Nightingale — Amy Lukavics

Nightingale

TITLE: Nightingale
AUTHOR: Amy Lukavics
RELEASES: September 25th, 2018; Harlequin Teen
GENRE: Horror
AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: At seventeen, June Hardie is everything a young woman in 1951 shouldn’t be–independent, rebellious, a dreamer. June longs to travel, to attend college and to write the dark science fiction stories that consume her waking hours. But her parents only care about making June a better young woman. Her mother grooms her to be a perfect little homemaker while her father pushes her to marry his business partner’s domineering son. When June resists, her whole world is shattered–suburbia isn’t the only prison for different women.

June’s parents commit her to Burrow Place Asylum, aka the Institution. With its sickening conditions, terrifying staff and brutal “medical treatments,” the Institution preys on June’s darkest secrets and deepest fears. And she’s not alone. The Institution terrorizes June’s fragile roommate, Eleanor, and the other women locked away within its crumbling walls. Those who dare speak up disappear…or worse. Trapped between a gruesome reality and increasingly sinister hallucinations, June isn’t sure where her nightmares end and real life begins. But she does know one thing: in order to survive, she must destroy the Institution before it finally claims them all.

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I am a tremendous fan of historical horror, and more specifically, historical horror set in asylums, so as soon as I read the synopsis of this one, I was intrigued. I really had no idea what to expect, but I appreciate that Lukavics has a twisted imagination and tends to go to much darker places than most YA horror authors are willing to explore, so my hopes were very high for Nightingale.

What if this entire nightmare has been a horror show of your own making? What if none of it is real and you’re too far gone to ever be saved?

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Thankfully, I was not let down at all by this creepy little read! First, let me say that, if you are a fan of American Horror Story’s Asylum season (season 2), I think this will absolutely be right up your alley. That happens to be my favorite AHS season, and this gave me such similar vibes without ever feeling like it was ripping off the show in any way. What starts off as a horror story in an asylum in the 50s quickly gains a sci-fi element that’s positively bizarre, in the best way.

There was a dead girl in the bed next to June’s.

There isn’t a ton I can tell you about what happens in the book without spoiling things, so I’ll just say that I genuinely enjoyed the progression of events, loved the twist at the end, and found June to be an absolutely fantastic narrator. I loved seeing the world through her perspective, where she’s so unreliable that you can rarely tell what is actually happening and what she’s misinterpreting or possibly making up altogether. There’s a lot of speculative fiction feels to the storytelling here, which I love (but I know spec-fic isn’t for everyone, so if you’re not a huge fan, maybe go into the book preparing yourself).

To have the confidence of such a pathetic type of man!

There’s also a lot of solid social commentary in here. The way the patients at the asylum are treated is terrifying, especially because so much of it is obviously inspired by real events. There’s also a load of sexism present: June is placed into the asylum for being too “unusual”, because rather than cooking, cleaning, and having a family, she wants to live on her own, travel the world, and write terrifying science fiction novels. She’s confused and frustrated by the gender roles placed upon her, and things aren’t made any easier for her by the fact that she’s queer (bi/pan)—and we actually get to see her form sexual and romantic relationships with a man and a woman, the latter of which I found to be so sweet and precious that I couldn’t help but root for them.

At least here, I won’t have to continue living how I was. I won’t have to break myself into pieces just to show them that I can.

I thought Nightingale was a tremendously fun read, and I flew through it in no time at all. I loved the creepy elements, the slow dread brought on by June’s confusion and lack of control, and the surprisingly gore-filled scenes near the end. Like I said, I love how far Amy Lukavics is willing to go, and Nightingale made me want to immediately pick up the older releases of hers that I haven’t gotten to yet. I strongly recommend adding this one to your TBR if you’re a fan of horror with some sci-fi elements thrown in, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

Content warnings for parental abuse/neglect, domestic violence, ableism, mistreatment of mental health patients (lobotomies, shock therapy, etc.), gore, body horror, violence, sexism, suicidal ideation.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Harlequin Teen for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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