Sudden Secrets is about a haunted house, but the real mystery is the character motivation

Sudden Secrets is about a haunted house, but the real mystery is the character motivation

While the cover screams child abuse, and the original summary sounded like this was a horror story, Sudden Secrets is really just a YA mystery centered around a creepy house and some rather bored teens.  While the writing wasn’t bad and there were some nice moments, I was distracted by the many problems I found in character motivation.  I gave it two stars because it isn’t something I would recommend to other readers, but there is a following of sorts for it on Goodreads.  If you do read this and think I have it all wrong, comments are welcome! 


 Cleo’s family, torn apart by the loss of a young child – a tragedy that Cleo feels responsible for, moves to a new house in the hopes of beginning fresh.  The house they choose doesn’t improve family relations, but it does offer distraction – a mystery in the form of an “abandoned” house across the street that is full of strange lights and movement.  As Cleo’s obsession with uncovering who or what is occupying the property grows stronger, she realizes she might just hold the key to a decades old unsolved crime.  While I enjoyed the premise and the author’s intention of telling a story about healing and forgiveness, the execution was weakened by the use of far-fetched elements and shaky character motives.  I found, too, that the language sounded too dated for contemporary teens.  It also felt like the four YA’s in the book were the only kids at school since no other teen characters were really noted.  Additional secondary characters could have added a more fulfilling complexity to both the overall plot and the subplots.   I did really enjoy some parts of the story.  I thought there was a beautiful metaphor about the overgrown yard and emotional landscapes.  I liked the connection Cleo believed she maintained with her dead sister, though I did feel it deserved another nod near the end.  I liked how Stacey, the blond bombshell, was a nice surprise of a character.  There was a real authenticity to Cleo’s bleak family dynamic.  I just felt like I had a hard time focusing on those because I couldn’t see past the holes in the character motivations. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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