Sunday, 12 January 2014

Book Review: Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings

It's hard to write a book about death without making readers feel completely depressed and not want to carry on reading - yet somehow Amanda Jennings has managed it with her novel Sworn Secret.

Teenager Anna dies in a tragic accident and her sister, mother and father all deal with her death in very different ways. Jennings explores each of them by switching between perspectives to show the full extent of the family's despair. In doing so, she perfectly captures the teenage angst of Lizzie, all-consuming loss felt by their mother Kate and the many ways dad Jon is just trying to keep everything together.

By adding in the element of mystery, there is a driving force behind the story that makes readers want to continue on even when things get really emotional. And emotional the story does become. It is hard-going at the beginning but necessary. In order to fully appreciate the events that follow, the reader needs to see the extent of the family's loss and how each of them are trying to cope with it in their own way.

Once the mystery element is added, though, and young Lizzie starts to experience her first love, the pain and beauty of family bonds becomes that much more important. There is still something missing in the events of Anna's death and her family cannot really deal with her loss until they know what really happened. In the process, of course, they are destroying each other and Lizzie is being ignored in the process. By the time they realise how badly they need each other, will the damage have already been done?

A heartbreakingly real story that is full of emotion with despair and love in the extremes.


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