"Six Little Secrets" by Katlyn Duncan
I have always been particularly interested in parallel projects (At least, that’s what I’m calling them since, somehow there is no official term. I even reached out to my friend at Every Movie Has a Lesson, to no avail)
What I’m talking about is when two individuals – production companies, publishers, authors – by some happenstance end up releasing movies or books with very similar premises in close proximity to each other.
Armageddon vs. Deep Impact
The Sixth Sense vs. Stir of Echoes
White House Down vs. Olympus Has Fallen
Logically, given this nerdtastic affinity for artistic competition, I was excited when I saw Six Little Secrets come up for review very shortly after I finished One of Us is Lying.
Two Breakfast Club reimaginings in one year?
Sign me the fuck up!
Before I get in to the merits of this book, let me make sure I’m being clear – I’m relatively positive that when Katlyn Duncan sat down at her desk to write Six Little Secrets she had no idea that Karen M. McManus was sitting down at hers to write One of Us is Lying, but that's what makes it so interesting – seeing two different individuals’ distinctive takes on a decidedly similar premise.
This book opened, like McManus’ work, with the start of a period of punitive detention (in this instance, a Saturday school). Duncan’s collection of stereotypical characters all come together in… a library… God, what is the déjà vu I’m feeling?
The entire expected cast of characters is there – the smart girl (who didn’t even earn a detention, but has nothing better to do), the burnout boy, the rich fashionista, the cheerleader, the nerd and the new girl.
This particular Saturday school starts out largely as expected, with the group receiving a menial assignment (in this case, to assemble a paper chain for display in the cafeteria). But it goes sideways pretty quickly when the nerd finds a red slip of paper among the pile of strips they are in the process of assembling into the impossibly long chain.
The message on the paper makes it clear that this won’t be just any old Saturday school. It becomes immediately obvious that this cast of characters was deliberately gathered together because they all possess secrets that someone wants revealed.
One by one, the characters are put to the test, forced to make impossibly difficult decisions that threaten to rob them of the things that they each hold most dear.
As each character faces his or her trial, they collectively form bonds that would previously seemed so unlikely, unifying against this unseen individual who puts their futures, their reputations and maybe even their lives at risk.
Readers are left only to watch, wonder and try to puzzle out the answers to the questions that drive this novel – who is doing this, and why?
As I read, I also reflected thankfully on my own rule-following behavior has a high school student, which kept me far from detentions and Saturday schools – as contemporary literature would leave me believing that these penalties are a bit more severe than I previously thought.
The author did an effective job of weaving her tale through the judicious use of flashbacks and a reliance on alternating points of view. These two techniques allowed her to give her characters enough weight that they all seemed authentic and believable.
Other details of the book, on the other hand, didn’t quite ring true.
First, I have never seen a group of students more poorly supervised. (In real life, that is… These characters were supervised about as well as those in “The Breakfast Club” – and, let’s face it, 80’s teens required decidedly less supervision) The author did later try to explain this lack of supervision away, but I still didn’t quite believe it.
Full disclosure, I work in education and “never leave kids alone because someone might shoot someone else’s eye out with a rubber band” is like the number one rule of teaching, so I’m kinds sensitive to this.
The other thing that I found difficult to believe – even with a concerted effort to suspend my disbelief – was the level of planning that went into these tests.
I mean, we are talking Mission Impossible levels of coordination and tech-usage.
Okay, maybe not quite that level, but it was pretty seamlessly orchestrated.
Working in this novel’s favor is likely the fact that, given the aforementioned work in education, I am naturally drawn to these stories. Having worked with adolescents for over a decade, I know that, though these stereotypes are played up in works like this one, they do exist. The complexities of teen relationships – magnified by the ubiquity of technology – do make great fodder for a story.
All things considered, I would recommend this work.
In this particular battle of the books, as is so rarely the case, the novels were evenly matched.
Like One of Us is Lying, I give this book a solid 4 out of 5 cocktails.
Want to see what’s next on my TBR (To Be Read) list? Follow me, here.
In high school I was totally the nerd. Who am I kidding, I’m still the nerd. Anyways, which group did you identify with? Has this changed since you’ve left school? Tell me about it in the comments, below.