Posted in contemporary, lgbt, review, thriller, young adult

The Truth About Keeping Secrets – Savannah Brown

“You really think someone killed him?

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Blurb:”Sydney’s dad is the only psychiatrist for miles around their small Ohio town. He is also unexpectedly dead. Is Sydney crazy, or is it kind of weird that her dad-a guy whose entire job revolved around other peoples’ secrets-crashed alone, with no explanation?And why is June Copeland, homecoming queen and the town’s golden child, at his funeral?”

[AD – Gifted]

Trigger Warnings: Talks of death, depictions of death, emotional and physical abuse.

I’ve followed Savannah with her poetry for a long time so when she announced that she was writing a book, I had mentally signed up for it and waited patiently to finally get the lyrical brilliance from her in a new format.

Rather fitting to her previous work, the central themes of The Truth About Keeping Secrets are quite dark. The protagonist, Sydney, is reeling from the unexpected loss of her father and has taken to devoting most of her time to thinking about death, along with scrolling endlessly through a website called TOD which posts surveillance footage of real life deaths. Her father was a renowned therapist in the town of Pleasant Hills and Sydney also struggles with the fact that people out there had a relationship with a dad in a way that she never did; that he mattered and existed to other people, that he wasn’t solely hers. It’s incredibly easy to feel empathy for this character, especially when the mysterious threatening text messages begin and none of the adults around her take them seriously. She completely regresses into herself until she meets June.

I had a lot of problems with June because for a big portion of the book she trends the edges of the “manic pixie dream girl” trope. Sydney is so fascinated with her and becomes obsessed to the point where she even says that her life could be boiled down to the 20 minutes a day she spent driving to and from school with June. While the big lulling middle of the book focuses so much on establishing their relationship, you learn nothing about her until the climatic end of the books. When the details did arise, they added so much to her character and completely changed my perspective and I just wish they hadn’t been confined to the last few pages of the book. Especially as Sydney and June both express a romantic interest in each other.

The Truth About Keeping Secrets is clearly very well planned and the details that come to light at the big climax left me reeling. However, because so much of the book is focused on Sydney’s obsession with June, there’s a massive lull between the first couple of text messages, the subsequent ones, and the events that ramp up at the end. For this reason, when that big turning point comes it feels like the story has gone from 0-100 because it becomes so dramatic so quick and there wasn’t that natural incline. This really shook my enjoyment of the book because it’s been marketed as a YA Thriller but for the most part it’s not particularly thrilling.

I loved the twist and turns but I just wish there had been more of them.

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Posted in contemporary, review, thriller

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

“This is the story of how my best friend disappeared. How nobody noticed she was gone except me, and how nobody cared until they found her… one year later.”

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Blurb: “Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumours and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.”

Monday’s Not Coming is a book I didn’t really hear much about until I saw Tiffany D. Jackson talking about in on the Epic Reads channel talking about what inspired her to write it. When children go missing they can be the front page of newspapers, the breaking stories on a news channel. But what if they aren’t from a rich background or a “perfect family?” What if they’re a different ethnicity and their absence barely making a ripple in the water?

Monday’s Not Coming is a YA thriller centered around a girl called Claudia who’s best friend Monday Charles has gone missing, and no one seems to notice or care: her phone is disconnected, her friend’s mother won’t get her a straight answer – much less her siblings – and when she contacts the police they don’t follow up her concerns. The story flits around the timeline, for before to after, to one year before the before, allowing the reader to piece together who Monday is, her friendship with Claudia, Claudia herself and the wider issues starting to face them. There’s talk of the estate Monday’s family lives in being torn down to make way for fancy rich apartments, Claudia’s mother telling her off how using slang instead of proper English because she wants Claudia to integrate more, Claudia herself falling under the radar and later being diagnosed with learning difficulties after the school didn’t take her lack of development seriously, the handling of the investigation as a whole. Simply: no one wants to listen to Claudia going on about her missing friend and it’s nothing short of infuriating.

