Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: "The Secrets We Keep" by Trisha Leaver

A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters. Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world. When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

Thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group via Netgalley for the free review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Did I like this book?

Meh.  I didn't love this book, or even like  it as much as I expected to.  The main character, Ella, fully got under my skin, and not in a good way.  I'd compare her to a splinter, but really she's more like an underground zit that you can feel building pressure - it friggen hurts but you can't do anything about it because you can barely see it, and you just have to wait until the right time to make it explode.  Then again, sometimes those are the ones that cause you pain and anguish and then simply disappear without the satisfaction of a monumental eruption.  

Ella happens to be the latter, unfortunately.  She irritated and bothered me, and at times I didn't even realize what the problem was - why don't I like this girl, I'd think to myself - and then the book fizzled to a close and I was left completely underwhelmed.  Probably my main problem with Ella is that we are supposed to believe that she is intelligent, but everything she says, does, and thinks contradicts that.  Why would anyone with half a brain believe that her identical twin was "the pretty one"?  Ella doesn't say that Madison was better dressed, or more outgoing, but that she was always "the pretty one".  Hello, you are identical twins!  That means you look exactly the same, so how can one be prettier than the other?  

Ella thinks everyone is against her.  In her mind, her sister's friends all hate her, her parents love her sister more, and even her best friend's girlfriend is jealous of her.  This "woe is me" attitude got really tiring, especially when it wasn't even warranted.  

The other characters were a bit underdeveloped.  Alex, Madison's boyfriend, was like a cardboard cutout boy.  Ella couldn't stand Alex before the accident, but once Ella took over Maddy's identity, he was a perfect gentleman.  He was so nice, it was almost sickening!  Then Jenna - she was the stereotypical mean girl, but she was so awful that it wasn't believable.  Ella's parents didn't seem authentic to me, either.  They kept telling Ella that the accident wasn't her fault, but I kept thinking, yeah, it kind of is her fault.  Ella was the one driving the car, and Ella was the one who crashed the car into a tree, so even though she didn't mean for it to happen, it was still her fault.  How could her parents not feel just the least bit angry, or resentful?  Never once did I feel like I was reading about real people, and so I was never really drawn into Ella's plight.  Josh was probably my favourite character, and the only one who was remotely likeable, but even he wasn't enough to save this book for me.

I did, however, feel drawn in enough by the plot to keep reading until the end, so in that respect, the author was successful.  I really wanted to find out what Maddy had gotten into, why she was so upset on the night of her death.  While this plot point was resolved, it seemed a little lackluster for me. 

Will you like this book?

I'm tempted to say skip this one.  There are so many good contemporary YA books out there combining mystery and suspense, but this isn't one of the top ones I've read.  

Will I read more by this author?

At this point, I'd say it's doubtful.  The writing felt mediocre, and that combined with characters I felt next to nothing for is not enough for me to want to try again.  

My rating:  2.5 stars

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