Swim with Caution

I love a good thriller/suspense novel. My students do too. As a result, I read a lot of both YA and adult thrillers. So I was super excited when I saw The Lake this spring. The publisher’s teaser was “the undisputed queen of YA thrillers is back with a scary and suspenseful read about a summer camp filled with dark secrets.” This was totally in my wheelhouse. A thriller. Secrets. Count me in. And Barnes and Noble was offering a signed edition. Yes, please!

I got the book shortly after it came out, but with the craziness of the school year and a distinct trouble focusing on books, this one sat on my tbr pile until about two weeks ago. I should have been suspicious that the reviews on B&N’s webpage for this book were reviews for the other books the author wrote and not The Lake.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t read anything else by this author so I’m not familiar with her style. Maybe it’s because I just finished Ace of Spades, which was super suspenseful and creepy. Maybe I’m just too old for this book. Whatever the reason,The Lake was not suspenseful. There were secrets, but quite honestly, the secrets were sort of contrived and really unbelievable. Throughout the book I felt that she was talking down to the reader as if they couldn’t follow all the twists and turns happening so things were repeated and repeated and repeated. By the time I got to the end, I was simply glad I didn’t have to read the book anymore. Not a great endorsement for a novel. 

Kirkus referred to The Lake as “an eerie thriller reminiscent of summer horror movies that will keep readers on edge.” And yes, I will agree, it was reminiscent of the bad horror movies I watched with my friends during sleepovers during the 1980s. The female protagonist and her best friend were all the terrible stereotypes of girls found in those horror movies that went straight to video in the 80s. To make it worse, Esme, the protagonist, kept telling Oliver she didn’t need protecting, and then something would happen and she would hope Olly would come and save her. <eye roll> 
The twists and turns in the novel were as unbelievable as the plot of any horror movie. And there wasn’t a satisfying ending.

I suspect if I hadn’t read this on the heels of Ace of Spades, I might have enjoyed it more. Ace of Spades has a strong female protagonist who never needed saving, and in fact, she does a lot of the saving in the novel. While the plot of Ace of Spades is not 100% realistic, it also isn’t completely implausible. The author does a nice job setting up the suspense so that the reader buys it. Clues as to what is happening are dropped along the way, some subtle and some not as much. But everything that is plotted out is useful and connects to the conflict. Nothing is left out. There are even times that Abike-Iyimide references a clue dropped earlier in the plot that I missed, and it was fun going back and piecing everything together. 

Ace of Spades is a page turner. The suspense was so great in this novel that I found myself both slowing down so the reading experience didn’t end and turning those pages to find out how things were going to be resolved. The Lake, on the other hand, was just a book I didn’t want to pick up because it felt like a slog.

I know when I book talk this in September, I’m going focus on the genre because that will get my students to pick it up and not focus on my enjoyment–or lack thereof–of the novel. I know one thing about this book. I AM going to enjoy conferring with those readers who pick this up. I’m curious to find out how students like this book compared to Ace of Spades or A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder or One of Us is Lying.

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