Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Masked Truth

* slight spoilers *

Riley Vasquez wasn't even supposed to be babysitting. Her best friend guilted her into taking over and then the unthinkable happens: intruders come in and kill the couple right before they were leaving. She takes their daughter and hides under the bed. Everyone keeps saying she's a hero, but she just feels like a coward. In an effort to heal from the ordeal, Riley is enrolled in a weekend long therapy camp with five other troubled teens. The situations becomes dire when masked men with guns hold them hostage and claim they want ransom money. One teen gets indignant and attacks the criminals. Chaos reigns as the teens hide from the gunmen, some are shot dead, and some are injured. Can Riley and her fellow teens escape the situation alive?

I wasn't super thrilled with the last Kelly Armstrong book I read, but the premise to The Masked Truth intrigued me. The action starts immediately. The first passage describes the shooting of the couple Riley was babysitting for and then goes forward to just before the therapy retreat. I thought about a third of the book would go into establishing the characters, their relationships with each other, and all that other fluffy stuff. It goes straight into the hostage situation within the first 20 pages. I was surprised that the story dives right into the action and I was wondering how the momentum was going to be sustained throughout the novel. The last third of the novel is after their escape and one of the survivors is accused of planning and carrying out all the murders. I would say this is unbelievable, but similar things happen in real life because of a general misunderstanding and demonization of mental illness. I liked this aspect because so many movies with this situation end with a happy ending with survivors, but never deals with the suspicious and inevitable investigation to follow.

The book is told through alternating perspectives between Riley, our intrepid heroine with PTSD, and Max, a boy with schizophrenia and a bit of a crush on Riley. The portrayal of the mental disorders is even handed and accurate as far as I know. Riley is tired of everyone saying how much of a hero she is when she just cowered under a bed. She almost wishes someone would call her out on it. Riley experiences some PTSD episodes that include flashbacks centered around guns and blood. I liked Riley and I rooted for her, but she's a bit of a stereotypical YA protagonist. I found Max to be a lot more interesting. He's a jerk when we first meet him. He is snarky, rude, and doesn't take anything seriously. His schizophrenia is mostly under control with medication, but he constantly questions if the things he's seeing are real to ensure his loved ones' safety. The last time his delusions went unchecked, he tried to kill his best friend. Even though he doesn't want to advertise his condition, he makes sure Riley is aware to look out for warning signs. Riley and Max's romance was surprisingly sweet and organic in such an extreme situation.

The Masked Truth had some flaws. Some of the situations required a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief to really get into. Riley was the quintessential YA heroine. It's as if Armstrong wrote a checklist of all the characteristics she needed. She had flaws and wasn't totally perfect, but she's like way too many characters I've read already. Other than that, I liked The Masked Truth, especially Max and the twists and turns of the plot.

My rating: 4/5 fismuffins

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