Coming Attractions is inspired by The Perpetual Page Turner's Save The Date. Coming Attractions showcases a book that is not released for a while that I've read, and gives you a sneak peek (like a pre-review, if you will) as to what I thought about the book, since I can't post the review until closer to the release date.
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 2 stars
Word rating: this European is whelmed
Reviewed by: Ellis
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
In general, fluffy contemporaries are very hit or miss for me. Mysteries are more often hit than miss, but I was still genuinely excited for The Secrets of Lily Graves. It's the power of Strohmeyer. I believe in it. Unfortunately, her latest book ended up in the miss category. I do think I will be a black sheep for this one, though. To give you an idea of how fickle my relationship with contemporaries can be: Meant To Be bored me and The Distance Between Us, while undeniable adorable, didn't wow me either. I know, chickawuts all around.
This didn't work for me:
First of all, I did not ship this ship, and the main reason for that is Matt. For most of the novel, he's super sketchy, and his motives are never really explained. Lily has this blind faith in his supposed inherent goodness, but I seem to be a little less forgiving and a lot more cynical. Considering that she spent a long time tutoring him and that they spent a lot of time together in general, it does seem realistic - and even admirable - to me that she doesn't immediately give up on him. I just wasn't as invested in their blossoming romance as I wish I'd been. It also didn't help that Matt's response to his friend fat-shaming one of Lily's friends is him fat-shaming the original shamer. The word you're looking for is "counterproductive".
The pacing is rather uneven. The mystery doesn't really kick in until the last 20% and then it comes at you all at once. There are some clues dropped throughout the story, but for the most part, this reads like a regular YA contemporary. Even then, I quickly had the whodunit aspect figured out. The book isn't exactly predictable, but there isn't much suspense either. With every reveal, I had a general "of course" reaction. I think the lack of cuteness is to blame for this, as well as the fact that the humour wasn't quite working for me. Lily can be extremely flippant, which is an attitude I'd rather not see when dealing with issues such as suicide. Oh, and the loners (Happily Twisted) hating on the popular kids (Tragically Normals) is getting pretty old.
Maybe the most confusing part for me was that Matt and Lily just didn't seem to have that many secrets. I dropped Pretty Little Liars halfway through last season, but everyone who's at least a little familiar with this show knows how convoluted the main characters' backstories have become. Even the PLL side characters have more secrets than Lily or Matt. This particular comparison was very unfortunate, because it just didn't hold up in this case.
This worked for me:
The good news is that this is a quick read. Another strong point is that while I wasn't really impressed, I could easily remember the main plot and a bunch of details without having to look at my notes. Considering I read The Secrets of Lily Graves weeks ago, that is quite impressive. This book gets bonus points for calling out sexism and having good gender dynamics in general. I liked Lily's family. They aren't your typical brand of kooky, but it works, because their eccentricity isn't overdone. They're a diverse bunch, personality-wise. Then again, this is something Strohmeyer does consistently well.
For all its uneven pacing, The Secrets of Lily Graves had me flipping the (virtual) pages in the end. When the action starts, it gets good, and, more importantly, intense. Usually when a book doesn't engage me for 4/5 of the story, I don't even care about the climax, so The Secrets of Lily Graves being able to still entice me after all is, again, impressive. I also think the science part of the story is more or less accurate, though I admit I've only done a quick Google search and funerary practices aren't exactly my specialty. A last positive is completely of sentimental value, and that is that Lily calls her grandmother "oma", which is what I call my grandma. I thought that was a nice touch.