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Echo Ridge is small-town America. Ellery’s never been there, but she’s heard all about it. Her aunt went missing there at age seventeen. And only five years ago, a homecoming queen put the town on the map when she was killed. Now Ellery has to move there to live with a grandmother she barely knows.
The town is picture-perfect, but it’s hiding secrets. And before school even begins for Ellery, someone’s declared open season on homecoming, promising to make it as dangerous as it was five years ago. Then, almost as if to prove it, another girl goes missing.
Ellery knows all about secrets. Her mother has them; her grandmother does too. And the longer she’s in Echo Ridge, the clearer it becomes that everyone there is hiding something. The thing is, secrets are dangerous–and most people aren’t good at keeping them. Which is why in Echo Ridge, it’s safest to keep your secrets to yourself.
I have been in a reading slump. It happens to the best of us. Every since wrapping up the Harry Potter series, I’ve been struggling to enjoy actually reading a book. Audiobooks have been helping me continue to wrap up reads, but physical books have been a sore spot for me lately.
I’ve owned a signed hardcover of this book for quite some time now, but I held off on reading it because I knew that while I enjoyed the authors debut novel, One of Us is Lying, I also had some qualms with it. I wanted a read that would help me out of my slump, not make it any worse, but because mystery & thriller novels are my favorite, I finally picked this up after days of contemplation and dived in.
And honestly? I’m really glad that I did.
Let me say that this is not a perfect book, but I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting to! The author got a ton of useful feedback after publishing her first novel and I felt like she actually applied so much of it to this book. The difference was clear to see. For instance, a huge qualm for a lot of readers (myself included) in the last book was that one of the main character’s sexuality was used a pretty big plot device. A lot of readers commented on this in their reviews, and so McManus took that feedback and worked with it.
This novel was still diverse, with a majority of the main characters being people of color: one of the two main characters who was a latinx twin (her twin brother is also heavily involved in the story), two Asian American characters who were pretty important to the plot, and another latinx character who was also vital in the story. Additionally, the twin brother of the female main character was gay and one of the Asian American girls was bisexual. The difference in this novel was that none of these things were focused on or exploited as a means to the plot. The lack of diversity in the town that this is set in is touched on, and there’s a brief mention of biphobia, but none of these things were used as a part of the big plot twist or anything. I was really happy to see that McManus didn’t ditch diversity altogether and instead took the feedback from readers and used it in this.
I also felt like there was a noticeable difference in the writing this time around. The pacing of the story was suitable for my personal tastes and the while the characters were not necessarily fully developed, it was possible to get to know them well enough in the small amount of time covered in the novel.
The mystery dynamic of this was without a doubt the best part of it for me. I tend to find that YA mystery or thriller novels are played down so much that I enjoy them noticeably less than ones from the adult genre, but every once in a while I find a story like this one that can still please me. There are, essentially, three mysteries to be solved in this, but neither the reader nor the characters in the story are sure if the mysteries are all connected or not. It certainly seems that they could be, but I found myself consistently second guessing the probability of it. When the mysteries were finally solved I was truly shocked. It’s rare that I come across a mystery novel that I cannot predict the ending of (at least vaguely), but I absolutely did not see the ending of this one coming. However, looking back now, the reveal does seem very true to McManus’ style from One of Us is Lying, but you’ll only know what I mean by that if you’ve read both novels.
I will admit that the blurb had underwhelmed me before I picked this up, but thankfully the simplistic yet enjoyable writing style pulled me in early on. I stuck around and I’m glad I did because I found a fun, intriguing, and hard-to-solve storyline that I devoured quickly. If you’ve ever been in a reading slump, you know how nice it is to get that pulled into a story again.
This is a definite recommend for those of you who enjoy quick reads and compelling mysteries. If you were underwhelmed with the last novel, this may be more captivating for you. It was for me, anyways!