The eerie atmosphere of Asylum (2013) has a hard time making itself felt in this sequel.
After Dan Crawford and his friends were nearly murdered at New Hampshire College, the site of a former mental hospital, they find themselves haunted. Abby and Jordan receive cryptic old carnival photos, and Dan is urged by the boy who almost killed him to return to NHC and “follow” the photographs. Dan, Abby and Jordan pose as prospective freshmen, arriving to find crowds of unrealistic college students and a bizarre mess involving hypnotism, a mysterious stone and a cult called the Scarlets. Plagued by what might be ghosts or hallucinations, Dan uses his vague mental connection with the asylum’s former warden to investigate the Scarlets and discovers that he’s not the only one with ties to the asylum. The plot meanders, and the characters develop very little beyond a romance between Dan and Abby; Dan’s possible relationship with the warden remains unexplored, and his own mental illness is so unspecific that it’s unclear whether he’s possessed or hallucinating. Mock photos of carnival performers are interesting but don’t always match the text, so they feel disruptive. The ending delivers a disturbing moment with creepy implications, but the disorganized buildup still reduces its impact.
Fans of Asylum will want to read this, but they shouldn’t expect a logical continuation of the first book. (Fiction. 14-18)