Title: Her Last Secret
Author: Barbara Copperthwaite Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense First published: October 13th 2017 Publisher: Bookouture Finished reading: September 24th 2017 Pages: ?
“Life was sweet. Until it turned sour.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Bookouture in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Lies earlier this year, so I was really looking forward to Barbara Copperthwaite‘s newest psychological thriller. And as the title might already suggest, this one is yet another story packed until its limits with lies and secrets. Her Last Secret is mostly a character-driven psychological thriller and focuses on the many different characters that play a role in the event of that damned Christmas day. I do have to admit the pace was initially a lot slower than expected and I found myself struggling a little in the beginning. This was due both to the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters. Somehow was never able to warm up to any of the main characters (except mayby for Mouse) and some of their actions and opinions actually started to frustrate me (the father is despicable!). I can’t deny their development feels realistic and rounded though; each of them having a different web of lies and secrets and adding a different level to the story. This complexity of characters and different subplots is what saved this story for me. Once you get used to the different characters, start learning about the events leading up to Christmas day and start guessing what really happened, you will find yourself hooked. The second half of the story definitely made up for the slow start for me. I loved the whole countdown idea and how slowly more of the present day event is revealed… Leaving you in the dark and guessing what could have happened and who is to blame as you learn more about the characters. And the final part is more than shocking! Basically, Her Last Secret will make you think a lot of things and suspect a lot of people, but I can garantuee you won’t guess the final truth about what really happened. I could also really appreciate the role (cyber)bullying played in this story. All in all, if you enjoy reading character-driven psychological thrillers, you will have a great time with this one.
On the outside, they seemed like a perfect family. Ben Thomas is a successful business and lives with his wife Dominique in a beautiful house along with their two daughters Ruby and Mouse. But this perfect image is just a mirage, as they seem to be hiding a lot of secrets… And then on Christmas day the police is called to their home, only to find a horrific scene. What happened in their home? What secrets were they hiding? And did those secrets have anything to do with what happened on Christmas day?
Her Last Secret turned out to be a slowburner for me. While I initially struggled with the slower pace and my lack of connection to the characters, I was seriously hooked by the time I reached the second half. This character-driven psychological thriller has more layers than an onion and a huge dose of secrets to go with it. The complexity of the plot and how the different storylines slowly merge is what makes this story so intriguing; the countdown chapters mixed with the slow Christmas day revelations only add to the suspense.
Title: All The Rage Author: Courtney Summers Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery First published: April 14th 2015 Finished reading: May 9th 2016 Pages: 321
“But just because something starts out sweet doesn’t mean it won’t push itself so far past anything you could call sweet anymore. And if it all starts like this, how do you see what’s coming?”
I have had this book on my radar even before it was first published last year, but somehow it took me a long time to actually pick it up. All The Rage is a story with a complicated topic and definitely shouldn’t be considered as a light or easy read. Why? In this novel by Courtney Summers you will find numerous mentions of sexual violence, abuse and bullying and the way the victim in the story is treated after the facts is quite horrible. I normally don’t mind stories with shocking elements, but in this case it was hard to focus on the actual facts and feel sorry for the main character. I’m not saying what happened to Romy wasn’t horrible and she must feel terrible that nobody seems to believe her, but still… Why has she have to be so unlikeable?! Most of the other characters weren’t exactly likeable either, and that made it really hard to connect to the story itself or have proper feelings while reading it. It’s not that All The Rage is badly written and it actually reads pretty fast, but I’m not sure what happened to Romy and the fact that (almost) nobody seems to help this poor girl is actually credible. What I do appreciate is that this story brings attention to sexual violence and how it can affect its victims. Maybe one day warning signs will actually always be investigated no matter how crazy they might sound. (Unlike in the case of All The Rage, where the suspect is the sheriff’s son and protected by his father and the community.)
