are essential to the plot and presented with amped-up creepiness. The illustrations and weird archival photos add to the scary vibe.


Daniel and Abby are boyfriend/girlfriend, but they have little time for romance. Their friend Jordan, who's gay, is attracted to a college student; huddled in the bushes, he refers to the plants as getting to second base.


Typical teen profanity and crude language, including "s--t," "crap," "pissed,"  "damn," "hell," "hard-on."


Frequent mentions of commercial products, mostly to set scenes or define characters: J. Crew, Galaxy Quest, Goldschäger (a Swiss liquor), M. Night Shyamalan, Google. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

During a college tour, a student guide gives alcoholic drinks to teens, and they encounter many drunken students, and at least one who appears to have smoked pot. Mention of the CIA's work with LSD. A character is taking unspecified "meds."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sanctum, the second installment in Madeline Roux's Asylum saga, continues the creepy adventures of teens Dan, Abby, and Jordan. They lie to their parents and must deal with sinister professors, red-robed figures, drunken frat parties, and several gory murders, some seen in hallucinations and dreams, as well as lobotomies, past and present. Lots of creepiness, with old, strange photos involving carnivals and circus freaks.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byvictorianmermaid August 6, 2015

Very creepy but great read

I am very interested in creepy things like asylums and circus' so this was perfect. It is quite scary. Younger readers proceed with caution. Nightmare indu... Continue reading

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What's the story?

Teens Dan, Abby, and Jordan may have emerged alive from the events in Asylum, but they're not exactly back to normal. Dan's haunted by nightmares, most involving his late relative and namesake, the warden of a creepy insane asylum. His friends also are dealing with weirdness. Determined to get their lives back, they return to the college campus that houses the former asylum. In short order they're dealing with drunken frat boys, sinister robed figures, endless stashes of old photos and documents, a scary professor, plus several murders and lobotomies. Will our heroes survive? And what does all this have to do with the long-dead-but-still-terrifying warden?

Is it any good?

Genre fans will have a good time with zombie novelist Madeleine Roux's fast-paced, spooky narrative. The author turned to teen horror with Asylum, and, as in Book 1, SANCTUM brings many of the genre's staples, starting with likable but boneheaded high schoolers who, against all reason, open that door, go into the woods, and break into that house, driven by motives that require a whopping suspension of disbelief. The novel comes complete with secret societies, mad scientists, the CIA, mind control, and a kitchen sink full of other perils -- all made more vivid and nightmare-inducing with dozens of found historic photos of old carnivals and circus freaks.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the current popularity of books telling a story through strange-looking found photos. Have you read any others? What's the appeal? How does the Asylum series compare with others?

  • Why is mind control such a popular -- and usually sinister -- theme in storytelling? Are there any circumstances under which it would be OK?

  • Pick one of the photos in the book and make up a story about it that has nothing to do with the story here.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love horror and mystery

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