Two Truths and a Lie. April Henry. 2022. [May] 275 pages. [Source: Review copy]
First sentence: "Shotgun!" I shout as Mrs. McElroy pulls up to the curb.
Premise/plot: A high school theatre troupe never makes it to their competition. Blizzard conditions strand the team at a worn-down, out-of-the-way motel. They're not the only ones finding refuge in this motel. Another theatre troupe from another high school on their way to the same competition also finds themselves stranded. Add in a couple of adults passing by, and you've got your cast of characters. (Not counting the staff of the motel.)
Nell, our narrator, is disappointed and distracted. Distracted by the super-cute guy named Knox from the other group. Disappointed that the storm will keep them all from competing. And for the seniors in the group, this was their one and only chance to compete. The teens (not the adults) decide to hang out in the common room of the motel and play a game--you guessed it, Two Truths and a Lie. They'll each write down two truths and a lie, shuffle the papers, read each others aloud, and then guess WHO wrote what, and which is the lie. But when it is Nell's turn to read aloud, well, things get dark and creepy real fast. Her piece of paper reads, 1) I like to watch people die, 2) I love mushrooms, 3) I've lost count of how many people I've killed. Soon this guessing game becomes the stuff of a horror film...well, mostly. (see spoiler below).
Two Truths and a Lie is definitely a mystery, no doubt about that. Nell and her classmates have to follow clues, use common sense, and try their hardest to stay alive. With the blizzard keeping them snowbound in this unfamiliar motel, AND the storm knocking out all power, AND so many strangers about, it isn't easy to hold it all together and make the best decisions.
My thoughts: There were things I liked about this one. I liked the pacing. I read it in two sittings. If I was younger and could still get away with it, then I'd have pushed to finish it in one sitting. If you'd asked me throughout my reading, I'd have said it was GOOD and COMPELLING. There was enough tension where I was super-tempted to cheat and read the ending. Yet, I didn't let myself cheat.
Another thing I liked was the number of characters and how we get to know them. I thought that was handled well for the most part. Few enough that I could keep track of everyone, but plenty so that I kept myself guessing as to WHO might be the murderer.
But there were also a couple of things I didn't like about this one. The premise definitely pushes a certain idea of what kind of book this is -- thriller and horror -- and OH MY THERE WILL BE A BODY COUNT. The book hints that there might even be ghosts haunting the motel...
SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT
I'm not sure the book delivers exactly what the premise promises. I feel a little tricked. When the body count starts...and the fight for survival begins....it turns out it is all a PRANK. There are no dead bodies. The other theatre troupe just wanted to PRANK and see if the other team would be wowed by their acting. Isn't that fabulous?! (not) But then the fake dead bodies disappear.... and, well, the teens have to question if there was some truth to the danger after all. It doesn't mean DEAD BODIES and MURDERER necessarily. (Though it could). But someone--not one of them--is up to something, something potentially deadly. And so the mystery starts all over again...
I won't be so mean as to spoil WHO the threat is...and if there are any real casualties...but....I didn't necessarily like the prank element of this one. ALL THE SUSPENSE THAT BUILDS UP is wasted and it's not amusing. By the time the suspense builds up a second time, readers--if they are like me--may be over it.
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews