All My Secrets

Sophie McKenzie

Simon & Schuster

9781471122217

July 2015

paperback

The author recently described her approach to plotting in a Guardian feature.
“With every scene I write I ask myself:
Is what has happened unexpected, yet credible and convincing?
Is the plot unfolding clearly: neither so slow that it’s boring nor so fast that it’s confusing?
Is the main character(s) at the heart of the scene, moving the action on?”
This technique is very much at play in Sophie McKenzie’s 24th novel, about a 16 year old girl who suddenly learns that she has been left a large inheritance by her mother, a ballerina allegedly killed many years ago in a motor accident. The news and revelation about the circumstances of her birth are so shocking to Evie that she is sent away to Lightsea, a Scottish island specialising in the rehabilitation of teenagers who have gone off the rails in various ways. The formulaic storytelling technique is initially effective but somewhat grating over time, especially when the narrative becomes increasingly overwrought. When every single chapter ends with a carefully stage-managed ‘cliffhanger’ the effect on a mature, experienced reader is underwhelming. But this book is presumably aimed at an audience younger than the main character (who has just finished her GCSEs) – readers of 10+ with a liking for BBC thriller dramas. Certainly the romantic maturity of Evie is more in tune with Y6 girls than with older teenagers.
I’d be happy to suggest it as pageturning holiday reading for 10-13 yr olds, but would want to steer older readers towards alternatives.
There is a freshness at the start of the book that becomes unrecognisable by the end. It is as if all the characters have become mangled by the mechanics of the story structure.

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