The Truth About Keeping Secrets was not exactly the book that I was expecting. I knew this was going to be a YA book (and we all know I love those!) but I was expecting much more of a thriller than what I actually got.
In all honesty, The Truth About Keeping Secrets is less of a thriller and more of a romance/coming of age story with a dead dad somewhere in the background. Which I guess is fine, because I ended up liking the book quite a fair bit, and the fact that I was expecting something else isn’t Savannah Brown’s fault. Instead, it was the way it was marketed.
But anyway, on to the book.
The Truth About Keeping Secrets is primarily a book about grief as we follow our protagonist Sydney and her journey through the denial stage of grief. Sydney is convinced that her father couldn’t have died in an ordinary, random road accident – instead, she believes something, or someone, else caused his death and is determined to find out what/who.
The first half of The Truth About Keeping Secrets is a moody and atmospheric exploration of how grief can effect different people differently and that it isn’t always pretty. For example, for Sydney, her coping mechanism involves binge visiting a snuff site that hosts videos of real life deaths from private videos, street cameras, CCTV etc. Think of it like a fucked up YouTube. We get to explore Sydney and her state of mind in an in-depth and personal way as she uses sarcasm and dark humour to try to help he cope through her anger and sadness.
“But I was thinking about every horror I’d ever watched, and how the monster was always scarier when you didn’t know what it looked like. When you can’t see it, it could be anything. And anything is is always scarier than something.”
The second half of The Truth About Keeping Secrets is focused on the mystery of some nasty, threatening and homophobic text messages and incidents that happen to Sydney after her father’s death. Personally, I found this to be probably the easiest ‘mystery’ to solve in a YA book. In all honesty, I think most people will actually figure this out pretty early on, despite the author attempting to throw a few red herrings in to the mix.
But the second thing that happened in the second half of this book that overshadowed practically everything else was Sydney trying to establish a relationship with June, the ‘it’ girl in this universe and who was also a patent of Sydney’s psychiatric father. I have to admit that this relationship made me uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that LGBT+ is being more heavily represented, especially in YA, but this relationship just didn’t seem healthy – from any angle.
“Misery, when finite, is a fevered game of limit-pushing.”
Let’s take Sydney first. Sydney is flat out, textbook obsessed with June and it’s quite prickly to read about. Some of the interactions are borderline stalker-ish and it’s just downright creepy in places. It does develop into a relationship, but I can’t help but wonder what June would have thought if she could have read Sydney’s mind in the beginning.
Now on to June. June has just come out of/still in an abusive relationship – including emotional abuse. I’m no psychiatrist, but I’m not sure how much of June’s behaviour or feelings are legitimately genuine, and not just jumping straight into something with the first person who showed her romantic kindness. I’m not sure she was emotionally fully available throughout the book.
I dunno, the whole thing had me feeling a little squeamish and unsure. Yes, it’s great to see representation, but it’s bad to see it stem and start from such an unhealthy place for both of the characters. But that’s just me. The whole romance gave me serious Twilight vibes – it wasn’t exactly wrought with intense romance or feelings. Instead it was a bit too broody and angst-ridden, with Sydney whiling away countless hours pining after June.
But as I’ve spoken about Sydney a bit earlier, let me move onto the character of June. June is the ‘it’ girl, the golden girl, the girl. She’s the envy of everyone, but I just…didn’t get it. I wasn’t enthralled with her, or even particularly like her character. But I feel like a lot of this has to do with the fact that all of her character development happened in the final 10% of the book! I wish we’d have gotten to unravel the enigma that was June as the novel progressed, as I really think that would have helped her character a lot.
“She didn’t treat grief like a problem to be solved; she treated it like a constant to be endured.”
As for the rest of the characters, they were fairly stock. Nothing extremely good or bad about any of them, but the main antagonist is easy to spot and predict.
The Truth About Keeping Secrets, despite some character issues, is quite well planned out – especially for those who may be new to sleuthing. But there are some pacing issues due to the two major plot lines being at loggerheads. So much of the story is focussed on Sydney’s obsession with June that it causes some serious lapses in excitement between text message scenes. Due to this, when it’s time for the big climax, it feels like the book has gone from 0-60mph in 2.4 seconds. It’s also why June’s character development is squashed into practically one chapter. It gets so dramatic so quickly, and I wish it had been interspersed a little better throughout the book.
“My trick no longer worked, the floodgates were completely, disgustingly open, and I had no other choice but to feel, feel, feel.”
But all in all, The Truth About Keeping Secrets, is a decent debut and is a great book for themes of grief, relationship issue (including manipulation from loved ones and friends, and abusive relationships). It delves into some pretty dark subject matter (which ya’ll know I am a super fan of!) and the writing is pleasant and picturesque at times – but Savannah Brown is a poet, so no surprises there.
I hadn’t actually heard of Savannah Brown before this, despite her being an established poet. But I was lucky enough to receive this ARC at the same time as Two Can Keep A Secret and I loved the cover immediately (it has a little keyhole cut out from the cover) and it had me intrigued me for the story. Side note: Have you seen the final book? Those green sprayed edges are to die for!
So ultimately The Truth About Keeping Secrets is a book I’d recommend – but just not to thriller lovers. I wish it had been marketed properly as what it really is, because a thriller it is not! But it’s still a fun, quick read that doesn’t require too much in depth thinking and it was a fun little ride!
“Telling the grim reaper to fuck off. Don’t go without a fight. Rave and burn. Rage.”
Massive thanks to Penguin for providing me with an ARC for review!
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.
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