Title: The Masked Truth
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Check this book out on Goodreads.
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.
Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.
The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.
The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.
Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom. (Source: Goodreads)
Riley has witnessed the murder of a couple who she was babysitting for and now she’s in therapy. This leads to her being sign-up for a weekend-long all teen therapy group. When she arrives at the building it’s being held in everything seems normal. Until the group is held hostage for ransom by a group of masked men. When things go wrong and the kidnappers start killing people Riley and Max, a boy struggling to come to terms with his schizophrenia diagnosis, must try to save themselves and the rest of the group before they’re all killed.
This is my first ever Kelley Armstrong book. From what I’ve heard this book is totally unlike any of her other work, and I think that’s kind of what drew me to it. This book is thrilling and complex – which isn’t to say her other books aren’t – but it’s very grounded in reality. It’s not her usual supernatural stuff. This is a terrifying thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat, unable to sleep, because it was so scary, mysterious, and thrilling. The characters were well written, the action was well written, and the book says some really important things about mental illness. The only fault I found was that the book is basically at like…10 the whole way through, it’s so action packed you never really get a break and for some people that can kind of detract from the action and the suspense.
Riley is a really strong lead for this book. She’s fierce and protective. Probably the best person you could ever hope to know. But she’s scared and angry with herself over her failure to protect the couple who she saw die, and even about her father’s death. She’s been diagnosed with PTSD and Armstrong uses the anxiety and depression that comes from that to highlight how amazing Riley is. She’s not broken, or damaged, she’s struggling sure but she’s a human being who watched people get murdered and she’s fighting to stop this happening to anyone else. Riley was just…amazing. I don’t know what else to say.
Most of the book follows Riley…maybe like 60-70% but we also follow Max for the other 30-40%. Max has schizophrenia which is why he’s at this therapy group with Riley. Armstrong really varied the writing for the too of them. Mac’s perspective is largely introspective, he argues with himself. It’s a little more manic, not quite so intent on capturing the action but the mood. I thought that was a wise decision. I also felt that despite this tool, which was really meant to highlight his struggles with schizophrenia, Max comes across as loveable and charming. Armstrong really captured something amazing with Max. Through Max Armstrong makes a statement about the stigma around mental health disorders. She examines the way society views people who have PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, or any other mental health “issues” (I don’t know exactly the term to use), like both Max and Riley, as “crazy”. Her message is of course that these illnesses are no one’s fault, they aren’t curable like colds, they aren’t infectious, and they don’t make someone a criminal or “crazy” or unable to live life to the fullest. I was really happy to read that.
The action of this book is nonstop. It is thrilling and suspenseful. I didn’t figure the mystery out at all. Honestly even to the end I was still being surprised by stuff that was happening. I think there’s a fair amount of violence in this but very few moments are described in such detail that might put anyone off reading the book I think. I don’t know if I’m a big fan of murder mysteries…I guess a little. I was also quite fond of Kathleen Hale’s No One Else Can Have You, but I think The Masked Truth is probably the better written book of the two.
Like I said I really only saw one potential fault. This book is cranked to 10 all the way through and that could be kind of off putting for some people. You lose a lot of the lows that you normally need to make the action more impactful. But I actually felt that Armstrong kind of mixed it up enough to keep things interesting for me and I never got bored.
I highly recommend this book, and it’s definitely one of my favourites that I’ve read this year.