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Two Can Keep a Secret

Title: Two Can Keep a Secret

Author: Karen M. McManus

Published: 10th of January 2019 – Penguin

Format: Paperback – 327 pages

“All of Fright Farm’s success is based on how much people love to be scared in a controlled environment. There’s something deeply satisfying about confronting a monster and escaping unscathed. Real monsters aren’t anything like that. They don’t let go” – Two Can Keep A Secret

Hello Hello! How are you?

Today I’m finally posting my review of Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus that I buddy read at the end of 2020 with my friend Stephen from Stephen Writes.

In 2020, we read One of Us is Lying and One of Us is Next, and having read The Cousins for @The_WriteReads blog tour, it was only natural that we finish reading Karen’s backlist!

I think this is my least favourite McManus book (my favourite was One of Us is Lying), but Stephen and I had great fun reading it, and we discussed some great theories! Enough of my waffling, let’s get to this review!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS

Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery’s family is still haunted by their loss.

Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm’s brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.

Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe.

And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

MY REVIEW

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus is a YA mystery/thriller in which Ellery and Ezra go to live with their grandmother in the town where their mother grew up, but things are much darker than they seem.

This was actually my 4th Karen M. McManus book as I have been making my way through her books these past months with Stephen, and I read her final one on the tour organised by Dave from @The_WriteReads a few months ago! I have to say though, I think this might have been my least favourite of her stories.

SETTING

This book is set in Echo Ridge, a small town in North America, and Stephen and I immediately thought of Harrow Lake (the setting of Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis), but as we went on reading, we realised that the town was not sinister and haunted itself, it was the people in the town who were quite ominous in some sense.

I actually quite liked the setting and found it to be quite different from McManus’s other books. This one is set in a small town, smaller than those in the other books I thought and although it does have a school setting, the majority of the action and plot happen elsewhere.

I always find settings in realistic contemporaries quite – not boring per se – but a little bit flat. I like lush, intricate and complex world-building that I find in science fiction and fantasy, so obviously, in a YA mystery, I won’t get that. However, I have to say, for once I felt this town was authentic, and I was able to imagine it easily. Echo Ridge is described as a beautiful, calm and quiet town. I definitely liked those vibes and loved the tension that was built up with the contrast of the quiet town versus the very unquiet events that happened.

CHARACTERS

Ellery: Ellery is one of the main characters of this book and shares the multiple POV chapters with Malcolm. I love multiple POVs in books and I find the way McManus writes her POVs particularly engaging. I liked Ellery instantly because she is obsessed with true crime and mysteries, if she were a real person, she would be my best friend aha! I love anything crime related and I loved seeing her piece the clues together and try to work out all the links. I also appreciated that Ellery came across as sometimes vulnerable, sad and unsure, which made her character much more believable in my opinion.

Ezra: Ezra is Ellery’s twin brother, and I’ll be honest, I feel like he was hardly in this book. He obviously was, but I can’t remember that much from him and I only finished this book 2 days ago. Maybe this is on me and I was just so intrigued by Ellery and Malcolm, but I found Ezra to be a little flat and apparently quite forgettable too.

Ryan: Ryan was a character that I was very sceptical about the whole way through, and even at the end of the book, I was not sure about him. I feel like McManus wrote him so untrustworthy or maybe suspicious that I just could not determine my feelings about him. He has an important role in the plot though, so he deserves a mention, I’m just rather unsure of what my final thoughts are towards this character.

Mia: I also loved Mia from the first time we met her. She is spunky, brave, strong, but also sensitive like Ellery. Malcolm and Mia and best friends and I adored that they welcomed Ellery and Ezra, these four make up a great sleuthing team and it was great to read about them becoming friends, getting to know one another and try to unravel all the clues!

Malcolm: I also liked Malcolm and I felt like him and Ellery made a good team, although some relationships that happen in this book felt a little rushed to me and I don’t really see why some things happened between characters, as it did nothing to advance the story in my opinion. It was cute, but I also really didn’t feel much about it. Malcolm was a complex character with a lot of issues and questions about what had happened between his brother and his girlfriend, but also what was currently happening to him and others, it was interesting to read his train of thought and see how things unfolded.

