Author: Trisha Leaver
Rating: ★★ / ★
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers & Netgalley for this ARC!
Man I wanted to like this book more than I did. I thought it was going to be mysterious and emotional and it just felt so flat to me. We all know that it’s about a twin who’s twin dies and how she takes over the twin’s life. That sounded twisty! It was not. There was no depth in this book. I never felt like anyone was really grieving (well, the mother because we’re told she is, but it didn’t really seem like it for quite a bit of the time). Ella-as-Maddy spends so much time trying to convince herself that nobody cares about Ella and everyone loves Maddy and how Maddy deserved to live and blah blah blah, it was just so annoying. I also didn’t like how Ella basically thought that her own twin sister would just… move on with life and not even act differently after her own twin DIES. Ugh, the whole ‘I must be Maddy’ thing just didn’t work ever for me.
I guess I really didn’t like how nobody gave Ella-as-Maddy any slack. The boyfriend is all ‘keep it together, why are you acting strange, you aren’t acting like yourself’… um HER TWIN SISTER JUST DIED. Jesus.
And then the whole ~Mystery of Maddy’s Life’~ was just not as mind blowing as I had expected it to be. We get a glimpse that something is going down and Ella has to try to figure it out, and she does, and it’s just… idk.
And the love interest. Never felt it. Ever.
Sigh. I really wanted so much more emotion from this.
I have to admit something — I can’t remember the last time a book really made me legitimately angry while reading it, but here we are with The Secrets We Keep. It’s about twins! One twin dies! The other decides to take on her life because she was more popular and well liked! Chaos… doesn’t actually ensure, and that’s really the issue with this book. The plot hole is so large and flimsy that the book doesn’t have a foot to stand on.
First off, and this drove me nuts while reading the book — even though the twins are identical, every identical twin has a distinguishing feature that allows people to tell the difference, especially if you interact with them it’s often clearer who is who. It baffled me that everyone just rolled with it that Ella was Maddie. Even the parents! The parents who SHOULD have been able to see physical or key differences and nope, they got smacked with the stupid stick. Alex as a character was no better — for someone who was so in love with Maddie, he should have easily clued in just through Ella’s gestures that Ella was deceiving him.
I understand feeling guilt about an accident, and I understand that Ella was not popular and kind of hated by everyone, and taking Maddie’s identity meant that she could live her sister’s legacy in her honour, but let’s be realistic here — it felt so hollow. Ella talks about how easy it is, everyone blames it on “trauma” but I struggle to buy how easy all of this deception was. The novel makes it so simple in fact that it takes the last thirty pages for everyone to realize that she isn’t who she says she is, meanwhile it’s way too obvious considering her interactions with those who are in Maddie’s clique.
Furthermore, I don’t understand how the adults were just so accepting of it either. I mean, I am sorry but even if someone says their name, what medical professional wouldn’t check further to ensure that the truth was being told. I get that these mistakes are possible, but again every resolution in this book is just so simply wrapped in a bow and pushed aside. Even when Josh discovers the truth, instead of trying to get Ella to confess, he just scolds her and that’s kind of it and then when she finally accepts herself as Ella again, everyone in the story isn’t even MAD about it. They are just “Oh, okay.”
HOW IS THAT OKAY?
The level of disbelief suspension in this book was just too much. There’s nothing realistic about this novel and while this concept should have been interesting and better developed, The Secrets We Keep is perfectly okay with taking the easy road and making every conflict seem so little. While I felt for Ella in some ways, particularly where she admits at Maddie’s grave that she’s not doing a great job being her, I still found myself wanting to just toss the book because again, it’s simple. The ending left me completely infuriated, again because it’s so easy and simple, and no, it’s not. It’s never that easy.
For those who can suspense their disbelief and suspend it hard, perhaps you’ll like this book. The glaring inconsistencies and plot holes just left me baffled. This book treats the reader like they are stupid, but everything is written so obviously that I kept scratching my head as to how everyone was so oblivious to “Maddie’s new personality.” Unfortunately, I cannot recommendThe Secret We Keep, because for me, there was simply nothing redeeming about the book.