Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Stolen Secrets

Release Date: September 19, 2017
Author: L.B. Schulman
Publisher: Boyd Mills Press
Length: 304 pages
Source: ARC from Publisher

When Livvy's mother abruptly moves the family across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy is shocked to find that she's been lied to. Instead of working for a bakery, her mom is actually taking care of Adelle, Livvy’s grandmother who she thought was long dead. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adelle begins to shout strange things, mistake her own name, and relive moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend, Franklin D., find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle’s home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure-Anne Frank.

This intriguing book has gut-wrenching plot twists and a strong heroine, making this a compulsively readable mystery.



Protagonist: Livvy Newman has always been the "responsible" one in her household. With her mother having been an alcoholic for as long as Livvy can remember, she's taken up the more parental role, however, when her mother moves them across the country with the promise of a great job, Livvy can't do much about it. Upon arriving in San Fransisco, Livvy notices her mom acting a bit off and soon discovers one family secret after another. On the whole, I liked Livvy, she's a fairly complex character, someone who prefers fact to fiction and needs order to her life. She's a bit flawed though not in a totally off putting way. She can be selfish and distant to people, but those are the things that get worked on over the course of the story.

Romance: I'm going to just level with you, I didn't care one bit about this romance. It wasn't that it was an offensive or aggravating romance, I just didn't care for it. I never felt romantic chemistry between Franklin D. and Livvy, and yes I said Franklin D. because manic pixie dream boy that he is he needs his middle initial acknowledged every time you speak his name. The thing is, he really grated on me in the beginning of this book, he was way too over the top quirky, he came on way too strong, acted kind of stalkerish towards Livvy, all while feeling like the manic pixie trope without the air of mystery that makes it so compelling. To tell you the truth he grew on me, but only as a platonic friend to Livvy. I felt the romance was forced and completely unnecessary.

World Building: The main plot of this story is fantastic! I mean, it's a multigenerational story of three women and their struggles with each other, mixed in with deeply kept family secrets relating to World War II and the Holocaust, that tells a compelling narrative of how one woman's attempt to hide who she really is affected not only her daughter but her granddaughter as well. I was a bit apprehensive of the author writing fiction that would incorporate as historic and important a figure as Anne Frank, but I had faith that she would provide a well and a sensitively crafted piece of historical fiction and I'm happy to say that she definitely delivered. On the whole, I loved the main plot of this book and how everything ran together. We get flashbacks that help provide context and flesh out who Adelle is, or was, and what led her to make certain decisions. All of that was fantastic but was dragged down by a multitude of superfluous subplots. The romance was only one subplot that I felt was unnecessary, but there were quite a few others. Subplots that would either be dropped only to appear at some random time late in the story and almost instantly resolved, or subplots that would be written away for a while so there would be time to focus on the main plot. Everything felt like a big chaotic mess. Ironically, when it came to Livvy's school everything felt very empty. Sure there would be references to teachers and other students, but literally, the only student we see Livvy have any semblance of a conversation with is Franklin D. We hear how she's friends with his friends, which I think are the only other students mentioned by name and it took Livvy a long time to meet them, and how she does interact with them, but we never really see it.

Predictability: This book could be very predictable, well almost all of the time. I don't think there was a single big twist in this book that I didn't call. There were a couple of small ones I didn't, but the author was quite a bit generous with the foreshadowing, in fact, I was rather surprised when I predicted probably the biggest twist in the story because the author put in one too many pieces of foreshadowing early in the book. Interestingly enough I guessed a smaller "twist" that came near the end of the book after having only been a couple of pages in. I did like how the story unfolded even if I did guess what would happen, and it doesn't really take away from the enjoyment of the book.

Ending: Something I found rather odd about this story was that what would typically be the final climax of this story happened much too soon for it to actually be considered the final climax. The scene was an interesting one, but while it did add a bit to the main storyline of the book, in the end, it was the climax another subplot that just felt superfluous, I understand why the author added it, and I do think it sends an important message, but in the end this subplot, as well as most of the subplots in this story, feel more pinned on than incorporated. After what could have been the final climax comes the answers. The answers to every reader's questions. I felt the author handled this section particularly well. The characters' emotions and reactions felt very genuine and well crafted. The ending can be a bit too idyllic at certain moments, but I still greatly enjoyed it.


Overall, I really liked this book and found the main plot of the story to be stunning and entrancing, however, the subplots really detracted from my enjoyment and that coupled with a romance I really didn't care about and felt unnecessary, led to my decision to knock off a star, it was almost two but after finishing the book quite a few things that I dismissed as subplots I was able to connect with the overall plot and gain an even greater appreciation for it.


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