YA – Two Truths and a Lie

Henry, April. Two Truths and a Lie. Little, Brown, 2022. 978-0-316-32333-8. 268 p. $17.99. Grades 7-12.

April Henry never disappoints, and Two Truths and a Lie is another sensational mystery from the master of YA suspense. In a pitch perfect homage to Agatha Christie, the story centers around two groups of high school students trapped at a run-down motel during an unexpected blizzard. Nell and her drama club friends Min, Adam, Raven and Jermaine are on their way to a theater competition when the weather forces them off the road. Once at the Travel Inn and Out hotel, the group meets other guests stranded for the night, including a high school robotics team. All the teens congregate in the community room and dive into a game of two truths and a lie. Then Nell pulls out a slip that stops the giggles: “I like to watch people die; my least-favorite food is mushrooms; I have lost track of how many people I’ve killed.”  The next morning, the bodies start accumulating. With over a dozen people staying at the motel, suspects abound. Henry adroitly inserts red herrings galore, and nothing is ever quite what it seems, as the teens desperately try to stay alive and uncover the killer. In this perfect locked room mystery, it seems everyone is telling a lie or two, and you can never trust the truth. The characters cover a spectrum of diversity, including Indian, Black, white, and gay individuals. In addition to the mystery, Henry touches on racism and human trafficking issues as well.  

THOUGHTS: This is a must purchase for middle school and high school libraries. April Henry attracts loyal fans, and her books are perfect picks for reluctant readers as well. Purchase multiple copies. 

Mystery          Nancy Nadig  Penn Manor SD

Nell and her drama club friends are on their way to a theater competition determined to beat the blizzard that is surrounding them when they’re forced to take a detour at the dilapidated Travel Inn and Out hotel. An expansive complex the hotel must have been impressive in its glory days (which seem to have been quite a while ago). There they meet a high school robotics team who also is stranded for the night as well as other travel guests. After checking in and finding their way to their rooms through the maze of hallways, the teems agree to meet back up in the community room and make the best of their situation. Deciding on an innocent game of two truths and a lie to get to know each other, things seem to be going well until Nell pulls a slip that reads “I like to watch people die; my least-favorite food is mushrooms; I have lost track of how many people I’ve killed.” Sufficiently spooked, the game comes to an abrupt halt, and everyone returns to their rooms. As people become unaccounted for and everyone suspects everyone else, the remaining teens race to uncover the mystery of what’s happening at this off the beaten path hotel. Who will make it out alive, or will they all become another victim of this blizzard detour?

THOUGHTS: With eerie similarities to King’s Overlook Hotel from The Shining, Henry will not disappoint fans of her thrillers. A fast-paced, quick read, Two Truths and a Lie is a must have for secondary students!

Mystery          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – You Can Go Your Own Way

Smith, Eric. You Can Go Your Own Way. Inkyard Press, 2021. 978-1-335-40568-5. $18.99. 336 p. Grades 9 and up.

Adam Stillwater’s family pinball arcade, Old City Pinball, is in trouble. Since his father passed away, it’s been just Adam and his mom trying to keep the business afloat, and with the popularity of esports rising, people just aren’t interested in playing the old machines anymore. Adam still has a passion for pinball though, and he spends most of his time maintaining the machines at the arcade and continuing to build a custom Philly-themed machine his father began designing and building before he passed away. Whitney Mitchell runs the social media for an esports café – West Philly esports – owned by her father. As her father looks to expand business, there is talk of him buying Old City Pinball – which would be bad enough on its own but is doubly troubling for Adam since he and Whitney were childhood best friends. Adam’s father’s death and Whitney gravitating towards new friends in high school separated them, but when Whitney’s dad started a rival business, the two of them occasionally sparred on social media, effectively freezing what was once a warm and fuzzy relationship. Now it’s their senior year, and an incident with Whitney’s brother at Old City Pinball bring Adam and Whitney together again. Being forced to interact in the weeks that follow help to thaw their icy feelings for each other, and Whitney finds talking to Adam comforting after her boyfriend breaks up with her and she begins to drift from her toxic friends. Their banter on social media and in person is even bordering on flirtatious, which is confusing given how public their dislike of each other has been for the past several years. Adam can fix a pinball machine, and Whitney can nurse just about any plant back to health, but fixing feelings isn’t quite as simple. They can’t escape trying though as a blizzard overtakes Philadelphia leaving Adam and Whitney trapped inside Old City Pinball for a night.

THOUGHTS: Fitting that the pinball arcade is in the “Old City” section of Philly since the theme of this lighthearted romance is very much about old vs. new, letting go and moving on, and focusing on what’s most important. You can put this book in the hands of any of your regular library patrons as it involves several library-adjacent activities like gaming, makerspaces, and coffee bars, even though it doesn’t actually take place in a library. Set in Philadelphia and full of fun Philly references, this book is geographically relevant for our Pennsylvania readers and makes for a fantastic winter break read. A bonus for readers of Eric Smith’s previous YA novel, Don’t Read the Comments: its main characters make a quick cameo appearance. Final thought – author Eric Smith is also a literary agent, and his website contains some super educational tips and information on the publishing field, an area aspiring writers are often left to figure out on their own.

Realistic Fiction          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD