The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Publishing Date: April 28
Genre: young adult, contemporary, mystery
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.
Ella and Maddy are identical twin sisters, and once best friends. But on the first day of high school, Maddy races to the popular crowd and leaves Ella behind, nearly shoving her to a group of artsy, quiet types. Ella doesn’t mind — she loves her small group of friends — but she wishes Maddy would open up to her again, just like the old days. So when Maddy calls and asks Ella to pick her up from a party, Ella does so at the drop of a hat. After fighting in the car on a rainy night, Ella wakes up to find she’s lost her memory as well as her sister. Everyone — parents, friends, teachers — are convinced Ella is Maddy, and Ella delivers exactly what they’re hoping for. In an effort to become her sister, Ella discovers some dark secrets in Maddy’s past, secrets that may have been her redeeming quality that night of the party and accident.
This is an emotionally gripping read. I was flying through the pages just to see how Ella would come out to friends and family to admit she’s Ella and not Maddy. It’s also an incredible mind-bender, a perfect psychological study for soon-to-be or current psychology majors. How would you respond to waking up and not knowing who you are? How would you respond to realizing exactly who you are but everyone is convinced you’re dead? How would you go about pretending to be that person for the sake of others without losing your true self in the process? How would you react, if you were the parent or friend, to finding out the person you think is dead is actually alive and well and right in front of you?
If I were still a teenager, I would’ve enjoyed this even more. I would’ve thrilled in the mystery, the drama (oh, the drama — poor Maddy worked way too hard for all that exhaustive, conniving, high school popularity crap. Ella tok the right path of solitude and calm!), the emotion, the split-second decision. Leaver really knows how to connect to the reader in that regard. That being said, because I do have a psychology degree and I’m (only slightly) older than the targeted audience, I had a difficult time believing Mom and Dad and boyfriend Alex didn’t realize Maddy wasn’t Maddy but Ella. There were snippets here and there — Ella snapping at her parents at the funeral (Maddy never did that), Mom looking at Ella’s face and searching for one visual difference, Dad noticing that Ella’s dog was always hanging around Ella (Maddy hated the dog) — but it baffled me that hair style, tone of voice, walking style, mannerisms, eating habits, none of that clued anyone in on the fact Ella was not Maddy. Only Josh, Ella’s best friend, knew from the start. And those are just the tiniest of loopholes I let slide.
Twin stories are fascinating, and Leaver certainly hits this on the head. The great mystery behind Maddy is shocking, and it makes you hate her and love her all at once. Ella’s determination to make others happy is both worthy of respect and a sign to stand up for who you are and be proud of that young person. She doesn’t need to be a doormat to realize people love her for exactly the way she is. She learns the hard way, that’s certain, but I love how much she grew by the end of the book.
Thank you, NetGalley and Mary Van Akin, for providing this book from FSG for review!