Book Review: The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)

Title: The Castle School (for Troubled Girls)

Author: Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Pub. Date: March 2, 2021

Pages: 400

Pub: Sourcebooks Fire

Genre: YA Contemporary

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When Moira Dreyfuss’s parents announce that they’re sending her to an all-girls boarding school deep in the Maine woods, Moira isn’t fooled. She knows her parents are punishing her; she’s been too much trouble since her best friend, Nathan, died―and for a while before that. At the Castle School, isolated from the rest of the world, Moira will be expected to pour her heart out to the odd headmaster, Dr. Prince. But she isn’t interested in getting over Nathan’s death or befriending her fellow students.

On her first night there, Moira hears distant music. On her second, she discovers the lock on her window is broken. On her third, she and her roommate venture outside…and learn that they’re not so isolated after all. There’s another, very different, Castle School nearby―this one filled with boys whose parents sent them away, too.

Moira is convinced that the Castle Schools and the doctors who run them are hiding something. But exploring the schools will force Moira to confront her overwhelming grief―and the real reasons her parents sent her away.

This will be a spoiler free review. Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the giving me a free copy in exchange for an honest review.  I didn’t expect this to become a new favorite or be such an emotional ride.

I didn’t expect to connect to this book as much as I did.

I didn’t expect to sob through the ending as my own hurts and pains were reflected.

Now, I can’t relate exactly to anything that happens in this book, but loss is something I know. So, on some level I connected with Moira.

I really didn’t expect to like this book. I went into it with certain expectations – not realizing it was going to be on the heavier side of dealing with mental health. I guess I expected a sad story, but framed in mystery-thriller kind of way, with the 12 Dancing Princesses as inspiration. For a good part of this book, I was kind of “meh” not really caring, but not hating. It was good, just not what I was expecting. I was never bored reading it, kept turning the pages to find out what happens next, but there was a disconnect, a lack of care. Then I hit the 75% mark, and things just clicked. Suddenly I was full of emotions, sobbing – I had to stop reading a few times because of how heartbroken and seen I felt.

I was suddenly relating to this book in a way I never expected, and it hurt. The journey Moira goes through – especially towards the end – ripped me apart. I can’t even imagine what losing your best friend feels like, but I felt her pain.

I honestly don’t know if I can accurately describe why I find this book so good, or how it was able to connect with me so deeply. I can’t speak on whether or not the representation is good, but I can say I did like how it was explained – how each girl explained why. It wasn’t just some adult projecting their fears – which, okay, did happen – but it’s all from the eyes of the girls.

I can say that Moira is such a great character, and watching her learn, discover and grow through the course of this book was phenomenal. Her ever altering opinion and relationship with Dr. Prince was fantastic – and I loved how he was just there for her and let her open up on her own time.

Her journey with her mother and how when we feel lost or are hurting and don’t know how to accurately deal can cloud our vision. It can create adversaries where there might not be any. How it can alter our perceptions and cause us to lash out.

Moira’s relationships with all the people in her life are so different, and so brilliant and it all just feels so relatable.

This book surprised me, and I’ve never been happier to be surprised. I definitely didn’t expect to cry tonight – sob my way through the ending. This book was one I didn’t know I needed. It was almost an act of catharsis. It’s amazing how we can just bottle everything up and continue on like nothing is the matter – that nothing is bothering us. If we refuse to acknowledge, then it can’t hurt us. I felt seen by this book, and I can honestly say that I recommend everyone picking it up and reading it. You won’t be disappointed.

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