The Last Secret You'll Ever Keep, Laurie Faria Stolarz: A Review
I've been into YA thrillers lately, so I was really excited to jump into this one after the cover, title, and blurb caught my attention.
Terra, an 18 year old with a history of mental illness, delinquency, and a troubled past, is abducted from her home and kept in a well. For four days, she languished in the dirt, only to save herself and make her way back home. But no one believes her, and as the story continues, we see Terra struggling with reality. She questions her memories, her character, and her intentions because everyone around her claims her story is made up. As she searches for connection and an emotional outlet in Jane Anonymous, a website designed for survivors, she begins to fear that she's being targeted again. I liked this book. The plot itself is a very cool premise. I was most interested in the moments when Terra is recounting her abduction. I loved how she reviews the "rules" her parents taught her in order to be safe and how she tried to "do everything right." This emphasized the important topic of believe-ability and victim blaming. Terra is not only ostracized because of her story, she's targeted for it. Friends and peers abandon her. Classmates torment her. Law enforcement dismisses her. Her Aunt Dessa blames her "imagination" on previous issues and continues to push therapy programs and medications as the answer to "her problems." This aspect of the novel struck a serious cord with me, and for that, I think many readers will find this book interesting, too. I had some issues with voice and structure that kept me from falling in love. The website conversations were quick and easy to read and reminded me of Ruth Ware's chapter breaks in her most recent One by One. I enjoyed that, but Terra's voice read older than 18 at times. I struggled with her relationship with Peyton and the shifting focus of the book. Is this a stalker thriller? A dramatic suspense? A psychological thriller? It was hard to pinpoint the aim, and Terra's recollection only furthers the confusion. I think she's almost an unreliable narrator, but the final chapters unfolded too quickly and too on the nose for me to fully doubt her the way I think we're supposed to. Overall, The Last Secret You'll Ever Keep is a quick read with some astute commentary on victim blaming and mental health. I think this will hit hard for many readers struggling with these issues but might not be for everyone. Big thanks to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.