I must admit that when I first saw this book, I thought it was gonna be a dark academia sort of mystery, but soon after that I found out it’s a hard hitting contemporary! That doesn’t matter that much to me though. Let’s be honest: I would’ve wanted to read it either way!
It’s a book that deals with lots of heavy topics, but the main character’s story is about grieving. Now, if you know me, I’m weak for stories in grief so I couldn’t resist it! But today I’m not reviewing this book: I’m gonna be chatting with the author for a bit!
What is The Castle School (for troubled girls) about?
The Castle School (for troubled girls) by Alyssa Sheinmel
Publisher: Sourcebooks fire
Release date: March 2nd, 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Representation: multiple mental illnesses, Jewish characters and characters from lots of different backgrounds
Trigger warnings: self harm, eating disorders, grief, addiction, alcoholism, cancer, drug abuse, death, blood, suicidal thoughts, OCD, ADHD
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.
Let’s chat with the author!
Hi Alyssa! First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with me! Could you introduce yourself and your newest book a bit?
Thank you so much for having me! I’ve written several books for young adults, including Faceless, What Kind of Girl, and A Danger to Herself and Others, and I’m the co-author of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. My new book, The Castle School (for Troubled Girls), has a special place in my heart. I actually had the idea for this book years ago, but it took me a long time to know how to tell the story. The main character is Moira Dreyfuss, whose best friend recently passed away. Unable to cope with Moira’s grief, her parents send her to a therapeutic boarding school deep in the woods of Maine. But Moira isn’t interested in “getting over” what happened to her best friend. The novel was loosely inspired by the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, which has always been one of my favorites. Only twelve students attend the school at a time, and each is there for reasons all her own.
The Castle School (For Troubled Girls) is a coming-of-age story. It’s full of important lessons for younger people, but what do you really hope people will get from reading this book?
I’m one of those writers who thinks I don’t really get a say in what readers take from my books. Reading is such a personal experience, and what we take away from the books we read has so much to do with what we bring with us to begin with. But I can’t wait to hear from readers telling me what they got from reading this story!
Lots of mental illnesses are represented in your book. I can only imagine the amount of research you must’ve done, which probably also was really confronting. What is something you learned while writing this book that you think everyone should know?
I’m a pretty research-happy writer. I truly enjoy writing books that require a lot of research. One of the things I learned while writing this book is that the popular understanding of grief—the old idea that there are five stages—is misleading. The idea that grief is something to be “got through” can make us expect that we’ll “get over” our losses, and many of the people around us may expect that, too. The truth is, for a lot of us, grief doesn’t really end. Instead, we learn what it is to live with it.
Despite this being a book with heavy subjects, it also has beautiful scenes. What were your favourite types of scenes to write?
Throughout the book, there are twelve chapters in the third-person, one for each student at The Castle School—I loved writing those passages. So often, writers know everything about the secondary characters in our books, but we don’t always get to share their stories. I loved writing the stories of each of the girls.
Which character from The Castle School (For Troubled Girls) did you connect with the most? Why?
Honestly, there are pieces of each character that really resonated with me. Like Moira, I love learning trivia and history. Given the chance to backpack through Europe, I’d want to visit libraries just like she does.
You’ve already achieved a lot of things, of course, but what’s an author dream of yours that you’re still hoping will be fulfilled?
There are so many! One of my favorite things about being a writer is that it can be a lifelong pursuit—there’s always another goal in front of you. So many of the goals are between me and the writing itself—what sort of narrative devices I might use, the different ways I learn to tell each story I write, the different sorts of stories I might tell. It’s a never-ending list!
One of your qualities as an author is to really delve into the minds of your characters. Do you have any tips for doing that that you’d like to share with us?
Thank you! One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever got was from a college professor—to read writers who do what I’m trying to do, only better. Other writers are the best teachers.
The Castle School (For Troubled Girls) is really powerful and important in my opinion, but why do you think people should pick it up?
First, thank you! I really hope people will love the story. I hope they’ll connect with Moira and the rest of the characters. This story has been in my imagination for such a long time—I’m so excited that it’s out there for people to read now. I hope people will think it’s a thoughtful, honest portrayal of grief.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
What a tough question! Honestly—I don’t think there’s anything I would tell her, because I wouldn’t want my journey to change. (Is that the cheesiest answer you’ve ever gotten to that question?!)
And lastly, what’s a book you’d recommend to the people reading this?
I love reading memoirs in which writers share their own experiences as teens. I read Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted and Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation when I was in high school, and I recently read Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. Something about these books always stays with me.
Thank you so much for this interview, Alyssa! Your answers really radiate how passionate you are about what you do, and I loved reading them!
About Alyssa Sheinmel
Alyssa was born in Stanford, California, and even though she moved across the country to New York when she was six years old, she still thinks of herself as a California girl.
She still remembers the very first chapter book she ever read—The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo, by Judy Blume. Before long, reading was her favorite thing in the world. She loved it so much that when there was nothing to read, she wrote my own stories just to give herself something to read. And when there was no pen and paper to be had, she just made up stories in her head.
About this tour!
If you’re interested in other fun content surrounding The Castle School (for troubled girls), be sure to click here for the tour schedule!
This tour was hosted by TBR and beyond tours! Thank you for letting me participate!
And that’s the end to today’s post! I hope I’ve been able to get you excited for this book and if you want to know what I personally thought, my Goodreads review can be found here!
Thank you so much for reading! You already got from this post that I’m an absolute sucker for books on grief, but…