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by Imani Parks who has made it onto my list of favourite narrators. Her voice is just magnetic and she breathed life into Claudia’s character and I was invested from the first paragraph. Every emotion conveyed by the narration I felt deep in the pit of my chest. I wanted to scream, to have someone take this teenage girl’s concerns seriously.

Navigating this story is like trying untangling a pair of headphones. When you think you’ve finally worked it all out, you find out there’s still a knot you missed. I didn’t know what to believe, or what the outcome would be and the pacing was incredible.

As mentioned earlier there are a lot of elements woven in that deal with the treatment of black individuals and their families which I cannot relate to or feel comfortable commenting on, so if you know of any own voices reviews, please let me know!

The only real issue I had with this book is the timeline. It jumps around a lot and not in a way that is really clear. I would have preferred maybe a “September 2016” rather than a vague “before the before” because the narrative is so crisp that it’s hard to tell when thing are actually taking place and I did have to restart chapters sometimes to understand when they were happening.

Monday’s Not Coming is a terrifying book full of twists and turns with moments that will make you despair.

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Posted in contemporary, fantasy, thriller, young adult

Into A Million Pieces – Angela V. Cook

into a million pieces

Blurb: “Allison McKready is a succubus. So is her twin sister. But while Allison spends her summer break hiding in the library behind her Goth makeup, Jade fools around as often as she can. Allison can’t believe Jade would ignore their mother’s fatal example so recklessly, but concealing a cursed bloodline and its dangerous effects is far from Allison’s only problem. Mean girl Julie’s snob mob is determined to ruin her summer, and Aunt Sarah’s bible thumping is getting louder. Only her new friend, Ren Fisher, offers safe haven from the chaos of her life.

*I was sent this book by the publisher but this in no way affects my review*

The story opens with the protagonist – Allison – walking through her town, describing details of her surroundings in such a way that I felt as if I was walking alongside her. The basis of Allison’s home life is her parents are dead so she and her twin sister Jade live with the their religious aunt. However, Jade is rarely home leading Allison to naturally feel quite isolated. To add insult to injury, she’s not the most popular girl in school: choosing to dress in a stereotypical “goth” way makes her the target for bullies.

As mentioned in the blurb, Allison is a succubus and so is her sister. If you’re not sure what a succubus is, here’s a little bit of information. The main example of why it’s best to just stay clear of boys is given by the aunt: Allison & Jade’s mother fell in love with their father and he started to become ill. They got married and he died. The mother then took her own life out of grief and self-blame.

Allison chooses to dress the way she does in order to keep men away from her, whereas Jade actively goes out of her way to try and seduce even her friend’s boyfriends. When one of her seductive attempts goes terribly wrong she becomes a recluse while horrible rumours about her spread across the internet. This book does do a very good job of showing the negative side of the internet and how in the modern world, it’s just too easy to bully others and the “delete” button doesn’t mean it’s definitely gone forever.

While this plot element goes through the motions, Allison spends a lot of her time in the library only to stumble across Ren, a significantly-higher-on-the-high-school-food-chain boy, who just happens to work there. Of course, Allison has her preconceptions about him just as Ren does about her. But as they spend more time together they start to see each others faults and fears. I really enjoyed this part of the story because we all have our expectations and preconceived ideas of other people before we get to know them and find out that what we actually thought about them isn’t true at all.

The use of first person perspective was fantastic. It worked so well in telling the story and I felt like I really knew Allison and as if she was telling the story to me, rather than me actually reading a book. She also made a wonderful protagonist, her outlook on things, despite her situation was intelligent, she spoke like you’d expect a teenager to and she was relatable But maybe that’s down to the fact I went through a goth/emo phase in High School. *hastily burns all photographic evidence*

I went into this book  feeling like it would be focused on Allison, which for the most part, it is. But the plot took a rather sickening and unexpected turn. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you! While this is the sign, for me, of a good book, the introduction of this plot twist made the last few chapters of the book feel very rushed and liked there was a specific point it had to end on and wasn’t allowed to go beyond that.

This book does contain mature themes which may be unsuitable if you’re at the younger end of the YA age bracket, but as always, I’m not one to tell you what to and not to read.
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