Saturday, April 2, 2022

NetGalley ARC | Two Truths and a Lie

I received a free digital ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating ⭐⭐.5

***WARNING: There will be spoilers, so don't read on unless you're okay with that.***

I should have LOVED this book. Given the premise, it should be something that I could devour in short order and it was, but by the end it was for the wrong reasons.

So, here's the deal: Nell and her theatre friends, with their theatre advisor, are on their way to a competition. It's a big deal, they could get scholarships, etc. A blizzard forces them to pull off the interstate and seek shelter at a super sketch rundown motel. Soon another group of high schoolers arrive and claim to be on their way to a robotics competition. A couple randoms also arrive, a truck driver, and the dude who the robotics team picked up on the side of the road. They're adults and all have secrets of their own.

To pass the time, the kids decide to play Two Truths and a Lie. Nell's group's advisor tells the kids to let her sleep and pops a pill, disappearing into her room for the duration of the book. Totally a responsible thing to do. The other group's advisor is not much better. Oscar is super young and also kind of creepy in an I'm-the-cool-adult-who-flirts-with-high-schoolers kind of way. The adults basically wander off, letting the kids have the run of the place.

During the game of Two Truths, the kids are having fun, Nell is flirting with Knox, a boy from the other group. It's all good until Nell (of course) pulls a slip from the pile that has the following written on it:

1. I like to watch people die
2. My least favorite food is mushrooms
3. I've lost count of how many people I've killed.

Suddenly things aren't so fun anymore and despite Nell going on and on and on about how she does the backstage stuff, isn't an actor, blah blah blah, things felt like they were getting good because the mystery was beginning to unfold.

The kids are understandably freaked out, but try to rationalize it away saying someone must have made a mistake and wrote two lies instead of two truths. But no one will admit to it. So they decide each of them will take their own slip and then anyone without a slip will be the one who wrote it. Problem is, when they do this, each kid has their own paper and the creepy one remains unclaimed.

The maintenance guy, Travis, and the owner whose name I forgot already, share some of the history of the motel. The owner talks about how there had been a double murder twenty years ago and his parents tried to keep the business going but they were not successful and that's why it is so rundown now. Travis gives a lot more details on the murders. He has a scrapbook basically of articles and stuff.

He also talks about himself in third person. Obviously we need an OBVIOUS weirdo who could be a killer, but won't actually be, because it would be TOO OBVIOUS. He clearly has had some kind of TBI that makes him act and speak the way he does, and it was a shitty weird stereotype that I hated.

The kids find an Ouija board and decide to do a séance because, why not? Most don't take it seriously, but two do - one because she has done these before and one because his religious beliefs make him believe it is incredibly dangerous.

(Side note: if you have been around a while, you know all things paranormal are my jam. But even I draw the line at Ouija boards. I don't fuck around with that stuff, EVER.)

Then in the middle of asking the spirits about the murders, the power goes out. Don't forget, there is a blizzard raging outside and they are isolated. The board does not get closed properly due to everyone being startled by the outage, and everyone is freaking out.

Everyone decided to go to bed and, OH NO! One of the girls from the other team is MURDERED! She's found hanging in the common room where they'd all hung out the night before. THEN in another's girl's room, BLOOD IS FOUND, but NO BODY!

Turns out, the robotics group was really just another theatre group on their way to the same competition and they decided to play this SUPER FUNNY joke on Nell and her crew, because of how snobby and pretentious they'd been acting. Truthfully, all the kids were annoying in various ways, and did not always read like high schoolers. They seemed very young sometimes, or at least super immature, despite being in high school.

So the joke is that the two girls are not really dead, they just used theatre props and fake blood, etc. to make Nell's team think a murderer was loose among them. Apparently Knox, the boy who Nell is crushing on, is 'super convincing' - meaning he is a douche who is very persuasive, and he basically bullied his team into pulling this prank. And their advisor, Oscar, was okay with it because he basically bullied Oscar into it too. And he like, knows stuff about the others and blackmails them into doing this.

Naturally that should make Knox a suspect when the two girls who were supposedly murdered end up missing FOR REAL.

So that next morning when all this nonsense has come to light, the kids are running around, the adults are just background at this point, and NELL looks out the window to see ANIMAL TRACKS! The owner of the motel says he will take his snowshoes and head out to get help, many miles away. The blizzard continues on and off, Nell and one of the guys end up out in the storm trying to find the owner or something, a family of undocumented immigrants is discovered freezing in the trucker's truck...all kinds of WHAT THE FUCK stuff starts coming fast.

The worst part is the reveal of the killer, which I had a pretty good idea was coming. All the sudden it's revealed but it happened so fast that I had to go back and reread because I thought I missed something.

Turns out, nope. It really just happened that way.

As you might surmise, the pacing is all over the place and that's what makes this book such a letdown. You don't have time to be surprised by the final twist because it just barrels over you and the story keeps moving. For those who don't read YA thrillers often, this might be okay, but for seasoned veterans like myself it was ridiculous. I've often said that even if I see a twist coming, it doesn't typically ruin my enjoyment of a book if there are other positives going for it. That can't be said here unfortunately.

I think the book would have been better off without the "joke' played by Knox and his crew. I get why the theatre angle was played up, because HEY IT COULD ALL BE A JOKE, YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S REAL! But it fell kind of flat.

There was also nothing to really help distinguish the teens from one another. I kept mixing up which kid was on which team, because they all might as well have been the same person - except Knox and Nell OF COURSE.

So, between the twists that weren't, the depiction of Travis, the random family in the truck, the bobcat lurking outside (JUST KIDDING! The murderer faked the tracks to scare everyone), and awful pacing, and bland/annoying characters, this one didn't work for me.

There was so much promise in the beginning, but in the end I have to say I can't recommend it if you're looking for a unique read.


  1. Such a big build-up for...nothing. Yes, that is disappointing.

    1. Yes!! Started so strong, it was really disappointing by the end. At least it was free!

  2. This could've been so good! I hate when I find a book that sounds epic turns into trash.

  3. it looks and sounds so good. after reading your review, not sure if i would give it a shot or not. i must say, i'm not running over to netgalley to see if it's still available. lol
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. Lol, I know what you mean. It was really good to start with and then...blech. At least it was free!


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