All The Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault – Review

For fans of Sadie and The Cheerleaders comes an all new thriller about a boy who turns up dead under suspicious circumstances and the one girl who may be the key to solving the mystery of his untimely death.

For Ivy, summer means roller-coaster season, spinning cotton candy at the Fabuland amusement park, and hanging out with her best friend, Morgan. But this summer is different.

One morning, Morgan finds a dead body. It’s their former classmate and coworker Ethan. To make matters worse, Morgan is taken to a hospital psych ward only days later, and she’s not saying much–not even to Ivy.

The police claim that Ethan simply took a bad fall, but Ivy isn’t convinced and realizes it’s up to her to get answers. What she finds is unsettling–it’s clear that some people aren’t being honest about Ethan’s last night at Fabuland. Including Morgan. And the more secrets Ivy uncovers, the closer she gets to unraveling dark truths that will change her life forever.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley for this ARC; it was one of the most thrilling mysteries I have read in a long time. I had the hardest time putting it down once I had started it– all of the chapters ended in a question being answered but like a sapling, the intrigue just grew and grew until there were so many branches. Some branches might be questions that hit a dead end. Others bore fruit and continued the life of the story. The majority of them had this in common: even if one mystery seemed solved, a million more concerns kept coming up. It kept me guessing until the end, but still a spectacular job of sowing seeds so that the ending didn’t blindside the reader. Emily played her cards exactly right, and this devastating look into how trauma can bring a town (and its inhabitants) to its knees was exactly what I needed to break my reading slump.

Now, at first glance, you can see what this book is about. The synopsis will tell you of Ethan, a young man who fell to his death not far from the amusement park where he worked. You hear of the girl who found him, Morgan, and her best friend Ivy, whose father runs the amusement park. Ivy was gone to another state to visit her grandparents, and so was not there to witness the chaos of the immediate time frame after the boy’s body was found. All she knows upon returning home is that Morgan is missing, and when she finds her, she is inconsolable. Ivy chalks it up to grief and mental stress from discovering Ethan, but after talking with Morgan as she recovers in the hospital, she senses something more is amiss. So, she begins to ask around her small town, trying to see what she can uncover. She’s hoping to help Morgan get better, but what she begins to piece together threatens to tear her own life apart. There is more to this plot than meets the eye, and you can feel the tension of it in between every line.

These characters are so expertly crafted. I fell in love with Ivy, which I think is extremely important for a protagonist who is going to be kicking up a lot of dust. If you’re not with her, while she’s asking personal questions to these heartbroken acquaintances you would not be able to root for her. However, you can tell it comes out of a place of love, because she is trying to get to the bottom of it for her best friend, and this colors the way that she looks at everything and everyone. She is oblivious to most of the dangers, and even if she wasn’t, I think she would still press on. She is strong, capable, and smart. We see her split her time between sleuthing and pleasing her overeager doughnut dynasty father, who she loves but is also a frightening kind of oblivious as well, or so it comes across. He makes comments throughout the book that made me extremely uncomfortable, and it was very interesting to watch Ivy see him (as well as her mother) for the first time. The tragedy makes her take a magnifying glass to her own life, and as she’s discovering the truth about Ethan, she is also finding her way out of her father’s shadow.

At the book’s conclusion, my jaw was on the floor. I even had to take a few minutes after finishing to just breathe– the finale happens a bit like life and roller coasters, once it drops you’re in for a few minutes of breathless screaming before it’s all over. When the dust settles, it’s not only a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it’s also a story about how well you know the people around you. This goes for family, best friends, coworkers, and even that person you see around but never get a chance to interact with. You have no idea the battles these people are fighting. You can’t ever tell who has malice pulsing through their veins. Most days, you’re not even sure who you can really trust. In the end, though, these things will out for better or for worse. And what better setting than a fairground for this coming-of-age revelation. It looks so beautiful in the dark of the night. But are you ready for what it looks like when the lights go up?

5/5 stars

3 thoughts on “All The Pretty Things by Emily Arsenault – Review

  1. Pingback: The Sunshine Blogger Award – Foxes and Fairy Tales: Book Blog

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