Romy Grey has a horrible secret, and nobody seems to believe her. Kellan Turner is the sheriff’s son and seems to be the perfect golden boy, but Romy knows for a fact that is not true. But no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town and from a family with a bad reputation in the community… In fact, telling the truth about what happened took away everything good in her life. Romy is called a liar by the whole community and bullied by the same people she used to hang out with. The only way she can escape reality is during her shifts at a diner where she works outside of tome, where nobody knows her name or past. Things change forever when both Romy and a girl she used to be friends with go missing after a party… Romy shows up alive the next day, but the other girl isn’t so lucky. Now the whole community seems to wish it was Romy still missing… And Romy doesn’t know whether she should fight to get the truth out or ignore the fact that more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t.
The message behind All The Rage is an important one and I appreciate the fact that it brings attention to (the consequences of) sexual abuse and bullying. I wasn’t completely convinced by the prose though. I understand the chapters are the way they are to build up tension and keep you guessing about what really happened, but it did make it less enjoyable to read. Still, the main problem probably is the fact that most of the characters are completely unlikeable and almost nobody seems to even consider helping Romy in the first place. It made it a lot harder to connect to the story and feel sympathy for the main character. Would I recommend reading this story? Probably, if you enjoy the genre and don’t mind unlikeable characters.
Title: Random Author: Tom Leveen Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction First published: August 12th 2014 Finished reading: March 30th 2016 Pages: 224
“’Because that’s what being dead means,’ Andy says. ‘It’s the zenit of ‘never’. Never again, never this, never that. You don’t come back from never. You can’t enjoy never. You just sit there, not existing, not listening to your favorite songs or eating you favorite foods. Never.’”
I’ve read a few good books about teen suicide and (cyber)bullying in the past (including Tease,Thirteen Reasons Why and Nothing Everything Nothing), so when I first read the blurb of this novel I was immediately interested. Unfortunately cyberbullying is becoming a more urgent problem every day with the internet-focused society we are living in today. Tom Leveen did an excellent job in showing us how something seemingly ‘innocent’ as a few harsh Facebook comments can make someone vulnerable make the decision to end it all. The main character Tori is the perfect example of someone who didn’t see the consequences of her comments, and still thinks she didn’t do anything wrong. The random call and the way she is forced to think about suicide and how she might have played a role in the death of the very person that used to be her friend make this read into something truly intriguing. Random has a fast pace, is easy to read and has just enough plot twists to keep you surprised until the end. The characters might not be completely likeable, but they do feel real and show us what can happen if cyberbullying isn’t taken seriously. Recommended!
Tori hasn’t been herself lately ever since one of her former friends decided to end his life. Kevin and Tori used to be closer, but when Tori became friends with a bunch of popular people she started to act differently. Her new friends don’t exactly treat Kevin the right way and slowly Tori starts to join them… And when her new friends start leaving harsh comments about everything Kevin writes on her Facebook page, she doesn’t defend him. Feeling desperate to stay popular, she even writes a few nasty comments of her own. Now Tori’s Facebook page is evidence in an upcoming trail with national coverage that wants to convict her group for cyberbullying and being the direct cause of Kevin’s suicide… Tori doesn’t believe she is guilty, but is forced to rethink what happened to him when she receives a random phone call. What seems to be a wrong number turns to be a guy her age that asks her for only one thing: a reason not to kill himself. Tori first thinks he is a fraud, but can she really take the risk and have another possible suicide on her conscience?
Random is a well written and fast-paced read about a subject that is becoming more and more important as the influence of the internet grows. Cyberbullying is probably more common than the ‘old-fashioned’ bullying known ten years ago, and it is important that the consequences are revealed to the bigger public. Tom Leveen did an excellent job by doing just that in his novel and make us think about how something simple as a few Facebook comments can have a huge impact on someone. I would definitely recommend reading this book if you are interested in the subject.
Title: The Truth About Alice Author: Jennifer Mathieu Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fiction First published: June 3rd 2014 Finished reading: July 23rd 2015 Pages: 209
“There is one thing I’ve learned about people: they don’t get that mean and nasty overnight. It’s not human nature. But if you give people enough time, eventually they’ll do the most heartbreaking stuff in the world.”
