4.5 star, YA

Review: Two Can Keep A Secret by Karen M. McManus

Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.

The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.

Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.

Wow. Honestly after reading her One of Us is Lying series, I was already quite a fan of Karen M. McManus’s work. But after this one, I can truthfully say it’s actually my preferred book out of the three, and definitely makes me want to keep an eye out for whenever she publishes a new one.

In Two Can Keep a Secret, a pair of fraternal twins return to their mother’s hometown of Echo Ridge, where she was once the homecoming queen. Seventeen years ago, their mom’s twin sister disappeared without a trace, never to be seen again. Now, coming back, it seems as if history repeats itself as another girl goes missing around homecoming. Cryptic messages arise, spooking everyone out. Who is behind this whole mystery? Or is perhaps the town just cursed?

This is one of those whodunnits that follow multiple POVs, switching back and forth between chapters. The writing is clear, and actually, the chapters cut off quite suspensefully, making this book a real page turner. There is no shortage of excitement in this town of Echo Ridge, where there seems to be another disaster waiting to happen around every corner. Perhaps I have had less exposure to mystery novels recently, but I found the little twists and turns fairly hard to predict in this one, and that really helped me to enjoy the mystery aspect of it for sure.

I found that this was a really exciting read, and also really grew close to each of the characters despite their flaws and idiosyncrasies. Mysteries are always way more exciting when the reader feels like there are things on the line as the investigation moves forward, and my constant worrying for the main characters (and even their friends) really helped build the suspenseful ambience that I find to be the hallmark of a good mystery novel. The characters were well built, consistent to their character, and generally believable of teenagers/young adults living in a small town with a long history that precedes itself.

If you enjoy trying to guess what will happen and doing your own predictions as you read, I think you’ll enjoy this book. The little clues that are left by the author, and the way things are tied up together at the end make a lot of plausible sense, so the events didn’t feel too forced, and that is another important factor for a well written novel. One of the main characters actually reads a lot of mystery novels/true crime as kind of her core character, so it was also interesting to see how that really shaped her perceptions of what was happening to her, and how she fought to explain phenomena that was happening around her.

Overall Recommendations

Two Can Keep a Secret revolves around the small town, Echo Ridge, and the mysterious circumstances around which they keep losing their homecoming queens. Fast-paced, and full of suspense, you can’t help but feel sorry for these teenagers who get caught up in the cross-fire, or in the shame of their family’s past. If you enjoy a mystery that has lots of elements coming together for a spectacular finish, this may just be the one for you. Following very relatable teenagers caught up in their mess of a hometown, this is sure to be an exciting read for any YA mystery lover.

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