The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum
He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient–a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side.
Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.
Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.
Hi and welcome to my review of We Are Monsters! Massive thanks to Anne Cater for the invite and of course to Flame Tree Press for the gorgeously creepy ARC!
Good grief, I don’t even know where to start! Looking back, this was an utter mindfuck of a book and I loved it! By the end, I felt like I’d had a bit of a psychotic break myself! But in a good way! This is like the literary equivalent of Christopher Nolan’s Inception and my mind kinda feels like mush. But in a good way! Hang on while I try to explain.
We start out in a mental hospital, perfectly normal and very respectable; we end up in an insane asylum that’s the stuff of nightmares. In a way, it feels like the actual book had an actual psychotic break. Starting out perfectly normal and descending into madness, dragging the reader along in a bookish folie à deux.
Sugar Hill mental asylum has two top psychiatrists working hard to cure their patients, or if not cure, then at least improve their quality of life. Eli has a very humane approach, a gentle hand, and is not one to knock his patients out with drugs. His protégé Alex is far more ambitious and is actively seeking to actually cure schizophrenia. Now, I know this is a book blog and not The Lancet but I do feel the need to talk about schizophrenia for a minute here, please bear with me, because I think that it’s a largely misunderstood mental illness. Schizophrenia has many faces and is different for all patients. Some hear voices, some see visions, some might be depressed or anxious, some turn to violence and I fear this last one is what most people think of when they hear the words psychotic or psychosis, when in fact most patients turn the violence inward (hate on themselves, mentally or even physically) but wouldn’t hurt a fly. I’m telling you this, well, because it’s important and also because it’s what the first part of We Are Monsters explores. Not in the words I’ve just used, but the reader is shown a glimpse of realistic psychotic behaviour and the effects and side effects of anti-psychotics. I used to be close to somehow who suffered from schizophrenia and little details all throughout that first part of the book brought back a lot of memories. The author says that it was extremely important to him to portray mental illness accurately and it more than shows that he did his research. I was expecting loads of over the top supernatural stuff in an insane asylum, and of course there was some of that, but I didn’t expect the realistic reflection of mental illness and I very much appreciated that part, for me it had a serious impact.
So We Are Monsters starts out a bit of a slow-burner and I have to admit it took me a minute to get into the story, mainly, I think, because like I said my expectations were a bit off. It didn’t help that I didn’t really like any of the main characters, I couldn’t stand Alex at first. As they evolved, I did warm to them, including Alex, who without question has the steepest character arc of them all. I felt a distinct difference in pacing, but I didn’t mind that at all, since it’s not all over the place, the pace is rather slow at first, and then picks up gradually, gaining speed as the story progresses. My reading somehow matched the pacing of the story: I ran through the last part while I strolled leisurely through the first ones.
I thought I’d have monsters leap at me from every other page. They did not. We Are Monsters is far more insidious. The monsters are lurking from the shadows, whispering cruel nothings in your ear, there but not there, mere shapes in your peripheral vision that disappear when you turn your head. I thoroughly enjoyed We Are Monsters and all its layers and levels. If you, like me, like your horror with both realism and mindfuckery, this is the one for you!