Cover of All Your Twisted Secrets, with a drawing of six teenagers grouped together with red slashes over their eyes

About the Book

Title: All Your Twisted Secrets
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Artsy
Drinking Buddy:
MPAA Rating:
Language, Violence, Drug Use
Talky Talk:
Desperate Times
Bonus Factors:
Locked Room Mystery, Film Score
Bromance Status:
Dinner Companion

Cover Story: Artsy

I normally don’t care for covers where we’re shown what the main characters look like, but the pencil drawings are so well done, I’ll give them a pass. It was easy to tell who was who, and I suspect these sketches must have been done from real-life models.

The Deal:

High school senior Amber Prescott has received an unexpected college scholarship, along with five other students from her school. When they show up to the awards banquet, however, they’re shocked to find that the restaurant, while laid out for a banquet, is abandoned, and they’re now locked in. Even more unnerving, they find a bomb under one of the serving dishes, and a hypodermic syringe filled with poison under another. A note says that they must decide which one of them will die, or the bomb will kill all of them. And the timer is counting down from one hour.

What was supposed to be a fun dinner with the mayor turns into a sixty minute pressure cooker, where six teens must decide which of them is the least worthy to live.

Drinking Buddy: Suspects

Two pints of beer cheersing

So, six kids. And one of them might not be making it out there alive.

Amber, our narrator: a music geek who dreams of writing film scores. She wants to attend music school at SCU, but her boyfriend wants her to follow him to Georgia Tech. Like everyone else, she can’t imagine who’d want one of them to die.

Robbie, the handsome, dimpled jock (it’s a YA rule that boyfriends have to have dimples). He can’t understand why Amber can’t just do her music thing in Georgia. Amber realizes he’s just a bit out of her league, and she should be happy someone like Robbie is interested in her.

Priya, Amber’s best friend. Someone who’s equally annoyed with Amber for moving into the cool kids’ clique, and jealous of being left out.

Diego, the shy valedictorian. A quiet, budding genius who Amber sometimes wondered would make a better boyfriend. That is, until his father destroyed Amber’s father’s business.

Sasha, the school’s queen bee. A popular girl who just assumes she won’t be tonight’s victim.

Scott, the burnout stoner. Who would believe he’d be up for a scholarship? He’s just a slacker and drug user. I mean, if we had to choose…

MPAA Rating: Language, Violence, Drug Use

So why exactly are these six marked for death? Scott’s a low-life drug user, but that shouldn’t mean someone wants him dead. Sasha certainly has her share of enemies and rivals, as does Scott. But who’d want to hurt Amber, Diego, and Priya?

Of course, someone set all this up. Maybe that person is in the room, watching and manipulating. Amber suffered at the hands of Diego (or at least his family). Priya was humiliated by Sasha. And Amber lost her sister, thanks to the cruelty of…someone. Could any of them be behind this?

As the timer ticks closer to zero, the kids have a decision to make. Should they vote? Draw straws? Refuse to select anyone? Should someone make the ultimate sacrifice? Things are about to get ugly if there’s not a resolution, and soon.

Talky Talk: Desperate Times

The book is told in alternating chapters in the present and in the past, where we learn where the petty grudges and big hurts came from, and how these six may have ended up here. No one is innocent and everyone has a score to settle. This was a compelling, page turning plot.

On the other hand, I really felt like the kids kind of of just accepted their fate. I get that they can’t break down the door, that there are bars on the windows, and they can’t get a cell signal. But they really didn’t seem to exhaust all their options. Why not compose an offline message and then throw a phone out the window, where it would automatically send? Why not use a table as a battering ram? They have an hour, and they’re in a restaurant, not Fort Knox. When they discover a camera watching them, they don’t unhook it or make a plea to whoever is observing them. There’s just a lot of crying, accusations, and Sasha saying that she should be excluded from the death pool.

Bonus Factor: Locked Room Mystery

A bunch of white question marks on top of each other

The classic whodunnit, with the hostages growing more and more desperate as the timer ticks down. It’s like that episode of The Twilight Zone, where the neighbors make fun of that guy’s bomb shelter until everyone suddenly needs it. So who’s going to take the fatal injection? Amber’s mom and dad have already lost one child…but that won’t make it any less tragic for the others’ parents. Many of them have bright futures…but should that matter? It all comes down to the fact that none of them want to die. And maybe things are about to get nasty.

There’s also a heavy Saw element, with the victims wondering if the mastermind may be in the room with them. As the accusations fly, everyone realizes they all have secrets they’re desperate to keep. Maybe very desperate.

Bonus Factor: Film Score

Miranda Lambert playing a guitar in the music video for "The House That Built Me"

Amber dreams of being a composer of film scores. South Carolina University offers a course of study in this, but it’s expensive. Now that Diego’s family has ruined hers financially, it may not be possible. She attempts to write a score for the school play, but she has to make a deal with the devil, er, Sasha. And Robbie just wants her to move to Georgia. Plus the scholarship she was depending on turned out to be a ruse by a mad bomber. Will she ever get a break?

Bromance Status: Dinner Companion

It was a fun evening, but I don’t know if I’ll be getting together with you in the future.

Literary Matchmaking

Three Truths and a Lie

For another tense, locked-room mystery, try Brent Hartinger’s Three Truths and a Lie.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but no money or the long straw.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.