Secrets Never Die

Wednesday Bks. Sept. 2023. 368p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781250882158.
Gr 8 Up–High schooler Sam Hall and his friends Naveen, Dom, and Elisha have a yearly Halloween ritual: to privately confess their most closely held secrets at a shack in the woods they call the Dark Place. But the yearly confessional is interrupted by the mysterious Sasha Craven, who threatens to share these secrets with their classmates and families. What follows is a twisty narrative of revelations as Sam tries to unmask Sasha while simultaneously confronting the past. Sam carries the guilt of a house fire that both ended his acting career on the show Future Force and left his father with physical and emotional scars. Sam’s friends Dom and Naveen also hold secrets connected to his acting career, and Sasha uses these to fracture Sam’s trust with his friend group. Sasha also uses threatening videos and a number of mysterious accomplices in creepy masks to accost Sam and escalate the conflict. When Sasha’s identity is revealed (requiring a secondary narrative with considerable explanation and flashbacks), it is difficult to understand why the friends were targeted at all, and Sam in particular. This book shines in its fast pace and engaging opener, and the twists and unknown accomplices will keep readers guessing. However, the late reveals and unexplained motives of all of Sasha’s helpers make the conclusion less than satisfying.
VERDICT A readable, stand-alone thriller that hits the mark in suspense but misses in motive and plotting.

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