|Image from Goodreads
Author: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: Jan 2010
Source: Review Copy
Synopsis from Goodreads
She was sweet. Smart. Self-destructive. She knew the secrets of Brighton Day School’s most privileged students. Secrets that got her killed.
Neily: Dumped by Carly for a notorious bad boy, Neily didn’t answer the phone call she made before she died. If he had, maybe he could have helped her. Now he can’t get the image of her lifeless body out of his mind.
Audrey: She’s the reason Carly got tangled up with Brighton’s fast crowd in the first place, and now she regrets it—especially since she’s convinced the police have put the wrong person in jail. Audrey thinks the murderer is someone at Brighton, and she wants Neily to help her find out who it is.
As reluctant allies Neily and Audrey dig into their shared past with Carly, her involvement with Brighton’s dark goings-on comes to light. But figuring out how Carly and her killer fit into the twisted drama will force Audrey and Neily to face hard truths about themselves and the girl they couldn’t save.
REVIEW BY KATE – YEAR 11
‘So many questions- but nobody except Carly seemed capable of answering them’ – Neily Monroe.
Neily, one of Jarzab’s central characters sets the scene for an engrossing, page turning murder mystery. With a haunting, sinister murder plot and a disturbing pictorial book cover, Neily and Audrey narrate alternately the intricate twists and turns involved in their investigation of teenage heiress Carly’s murder. A murder that superficially appears to be financially motivated, camouflages the undeniable greed that permeates Empire Valley. It is a valley where secrets are buried deeply and darkly, until the youths are prepared to talk. As the title suggests, secrets are not secret.
It is too convenient to convict Carly’s uncle, who has been ravaged by life’s alcohol and heroin ridden destructive habits. Motivated by love, anger, hurt and humiliation, ex- boyfriend Neily and Cousin Audrey, determinedly form an unlikely partnership and set about finding the true answer to the murder. Using the two central characters, Jarzab invites the reader to second guess and point fingers at potential suspects, with utmost relish.
Jarzab provides a highly relatable teen read, as Neily and Audrey are both pupils of Brighton Day School. Set against the backdrop of wealthy Empire Valley, cardiothoracic surgeons, lawyers and Rhodes scholars scurry home to their palatial mansions at the end of their shifts. Jarzab’s novel is more than a murder investigation, it is an exploration of complex teen psyche, as they respond to these high flying parents’ pressurised expectations to be perfect, and desire to chart their futures.
Jarzab also includes the traditional supporting characters- the tough, good-looking, top billing on the roster Adam, and popular, basketball playing Cass. Both reflect the importance for teenagers of social mobility into the egocentric in-crowd and the risks associated with what may not be the best crowd.
Carly is portrayed as bright and smart, but vulnerable following her extremely painful loss. It is inevitable that the magnetic attraction of the in-crowd will recklessly develop Carly’s affinity for life at the sharp edge- a life with ‘gutter junkies teetering on the brink of expulsion’.
A perfect novel for teens and young adults, encouraging them to pace the corridors of their minds, and search for answers about themselves and others.