ARC Review: Sanctuary Bay-Laura J. Burns & Melinda Metz

sanctuary bayGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks


In this genre-bending YA thriller, will Sarah Merson’s shiny new prep school change her life forever or bring it to a dark and sinister end?

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.


3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & St. Martin’s Press 

Sanctuary Bay is a spine-tingling and deeply disturbing mystery. Part deadly secret and illusion, Sanctuary Bay will keep you guessing to the very end. 


  • You’re a fan of Shutter Island 
  • You have a strong stomach
  • You like being scared

Deals with important subjects like bullying, identity, the struggles of finding acceptance as a biracial person in a world of black or white, assault (briefly), mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, PTSD, growing up in foster care and the trouble with eidetic memory. There’s a ton of diversity.

Truly one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read. Mystery propels the plot forward as stranger things start to happen and bizarre control and surveillance are placed on the students. The cult-like quality of the Wolf Pack is like a drug-induced mania full of carnal desire and blood. The ritualistic aspect is nauseating and horrifying. Some of the scenes are psychologically trippy, where you won’t know what’s real and what’s fake. Characters become unhinged and dangerous, trust is impossible. Several surprise moments. Sarah’s need to fit in and be accepted for all that she is made her more passive than I would have liked in regards to the Wolf Pack, like if you see something that messed up and disgusting, you should be a little more apprehensive.

The main characters, Sarah and Ethan were flawed and complex. At times they were both hard to like but it made them interesting. Sarah is wicked smart and loves science. She’s had a traumatic life, suffers from PTSD-induced flashbacks that coupled with her unique brain make the experience worse. She can see beyond the lies and is hyper-paranoid about things that don’t add up. An unconventional sleuth. Ethan is a cocky, popular guy who is basically a gigantic jerk. He’s sarcastic and frank, he acts like nothing matters and he’s constantly bored. Like most of the characters, behind their pretty facade is a darkness and depth that plagues them. 

The plot twist. A whole new level of terrifying and sadistic. 

There are many threads and clues that lead to the big reveal. History, science, cover-ups, you name it, they all add to the suspense. 

Many of the secondary characters disappeared into the background. Characters that were introduced like they’ve have a role, flit in and out. On a positive note, the characters were intelligent and unique for all the brevity. 

Sarah scrutinizes people and checks off little boxes as if she were conducting a survey. Race, age, social class, attractiveness, etc., are all assessed and quick assumptions are made based on these combinations of characteristics. While this sounds bad, it’s positive because it makes a point. We make assumptions about people for a variety of factors beyond their control everyday based on what’s on the surface, we put people in boxes and form opinions largely due to a greater construct, and how society perceives these things. The author made a huge point with this, however, it made Sarah seem hypocritical, judgmental, and like everything she strived not to be. Sarah had a chip on her shoulder about how others would treat her based on these eternal factors but she perpetuates the issue as well. I don’t think that it was the author’s intention, it needed to be explored and taken a step further but got lost in everything else that was going on. 

There’s a weird off-handed and inappropriate habit of referencing lewd behavior and sexual favors that’s wildly 1. Illegal and 2. One big shrug. Morals fly out the window in lieu of sensation. 

The villain was over-the-top, comic book-style, so bad it’s funny wrong. 

THAT ENDING. What a rush! Perfect setup for a sequel. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading,