Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
April 28, 2015
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A girl takes over her twin sister's identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.
Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy's shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she's chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy's world.
When—after a heated argument—Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves her sister dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy's death and everyone's grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. Soon, Ella realizes that Maddy's life was full of secrets. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options—confess her deception or live her sister's life.
Ella and Maddy are identical twins but Maddy is the popular, beautiful one with the long term, loving boyfriend. It's Maddy who has all of the friends. It even seems their parents prefer Maddy - or, at least, are more proud of her.
Then an argument between the girls is followed by a tragic accident leaving one of them dead. When Ella wakes up in the hostpial everyone thinks she's Maddy. Even if it doesn't feel correct, feeling guilty, she goes with it. After all, Maddy was the better sister, wasn't she?
It doesn't take Ella long to realize, though, that Maddy's seemingly perfect life may not have been quite so perfect. She soon finds out that Maddy was keeping more secrets from her than Ella knew.
As she discovers more about her sister, her life, Ella has to decide if she can - or should - continue Maddy's life.
The longer she pretends to be Maddy the more she discover not just about her sister and the secrets she was keeping, but about her own life, as well.
Was she really correct that Maddy was the more loved sister? Is everyone really happier Maddy survived? Can Ella take back her decision? Should she?
The Secrets We Keep dealt with some weighty issues without feeling too heavy or dark but also not being superficial, either. Ella's adjustment to Maddy's life, to her sister's death, is handled very well. It is a good mystery, both in whether Ella can be Maddy but also what all it was Maddy was hiding. Yet, it's Ella's character and her decisions and emotion that really made for a terrific read.
I liked that we got a small introduction to Ella and Maddy before the accident, that we saw who and how Ella was, as herself. At first I wished we had more of a chance to 'meet' Maddy but I changed my mind as the novel progressed. We only have Ella's (and later her boyfriend and classmates') view of Maddy. Maddy remains a bit of an unknown, a mystery to readers as well.
We discover who she was along with Ella.
For a very well done contemporary YA read, with a bit of mystery making it better, pick up Trisha Leaver's The Secrets We Keep.
Other books you may also enjoy: All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Six Months Later by Natalie D Richards and The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
digital copy received for review, thanks to publisher, via NetGalley