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.