Bites

Published October 1, 2012.

Author website.

“To you the idea to kidnap Chase Dobson might seem like a mistake. But to us… we were just trying to stop him from being so…evil. We just…we had to stop him. No one helps kids like us. Not at my school. We aren’t the important kids. We knew it wouldn’t stop unless we stopped it ourselves.” 

Katie, Nate, and Renata had no farther to fall down the social ladder. But when they hit bottom, they found each other. Together, they wanted to change things. To stop the torment. 

So they made a plan. One person seemed to have everyone’s secrets—and all the power. If they could stop him… 

But secrets are complicated, powerful things. They are hard to keep. And even a noble plan to stop a bully can go horribly wrong.  (netgalley.com)

The most prominent issue I had with FOUR SECRETS was the age of the three protagonists and the talked-about antagonist.  They’re all supposed to be in eighth grade but I kept finding that I had to remind myself that these weren’t kids in high school.  Just the extent of the issues they were having, how they spoke about it, how they carried it out it, just seemed so far beyond someone still in middle school.

Granted have it set their freshman year in high school and I probably wouldn’t have batted an eye.  Not much of a difference age-wise in the slightest but the association is different.  In my mind there’s a pretty big gap between middle school and high school and the voices I kept reading, at least to me, were high school age.  I just wasn’t convinced they were middle school, especially when body sizes came into play.  All except Renata were described as large, either in stature or bulk (and by bulk I mean muscle).  It just didn’t fit for me and it was a point of contention throughout and every time I was reminded of their ages it wrenched me out of the story a little bit.

But other than that it was a really good, pretty fast, read told from the perspectives of four different people, Chase excluded.  I could wholly empathize with the feelings of the social worker whose job it was to get to the bottom of why these kids kidnapped their classmate.  Because they entered into some kind of pact they wouldn’t talk and she ended up getting the creative runaround from all three of them.

Nate told his view in story form, referring to the people involved by assigned fantastical names and set in a scene that only vaguely alludes to what actually happened.  Yeah you can get what he’s saying but his was the portion of the book I liked the least.  I was over his method of storytelling pretty quickly and while I’m sure it helped him to cope with the situation he was seeking solace in a fantasy world instead of coming to terms with what happened.  He frustrated me the most.

Renata you see very little of within her own viewpoint, told, or rather shown, through her drawings.  Otherwise you get a picture of who Renata is by the way Nate and Katie describe and talk about her.  That would have been annoying to me if it weren’t such a perfect way to get across Renata’s personality.  She is very much a background girl that doesn’t speak very often but when she does, whether it’s actually with her vocal chords or with her drawings, it’s so poignant you can’t help but listen.  She’s described as incredibly small and for most of the book that’s the image I had in my mind: someone who was frail, tiny and needed rescuing when in fact she was exactly the opposite.  Next to the social worker I think I liked Renata the most.

Katie is the most prominent voice in the story aside from the social worker and its through her you learn the most information in a manner that won’t have you trying to put puzzle pieces together.  Her method is very straight forward and when she started the second “rouse” journal I grunted in agitation.  I WANTED her to reveal what happened because I knew it wasn’t what the situation looked like.  I think that was pretty evident from the beginning.  But there wouldn’t be a story if that happened so I bided my time reading Katie’s story broken up by lunches and homework and recreation time.  She was the most readable in terms of figuring everything out.

All three were hard-set in their ways when it came to not breaking this pact.  For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why and while it worked out in the end I don’t feel there was proper punishment doled out for the responsible parties.  The story resolved itself nicely enough but it was a little on the abrupt side and lacking in satisfaction.  I wanted more.  Comeuppance, maybe.  A knock off one’s high horse, if you will.  The story resolved itself within one book which is a plus all around but there’s a little bit more there, even if it’s just ten or twenty pages.

While not my favorite Carolrhoda Lab book that’s not to say it wasn’t a good read.  FOUR SECRETS has points of view for every type of reader of a multitude of ages telling a story about bullying and how NOT to go about remedying it.  I don’t want to give away the ending but through the eyes of the social worker you can see just how hard the gears are grinding, what’s up against these kids and just how thin of a wire they’re all walking on.  Bullying sucks, sure, but there are ways to go about fixing it that won’t land someone in jail.  There’s an air of noble cause and valiance in the book as well that may sway towards, in my eyes, the wrong way of fixing things but there is a balance there and Willey does a good job of playing both sides of the game.  It also goes to show that everyone has secrets, even the most perfect of people, and sometimes they’re far darker than bad hair days.

Ban Factor: High – Kids taking matters into their own hands and being OKAY with going to juvenile detention?  Le gasp!

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