By Brent Hartinger
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (August 2, 2016)
Grade Level: 9 and up
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A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.
Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.
Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.
Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.
Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.
Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.
One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.
Four teenagers go into a spooky forest to spend the weekend in a cabin in the middle of nowhere without any adults around... what could go wrong?! Liam, Rob, Maia, and Galen are trying to have a good time and end up playing the game Three Truths and a Lie. This should be a harmless game until one of them says that they may have committed a murder many years ago. Is this a lie? Is this truth? Immediately after, strange and scary things keep happening. Items are disappearing from the cabin, noises keep coming from outside, and at one point a fire starts near the cabin. The game Three Truths and a Lie plays a big part in everything odd that is happening because Rob swears Maia is hiding something and ultimately may be behind what is going on. Sadly, not everyone will live through the weekend to find out who was telling the truth.
This story was painful to get through. It is a very short book but so much about the story made me shake my head. Let's start with the characters.
- Rob is the main character and the narrating voice. Rob is a giant wuss with the inner monologue of a 5 year old girl who is wondering why people don't like her. He is so whiny and self absorbed that I wanted to slap him myself and leave him in the forest. I didn't like him nor did I connect with him in any way. Actually, I didn't connect with any character. Rob was so much more concerned about having a lot of sexy time with his boyfriend of a few months, Liam. Rob swears that Maia is the mastermind behind everything going wrong with the trip and never. lets. this. go. It is maddening how he cannot prove anything but chooses to mope and whine about it all to Liam without actually being able to prove she's behind it all. He also loved to talk about everything in percentages. "I'm eighty percent sure this is what happened...." and "I am sixty five percent sure Maia is behind this..." and "I am seventy percent sure...." Holy crow, just stop already, Rain Man.
- Liam is Maia's best friend and token boyfriend to Rob. He and Rob had just started dating but that's all you ever really find out about him. He defended Maia's honor no matter what and it was too over the top. What else can I say besides that he is the token boyfriend. He's there to support Maia and someone for Rob to screw. I don't mean to be so cold but his character had no depth.
- I'll be frank: Maia is a bitch. There are no redeeming qualities to her. She silently waged a war against Rob while dating the gross person that is Galen. She had something against Rob but never came out and said what it was. She didn't trust him and openly admitted that she didn't. She tries too hard to be the alpha of the group. She is the one that started the Three Truths and a Lie game, which (obviously) is the running theme of the book.
- Galen is the overly manly guy that is trying to prove he is super manly. His character is over the top rude and disgusting. There was not one thing I connected to with any of these characters. I found myself not caring what happened to any of them.
The story line itself was laughable. Hartinger wants me to believe that the parents of these teens have no problem letting them spend the weekend in a deserted cabin alone? HA! Right. Actually, there are no adults in this story whatsoever. These kids really are left to their own devices. He also wants me to believe that after playing the "Three Truths and a Lie" game that one of them just happens to admit they probably possibly committed a murder?! *facepalm* Give me a freaking break. None of these characters would be friends in real life. They are horrid to each other and have ugly personalities. What happened to them in the woods came across as obvious and unbelievable. More like random occurances than anything else. I didn't care who ended up being the one to blame because eighty-five percent of the book was Rob's inner monologue as he whined to himself. The other fifteen percent was stupid stuff that happened. (See what I did there??)
Here is the big problem I have with this book: all of the sexual references. This book feels wildly inapproperiate for the average YA reader. Galen is overly rude to Rob and Liam when he "waggles his junk" at the others while skinny dipping and just the gross comments he makes towards them. Also, there are two scenes where Rob and Liam have hot and heavy sex, not leaving anything to the imagination. I mean, it is stuff that should be in adult books, not YA books.
I openly admit I skimmed the last 50 pages of the book because I wanted it to be over. There is a "twist" at the end but it doesn't help clear anything up and it is not a huge reveal. If nothing else, it is stupid and doesn't make any sense at all. It left me shaking my head wondering how a murder/mystery could take place in 260-ish pages. Stop trying to force a story where there is no story, Hartinger. This entire story felt rushed and forced. I would not recommend this to anyone as I don't want anyone to kick themselves for reading it.