Review: Secret Lies by Amy Dunne


Would you face your biggest fear, to save the one you love?

Nicola Jackson escapes from her abuser, only to realize she has no one to turn to and nowhere to go. In a twist of fate, she accidentally bumps into Jenny O’Connor, the most popular girl at school. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As their trust in each other develops, they share their darkest secrets, and their relationship blossoms into a secret romance.

Jenny loves Nicola, but she is fearful that if their secret relationship is discovered, she might lose her family, friends, and her seemingly perfect life.

Nicola confronts her abuser and blackmails him to leave for good, but things go terrifyingly wrong. Jenny is left with a life-changing dilemma: should she face her fear and accept who she is, or let Nicola take the blame and pretend their relationship never happened?

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I guess the generic title should have been a giveaway that Secret Lies would be a generic book full of clichéd characters. I didn’t care much about either main character, and in fact, I didn’t even like Jenny. There wasn’t anything special or particularly interesting about either of them. What can I tell you about each of them? Jenny was the poor little lonely popular girl, slept around (with boys), and had a secret. Nicola was a misunderstood outcast, endured abuse at home, and had a part-time job. Beyond their burgeoning romance, that’s about all there was to either of them.

The minor characters weren’t well-developed either. Somehow, Nicola’s mother didn’t even NOTICE that her daughter went missing for two weeks. Jenny’s older sister was an over-the-top raging bitch from the very first word out of her mouth. Jenny’s friends weren’t much better: cookie cutter bitchy popular girls.

I did like that Nicola decided to research lesbianism, first on the internet, then by ordering a box full of DVDs and books to be delivered to Jenny’s house. Unfortunately, that led to a scene that turned me off Jenny permanently. Elizabeth wasn’t the only raging bitch in that family. Jenny just wasn’t as obvious and in-your-face about it. Jenny had reasons (relating to her secret) for being the way she was, but I lost my patience with her really fast.

Despite dealing with some pretty dark things (Nicola’s abuse and Jenny’s secret), the girls’ shared discovery of their feelings for each other, and deciding what to do about it, was the focus of the the book and was the most interesting part. Fair warning: the few love scenes were much more explicit than in most young adult books, more NA than YA. The story of two girls from different worlds coming together to develop a relationship is an interesting start, but it wasn’t well-executed here. This was Dunne’s first published book and I expect that her writing — and most importantly, her characterization — will improve.