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Two Can Keep a Secret
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Two Can Keep a Secret, by Karen M. McManus (One of Us Is Lying), is a mystery about popular teen girls who are murdered several years apart. Twins Ellery and Ezra move to a small northeastern town to live with their grandma when their mom is in rehab. The two past unsolved crimes have left a mark on the town, and when someone starts anonymously threatening the current homecoming court, the residents are gripped with fear. The book focuses on high school dynamics and small-town gossip. People whisper; popular girls and jocks bully the nerdy and unpopular. The story doesn't depict much in the way of drinking, and characters swear (including "f--k" and "s--t" ) but not frequently. For a murder mystery novel, there isn't much violence depicted. The relationships of several families in the story provide discussion opportunities around family dynamics, especially how to confront painful family history and other uncomfortable topics.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In TWO CAN KEEP A SECRET, twins Ellery and Ezra suddenly have to move from Southern California to the small Vermont town of Echo Ridge. Their mom has been sent to rehab, and their grandmother is the only relative they have who can care for them. Echo Ridge is not just any quaint, pretty northeastern town, though. Their aunt disappeared when she was a senior in high school there, and another girl was murdered five years ago. Both deaths are still fresh in the minds of town residents, and when someone starts publicly threatening Ellery and two other girls, everyone wonders whether they have a copycat or serial killer in their midst. As Ellery and Ezra get to know the folks in town and learn more about the past crimes, another girl goes missing. Like many small towns, Echo Ridge thrives on gossip and rumors. Figuring out what's true and what's not is a big challenge in a place where everyone is a suspect and no one is safe.
Is it any good?
This teen murder thriller commits the crime of not being very thrilling. The premise of Two Can Keep a Secret is good: Two teens find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery very similar to crimes committed years earlier, and there's a good chance the killer is a town resident. The main characters are solid and engaging, and author Karen M. McManus doesn't give away too much and keeps readers guessing until the end. Some of the plot points provide a good look at survivor's guilt and how it can damage lives. Unfortunately, the story unfolds too slowly and isn't exciting or tense enough.
Part of the problem is that the story has too many characters, which doesn't give McManus enough space to give them depth or make them intriguing. In fact, so many names are introduced in the first few chapters, it can be hard to keep track. Aside from the four main characters -- Ellery, Ezra, Malcolm, and Mia -- all the other characters are broad clichés: snobby, rich, popular girls; football-player jocks who are violent bullies; a rich, powerful dad. McManus uses alternating points of view to tell the story, switching narration between Ellery and her friend Malcolm. This technique doesn't work well here, because their voices aren't written differently enough to be distinctive, and sometimes they don't alternate chapters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the power of gossip as shown in Two Can Keep a Secret. Do you ever judge people based on appearances or stories you've heard about them? Has there been a time when you got to know someone and found out he or she was different from what you first thought?
Books with chapters that alternate narrators are quite popular. Why do you think this storytelling style works or doesn't?
Why do you think books and movies about murder are so popular? What makes you seek them out?
- Author: Karen M. McManus
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Delacorte Press
- Publication date: January 8, 2019
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.