Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus: An Intriguing Mystery | Book Review

Title: Two Can Keep a Secret

Author: Karen M. McManus

Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Published: January 8, 2019

Format: ARC

Rating: 4.5 stars

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. 

This book is set in small town Echo Ridge, Vermont, and follows Ellery and Malcolm, two very different main characters who both have a complex relationship with the scandals of their town. When a series of threatening messages begin to plague the town regarding the fast-approaching Homecoming dance, Ellery and Malcolm both begin to search for answers while trying to keep themselves safe from suspicious characters. 

Let’s break down each of these MCs. Ellery is the new-kid Nancy Drew of this novel, albeit without the plaid skirt or magnifying glass. She’s obsessed with true crime and solving mysteries. What I loved most about her is that she actually thought things through. Way too often in mystery/thriller novels, the main characters just act without thinking about potential dangers (especially of the murderous variety).

Malcolm, unlike Ellery, has lived in this small town, where gossip spreads like wildfire, his entire life. Whispers and rumors about his brother’s involvement in past crimes continue to plague Malcolm in the present, especially as him and Ellery begin digging for answers regarding the new threats around town and whispers of a resurfacing kidnapper. I absolutely adored Malcolm. He made me realize how lacking YA is in talented band geeks – a category that he definitely falls into.

We get to read from both Ellery and Malcolm’s point of view and while at times their voices felt a little bit interchangeable, other instances kept them clearly separated. It was interesting to see the perspective of Echo Ridge both from an outsider, Ellery, and from a seasoned, if not cynical, resident, Malcolm. 

I loved the dynamics between these two characters. We get to watch their relationship develop and grow, from awkward acquaintances, to comfortable friends, to… well, you’ll see.

The plot of the book certainly had the opportunity to be confusing. There were a lot of theories to keep track of, characters to remember, and tumultuous relationships to navigate. However, McManus did a fantastic job of keeping her reader in the loop when necessary and leaving out information to shock them later. The pacing was steady throughout the story, if a little slow, but began to pick up even more around a third of the way through, when more creepy occurrences start popping up around town.

If you’re looking for a true horror, you may find a lack of violence in Two Can Keep a Secret. But, if you’re seeking a mystery thriller, with some eerie scenes, this is the perfect read. In the second half of the book, the tension truly begins to ramp up, and I couldn’t help but sit on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next twist to come.

For any romance lovers out there, Ellery and Malcolm’s relationship isn’t a major part of the story but is a cute side-plot to follow and root for. 

This thriller is in no way lacking in its side characters. From Ellery’s twin to Malcolm’s friends and troubling family, murder suspects, suspicious neighbors, and judgmental classmates, there is a lot of activity for the reader to focus on and enjoy.

The sheer number of characters to remember made the book a little confusing at times, but overall, I loved the side-plots that came from them (no spoilers, but there is a lot of relationship drama in this town).

Bottom line is, the book was good. Not quite as good as One of Us is Lying (I wasn’t as compelled by the characters and it didn’t feel as high-stakes as it did in McManus’ debut), but if you’re looking for a solid mystery to keep you guessing, look no further. Between the eerie small town feel and dangerous criminal on the loose, there’s plenty to look forward to in this upcoming release.

Two Can Keep a Secret releases to the world on January 8, 2019 from Delacorte Press.

Are you anticipating Two Can Keep a Secret? Have I changed your mind? Have you already read McManus’ first book? What did you think about it? Tell me in the comments! 🙂

Stay bookish,


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5 thoughts on “Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus: An Intriguing Mystery | Book Review

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