Monday, 28 March 2016

Margaret Willey's "Four secrets"

‘Four secrets’ is a young adult novel about three teenage friends who have just been put into juvenile detention for supposedly kidnapping another person from school and drugging them. What plays out is whether this is not only true or not, but why these three teenagers would do such a thing, if they did.

The book follows four different perspectives: the three friends Renata, Katie and Nate as well as the social worker looking after the three teenagers and trying to put the whole story together. The way this plot works (in order to get to the truth) is done in a way that keeps its secrets until the end because you not only get snippets of understanding from one person at a time, but you have to follow how they are led to think. This means, that while Katie writes in her journal collected by the social worker as normal, Nate does so with fantastical elements thrown in that require deciphering and Renata only communicates through drawings littered through the book. The only perspective that follows real-time therefore is the social worker who is the catalyst for relating to everyone else within North Holmes in order to find the truth of the story before the teenagers go to trial. She is also the one who helps connect the dots with the reader as they go along. This is an interesting set-up for the novel and allows for different voices to come through strongly, as well as thoughts, processes and fears of the teenagers. It also adds more entertaining elements for young adult readers.

The characters themselves might be a little two-dimensional. Their traits and characteristics that they are known by are highlighted often, and though you gain access to their thoughts and fears, I found that there was no real connection to any one character. This is especially true of Renata to me, but this could be because her relation of events comes in the form of images, and I am just not as prone to analysing pictures as I am words. I did enjoy the strong friendship bonds between the three teens however, and I think readers will connect with this well. As for the social worker, she was too invested in her case (but this is how information was able to be passed through to the reader). I felt like this made her a little unrealistic; though to the teenagers in the novel, this was a trait that was admired. And again, thinking of the audience, this would work.

A lot of themes were attempted in this book and while the story tied up the loose ends of the mystery, I don’t think it did it that well with the character’s storylines as a whole. This could be because the novel focused on just this moment in time, and so it is left to the reader to deduce from what they know of the characters and what they think could actually happen to each of them. This could be a solid ending in that regard; however, I think I also found it slightly jarring.

Overall, it was well written and entertaining. I think the audience that it is written for will enjoy this novel. It is an easy read and the different styles written for each perspective keeps a reader engaged. For some reason though, I felt like it fell a little flatter for me; though it could be because I found less ability to connect with characters than I normally do. But young adults, or even a younger audience, could enjoy this story.

3 / 5

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