My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
Summary: Fear grips the residents of Hidden Falls the night Sonia Feldman and her best friend, Gretchen Meyer, are attacked in the woods. Sonia was lucky to escape with her life, but Gretchen’s body is discovered at the bottom of a waterfall. Beautiful, popular, and seemingly untouchable, Gretchen can’t be gone. Even as Sonia struggles with guilt and confusion over having survived, the whole town is looking to her for information…could she have seen something that will lead the police to the killer?
At the top of the list of suspects is Gretchen’s ex-boyfriend—and Sonia’s longtime enemy—Marcus Perez. So when Marcus comes to Sonia for help clearing his name, she agrees, hoping to find evidence the police need to prove he’s the killer. But as Gretchen’s many secrets emerge and the suspects add up, Sonia feels less sure of Marcus’s involvement, and more afraid for herself. Could Marcus, the artist, the screwup, the boy she might be falling for have attacked her? Killed her best friend? And if it wasn’t him in the woods that night…who could it have been?
I zipped through this one in less than a day so I can attest to it being a bit of a page turner. That's not to say that there weren't lulls that seemed a bit interminable as I was really in this for the mystery and not about the could-be-maybe-not-but-then-again-romance storyline that involved Sonia and dead BFF's ex-boyfriend, Marcus. From the start, I thought Sonia, who had poor recall of the incident with her attacker, may be an unreliable narrator and given the very things that were excluded from the police investigation, my suspicion of the murderer turned out to be correct. I read a lot of mysteries so this may be why but as this is a YA book, this is likely a good introduction to such a character and story for teens.
The real Gretchen postumously emerges in such a cascade of secrets and double crossing of nearly everyone, that she's more spectre than ever feeling like a real person. I felt that there was piling on to such an extent that it felt as if the author were trying to coerce sympathy for whomever killed Gretchen because they liberated everyone from this teen tyrant. Still, I raced through to the end with a quirked eyebrow daring the end to let the murderer off the hook. While the end leaves their fate unwritten, it's mostly understood that the price will be meted out by the justice system.
One criticism I'll highlight here is that while I'm a total fan of making an effort to include POC characters, this one read as though it were a diversity checklist for an ABC Family show all ticked off down the line and for me, rang hollow. Given the setting, this cloistered off woodland, micro town with no discernible industry to support it, seemed to have all the racial & ethnic diversity of a major North American city. It fought against the story setting's credibility. It felt like the names of characters were plugged in after the fact to make that diversity thing work or not just for the sake of having it done. I literally read and said to myself, "Well, everyone's been accounted for except our Korean Filipino or Japanese friend" and sure enough, a page later, he arrived. I wish I were exaggerating. Again, points for trying but this one misses the mark for finesse.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of Robin Wasserman's Seven Deadly Sins series as this reminded me of that (with regard to all the secrets & back-stabbing) as I finished.