As much as I love thrillers, my taste can often be specific when it comes to them. I want the suspect to be surprising, but realistic. There needs to be enough action and twists, but also a viable plot to keep it going. A good mystery also needs compelling characters, with secrets, backstories, and a healthy amount of suspicion. Karen McManus’ upcoming teen novel Two Can Keep a Secret does all of these things and more.
Two Can Keep a Secret is set to release in January of 2019 and is sure to be another big-hitter.
Two Can Keep a Secret is a Young Adult, the genre targeted for teenagers, book set in a small town called Echo Ridge in Vermont. It follows Ellery and Malcolm, two very different main characters who both have a complex relationship with the scandals of their town. When a series of threatening messages begin to plague the town regarding the fast-approaching Homecoming dance, Ellery and Malcolm both begin to search for answers while trying to keep themselves safe from suspicious characters.
The book opens with seventeen-year-old Ellery and her twin brother Ezra moving in with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, as their mother is no longer able to take care of them. For their family, Echo Ridge has always been a dark place, after their aunt disappeared when she was seventeen. Ellery grew up hearing this story, and it sparked a passion for true crime and mystery-solving. She is the Nancy Drew of the novel, albeit without a plaid skirt or magnifying glass.
Malcolm, unlike Ellery, has lived in this small town, where gossip spreads like wildfire, his entire life. Five years prior to the setting of the book, when Malcolm was still in middle school, his older brother dated a well-liked girl around town – at least, until she was found dead in a nearby amusement park. Even though his brother was never convicted of a crime, the whispers, stares, and assumptions continue to plague Malcolm in the present, especially as him and Ellery begin digging for answers regarding the new threats around town and whispers of a resurfacing kidnapper.
The plot of the book certainly had the opportunity to be confusing. There were a lot of theories to keep track of, characters to remember, and tumultuous relationships to navigate. However, McManus did a fantastic job of keeping her reader in the loop when necessary and leaving out information to shock them later. The pacing was steady throughout the story but began to pick up even more around a third of the way through, when another girl in the town goes missing. A girl who is tied to both Ellery and Malcolm, thrusting them to the forefront of the investigation.
We get to read from both Ellery and Malcolm’s point of view and while at times their voices felt a little bit interchangeable, other instances kept them clearly separated. It was interesting to see the perspective of Echo Ridge both from an outsider, Ellery, and from a seasoned, if not cynical, resident, Malcolm.
Anyone looking for a true horror may find a lack of violence in Two Can Keep a Secret. But, if you’re seeking a mystery thriller, with some eerie scenes, this is the perfect read. In the second half of the book, the tension truly begins to ramp up, and a reader can’t help but sit on the edge of their seat, waiting for the next twist to come. For any romance lovers out there, Ellery and Malcolm’s relationship isn’t a major part of the story but is a cute side-plot to follow and root for.
This thriller is in no way lacking in its side characters. From Ellery’s twin to Malcolm’s friends and troubling family, murder suspects, suspicious neighbors, and judgmental classmates, there is a lot of activity for the reader to focus on and enjoy. With all of these secondary characters also comes the opportunity for intriguing side-plots; while the main narrative is in no way boring, these other happenings make the book even more appealing and difficult to put down.
The plot is so compelling, in fact, that the book seems to fly by. Between the eerie small town feel and dangerous criminal on the loose, and though it has yet to hit shelves, there’s plenty to look forward to in McManus’ upcoming release. For those interested in feeling intrigue, fear, excitement, and a whole lot of suspicion, Two Can Keep a Secret releases to the world on January 8, 2019 from Delacorte Press. It is available for preorder now.