Let’s Talk About April Henry: A book review of TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE
This past week, I turned 50. I started working with teens in libraries at the age of 20, which means I have been doing this for 30 years now. And in that time, I’ve read a lot of YA literature. And I mean a lot. In the 90s and early 2000s, a vast majority of YA lit consisted of horror paperback and mystery/thriller series written by authors like R. L. Stine, Christopher Golden, Lois Duncan and Joan Lowery Nixon. These books were fast, fun reads that were authentically teen, particularly in voice. And as those generation of YA readers grew up and became adults, YA started to become more adult as well. If you spend any time in librarianship, on YA twitter, or talking with teens, you will probably hear someone lamenting that it feels that a lot of YA is now more mature and seems like it is being written for adults instead of teens. I, myself, have lamented that often in the last couple of years. YA literature is growing and changing and in flux and is arguably having an identity crisis. Which brings me to April Henry.
April Henry is a prolific author who, in my opinion, consistently writes engaging and authentically teen YA books that remind me of those 90s and 2000s paperback series, and this is the highest compliment I can give her as an author. Just as adults still love to read Harlequin romances, I believe that a lot is being lost in teen fiction and in our libraries by moving away from those quick, fun – and easy to carry because they are paperback – series that you can consistenly count on for some great escapist reading that horrifies, delights, and engages. April Henry excels at this.
Her most recent book is a book called TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE. A group of teens on the way to a theater competition are trapped in a blizzard and they find themselves staying at a hotel with some other people who are also trapped by the blizzard. To pass the time, they play a game of Two Truths and Lie. Each person writes down two truths and one lie on a piece of paper and you have to guess who wrote it and which one is the lie. That’s when Nell pulls out a piece of paper that contains two statements about enjoying being a killer and watching people die, which means one of those statements – or both of them – must be a truth. So to everyone’s horror, it turns out they are trapped in a blizzard in a hotel with a serial killer. What happes next is a series of wild and fun twists and turns in which secrets are spilled, and some blood as well. Like a lot of my favorite books, I was never really sure what was going on in this book or who was doing what. It’s a fun ride, something April Henry really excels at. I highly recommend it.
After you read TWO TRUTHS AND A Lie, be sure and check out PLAYING WITH FIRE, a book that begins with two teens hiking when the mountain catches on fire. It’s a wilderness survival story with some unique twists and turns along the way.
A thing that I appreciate with April Henry is how authentically teen her protoganists feel and sound on a consistent basis. I have never walked away from an April Henry book thinking those characters were adults that they just labelled as 17 to market them as YA. And did I mention they are fun and engaging reads?
Publisher’s Book Description for TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE:
A group of teens are trapped in an old motel with a murderer in this chilling YA mystery by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.
Nell has always wanted to be an actor, but doubts her ability. As a member of her school’s theater program, she prefers working backstage. On the way to a contest, an unexpected blizzard strands her acting troupe in a creepy motel. Soon they meet a group of strangers from another high school—including the mysterious and handsome Knox, who insists they play the game Two Truths and a Lie. When it’s Nell’s turn, she draws a slip of paper inked in unfamiliar handwriting:
I like to watch people die.
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve killed.
Suddenly a night of harmless fun turns into a matter of life and death. As guests go missing, it becomes clear that a murderer is hiding in their midst ready to strike again. In a room full of liars and performers, the truth is never quite what it seems. Nell is going to have to act like her life depends on it—because it does.
Filed under: Teen Fiction, YA Fiction, YA Lit
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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