When Drew Finch’s trouble-prone brother Mason is expelled from school and sent to the Residential Reform Academy, she is almost relieved to see the back of him. After all, Mason’s been a disruptive influence for quite a long time (not to mention a pain in the behind for Drew, who’s got plenty of her own problems with the bullies at school) so maybe a short stint at the Academy will straighten him out. But when a strange woman approaches Drew on the street and gives her a note, allegedly from Mason, that claims there’s something sinister about the ‘treatment’ he is receiving and that Drew has to rescue him from the Academy before he’s brainwashed forever, it sets her on a journey she could never have expected – not only into the dark heart of the Reform Academy but into her own past, and the truth about whether their long-lost father disappeared or is actually dead…
The Treatment is C.L. Taylor’s Young Adult debut and, as you’d expect from the author of adult psychological thrillers The Escape and The Missing (among many others), it grips you from the very beginning and rips along at an astonishing rate. The main characters are all very well drawn, the Academy setting (and its staff) is suitably antiseptically creepy, and Taylor is adept at ratcheting up the tension… so why doesn’t it quite work? Maybe because it just feels so derivative, which probably won’t be an issue for the book’s target audience but will almost certainly dull the enjoyment for anyone who’s dipped their toe into this kind of story before. And the ending feels too easily achieved and not quite as emotionally involving as it should have been, with a nod towards a possible sequel that is tagged on and unsatisfying.
Still, for undemanding YA readers who are hungry for a teenage heroine they can relate to, one who relies on wits and courage and doesn’t need improbable martial arts skills or superpowers to get the job done, this will fit the bill perfectly. It’s just a shame that the last third of the book doesn’t quite match the promise of what came before because – with a slightly different route to the ending – this would have received a much higher recommendation.
THE TREATMENT / AUTHOR: C.L. TAYLOR / PUBLISHER: HQ YOUNG ADULT / RELEASE DATE: 19TH OCTOBER