I’ve had The Truth About Alice on my TBR ever since it came out last year, but somehow I was hesitant to pick it up. I’ve heard mixed things about it and to be honest I wasn’t sure I was going to like this read… Turns out I was right. The Truth About Alice is basically about a bunch of teenage drama queens who spread rumors about Alice, and then you slowly find out what really happened and why they invented the rumors. The characters weren’t exactly likeable and you don’t hear from Alice until the very last chapter. (I guess that chapter is what saved this book a bit for me.) Jennifer Mathieu writes in a way that is easy to read and the pace is fast, but I felt myself not really caring about what was happening to the characters. You read the story from the point of view of different characters and learn what really happened through their eyes. The problem is that three of them are mostly annoying teenage wannabes (Elaine, Kelsie and Josh) and their ‘secrets’ are not interesting at all. The chapters with Kurt are refreshing; at least he has an interesting personality. But overall this was mostly a boring read with flat characters that could have been summarized by only reading the last chapter.
According to the rumors, Alice Franklin is what you call a true slut. Everybody knows that she slept with two guys at one and the same party. And everybody knows she was writing dirty texts to Brandon at the moment he crashed his car and died. Everybody knows, so the rumors must be true right? The bathroom stall at their high school is full of messages that show what the students really think of Alice and things are getting out of control… Four Healy High students will tell what they know, but what is the truth about Alice? What really happened?
I should have known The Truth About Alice wouldn’t be for me. I’m not a fan of high school drama and that is what this novel is all about. At least it’s a quick read, but I honestly didn’t care about the characters or about the truth about Alice… Which is kind of the whole point of this book. Well, at least now I know, right? Fans of YA contemporary and those who don’t mind annoying ‘popular’ high school students as main characters might still enjoy this read, but I wouldn’t recommend it myself.
Title: Tease Author: Amanda Maciel Genre: YA, Contemporary First published: April 29th 2014 Finished reading: May 27th 2015 Pages: 328
“But how do you apologize for this? I know what I did, I know it was bad, some of it was really bad. But how am I supposed to fix anything now?”
I first found out about Tease when I was browsing for titles about bullying for my Bookish Bingo challenge. This novel by Amanda Maciel sounded like an interesting read so it was an easy choice… Now that I’ve finished reading Tease, I can say it has left its mark. Bullying and teen suicide are not exactly easy subjects, but I think that the author was able to properly describe them in her novel. A few teenagers have been criminally charged for bullying one of their classmates to a degree that made her decide to end her own life. Amanda Maciel tells us the story mostly from Sara’s point of view (one of the classmates), but doesn’t fail to show that the victim wasn’t an angel either. High school is messy and the case is actually quite complicated… But it shows where bullying someone can lead to, and how wrong it is no matter what the other person might have done to you. Definitely recommended to those who enjoy a good YA contemporary novel with a strong message!
Five teenagers have been criminally charged for bullying and harrassing Emma Putnam to the point that she decided to commit suicide. Sara is one of them and she doesn’t see how she is actually responsible for Emma’s death. Sara only sees how the new girl slowly destroyed her comfortable high school life… They were what you call enemies, Emma stealing away her boyfriend and all, and even after she is death Emma is ruining her life. The whole community already thinks Sara is guilty before the trial has even started, and she cannot go outside without being scolded at. Sara has the summer to prepare herself for the trial, and is forced to reflect on the events that led to Emma’s suicide during meetings with her lawyer and therapist. Will she finally realize she actually did something wrong after all?
I had a hate/love relationship with the main characters, but I cannot deny that they at least felt ‘real’. Tease is a novel with a strong anti-bullying message that shows the consequences of bullying someone. It is quite a fast read despite the difficult subject and I also liked that Amanda Maciel used Sara’s point of view instead of the victim; it makes this read that much more interesting. Without doubt recommended!