Sanctuary Bay

By Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz 

Reviewed by SA

Have you ever read a book that just clicked for you? That defied all expectations, that had you clutching the pages wishing for more, that had your heart pounding so hard your friends and family were worried about you? Every once and a while, a book like that comes into my life. The rare five star reads that make you feel like you need to shout off rooftops. Sanctuary Bay was one of those books for me, and I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to say how much of a great read it was.


When Sarah Merson receives the opportunity of a lifetime to attend the most elite prep school in the country-Sanctuary Bay Academy-it seems almost too good to be true. But, after years of bouncing from foster home to foster home, escaping to its tranquil setting, nestled deep in Swans Island, couldn’t sound more appealing. Swiftly thrown into a world of privilege and secrets, Sarah quickly realizes finding herself noticed by class charmer, Nate, as well as her roommate’s dangerously attentive boyfriend, Ethan, are the least of her worries. When her roommate suddenly goes missing, she finds herself in a race against time, not only to find her, but to save herself and discover the dark truth behind Sanctuary Bay’s glossy reputation.

In this genre-bending YA thriller, Sanctuary Bay by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz, Sarah’s new school may seem like an idyllic temple of learning, but as she unearths years of terrifying history and manipulation, she discovers this “school” is something much more sinister.

From what you’ve just read,and by looking at the cover, let me outline what you’re probably thinking: so you have a girl elevated from poverty who’s going to be very snooty about it, a super school where everything is secrets (could they all be wizards? Or secret agents? Or vampires?), there’s going to be an awkward love triangle, maybe some cheating, and then she’s going to be accused of her roommate’s murder and… something. Maybe she’ll go on the run.

WRONG. That’s what I thought when I picked up this novel, and it quickly became obvious that would not be the case. It grew from what looked like a simple premise to something amazing.

Admittedly, the first third of the book felt like it was going to be that way. Sarah is a young woman who’s very mature for her age, who also has an absolute perfect memory: she replays everything that has ever happened to her in her mind, in clear detail, like rewinding a movie. She’s very smart, loves chemistry, but the foster system never really let her have a chance to flourish. Now, with this scholarship, she can have the opportunities she never thought she would have.

Of course, his means rubbing shoulders with some very entitled people. At first, she has this slight superiority complex about the fact that she’s had to work for everything in her life, while her schoolmates have access to $600 designer sweaters. I thought this was going to be annoying, but then someone pointed it out to her, told her to snap out of it, and… And she did. She learned and grew. All of a sudden, this character became real to me, she became someone I could relate to. She was maturing right in front of my eyes. Sarah is a character with depth and determination, and is so incredibly human, even with her strange memory.

True, the relationship drama was annoying, at first. All these people making out in corners and doing much more. School-wide knowledge of every hook up and knots. This annoying guy, Ethan, hanging around Sarah even though he’s with Karina, who seems to love him for no reason (spoilers, there is a reason. Oh gosh there is a reason). Nate, who seems to like her from the start, though Sarah’s not really let any personality shine yet. However, this quickly becomes secondary to the plot, as intriguing things start to happen. What are they doing in the wolfpack? why is everyone remembering their evenings wrong?

What has really happened to her roommate?

And then… you get answers. You get more questions. The last half of the book seems to whoosh by in mere seconds, going from one revelation to another big reveal, which asks so many more questions. I sat there the whole time wondering who I could trust, my theories switching from one minute to the next,  my heart pumping through my chest.

Talk about a roller coaster.

If this is a standalone, then I have questions! If a sequel is coming, what will happen next? I am dying to know. And I am so sorry everyone, because you have to wait until January 19th to get access to this great book! It feels like Shutter Island at times, a thrilling, intriguing book where nothing and no-one is as they seem.