Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

39091679The Truth About Keeping Secrets is a quiet, slow-paced contemporary novel following a girl who has lost her dad in a car accident – but was it really?

I’m seeing that this is being marketed as an f/f thriller, but while it does have a mystery element, I’d recommend it more to those who loved Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay than to fans of Far From You or People Like Us.

That’s because to me this book felt more like an exploration of grief than a thriller, at least for its first half. The second half did feel more like a thriller, but I also thought it was the weakest part of the book. While the first half was an atmospheric, vaguely creepy story about grief and associated unhealthy coping mechanisms that also talked about what it’s like to be the only girl who is out as a lesbian in your high school, the second half was about the main character trying to piece together a mystery whose resolution seemed – at least to me – obvious from the beginning. I guess I just like introspective character driven stories more?

And as a character-driven story, The Truth About Keeping Secrets is really good, since it succeeds where many other supposedly character-driven books fail: the main character’s voice was perfect. Sydney is a teenage girl who is grieving, who is dealing with her father’s death in an unhealthy way, and she’s sad and angry and using sarcasm as a coping mechanism, and she felt real in a way very few characters do. Even other people’s reaction to her felt very realistic (I have seen something very similar to the Dylan Thomas poem scene happen. Some teachers really are that insensitive). I loved reading about her, and when the focus shifted from grief to the actual mystery, I wasn’t as interested.

This is also a story that talks about imperfect friendships, abusive relationships and that “liminal” space queer girls often find themselves in when they have a maybe-unrequited crush on a girl – the “does she like me or am I just misreading everything” space. The Truth About Keeping Secrets is an f/f book, and there’s a romance between Sydney and June, the seemingly “perfect” girl Sydney becomes close with after the death of her father – but for most of the book, Sydney doesn’t even know whether June likes her back. There’s a scene in which the two girls talk about liminal spaces and I was thinking that “liminal” is exactly how their relationship felt at the moment. I really liked how it developed after that.

Also, the writing was gorgeous. I can’t share any quotes because I read an ARC, but I highlighted a lot of things while reading this.

My rating: ★★★½

One more thing: you can find trigger warnings for this book here. As this book deals with some heavy themes, I recommend reading them before going into it.

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