I don’t know how Karen M. McManus does it, but every mystery she conjures out of thin air has generally the same kind of themes yet she makes it feel fresh and new every time.
And this story of hers is different from her previous ones. Her debut, One Of Us Is Lying, was clearly inspired by The Breakfast Club. I’m not quite sure what Two Can Keep A Secret was inspired by, but I think it could be Riverdale. This one is a new take on the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off story, with the Sloane counterpart being the star, Ivy. Cameron’s counterpart is Mateo and Ferris’s is Cal. Let me be more specific. Ivy, Mateo and Cal are our heroes. The three of them became close friends when even though they didn’t know each other in eighth grade, they found an escape out of a tedious field trip and spent a day playing hooky together. They ended up growing apart, however, but something’s going to pull them back together for the same sort of trip.
When Ivy chooses something to care about, she goes for it, and even though she’d done dozens of things as student council president, getting organic and healthy options in the cafeteria and providing further access to books at the library…I don’t have to tell you that kids really don’t care about all of those things. A book from a few years back called Your Own Worst Enemy was about a school election too, and people weren’t going for the Ivy-esque candidate but either the one who promised inclusivity…or the one who was going to bring chocolate milk back to the caf in spite of the teachers and faculty saying it was impossible. Well, a chocolate-milk-esque candidate who ran against Ivy for fun named Brian Mahoney, or Boney Mahoney as a nickname, manages to win with not much promised, other than “Vote for Boney and I’ll leave you alone-y.” Well, Ivy just can’t stand the thought of being in the gymnasium where Boney is to give his victory speech, and she ends up running into Mateo and Cal at the school parking lot, and decide: We all could use a day off, let’s phone in sick and hit the streets.
Mateo and Cal have reasons of their own why they want to skip. Mateo’s overworked and Cal has some troubles he kind of wants to deal with. All seems fine…until the trio runs into a rather familiar face in the street…and a body is discovered, with people back at school starting to ask questions.
What makes this especially different from McManus’s other works is this takes place only one day, and the result is the sense of a ticking clock that isn’t slowing down. But let’s put all that aside. I read this months ago and was in the middle of my big slump, and I decided to choose this book in an attempt to get back into the groove, and just like the characters, I finished the whole book in one day. A book has to do a lot well to accomplish that.
How it manages to pull that off is mostly because of the friendship between Ivy, Mateo and Cal and how it reminds us of our own relationships that have either stayed alive or shriveled up. It would honestly feel great to reunite with some of my old friends. Some I just lost contact with because we fell into different friend groups, others moved, others we just didn’t see eye to eye with anymore. But that doesn’t erase history. There’s also a slight romance and a grave tragedy, both we learn about as time goes on, and it is one of the more gut-wrenching side stories McManus has come up with in her day. The only thing that brings it down a little bit is there are some reveals near the end that did not have info for us to be able to follow, and it felt like there were ways that info could have been incorporated into the story. But this is very far from the biggest storytelling sin in the world when almost all of your story has you completely hooked.
Maybe one day this author will write something I’m not a fan of. I recently read The Cousins and didn’t love it as much as her other works. But I still did really like it, and I don’t know if I’m ever going to grow out of her work.