All Your Twisted Secrets / Diana Urban / Review


The queen bee, the jock, the brains, the stoner, the loner, and the orchestra geek: when high school senior Amber Prescott is awarded a scholarship to pursue her education in music, there are a few strings attached. One of them is the mandatory reception dinner with the Mayor and the other scholarship recipients.

Her boyfriend, her crush, her bestie, her ex-bff, and the local high school drug dealer all join Amber for the reception, but what should be an evening of small talk and future plans is a trap. The Mayor never arrives, the door locks behind them, and the heat is rising--literally.

This cast of high school stereotypes finds themselves presented with a bomb, a syringe full of poison, and a choice: pick one person to die in the next hour or everyone ends up dead.



Nonlinear Plot All Your Twisted Secrets starts with a bomb and unravels from there. Diana Urban jumps between present and past, revealing bits and pieces of backstory and personality as these pieces become relevant to the present bomb situation. I am a bit conflicted about whether this nonlinear timeline is a pro, because it feels particularly gimmicky. I do think, however, that the gimmick is what makes the book work. Because the story would have been extremely dull without the gimmick--and only because the gimmick saves the story from being extremely dull--does this count as a pro.

Diverse Friend Group Urban's cast of characters falls neatly into the high school stereotypes that they're meant to represent. This continued reliance on stereotype is in itself a detractor, but Urban throws in a twist that I like. Though the scholarship recipients fall into every category from valedictorian to stoner, they are all part of a network of friends instead of being stratified into cliques that never intermingle. Amber may be an orchestra geek, but she is best friends with the head cheerleader. She is dating a star athlete. She has been friends since childhood with the valedictorian and the stoner. Only a recent falling-out with the "loner" leaves this web of friendship incomplete. Stoners, cheerleaders, and music geeks can all be friends--or at least friendly--in Urban's world, and that in itself is refreshing.


For a suspense story/thriller that includes a bomb and buttload of nasty secrets, there is ultimately very little suspense. The current-day passages set up dark secrets only to have these secrets immediately brought to light in the following in-the-past section. There is no build-up. Nothing is left to linger. Because these secrets are revealed so quickly after being hinted, there is no real suspense in the book. Quick Reveals

A ticking-clock timeline should be fast-paced and full of action. Panic, chaos, and rash decisions should abound. While there is a little bit of chaos--some windows are smashed, after all--everything in the current-day seems to move a little too slowly. It takes half an hour for any of the characters to consider using the poison syringe in earnest, which seems like it takes just a bit too long. The clock is supposedly ticking, after all. Life or death, right? Fingers should have been pointing faster, but this book takes its time to get to the meat--time it doesn't really have. Dragging Timeline

Wow, there is an awful lot of fainting in this novel! Characters swooning left and right--it's like reading Jane Austen's Love and Freindship (a piece I greatly recommend, whoever you may be). So I conclude with the wise moral of one of Austen's great parodies: "Beware of swoons Dear Laura... Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint--" Too Much Fainting



Fans of the high-school-with-high-stakes world of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall should consider this life-or-death tale. Anyone who thinks 1985's cult classic film The Breakfast Club needs more bombs should give this updated cast of stereotypes a try.


Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: March 17, 2020
Series: N/A
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