Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily’s and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.
2.5 Drink Me Potions
The rating above is considered me being generous. The Secrets of Lily Graves wasn’t absolutely horrendous, which is why I rounded up, but it most definitely was nothing special or outstanding.
Lily Graves and her family background provided a very intriguing protagonist to follow in this YA novel. That in itself should have set this book apart….if it had been written well. I honestly tried to really enjoy this book. I love murder mysteries, especially when they have you on the edge of your seat with suspense and horror to the very last reveal. This was not so much the case here. Suspense? Pfft, not present. Romance? (’cause oh yeah, this was supposed to be some suspenseful AND romantic story). Not even. I encountered way too many problems while reading it, and the below are just me ranting out the major ones.
1) Lily Graves herself.
I wanted to enjoy her voice more, considering we’re reading in her perspective. I hate it when I don’t like the protagonist because it makes the story so much harder to continue with. It’s not because she’s different from any typical YA-type main character. She likes to adorn herself in garb resembling Morticia Addams (or whoever else in the Addams family you care to remember); enjoys helping her aunt prep dead bodies for wakes/funerals since she was like, 8 years old; reads fun books like The Tibetan Book of the Dead and despises to be “normal”.
Ok, so she is definitely not a girl you read about very often, but that wasn’t why I didn’t love her. I don’t expect to be able to relate to her (no, I don’t obsess much about all things dead/black….except maybe black lace), but I had hoped to at least understand her and her perspective enough to enjoy her story. But nope. It didn’t happen. This may be more of a JUST-ME kind of thing.
I say this with a question mark ’cause honestly, was there much of it at all? The story starts off with the fact that Lily and her hot jock guy “friend”, Matt, had already had their history. There are brief flashbacks that Lily provides of when he first approached her for tutoring and that’s where their “relationship” began.
BUT we don’t get to see much of a romance developing/developed AT ALL. It’s kind of like the author was too lazy to put in the details of their budding romance, considering Matt had a girlfriend- who was the one who died by the way- during the events right before the story started so nothing SHOULD’VE happened before that (and if something HAD happened, we wouldn’t know since Sarah Strohmeyer sure didn’t add anything about it). However, you, as the reader, get the distinct feeling that they “like” each other and everything, but there’s never a lot of talk about it. Or how it happened. Why, you may ask?
‘Cause the author was too busy laying down the foundation for a MYSTERY novel to have the time to focus on ROMANCE. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to this point soon.
Let’s just say that Matt was an unremarkable love interest, considering Lily is such a unique character. It also never mentions why he suddenly wanted to get to know her better. I’m very puzzled at that still. A hot jock interested (possibly romantically) in an odd girl yet he still left right away after each tutoring session was over? Hmm, doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll let you puzzle that out yourself.
3) THE mystery?
Oh please. It wasn’t too hard to guess out of the few characters in the book who could have possibly committed the crime. Obviously it’s not going to be some random character to throw out at the end, and not any red herrings the author threw out in the middle of the book. If she had developed/thrown more characters into the story, then it could have made plausible motive difficult to guess out of all of them. Needless to say, that was not the case.
This is the first novel I have read by Sarah Strohmeyer so I may be wrong when I say the following (please do not get mad at my honest opinion). I don’t think mystery novels are her strong suit. It seems she has written some very successful rom-coms, and in my opinion, those are what she is better at. The story lacked in romance because she focused on grounding out the mystery. It wasn’t all bad. Predictable and not very suspenseful, yes, but it wasn’t a terrible read. Maybe if she tried again, it’ll be better next time, but for The Secrets of Lily Graves both aspects are in much needed work.
4) The ending….
What? That was me at the end of this story. It left such an unsatisfying tinge in my mouth. I swear, the climax and ending/epilogue only took up the last 20 pages or so. It was rushed and left some questions hanging.
Without giving away too much, let’s just say that the motives for why that someone would want to frame Lily is questionable. Sure, you can say they didn’t care much for her, but why? I think it warranted at least an attempt to answer the why. Also, the epilogue was like a summary of what was happening after the events of the climax/arrest, written as if in 3rd person instead of the first person narrative from Lily. It was a bit detached, like she was quickly stating “And this is what happened to the culprit, etc. while Matt and I live happily ever after…The End”. I’d say the end was just short of sounding downright impatient to be finished.
The Secrets of Lily Graves was nothing remarkable, neither done well as a mystery or a romance novel. It was like the author was trying too hard to do one, so it ended up destroying the other. I would NOT recommend this to any diehard mystery fans out there, as the storyline was mediocre in adding suspense and had a predictable culprit. If you just want to try your hand at a mystery, then give this a shot as it won’t scare you much like other nitty-gritty mysteries may. All in all, this was a story with potential that just fizzled in the middle.