From Kelley Armstrong’s Website
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.
Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.
The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.
The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.
Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to find out that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.Kelley Armstrong, The Masked Truth
What I loved
I couldn’t put down this story. The violence is quite high, but the gore is minimal, and the reader isn’t given much time to process it, much the same way that many YA stories have been written. (I’m looking at you Hunger Games.) The key is survival, and as a reader I’m rooting for Riley and Max the whole time.
The characters are wonderful. Kelley Armstrong weaves in mental illness in this book really well, embedding it into each character the way mental illness is embedded in our lives. Riley was once a happy outgoing teen who needs counselling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after witnessing the murder of a couple, and then living with the guilt that she survived. Complicating it is everyone calling her a hero for hiding their daughter. Survivor’s guilt is a tangible thing for Riley.
Max is wonderful. His mental illness and his attempts to fight it, and the struggle to be normal like he used to pre-diagnosis, is a breath of fresh air.
Without giving it away, what I love about this story is how much Kelley Armstrong voices the tropes that have hurt so many with mental illness, all while putting the characters through hell. Through Max we see real world bias against teens and adults with mental illness, the fear and loathing. And we root for them all the same. We also understand the complexities of these illnesses, and realize that each person with an illness is more complicated than the label of that illness.
We want the happy ending, knowing especially with teenagers with mental health issues, that we are getting one that’s happy for now.
What I didn’t love
The mental health facilities, both in hospital and where they were held hostage.
I mean, I get that Kelley Armstrong needed a setting like this, a labyrinth of places for the characters to hide so they’re hunted. It amps up the tension.
And this is likely my architecture background talking, especially given that I’ve been designing mental health facilities since 2005, but I just didn’t buy that a therapist team would ever recommend a group counselling session in a factory building under construction in a city.
Yes it serves both the plot and the story. But any research in current mental health facilities will tell you that “a windowless space” is the least healing space ever. It wouldn’t focus the teens on their healing without distraction. It would aggravate them and set them off. In healthcare design, views to nature are called “positive distraction.”
I would probably have believed it more if they were simply in a city with no outdoor space.
The hospital security was another thing altogether. Again, knowing healthcare facilities and the careful balance that they place on security and welcome, for me, it was a big nope.
Did it take away my enjoyment of the story? Nope. I had to suspend a few moments of disbelief, but that’s it. The story isn’t for me. It’s a YA story. So if the reader has experience with mental health, or a loved one who has been hospitalized, they might get pulled out of the story too.
Riley Vasquez, 1st person; Max Cross, Close 3rd.
External: Thriller – Psychological / Person in Jeopardy; Action-Dual: Hunted.
Global Values: Life and death / Damnation
Core Emotion: Excitement
Controlling idea: When we express our inner gifts and face our fears, we survive.
Internal: Worldview – Maturation
Global Values: Naïveté /Wisdom
Core Value: Relief (not quite satisfaction)
Romance: kissing only
Reality Clover: Real, Present Day