see my review), Karen M. McManus proves she's not a flash-in-the-pan talent, but rather a pretty terrific storyteller, one who is tremendously skilled at depicting the complex behaviors of teenagers, and the mysteries that unfold in front of our eyes.
Ellery and her twin brother Ezra have to leave their California home and move to Echo Ridge, a small town in Vermont, and live with their maternal grandmother while their mother goes to rehab. They've never been to Echo Ridge before, and barely know their grandmother, despite the fact that their mother grew up there, and was even crowned homecoming queen. But that night, their aunt (their mother's twin sister) disappeared and was never seen or heard from again.
Their aunt's disappearance wasn't the town's only tragedy. Five years ago, Lacey Kilduff was crowned homecoming queen and was then found murdered shortly thereafter. It's a crime that affected many in Echo Ridge, as the murder was never solved, yet many town residents have their suspicions about who is guilty, and they take it out on anyone connected to him.
"'I should probably preface this by saying...I think about crime a lot. Like, an abnormal amount. I get that. It's sort of a problem. So you have to take what I say with a grain of salt, because I'm just this...naturally suspicious person, I guess.'"
For someone fairly obsessed with true crime, a town with as many secrets as Echo Ridge is a treasure trove for Ellery. Not only does she want to understand what happened to her aunt Sarah all those years ago (not to mention why her mother has kept them from Echo Ridge), but she begins finding clues to what might have happened to Lacey. And when it appears that someone is threatening to harm another candidate for homecoming queen, Ellery is determined to uncover all of the answersbut it may put her own life in danger in the process, because someone wants to keep the town's secrets hidden.
Just like anytime I read a book that has any type of mystery component, I'm immediately suspicious of everyone. A new character shows up? Bam, they're a suspect. The funny thing is, McManus really did keep me guessing here, and while I wasn't shocked with how things resolved themselves, I wasn't disappointed either. There definitely were some good twists to be had here, and McManus gave you characters to root for and characters to instantly dislike. (And here's a funny pointthis is the third book I've read in the last year with a main character named Ellery.)
A hallmark of YA books is characters that are more articulate and sarcastic than most adults, and while that's certainly the case with the characters in Two Can Keep a Secret, it felt right here and didn't detract from how much I liked this. I also liked the way diversity was presented as almost an afterthoughtthere was too much going on in the high school and around town for anyone to focus on someone's sexuality or ethnicity. (I would have liked a same-sex relationship thrown in, but I know that wasn't the focus of the story.)
As far as I'm concerned, McManus is now two for two, and seeing as I started this book the day after it was released, I'll probably have a while to wait until her next book. I'm sure it will be worth the wait, but until then, I love marveling at the incredible depth and breadth of talented writers creating such fantastic YA books these days.
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