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Reviewed by:
  • The Castle School (for Troubled Girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel
  • Kiri Palm
Sheinmel, Alyssa The Castle School (for Troubled Girls). Sourcebooks, 2021 [400p]
Trade ed. ISBN 9781728220987 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781728220994 $17.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 7–10

Since Moira’s best friend died, she can’t stop skipping school to visit his grave, so her parents send her off to the Castle School in rural Maine. Surrounded by eleven other girls, each with their own mental health or behavioral issues, freezing in the Castle’s chilly hallways, and cut off from technology, civilization, and even clocks and calendars, Moira wonders how she’s supposed to “recover” from Nathan’s death without any distractions. Then she makes a bizarre discovery: the Castle School has a mirror twin, an identical building on the other side of the forest where twelve teenage boys receive their own treatment. Are the two schools the result of a psychological experiment performed by the married Doctors Prince? Is there some magic portal to another world? And, strangest of all, is Moira starting to love and befriend the other students of the Castle Schools? What may seem like a gothic tale is actually realism seen through Moira’s skewed viewpoint. While an ever-present cloud looms over Moira’s narration, her voice is sarcastic, witty, and rarely self-pitying. She is pragmatic in her unpleasant circumstances, certain that she’s handling her grief well and her parents are simply overreacting, but she grows to understanding that she isn’t as strong as she thinks, that her refusal to cry or even speak Nathan’s name are signs of a significant rip in her heart. Third-person interludes describing each of the other girls and their opinions of their ailments allow for exposition and understanding, providing nuanced reminders that not all disorders are as clear-cut as we might think. It’s an effective exploration of mental illness, and it will share a coveted place on reading lists with Laurie Halse Anderson and Patricia McCormick. [End Page 315]



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