Book Review

Two Can Keep A Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret

  • Author: Karen M. McManus
  • Genre: YA Mystery
  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press

CONTENT WARNING: substance use, death, mention of death of a parent, mention of cancer, infidelity, murder

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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 declares 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. 

To me, there isn’t anything quite as creepy as a mystery/thriller that is set in a small town that’s chock-full of secrets. Fortunately, that’s just the kind of story that appeals to me the most, probably because I didn’t grow up in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. But I guess I never really thought of what it would be like to go from an area where I have to work to stand out, to a town where I would stand out just by being there:

“After spending our lives in the orbit of a city where everyone’s fighting for recognition, it’s weird to be so effortlessly visible.”

The dynamics of small-town life is blatantly on display throughout this story. There are a series of tragic events that have happened in Echo Ridge, and none have been solved. So of course, when things start happening again, the whole town is immediately on edge. Part of not having any closure on these old crimes means that the people in the town don’t know who to blame, and revert to their old prejudices as to who they feel is responsible. It creates a sense of tension, and I found myself questioning throughout the entire book: WHO DID IT? I couldn’t guess who it was. Despite trying my best, I was completely blindsided by the big reveal. 

I enjoyed the characters. The two POVs, Ellery and Malcolm, have so much in common despite how different they are, and I really liked seeing that about them. My only problems with the story stem from the POVs — one is that Ellery and Malcom’s voices sounded an awful lot alike. I struggled to differentiate who was speaking at times, since they were so similar, so I’d often have to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to figure out who’s POV it was. The other one is that I would have liked seeing the POV of some of the other characters in the story, like Mia and Ezra. While they are side characters, they are prominently featured in the storyline and most scenes, and provide an intriguing counterpoint to the main personalities. Ezra is more laid back and trusting compared to Ellery’s frenetic and suspicious personality, and Mia is one of those characters who I just want to see what is actually going on inside her head. 

I loved the way that diversity is addressed in a small town setting. There are a few minorities and two queer characters that are central to the story, and it’s especially interesting since Echo Ridge is very much a homogenous, high socioeconomic status, heteronormative area. This line really stuck out to me:

“‘Plus, there’s this whole other layer when you’re one of the only minority families in town. You can’t make a mistake, you know? We’ve always had to be so perfect.’”

The story was good, and I’m a huge fan of her writing style. I love that this book manages to address so many issues that are relevant to teen life for so many, as well as what happens in the aftermath of a crime (or two). I liked that it wasn’t gory or over the top, but focused more on the emotional aspects of the story while still pointing out that life happens. There’s a romance involved, but there isn’t an overly heavy focus on it. Karen M. McManus still has my heart when it comes to YA mysteries, and I am absolutely looking forward to her new book coming out soon!

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 10

9 replies »

  1. I need to reread this one again. I can’t remember why but I remember not liking it. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset for the book.


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