Sadie and the twin’s grandmother: These two characters were not that present, but they deserve a mention as they were important to the plot, especially Sadie. Sadie is the twin’s mother and is not in Echo Ridge, but Ellery has a lot of questions about her mother’s teenage years in the town. I was intrigued to read everything that Ellery thought about her mother and what had happened to her 20 years prior, but I’m not sure I really liked the mother or the grandmother, to be honest.

THEMES

Death/disappearance/murder: In every mystery, there is a dead body, and in this book, we have a girl who disappeared 20 years ago and no one knows what happened to her or if she is still alive today, we have a murder that happened 5 years ago and that is kind of a cold case, and we have a few other deaths here and there. I like my murder mysteries with more of an insight into the police investigation, but I actually really liked seeing the teenagers try to work everything else. However, I have to admit that the murderer and the events surrounding the murders felt a little flat to me – as if the author had just thrown the final chapters on the page and hadn’t really done her best to weave everything together. I was a little bit disappointed for the ultimate reveal as I know Karen M. McManus can make her reveals amazing, and this one just wasn’t for me.

Family/friendship/relationships: As in all McManus books, there are family relationships and friendships and they are usually very complex and fraught with tension. As you well know, family relationships and secrets are not one of my favourite themes, whereas friendships are, so I did enjoy these relations between the characters, although I didn’t find them very memorable. I liked the Mia-Malcolm-Ezra-Ellery friendship though, they worked really well together!

A mystery with ominous vibes: I love anything mystery and crime-related and the fact that this book centres on a town in which homecoming queens have gone missing or been murdered just called to me! I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t learn more about the 20-year-old mystery/disappearance and I have to admit, I actually preferred the build-up and theories rather than the actual reveal, but there were some ominous vibes in this book and I think it’s definitely worth a read if you like sinister plots!

Trigger Warnings: underage drinking, death, murder, disappearance, threats and bullying, emotional abuse and manipulation, use of a gun, attempted murder, sexual innuendos.

MY THOUGHTS AND RATING

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but I felt that the execution and the final reveal was just a tad unbelievable. Stephen and I had a lot of theories and I think that when we found out what had happened and whodunnit, it was a little bit of an anti-climax for us as we had spent so long speculating, putting clues together and just waiting to find out! I don’t really know why exactly I found this ending lacking as I really enjoyed the first 75% of the book, it’s just the end that flopped for me.

I feel like this is a theme I have noticed in McManus’s books, apart from One of Us is Lying – I cannot fault that ending and revelation, it was pure genius – as I feel like the endings are not very plausible, or maybe not thought out well enough. I like the whole idea, I just think that maybe this ending was a little too “easy” for me personally. I know others love this book and were very surprised and awed by the wrap-up, but it just did not work well for me.

However, despite my criticism, I cannot fault Karen M. McManus’s writing style and pace. She pulls you in and keeps you reading, dropping subtle hints here and there that the reader scrabbles to get the pieces all together and try to work out how they match up. I was a little bit disappointed by the ending and the plausibility of it, especially the last line, and I can’t talk about it because *SPOILERS*, but, I loved the rest of the book and had such a fun time reading this book and discussing it with Stephen.

I gave this book 3.5 stars (full ASPECTS rating below) and just felt a little unsure about that ending. It seemed like 75% of the book had a great pace, tension and the events seemed to slot together, but that ending kind of threw me off and made me think “oh, that’s who did it, okay then”. Otherwise, if you like tense YA mysteries with ominous events and twisty crimes, complex characters and sleuthing teams, then this is the one for you and I really hope you’ll pick it up and enjoy it!

Once again, thank you so much to Stephen for reading this with me. I had a great time reading Karen’s backlist with you, and I can’t wait for our next buddy read!

That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post, see you soon, stay safe,

Ellie xx

ASPECTS RATING

Atmosphere – 5.5

Start – 6

Pacing – 6.5

Ending – 4

Characters – 6.5

Theme – 6.5

Style – 7

Total = 42

3.5-star rating

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