I happened to be downtown for a bit after work, and as usual I gravitated towards the huge Indigo book store there. That’s where I saw “Every Secret Thing” nestled among a group of ‘if you like Gillian Flynn’ thriller novels. A novel about two 11-year old girls who together commit a terrible crime. It sounds intriguing and dark; although, what followed didn’t quite live up to it.
The Good Bits.
There’s a book by Les Edgerton called ‘Hooked,’ that explores how to get readers addicted from the first page. Lippman does a great job of getting the reader hooked, at least in the beginning. The concept isn’t unheard of, but it’s chilling to imagine children committing something as extreme as murder—especially if the victim is another child.
I wanted to know why Ronnie and Alice steal (and later suffocate) a baby on their way home. Adults can kill for fun, but when it’s a child you feel there must be a reason. Lippman calls into question how accountable a child should be, and whether you can compare their actions to those of an adult.
Alice’s lawyer feels that system has wronged the children in comparison to the victim’s mother, who thinks they were coddled. It’s a great look at how much responsibility we give children for their actions and how much we relieve them of.
The few first chapters had me flipping pages like crazy, but around the middle I realized there wasn’t much to find. The cast of characters includes the two girls (now 18 and released from prison), their families, the victim’s mother, and the detectives investigating a new child abduction. There are a lot of potential ways to twist and intertwined these plot lines. Yet, what you get is several separate plot lines that only seem to brush against each other.
The victim’s mother, Cynthia, spends the entire novel trying to punish Ronnie and Alice. In particular, she tries to get them considered as suspects in the recent abduction of a child. She gets the police to investigate the lead, but neither girl ever comes into contact with her. There’s a potential for Cynthia to confront these girls, and it never happens. There is a news reporter Cynthia contacts, but the story never breaks. In fact, the reporter’s editor suppresses the story. You spend a good chunk of the novel watching Cynthia bend over backwards to ruin Alice and Ronnie with mild success. She creates only a few ripples in the pond—despite the fact that Lippman keeps telling you how influential this woman is.
All the characters seem as if they’re initial character sketches. They have lots of potential, but they’re not fully fleshed out. Lippman starts to explore one character, and then stops to switch to another. And so on and so forth, leaving you an fulfilling idea of each. The same goes for the issues of racial tension she so often raises, but never fully explores. It seems more like a game of “is it racist?” than an actual commentary on racial unrest in Baltimore.
The Last Bite.
I finished this novel with the distinct feeling that I missed something. I opened up Good Reads to see what others thought (thinking that maybe there was a huge twist I had overlooked) but there wasn’t. It was good quality writing, but not much in the way of storytelling.
Have you read Every Secret Thing? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!
Annnnnnnddddd there’s a movie adaptation starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Banks! Has anyone seen it? Would you watch it?
Let’s do lunch again next week!