Today, I'm reviewing The Secrets of Lily Graves by one of my favorite authors, Sarah Strohmeyer!
This book was definitely different from Sarah's usual YA fare, but I ended up liking it quite a bit!
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Synopsis via publisher:
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her, Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim.
I then saw the cover for The Secrets of Lily Graves, and was even more stoked. Because how can you not love that cover? The font, the couple, it's perfect!
Fortunately for me, HarperCollins had the ARC up on Edelweiss, so I was able to read it early!
Things that worked:
Sarah Strohmeyer proved with Smart Girls Get What They Want and How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True that she's a versatile writer, who can write any story and make it entertaining and compelling. She does it again with The Secrets of Lily Graves.
Even though the story is at heart, a murder mystery, Strohmeyer gives the book enough humor, interesting characters and fantastic plotting, that entire mystery kept me both intrigued and still didn't take itself too seriously as it progressed.
* The characters
If you've read any of Sarah's previous work, you'll know that she's excellent at creating memorable, three-dimensional characters. The same rings true here. Even though I had some problems with Lily's specific characterization - more on this later - I definitely think that she's the type of character with the overall personality and quirks, which will make her very real to any reader.
The same holds true for the secondary characters as well. Even though a lot of the characters only make one or two appearances, Strohmeyer includes the type of detail that will definitely make readers go "ah!" and help them develop an even more well-rounded view of that charter.
* The writing/pacing
The Secrets of Lily Graves is a suspenseful murder mystery, and Strohmeyer does a great job of throwing in enough details and cliffhanger moments to keep the story moving, and to keep readers guessing.
Even though I felt that the original fight with Erin was a bit cliched, I would say overall, Strohmeyer did a great job of making the mystery unique from similar stories in the same genre. There are quite a few twists and turns that I don't think readers will expect to see coming.
* The ending
Without giving the ending away, Strohmeyer proves that she can definitely write a unique yarn indeed. It definitely threw me for a loop, and I can't wait for the rest of you to enjoy it!
Things that didn't work:
Lily's personality and characterizations were a perfect example. Lily was often of two extremes: she was either snarky and witty, or she was mooning - and yes, I mean mooning - over Matt. It kind of made it hard for me to determine whether I liked her or not, honestly.
Strohmeyer also had a tendency to jump back and forth with flashbacks as well. While it did give a lot of backstory to Lily and Matt's stories, it made the narrative slightly confusing at times - especially in the final third of the book. However, I would love to hear what you guys think!
About the author:
Her first mystery, BUBBLES UNBOUND, won the Agatha Award and THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL was nominated for a prestigious RITA™. Her books have been translated into German, French, Italian, Turkish, Taiwanese and a bunch of others.