Title: Two Can Keep A Secret
Author: Karen M. McManus
Description: Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery's never been there, but she's heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.
The town is picture-perfect, but it's hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone's declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.
Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she's in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous--and most people aren't good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it's safest to keep your secrets to yourself.
Two Can Keep A Secret is a YA mystery by the bestselling author of One of Us is Lying, Karen M. MacManus. The story follows the tale of a teen girl named Ellery who returns to her mother's hometown of Echo Ridge, the same town where her aunt went missing at seventeen. When she arrives she finds herself in the middle of a mystery that spans generations.
The story starts with a seemingly simple teen fiction intro that is both light and charming in its own respect. Almost immediately the sibling bond between Ezra and Ellery grounds the story. But, once the pair arrive in Echo Ridge, it becomes clear that this isn't as simple a story as meets the eye.
In rapid succession, mystery entangles every aspect of the characters' lives, wrapped around them like it's a part of their DNA. The town itself appears to be a target for everything morose as girls continue to go missing and threats begin to emerge. Everything is a jumble that never seems to become less confusing as the characters, and the reader, try to put the pieces together.
Ellery is a character who has watched too many serial killer documentaries, in an endearing way. Watching her live her Nancy Drew, Dateline obsessed fantasies is almost cathartic for the reader. It is clear from the start that she is a character perfectly fit for the setting she's been placed in.
LGBT rep is an important element in the form of Ellery's brother, Ezra. Ezra is a gay character that isn't just present for his gayness to be a plot point. He's a compelling person who just happens to be gay. It is such a joy to just have a casually gay character who is still involved in the mystery aspect of the book.
Ezra and Ellery's relationship with their Nana is fraught with caution and hesitance that later yields to love and compassion. You can see the toll losing Nana's daughter took on her all those years ago. Even today it impacts how she interacts with her grandchildren and other daughter, Sadie.
The writer's words are strong and commanding on the page. Each POV in the book is distinctive so the reader can immediately tell whose perspective it is being told from. Humor that the author includes really sets the story apart from competitors. Karen M. McManus is good at writing in the appropriate teen mindset for most inner thoughts. She brings to the table a well equipped writing tactic for the kind of story being told.
However some of the writing feels a bit jolting at times - like the pull of a body against a seatbelt. The pace is too fast at first, seeming to not have been given much consideration at certain points. A few opportunities for a shocking or scary moment are glossed over when they really could have added to the mystery itself.
With all this in mind, the romance just doesn't quite hook the reader. In some moments it is lackluster at best. Not enough time is spent building up the romance so that the reader grows invested in it. A factor in the romance that seems out of character is Ellery's trust in Malcom, her love interest, so soon after meeting him.
The mystery is intriguing in its own way. It's unique in how it is presented. A creepy vibe is woven through every new piece of evidence. Most relationships in the book are strained with tension - a fact that makes them all the more interesting. Conflicts between everyone in Echo Ridge add a nice dynamic to the story, making it feel like it runs deeper than maybe was initially portrayed.
All the characters' secrets suffocate them, no matter how hard they try to run away. The majority of them seem to have lost their spark after years of these events. they have become tired of this never-ending cycle of missing girls and murder. Their histories are permanently intertwined in a sick kind of way.
As the story continues, it does become more intriguing and the characters more fleshed out. The book builds with ever new chapter as the reader learns more information and dives further into the mystery. Toward the end it leaves individuals on the edge of their seat wondering what the answer to this mystery could be, as the author has lead them to false leads in the past.
By the end, the reader's mind is twirling with wild conspiracy theories. And even saying that, the twist ending is incredibly shocking. Arguably it is the best part, bar none. It takes the book to the next level and truly cements its place in the mystery genre. Everything ties back at the end in an incredible and mind blowing way - one that goes back toward hints made earlier that the reader may not have gotten at the time.