Author: Kelley Armstrong
Format I Read: ARC
Genres: Thriller, Contemporary
Release Date: October 13, 2015
I honestly don't know how to write this review. I'm still reeling from that wild ride. Wow. I'm quivering, shaking, absolutely dying right now. The Masked Truth deserves every single one of those five stars--it deserves more than just those five stars.
From the first page, Armstrong yanked you into the story. I was immediately immersed in the world and characters she created. The book starts with Riley's every day worries: the date she's missing to babysit a little girl, thanks to her scheming ex-best friend. It's all so trivial. Riley even opens the prologue with, "If there's anything more tragic than spending your Saturday night babysitting, it's spending your Saturday night babysitting after canceling a date with the guy you've been dreaming about all year" (ARC 1). However, Riley quickly gets doused with ice water as she witnesses the murders of her babysitting clients. The first chapter then opens with the same line, but adding, "You stupid, stupid girl. You had no idea what tragedy is" (ARC 7). And I was hooked.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Riley is diagnosed with "situationally related anxiety and depression leading to post-traumatic stress disorder." Her life is turned upside down. She ends up at a weekend therapy camp in an abandoned warehouse with five other trouble teens and two counselors. Oh, and three masked men with guns. The group is held hostage, but things go awry, as expected. People start dying and blood starts running.
Luckily, Riley isn't alone in her desperate quest for survival. Her partner in her escape attempts is Max, a guy with whom she had previously attended group therapy sessions. She knows him as the sarcastic Brit who rarely shares anything about himself. But it seems that he's hiding the diagnosis to a mental illness that will tie him to the "crazy" stigma forever: schizophrenia. Max hides this diagnosis, but it gets more and more difficult to differentiate between what's real and what isn't...
For those who prefer the Goodreads synopsis to my scrambled introduction:
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 find out that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.
Like I said, from the start, I was attached to the characters. Riley was an incredible heroine and main character. I found no flaws in her. She was realistic, she was strong, she was kind, she was brave. She was everything I aspire to be. And her "issues" were so well-written. I really felt her guilt, her belief that she was nothing more than a coward who hid under the bed with the little girl while the Porters were murdered downstairs. It was eye-opening. As the story goes on, you're reminded how easy it is to believe other people are heroes (like Riley believes in Max's bravery), but not to believe in yourself. Riley just fit as the perfect heroine.
And then there's Max... oh, Max. Max was brutally real (in case you haven't noticed, I loved the realism of this novel). The writing style that Armstrong used in his chapters perfectly captured the chaos he fills within and the way that he fights his illness. The scattered thoughts and frazzled comments conveyed the struggle he goes through every day. It was so amazing to read something so spot-on. Armstrong dealt with the mental illnesses in the novel in the most real and open way, starting such a serious discussion about such an important topic. She reminded the world that schizophrenics aren't schizophrenics; they're people with schizophrenia.
Even the minor characters--like Brienne, another girl trapped by the monstrous men--sucked me in. I loved how everyone had a story, a background, a personality. Even stuck-up rich kids like Aaron had depth. Everyone was a person; everyone was real. That was so fantastically refreshing. I didn't feel like any character in this novel was just there to serve as a plot device. Everyone had a meaning, a purpose, a personality. That was so astoundingly impressive.
And the plot... wow. The Masked Truth was the perfect example of a hold-your-breath, grasp-your-chest, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. I loved the twists and turns that it took, especially at the end. It both started and ended with a bang--truly captivating, page by page.
I honestly cannot recommend any novel more than this. If there's a single book that you preorder in 2015, I ask that it be this one. It deserves each and every one of these five stars. Congratulations to Ms. Armstrong for writing such a fantastic, real, and entrancing novel!