Book Review: Insanity by Susan Vaught

3/5 stars

Genre: thriller paranormal (with romance)

I love Susan Vaught. Before Insanity, I’d read three of her contemporary novels, and they were all amazing. Going Underground remains one of the most powerful stories I’ve ever read. She’s a therapist in real life, and her stories capture the raw humanity her job exposes her to.

However–this is her first paranormal novel (as far as I know). And it shows. It felt like a debut novel, with the quirks and not-quites I would expect from a much less experienced author.

cover insanity


Amazon description for Insanity:

Never, Kentucky is not your average scenic small town. It is a crossways, a place where the dead and the living can find no peace. Not that Forest, an 18-year-old foster kid who works the graveyard shift at Lincoln Hospital, knew this when she applied for the job. Lincoln is a huge state mental institution, a good place for Forest to make some money to pay for college. But along with hundreds of very unstable patients, it also has underground tunnels, bell towers that ring unexpectedly, and a closet that holds more than just donated clothing….When the dead husband of one of Forest’s patients makes an appearance late one night, seemingly accompanied by an agent of the Devil, Forest loses all sense of reality and all sense of time. Terrified, she knows she has a part to play, and when she does so, she finds a heritage that she never expected.

As always, no spoilers:

I loved the beginning of this book. Forest, who I thought was the main character (and kinda is), is lovable and relatable. She was the perfect mix of strong, righteous, and freaked the hell out when everything started going insane. She meets the Love Interest (Levi), and he’s perfectly dark, creepy, and hot in the paranormal fashion.

And then, a quarter of the way through the book, she isn’t the main character anymore. Part two is told from a different POV, someone you haven’t even met in part one. Time has passed, the conflict of part one has basically vanished. It was disorienting and off-putting. From then on, I had trouble telling what was going on–especially as the paranormal elements got weirder and weirder and it stopped being clear what was metaphorical and what was literally happening.

Part three is another POV. Part four is a fourth.

By that time, I was annoyed. I felt like we never spent enough time with any character to get them to feel real (something I associate with Susan Vaught’s books).

The romance was Instalove. We never saw Forest and Levi fall in love,  it just happened, so I never understood the basis of their relationship. As the cast of characters grew, the dynamic between the characters became less and less realistic, with people forgiving each other and working together when it made sense for grudges to be held, and held firmly.

Each part of the book had its own conflict, which could have been an interesting effect, if Susan Vaught had been able to pull it off. However, though parts one and four were compelling, parts two and three were confusing and borderline annoying. I finished the book grudgingly, and only out of a hatred of giving up on books and a faith in Susan Vaught.

This review reads very negatively. However, I want it to be clear that this book isn’t horrible. It feels like a debut novel for an author still trying to figure out how to build a story without leaning on the tropes of their genre. I love Susan Vaught as a writer and I expected so much from this book, that as soon as I realized it wasn’t up to her usual standards, I was let down, and then judged the book more harshly.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes paranormal or wants a scare (parts of this book are seriously scary). I’d also like to give a shout-out to Susan Vaught’s other books, because they really are worth reading.

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