Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur

Title: The Secrets of Lake Road
Author: Karen Katchur
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: August 4th 2015
Pages: 309
Genre: women's fiction/mystery
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away.
Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family. The Secrets of Lake Road by Karen Katchur is a riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I was really excited for The Secrets of Lake Road, since it combines women’s fiction with YA crossover appeal with a mystery. The book started out strong, and I enjoyed the beginning, but over the course of the story I developed more and more issues with the book, and it left me feeling very underwhelmed in the end.

What pulled me in the beginning is the writing. Karen Katchur’s style immediately immerses you in the story and makes it impossible to put the book down. The writing is evocative, creating a palpably eerie atmosphere and really making you wonder about what could have happened in this town (and specifically the lake). Some scenes have a very peaceful beachy, summery feel to them, and they’re perfectly contrasted with the darker elements of the story. Regardless of my issues with this book, you can definitely tell that Karen Katchur is a great writer. 

What first started to annoy me are the characters. Most of them are not very likeable people, which doesn’t have to be a problem, but I found myself getting really frustrated with Jo and Kevin, especially, and also kind of bored by the repetitiveness of the mistakes they make. I enjoyed Caroline’s and Patricia’s chapters the most because they’re the only two characters I could empathize with, although sometimes Caroline’s parts frustrated me as well because is not always authentic to that of a twelve-year-old girl. Patricia, I wish we had gotten to know better – her story is fascinating but isn’t actually explored all that much. I also wish we had gotten Johnny’s perspective at some point; he seems to be the only major character who doesn’t get any of their own chapters, and I’m still not sure why that’s the case. I really just didn’t connect with the characters or care about their stories enough to really stay immersed in the plot.

The ending is what frustrated me the most. I was waiting for some kind of plot twist or major revelation, but we already know pretty much everything when we get to the end. There’s no resolution or big change in the family dynamic, so the book left me wondering what the point of the whole thing was. I wanted more of a resolution to Sara’s and Patricia’s story, too; with no resolution or further exploration at the end, their story just seemed like a device to show what happened with Jo and Kevin in the past.

The Secrets of Lake Road just left me feeling very underwhelmed. The novel had a ton of potential, with evocative writing, a great sense of setting and atmosphere, and a mystery that could have been taken in many different directions. But unfortunately, the characters fell flat, and the mystery doesn’t have any surprising twists or interesting resolutions. I might pick up Karen Katchur’s next book because I did really enjoy her writing, but I’m not sure if I can recommend this one.


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