Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Two Can Keep a Secret: by Karen McManus

Publish Date: January 8th, 2019
Number of Pages: 329 Pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): YA Mystery, Suspense/Thriller

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Okay lesbehonest…who else is shook that the quote we hear so much now is actually missing someone from the original quote? Maybe one of them really is dead?…

One thing we do know is that secrets never fully stay buried for long, they always have a way of revealing themselves, whether or not we want them to be or not. Like insects, they like to find a way to sneak through the cracks and infest themselves…But I can’t lie; they sure do make things interesting…

When I’d read Karen McManus’s debut novel, One of Us is Lying (see my other book review by clicking the link in the text), I was kind of impressed that someone had stepped up to give YA readers something different, which was a Mystery/Thriller genre title. The section is filled to the brim on either Contemporary Romance or Fantasy (usually with romance too), and I’ve got to admit, they all are starting to bleed together…they’re just becoming spinoffs of each other, and less and less titles are beginning to feel original. One of Us is Lying felt different! It was something semi new to the table, and sure, it had the stereotypical characters that we’d all seen before…but that was only a base that she profusely deviated from in a fun and entertaining fashion! They developed and changed and completely turned around on their original expectations and it was enjoyable to grow with them as I read the mystery surrounding their story!

I’ve heard that while the debut novel of an author can be a huge success, it’s the sophomore novel that can be more of a challenge in terms of a good story or whether the author learned from their first and can keep up the momentum, but I admit that the former may be called into question because I regret to inform you guys that I wasn’t all that impressed with this title. The author’s craft continues to improve, there’s no doubt about that, but this book just wasn’t as much fun as her previous work for me. It was unpredictable and left me guessing who was behind it, but it never got me too excited or fully invested.

To sum it all up: it wasn’t terrible, but it was just an okay read.

It explores the idea of a seemingly pristine town that is riddled with a violent and mysterious history, and is infected with many dark secrets underneath the surface. It’s people on the outside appear darn-near perfect, but we all know things are never as they seem.

What It’s About:

When their mother is sent to rehab after a brutal car accident, Ellery and her twin Ezra are sent to live with their grandmother in the town that their mother grew up in but has the dark history of not one, but two missing girls were mysteriously murdered: Echo Ridge. The twins are used to not drawing too much attention to themselves along with taking care of each other with because of their troubled mother, but they learn the night they get into town that they’re connected to the towns troubled and murky history more than they’d ever expected.

Haunted by the past, their grandmother reveals to them one of the murdered girls was actually their mother’s twin sister, the aunt they never got to meet. Ellery becomes engrossed into what really happened all those years ago, and as a self-professed true crime aficionado, she’s up to the case and starts digging, despite not entirely sure she’ll like what she finds.

But like secrets, past events never stay fully buried, and the very night they arrive and learn the startling family reveal, a body is discovered in the road. A beloved teacher is found dead after a hit and run with no known suspect. More mysterious occurrences begin to happen, and threatening notes are found all over town, threatening the girls on the Homecoming Court and that they will all soon be dead. It’s exactly like what happened with the other girls many years prior, and the town is put into a terrified uproar over the past coming back to haunt them, history doomed to repeat itself.

To make matters worse, before anyone can do anything about it, a girl does go missing.

Ellery must work faster than ever to save a fellow classmate, and must work with local fellow high school student, Malcom (who’s family also has a bad history involved with the murders), in order to solve the mystery and rid the town of a possible killer on the loose.

What I liked:

  1. It’s Unpredictable! The author can really craft a great mystery, anyone who reads her novels I hope can see that! She expertly weaves red herrings, scapegoats, and other subplots together in order to keep you guessing and not have a clue as to who the killer could possibly be. I admit I had no idea who it was until the climactic final showdown.
  2. Great Minority Representation! The main character is Latina with a gay male twin, and there’s two asian side characters with one of them being bisexual! Instead of sticking with stereotypical characters as a basis for her main cast, Karen mixed it up and made the characters for this title much more diverse, which is a huge plus for the YA market. If not Game of Thrones-esque Fantasy, representation has been a huge selling point for contemporary titles, which is so great to see in recent years!
  3. The Final Line of the Book! The only thing that made me feel something was the very final line of the book as it left quite a chilling impression. It was a great way to end a suspense/mystery!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Title Sounds Like A Sequel…I feel like it’s confusing that this was titled Two Can Keep a Secret when her first novel was titled One of Us Is Lying, and yet they’re completely unrelated to each other. This isn’t the sequel even though the title suggests otherwise; it’s a complete standalone…Something about that feels disappointing to me.
  2. There’s Less Points of View…One aspect of One of Us Is Lying that I loved was how we heard from four different characters as you read that book. I love to get inside the minds of completely different characters and see how they operate with a different perspective, but we only got two characters for this title, much to my disappointment. I was also bummed that among the voices we heard the most of, none of the cast really stuck with me. They were fine, but nothing too special or memorable.
  3. This Was Too Character Driven…It sounds odd for a mystery, but a lot of the novel moves based off the characters and how they react to stuff that happens, which is what made this a slower read than I liked. I know it contradicts what I usually say about that style of story, but I think a murder mystery shouldn’t be so character driven. What’s also lacking is that the characters didn’t really develop or change all that much as time went on. They just learned more secrets and reacted to them.

Conclusion:

It wasn’t a terrible book by any means, but I must say that for me, it was a lackluster sophomore murder mystery novel. Other readers, maybe younger and/or newer ones, can immensely enjoy this title. I blame the personal hype I gave this book from how much I did enjoy her first book, along with how many other books I’ve read which has raised my standards over the years. I recommend this title to anyone who’s a fan of teen thriller TV shows Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars (Karen can certainly write content better than both of those comparisons)!

Luckily, Karen has shared on her Twitter that she will have 2 books come out in 2020, including the actual sequel to OOUIL, One of Us is Next, which is expected to come out January 7th, 2020! I can say I’m still a fan of hers, so ya know I will check her other titles out and see what she comes up with next. Her craft can only go up from here!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell