The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley
Pub. Date: February 4, 2014
Source: Audiobook/e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Bantam!!)
Summary: Diagnosed with XP, a rare medical condition which makes him lethally sensitive to light, Tyler is a thirteen-year-old who desperately wants just one thing: to be normal. His mother Eve also wants just one thing: to protect her son. As Tyler begins roaming their cul-de-sac at night, cloaked in the safety of the darkness, he peers into the lives of the other families on the street-looking in on the things they most want hidden. Then, the young daughter of a neighbor suddenly vanishes, and Tyler may be the only one who can make sense of her disappearance…but what will happen when everyone’s secrets are exposed to the light?
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Recommended for: Fans of family dramas, those curious about a little-discussed illness
Raise your hand if your netgalley stats are a little, um, embarrassing. Frowny face – me too. In an attempt to pick up the slack, I’ve started going through and (gasp!) reading all those old titles I had forgotten about and let expire. First up was Carla Buckley’s The Deepest Secret, a novel about a boy with a fatal illness and the disappearance of a little girl that exposes hidden secrets.
Tyler has the rare – and fatal – illness known as XP, or xeroderma pigmentosum. UV rays can (and will) kill him, thus making him virtually a prisoner in his own home. His parents have done a complete overhaul on the house: coating the windows with a special UV-blocking film, buying special doors and curtains that keep out light, replacing all halogen bulbs, not just in their house, but pleading with the neighbors to do so as well. Tyler is absolutely, completely forbidden from going outside during the day and the family carefully charts the sun so they’ll always know exactly what time it’ll rise and set. It’s cyber school for Tyler and all birthday parties have been held at night. While this might sound extreme, children with XP aren’t expected to survive their teens, so it’s no wonder Tyler’s parents (particularly his mother) are so obsessive with his every move.
What causes a stir in their quiet neighborhood isn’t Tyler’s illness, however. A neighbor’s ten-year-old daughter disappears and soon a manhunt is launched. That said, in the opening chapters of The Deepest Secret the reader discovers exactly what happened to the girl and just who did it, so the following 400-odd pages are one long journey to discover the consequences…and I have to admit it’s a bit of a snoozefest.
Because I knew almost immediately who (whoops, spoiler) killed Amy, the only mystery was how events would play out. When would the police catch on? What would happen? Just how would Tyler come into this?? Unfortunately, apart from having a local setting (almost – Ohio, but still! shout outs to a local grocery chain, yay!) there was nothing compelling about The Deepest Secret – and can it really be called that when, right from the start you know just what that deepest secret is?
There were numerous times throughout this book where it felt like Ms. Buckley wanted to do too much, throw too many storylines into the mix and it ultimately became a big mess of plot threads. Even worse – many of them were simply abandoned! Eve and David are sitting by watching their marriage crumble; he insists she’s being overly protective of their son, she counters that someone has to be the one to care. David’s work keeps him in Washington D.C., only coming home on weekends, and it’s in D.C. that the story starts to hint at a potential affair with a coworker. After a while it’s simply abandoned and the story continues on as though nothing happened.
The Lattimore’s other child Melissa understandably feels as though she’s always been shoved to the side. She begins to act out, coming home drunk on one occasion and Eve discovers multiple empty bottles in her bedroom. This could have been just what I needed to keep me hooked – Melissa’s view of things. Again, however, Ms. Buckley backs out just as quickly as she came in and Melissa goes on her merry way.
On one of Tyler’s nightly excursions he meets Holly, a new neighbor and the two hit it off. Initially she and her husband (a young couple in their 20s with two young children) seemed great and normal, then halfway through (or perhaps I had simply lost interest and never noticed) they abruptly morphed into hideous versions of their original selves: I think it was implied that Holly was an addict (???) and out of nowhere she kissed Tyler…a 13-year-old boy.
And that’s not including Tyler’s ‘ritualistic’ counting before opening his door sounded like he has OCD, Amy’s text where she mentioned being frightened of her stepfather, a possibly molestation thread, etc. Ms. Buckley tried to do one too many things here and lost sight of the bigger picture. Even Tyler’s condition felt unnecessary. While learning about XP was interesting, it felt like yet another plot device that never got off the ground. Okay, this boy has a fatal illness…now what? It didn’t bring anything to the story and, if anything, served to raise more questions. Tyler’s life takes place at night, yet he’s able to do his school work in real time during the day. When does this boy sleep?
I wish I had something, anything, positive to say here, but I’m coming up with nothing. The ending was cheap and rushed – I expected SO much more after the 400 pages it took to get there. Seeing the reactions to the confession, I had to roll my eyes. I won’t tell who did it, but let’s just say that if I announced to my family I killed a little girl (then tried to cover it up and lie to the entire community AND best friend – the girl’s mother) there’s no. way. they would take as kindly to it as these characters. Not even sitcom endings are that unbelievable. It’s a shame I was so disappointed with The Deepest Secret: it certainly sounds great, but that’s where the good ends.