Trapped in a well, surrounded by dirt, scratching at the walls trying to find a way out.
Four days of a thirst so strong, that when it finally rains, I drink as much as possible from the dripping walls, not even caring how much dirt comes with it.
Since my escape. Since no one believed I was taken to begin with – from my own bed, after a party, when no one else was home…
Six months of trying to find answers and being told instead that I made the whole incident up.
Since I logged on to the Jane Anonymous site for the first time and found a community of survivors who listen without judgment, provide advice, and console each other when needed.
A month of chatting with a survivor whose story eerily mirrors my own: a girl who’s been receiving triggering clues, just like me, and who could help me find the answers I’m searching for.
Since she mysteriously disappears, and since I’m forced to ask the questions: will my chance to find out what happened to me vanish with her? And will I be next?
Goodreads’ Rating: ☀️☀️☀️☀️
The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep kept me twisting and turning until I wasn’t sure which way was up in this compelling psychological thriller by Laurie Faria Stolarz.
What I Liked
I liked the use of chat room conversations along with the first-person narrative. It is so timely and appropriate – just the right touch of technology, for many reasons, some of which could be considered spoilers. It keeps the story in the present day. Talking to strangers via the internet is commonplace, and people with mental health issues tend to gravitate to that form of communication for anonymity and safety. I did not read the book that introduced the particular chat room found in the story, but now I want to do so.
Terra Smith, the main character, tells this tale. It is tough being in her head at times but also compelling and fascinating. She admits right from the start that she has been diagnosed with four mental health disorders – Delusional, Depression, Defiant, and Paranoid, so I knew this story would be taking me on a ride that I wouldn’t soon forget. The portrayal of Paranoid and Delusional Disorders, in particular, are disconcerting in their accuracy, though I didn’t see evidence of the other two on the level of a diagnosis. From a technological standpoint, the hard part is witnessing any growth in a character who realizes near the end that she has not been growing. There is limited character development because Terra has been reliving the past in various delusional ways for most of her teen years. I recognize that character development is not a strength of this novel but, I didn’t expect it to be, given the POV and the personality disorders Terra suffers.
The support characters are the ones that caused much emotion in me. I felt annoyed and sometimes frustrated with Terra’s Aunt Dessa, who I felt should be paying more attention to whether or not Terra is taking her medicine regularly. Like many teenagers in real life, Terra tends to skip her medication at times and remember it at others. Given the severity of her disorders, I had a hard time with Aunt Dessa’s lack of “parenting.” But, on the other side of the pendulum, Garret is my hero. I look for one of two types of characters in a psychological thriller – the voice of reason and, my favorite, the compassionate and supportive friend. Garret is the latter, and I just loved that he was not scared away by the intricacies of Terra’s disorder but, instead, did everything he could to keep her safe and to feel validated at times when she felt out of control.
I loved all the mental gymnastics I had to do to keep up with this story. The action doesn’t pick up until the last 30%, but the first 70% kept me glued to the page with its compelling portrayal of Terra’s delusions and paranoia. I love an unreliable narrator, and Terra is that and then some.
To Read or Not to Read
If you love an unreliable narrator, a story that keeps you guessing, and a fictional look at authentic psychological disorders, The Last Secret You’ll Ever Keep is the book you won’t want to miss this year.