It’s no secret in the writing community that second books are tough. Most often, you’ve spent years perfectly crafting your first manuscript… Then it sells, and you’re given the task of putting together another viable book in a year and change that will match the expectations of your fans. In my opinion, it’s the main reason why sequels are, generally speaking, never quite as satisfying as their predecessors. And I’m willing to bet that this is the reason why Two Can Keep a Secret is just sort of… blah.
There are pacing issues, for one. The book starts off very slow, and it often feels like readers are not being shown the exciting stuff. I don’t think I’m giving too much away to say that at the end of Chapter One the MC is present when a dead body is discovered… But then Chapter Two begins at the next morning, without giving us in-the-moment, heart-racing details about that discovery. If there’s a formula to modern YA, it’s that distance=bad. That’s the reason for the close 3rd POV/present 1st POV push. Show us everything exciting in a way that feels like we’re there with you. Flashbacks from the day after are not going to cut it.
But the real unfortunate issue here are the characters. That was what made One of Us Is Lying so awesome, right? I still remember the characters in that book, especially Addy. But here, the characters simply aren’t very memorable, and there are a whole heck of a lot of them. If you set the book down for a couple days after the first sixty pages as I did (not hard to do, since not much is going down action-wise), guarantee that you’ll come back to it and not be able to keep the names and relationships straight. Even Ellery, the main POV, reads pretty weak. Sucks to say it, but her true-crime fixation is going to draw inevitable comparisons to Stevie in Truly Devious—and Stevie takes the gold medal for YA true-crime aficionado any day of the week.
Couple this with some predictable plot twists. I called two of them pretty early on, thinking that I was being led astray by McManus and it couldn’t all be this easy, could it? I didn’t predict the main baddie, but many of the other surprises didn’t land with as big of an ooh! aah! punch as you would hope.
So I don’t really recommend this book, but I understand that it’s a sophomore effort. I’ll be reading future works by the author (I think there’s a One of Us Is Lying sequel in the works?!), but Two Can Keep a Secret is a pass for me.