Title: Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Supernatural
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by the NetGalley
When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.
In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah’s new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this “school” is something much more sinister.
Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz is an intriguing young adult novel with supernatural elements.
In the foster care system since her parents’ deaths when she was three years old, Sarah Merson cannot believe her good fortune when she is presented with a scholarship to attend the elite Sanctuary Bay Academy. Set on a secluded island off the coast of Maine, the majority of students are from privileged and wealthy families, so Sarah is out of her depth and uncertain of her reception by her classmates. Pleasantly surprised by their easy acceptance of her, she shares a suite with two other teenagers, Isobel “Izzy” Trescott and Karina Sharma and they are quick to include her in their circle of friends. Curious about her new roommates mysterious midnight excursions, Sarah follows them one night and when she is discovered, she is invited to join a secret society known as the Wolfpack. Seemingly harmless, she enjoys being a member of the pack, but when a prank goes too far one night and Karina goes missing, Sarah turns to Karina’s indolent boyfriend, Ethan Steere, to help search for her.
Given her past, Sarah is somewhat guarded and finds it difficult to trust people. She has a bit of a chip on her shoulder and she is quick speak her mind when her temper gets the best of her. Sarah easily jumps to conclusions on occasion and lashes out at those around her when she feels threatened. She is little curious about some of the strange happenings but overall, Sarah is happy with her new school and she is grateful for the opportunity to make a better life for herself.
Ethan is indifferent to the opportunities provided to him at the academy and unlike most of his classmates, he is not happy about being on the island. He is deliberately antagonistic to many of the students and his relationship with Karina is rather rocky. He is a rule breaker who defies authority and he has a bad boy reputation with the school’s administrators and his fellow students. Ethan’s rebellion and antisocial tendencies make him the perfect person for Sarah to turn to when she needs help searching for Karina.
The first half of Sanctuary Bay is pretty ordinary with Sarah and her friends going to class and hanging out together. There are a few anomalies that pique Sarah’s curiosity but she easily sets these troubling questions aside. It is not until she joins the Wolfpack that the plot turns a little more sinister. Even then, there is nothing too troubling other than a few creepy rituals which include drinking a concoction that heightens Sarah’s senses and experiences. However, Karina’s disappearance ups the ante and Sarah is truly frightened by her friends’ inexplicable behavior. It is not until she and Ethan begin making progress with their investigation into Karina’s disappearance that Sarah’s fear turns to horror as they uncover shocking information about Sanctuary Bay.
With a compelling and unusual storyline, Sanctuary Bay is a fascinating young adult mystery. With one notable exception, the characters are well developed and three-dimensional. Although rather slow-paced in the beginning, the novel thunders to an action packed and exciting conclusion. Although most of the loose ends are tied up, a few unanswered questions will leave readers hoping that Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz plan to write a follow-up novel starring Sarah and Ethan. All in all, an enjoyable contemporary young adult novel that I recommend to readers of all ages.