Review: Dirty Little Secret by Jennifer Echols

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Title: Dirty Little Secret
Author: Jennifer Echols
Genre: contemporary, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 290 (ARC)
Published: expected July 16 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 2/5

From the author of the “real page-turner” (Seventeen) Such a Rush comes an unforgettable new drama that follows friends-turned-lovers as they navigate the passions, heartbreaks, and intrigue of country music fame.

Bailey wasn’t always a wild child and the black sheep of her family. She used to play fiddle and tour the music circuit with her sister, Julie, who sang and played guitar. That ended when country music execs swooped in and signed Julie to a solo deal. Never mind that Julie and Bailey were a duet, or that Bailey was their songwriter. The music scouts wanted only Julie, and their parents were content to sit by and let her fulfill her dreams while Bailey’s were hushed away.

Bailey has tried to numb the pain and disappointment over what could have been. And as Julie’s debut album is set to hit the charts, her parents get fed up with Bailey’s antics and ship her off to granddad’s house in Nashville. Playing fiddle in washed-up tribute groups at the mall, Bailey meets Sam, a handsome and oh-so-persuasive guitarist with his own band. He knows Bailey’s fiddle playing is just the thing his band needs to break into the industry. But this life has broken Bailey’s heart once before. She isn’t sure she’s ready to let Sam take her there again…

In my and the book's defense, I thought I was getting Dirty Little Secrets - a very closely-titled YA novel about mental issues and hoarding. Instead, Echols's later-released Dirty Little Secret is about music, and boys, and bitterness. I have friends who love Echols' novels, and friends who aren't fans. I might have to join the latter group, based on my experience with this book. I can clearly see why people would and will like Dirty Little Secret, but I can't join them in that enthusiasm. I also think this novel might fall under the heading of the "New Adult" label as Bailey's age and vocabulary fit more in that area than in a truly YA novel.

Bailey is pretty unlikeable character, and speaking stereotypically, that's fine. I can do unlikeable characters, even schadenfreude-ly enjoy them  -  if they're interesting, or justified in being so difficult (see: all of Courtney Summers's books). Unfortunately for Bailey, her 'tude and the reasons behind it didn't ring true for me. First of all: I don't buy that anyone's parents could be so blatantly biased towards one child at the expense of the other. Their actions, and Bailey's reactions, had me disconnecting from this novel early on. I also didn't think Bailey was as much of a badass as she clearly thought. Sorry hon, hair dye and a few piercings =/= toughness. Her arrogance, and her presentation made Bailey a hard sell for me from the first page. I grew less and less interested in her and the plot as the pages went on.

Once the reason for Bailey's familiar exodus was revealed.. I rolled my eyes. That was my big reaction to the big event and subsequent drama.Seriously - what an overreaction - for everyone involved. Like I said before, the interactions between Bailey, her sister and her parents didn't come off as authentic. The separation serves as a way to have Bailey on her own without using Missing Parent Syndrome, but it feels too cheap and easy. She's 18 -- she could have easily moved out early, or been preparing for college, etc. The ridiculous "tension" and reasons for it just didn't work.

I must admit that the music aspect of the novel is fairly strong. It's obvious that the author loves music, and the one thing that was authentic for Bailey's characterization was how she felt about bluegrass, and playing her fiddle. Her summer job playing with various cover bands showcases Bailey's talent in different areas, but it mainly serves as a meet-cute for her love interest, try-hard badboy/heartbreaker Sam. Sam, ooohh Sam. Another character I was supposed to be interested by, but was completely bored whenever he was around. Too pushy, too wannabe, and too cliche for me, Sam added nothing to Dirty Little Secret. The ups and downs of their relationship just felt calculated, following an obvious trajectory to a predictable outcome.

This isn't a bad book. It's just not as good as it could've been. The characters need more dimension, the plot more originality, the themes more nuance. It all just feels so rehashed or shortchanged. I've read variations of this book so many times before. The one thing that works, that stands out, is the bluegrass music, but that never held as much focus as it should have. I obviously didn't care for it, hence the two stars, but what doesn't work for me might fit perfectly for others. If you're a fan of Echols' previous work, I'm sure this will be a hit. If you're a newbie or on the fence, this might not end up being the book for you.



    I was going to read this one soon. I was hoping it'd defy the stigma of new adult.


  2. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate the title mistake -- I've done that more than once and it rarely ends well for me!


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