Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves

This cover is aesthetically displeasing on many levels, the most important of which being IT HURTS MY EYES.
Source: HarperCollins
Format: print galley
Pub date: May 13, 2014

Summary from Goodreads (I've taken the liberty of crossing out the parts that are actually not relevant to the book at all): 
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 [although this has nothing to do with having grown up in a house of female morticians]. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her [again, said knowledge not related to the house of morticians]. 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 [kind of]. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her [becomes less normal], Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim [wow, what a horrible way to end a synopsis. It's too bad nobody's actually that concerned about the killer claiming another victim].
I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by The Secrets of Lily Graves, and I'm trying to figure out how I can be both. Pleasantly, because it was a quick read, had funny moments, and focused on a somewhat unconventional characters: the protagonist, Lily, lives and works in her family's funeral home, and her best friend has a physical deformity that does not define her. Unpleasantly, because the romance was told, not shown, and frankly the ending just sucked. If this book was Friday Night Lights (which is another issue I had, I'll get to that in a second), the ending was season 2.

I really liked Lily as a character, and her family was great in that it kind of reminded me of Blue's family in The Raven Cycle. Just a bunch of women with a weird job, living in a house together and hoping but not really believing they have any kind of control over the teenager in the house. Perfect Bob was cool too. The high school drama was a bit cliché, what with the popular crowd hating Lily because she's different and ohmygod she hangs out with (TUTORS) the Queen Bee's boyfriend, but if I'm going to start deducting points based on high school clichés, I've got a lot of backtracking to do.

My main problems with the book were these:

  • It's stupid, but I really couldn't get past the Friday Night Lights thing. You know, the thing where the author was like, "Yeah, I'll make the main character's love interest a quarterback! Why not name him Matt and give him the number 7? Oh, and the football team should be the Panthers!" Because honestly, I don't like being forced to compare new characters to Matt Saracen. It's not fair to them, putting them in a battle they can never win.
  • Neither investigation— Lily's nor the police's— worked for me. Lily was always jumping to conclusions without really explaining her logic, because she didn't really have logic for a lot of them, and she would stick with those conclusions for an annoyingly long time and then change her mind so suddenly I felt whiplashed. The police were just idiots most of the time. Lily was right when she said the killer was laughing at them for spending so much time on her and Matt, because they had no evidence to use against Matt. 
  • The romance. Sorry, but a few flashbacks to friendly moments between Matt and Lily, the casual mentioning of the times they almost crossed a line, and Matt's sudden availability when Erin dies a day after he broke up with her do not add up to a believable love story, if you ask me. I would've liked to have seen those moments, so I didn't have to question their devotion to each other.
  • The end. Basically, it ruined the one well-developed relationship Lily had, and inserted a weird melodramatic plot element that was resolved in a glossed-over manner in the epilogue. Don't get me wrong, finding out who killed Erin was a super twist and I fully support that part, but I felt like it could have been done without taking this one relationship down with it. And the whole thing where the last chapter is like, "So-and-so was shot! So-and-so is dead!" and the epilogue is like, "We reached So-and-so in time so it was NBD"? Naaaaaaah. Nope. I could cross out that entire part and it would not make any difference whatsoever.
Other than alllllll of that, though, it was enjoyable. The humor was seriously dark sometimes, which I loved, and it's well paced and all that jazz.
Yeah, that's all I've got.