Latest in my stream of young adult thrillers and mystery reads is All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban. I listened to this intriguing book as audio, and it really helped remind me why I love audiobooks so much. There’s just as much tension and curiosity building, aided by a skilled narrator, and with this book in particular, the set up made it even more intriguing being audio based.
Welcome to dinner, and again, congratulations on being selected. Now you must do the selecting.
What do the queen bee, star athlete, valedictorian, stoner, loner, and music geek all have in common? They were all invited to a scholarship dinner, only to discover it’s a trap. Someone has locked them into a room with a bomb, a syringe filled with poison, and a note saying they have an hour to pick someone to kill … or else everyone dies.
Amber Prescott is determined to get her classmates and herself out of the room alive, but that might be easier said than done. No one knows how they’re all connected or who would want them dead. As they retrace the events over the past year that might have triggered their captor’s ultimatum, it becomes clear that everyone is hiding something. And with the clock ticking down, confusion turns into fear, and fear morphs into panic as they race to answer the biggest question: Who will they choose to die?
The idea of a locked room mystery is always a win, and the throw back to my days of reading Agatha Christie made me smile. Except the twists and turns this story has in store would impress Christie herself. It’s told from two points in time, both counting down; one counting down the weeks in the build up to this night, and one counting down the minutes until the bomb goes off. Very clever, and very well thought through, this allows us to full piece together both the situation and the people in the room in a fully rounded way, as well as building tension as the story drives towards its climax.
What the author manages to really do is to keep you guessing right up to the very end. I actually exclaimed aloud when the final pieces of the puzzle were slotted together, and it takes a lot for me to be sitting with my mouth open like a karp. In this case though, I really was gobsmacked, and I love that this book that impact level on me.
Although the book is narrated from Amber’s perspective in both time slots, we get a good look at the other characters through her various interactions with them, and they take fully developed forms to the point that, listening to it especially, you can picture them in the room all together, feel the panic rising, and almost physically see the emotional waves throughout.
I’ve been having rather a phase of young adult mysteries and thrillers recently, and this is easily one of my favourites. The reasons I prefer YA are varied and multiple, but books like this really show how the genre has come into its own, and is no longer simply a case of ‘easier books’, as it used to be thought of. The plot and cast are as well developed as that of any adult thriller.
I will include a trigger warning for talk of – and depiction on – suicide, bullying, mental illness, and drug and alcohol use. As always no spoilers, but these are all major themes running through the book, so make sure you take care of yourself.