“The sun’s a powerful enemy. It’s much stronger than she is.” (4.5 stars)
Source- review copy
Due for publication by Random House Publishing Group on 4th February 2014
I read the Kindle edition. The hardback edition is 448 pages
I knew within a few pages that I was going to love this book. The writing was solid, the characters engaging and its premise was genuinely compelling. From the outset the fluid prose and vivid descriptions reminded me of stories by Diane Chamberlain and Jodi Picoult and the heart-wrenching scenarios that some of the novel’s characters found themselves in here, had an echo of those authors too.
Tyler is thirteen years old but is unlike most teenagers. When he was a toddler he was diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light. Even the slightest burn could lead to the deadliest melanoma, a mere headlight from a car could have fatal consequences. As a result, he spends his days shut in his home, sheathed by thick curtains and locked away from the world. He studies with his classmates via Skype and most of his real friends are other sufferers of XP, whom he engages with via the internet. He desperately wants to be normal, but with the prognosis of XP sufferers terminal and with so much not being known about his condition, he basically has a death sentence hanging over him. He instead walks the streets at night, looking in at his neighbours homes and inadvertently uncovering their deepest secrets.
When Amy, the young daughter of a neighbour suddenly disappears, it looks as if Tyler is the only person who can truly shed light on what has happened, though when people’s secrets are slowly exposed, his very own family may also face some harsh truths…
A thoroughly memorable read, The Deepest Secret is the kind of novel that will make you question your own code of ethics and how far you would go to protect someone you love. Characters within this book are forced into making some unimaginable decisions which have shattering impacts on everyone around them.
The main protagonists were all solidly developed. Like Picoult or Chamberlain, Buckley adopts telling the story from different characters perspectives which is a device that really worked. In this case we have Eve (Tyler’s mother), Tyler and David’s (Tyler’s father’s) points of view. This allowed the reader to not only get to know them individually, but also gain a real insight into how each character reacted not only to Tyler’s debilitating illness but also Amy’s disappearance. Whilst Amy’s disappearance added a strong mystery and crime element to the plot, Tyler was really the star of the show.
I fell in love with Tyler, who is not only struggling with being a teenager but also with the fact that he is unlikely to survive until his twenty-first birthday. Everything that his ‘normal’ friends take for granted, like driving a car, playing football or having a girlfriend is restricted to him. His main companions are his mother and his sister and his situation is so utterly devastating; it makes you realise just how much people take for granted.
Eve is a (justifiably) over-protective mother. Her husband works away and she is left to manage the household during the week, not only contending with Tyler’s illness and all that entails but also looking after her daughter Melissa. Melissa is understandably somewhat neglected with all of the attention given to her brother, yet Eve still manages to make the house run like clockwork. I’m not sure I liked Eve, though she was indeed very well-drawn. The dynamics between Tyler and Melissa too, were fascinating. She clearly resents the attention her brother gets, yet undoubtedly loves him very much.
David seemed to be a stereo-typical absent father. I didn’t especially like him at first, he didn’t connect with either his wife or his children, though when it came down to it, was able to cope with a crisis. I ended up warming to him more than I had anticipated and it was apparent just how much his family meant to him.
The periphery characters were slightly confusing at first. Being a whole cul-de-sac full of neighbours, there were a lot to contend with- I could have done with a cast of characters at the front of the book! Some were more fleshed out than others and understandably so given that some made merely fleeting appearances. Following the disappearance of Amy, we gained more background knowledge of them and these small facets into their personalities added a lot more depth to the story. As a reader you grew to understand their secrets, their bitterness and resentments towards one another, as well as the genuine friendships that had been established within the neighbourhood. Amy’s disappearance casts aspersions and suspicions amongst even the most long-standing acquaintances.
This was a genuinely emotional reading experience, filled with ethical questions, secrets, lies and betrayal. It is the sort of book that prompts the reader to question just how well you too, really know those around you. I enjoyed it heartily and suffice to say, would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone wanting a thought-provoking read. This is the first novel by Carla Buckley I have encountered and I would definitely like to read more by her in future.