Review: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Sunday, January 4, 2015
Title: The Secrets We Keep
Author: Trisha Leaver
Genre: young adult contemporary, thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.

When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.

I definitely didn't want my first review of 2015 to be a negative one, but I also wanted a story full of rich characters, horrifying teenage secrets, and a mystery. What I got was about half that -- sometimes interesting characters, a half-baked romance, and a very lame and overblown "secret" for the "mystery." If you're like me, you were attracted to The Secrets We Keep for sordid reasons -- finding out what Maddy did that was so horrible it drove her apart from her sister and made a misery of her own life right before it ended.

Main character and survivor Ella doesn't have much of a personality besides the two facts just listed. So much of what we know about her is relayed just as a contrast to how her sister would have acted or thought instead. There is so much Maddy in this narrative that it overwhelms any other voice; Ella is practically a mouthpiece for her dead sister even to the readers. It doesn't help Ella's case that she is so self-effacing and resistant to being included that it's hard to see her side of the story.. or t oeven see her. She feels like her family prefers Maddy but that's because she willingly removes herself from the equation... and them complains about the result. It's frustrating to read. She feels invisible because she makes herself invisible -- even before taking Maddy's place.

Aside from Ella/Maddy, almost everything here felt so rote, so expected, and so so boring. The romances were half-baked, predictable, and (somehow) with two love interests that were even less interesting when coupled up with their respective twin than as individuals. Also -- what was the point of Kim's inclusion in this story? To be disliked purely because she dared date or even like Josh when Ella hadn't even said she was interested in him that way? Girl hate for no reason other than "she might like/does like/is dating the [love interest] I want" is a poor trope and The Secrets We Keep is weaker for including it.

And then.... the horrible secret that Maddy was keeping and Ella found out? Talk about overblown. What happened was not okay and should have been dealt with but I could not help thinking that everyone had it blown way way out of proportion. The characters, the synopsis.. this is not what a thriller/mystery should be built around. I was hoping or an explosion with all that lead up and I got the spark from a lighter. It was a weak ending to a disappointing middle and a promising beginning. 

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