Review: The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray

The Dollhouse Asylum
Mary Gray

Spencer Hill Press
I received a copy of this book through the Around the World ARC tour for review.
Releases October 22, 2013
296 pages
YA / Contemporary / Horror

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A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

At first, Elysian Fields, with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.

The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.

If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die.

If I were sane, I probably would have stopped reading this book a few chapters in when I started wanting to murder the protagonist myself. But no, I am me and I can’t stop reading a book in the middle unless it’s a rare occasion where I feel like I may die before reaching the conclusion. This book isn’t that bad. This book probably isn’t bad at all, but it hit so many trigger points that I’m really afraid that this review will quickly devolve into a rant of epic proportion.

Because what follows can turn into a rant, I can’t promise I won’t give plot points away, so SPOILER AHEAD, YO*!

First of all, the blurb is kind of a big fat lie or at least in the sense of it setting the scene of what’s going on here. I bought into the lie until I made it through the first chapter and realized that love interest Teo is a big fat CRAZY PSYCHOPATH and that the returning zombie illness was not a real thing. Because of that, the people who are classifying this as a dystopian novel on Goodreads kind of makes me sad. This is where my first button was pushed - Every character in this book is kind of stupid because they believed that Teo was “saving” them from this illness even though he drugged and kidnapped them in order to get them to the oasis of Elysian Fields.

Though ultimately what kept me from enjoying the crazy that is The Dollhouse Asylum was the narrator and main character Cheyenne. She is a love-sick teenage girl who fell hard for her attractive young math teacher. It’s a mixture of the thrill of a forbidden romance and a downright obsessive compulsion to be special and better than everyone else. That obsession makes her blind to the obvious and pushes her far past naive to downright oblivious. Teo, the before mentioned psychopathic math teacher, has his goon kidnap her by knocking her out with some mysterious chemical and wakes up to find herself tied to a chair in a creepy room with Teo lurking over her. Despite all this, she’s still madly in love with him and just thinks he’s eccentric and a genius.

I don’t even know how to put my exasperation towards Cheyenne into words at this point. I wanted someone to slap her and point out that only psychopaths do things like that. If the virus was real, why wouldn’t he have just asked her to join him in his out-of-nowhere fenced in community of Stepford houses instead of taking her against her will. She doesn’t doubt him when he starts verbally abusing her fellow abductees or verges on physical violence. Instead she makes out with him in his bedroom. It’s only when he kills some of her friends that she starts thinking that maybe he’s not such a great guy.

He has to KILL people before she recognizes that the warnings everyone has been giving her about how batshit crazy this Teo guy is might have some merit. Even then she can’t stop being obsessively in love with him. Though this also doesn’t stop her from beginning to fall “in love” with his younger brother, who is a fellow abductee. So in the end Cheyenne is only defined by her obsessive love of a psycho and her flighty lust towards his far saner, though also kind of odd brother. Outside of those relationships, she’s basically just an insecure and whiny teenage girl without much other dimension.

Had this story been told in third person without the filter of Cheyenne’s lack of self this could have been a great creepy story about an obsessive “genius” with a hair-trigger temper, who tortures a bunch of teenagers. It’s a horror movie all wrapped up, but the tension that could have come from the plot were marred by the internal monologue of a girl I wished would be the first on Teo’s hit list. She gave nothing substantial to the plot and almost all the other characters had more intriguing parts to play within the story. I think if this had been told from the point of view of Teo’s brother or through third person narrative, this entire story would have worked better for me.

The plot of The Dollhouse Asylum had potential that the main character squandered. What could have been a middle of the road horror novel was instead a study of a girl so insecure that she is only defined by the crazy man in her life. All the moments of tension dissolve in the shadow of Cheyenne’s lack of appeal and the menace that could have driven the story is diluted by her childish obsession that leaves her looking almost as crazy as the actual crazy person in the story.

 

* Fernando has been watching Breaking Bad and has started ending statements with “Yo” much like Jesse Pinkman and it might be a contagious illness. I apologize.

 

I received a copy of this book through the Around the World ARC tour in return for an honest review.