Narrator: Lillie Ricciardi
Published by Delacorte Press
Published on 2 March 2021
Genres: Thriller, United States, Young Adult
Source: my local library
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Hot on the heels of The Twin, the undisputed queen of YA thrillers is back with a scary and suspenseful read about a summer camp filled with dark secrets.
Esme and Kayla once were campers at Camp Pine Lake. They're excited to be back this year as CITs (counselors in training). Esme loves the little girls in her cabin and thinks it's funny how scared they are of everything--spiders, the surly head counselor, the dark, boys . . . even swimming in the lake! It reminds her a little of how she and Kayla used to be, once. Before . . . it happened.
Because Esme and Kayla did something bad when they were campers. Afterwards, the girls agreed to keep it secret. They've moved on--or so they say--and this summer is going to be great. Two months of sun, s'mores, and flirting with the cute boy counselors. But then they get a note. THE LAKE NEVER FORGETS. And the secret they've kept buried for so many years is about to resurface.
I think that Natasha Preston is not for me.
I’ve read The Twin, which was an OK read until the ending, which I did not like AT ALL and rewrote it in my head to an ending that I actually thought was completely plausible and satisfying.
With The Lake, I was able to suspend my disbelief enough to accept a lot of the stuff that went on. But I didn’t think that it felt particularly thriller-y. Mostly because the main character, Esme, is super quick to identify the villain, using a very strange leap of logic and what looks and feels like paranoia for most of the book. And the worst part is that she’s right! There are no red herrings. She knows exactly who’s involved and then goes on to confirm it. And even then, because it’s such a strange leap to make to accuse what appears to be some random person of doing all this weird stuff, she can’t tell anyone, because she has zero proof.
This also ended up frustrating me because despite Esme being right, about absolutely everything, that doesn’t means she ‘wins’ in the end.
And this is the same issue that I had with The Twin. I think I don’t like Preston’s endings. Only because I think it could be so much better than it actually is.
I’m certainly not saying that YA books need to end with a happily ever after. But it would have been nice to see Esme’s incredible powers of being right all the time (not deductive reasoning, because for a long time, there is very little reasoning on why the villain she appeared to have picked from thin air was indeed the villain) actually help her save the day, or at least provide a satisfying ending to a book with a lot of shitfuckery in it. There were no red herrings, no twists. I understand that this is not a mystery but a thriller, and I have liked thrillers in the past, even if they’re not one of my most-loved genres. I just think The Lake could have been so much better if Preston was able to think of a way where Esme ‘won’, to provide a satisfying ending. Especially since Esme was always right!
And I definitely don’t think that all main characters need to ‘win’. I really love books where lead characters are absolutely awful and then ‘fall’. But Esme wasn’t awful. She was a sweet, innocent, smart girl who had a lot of compassion and a healthy dose of fear and shame. She wasn’t mean or a bully. Maybe if she had been, I would have been OK with this ending. It would have been a challenge to write a sympathetic villain who is completely justified in View Spoiler »framing « Hide Spoiler a girl who didn’t even do anything to her, really, and a mean and bullying main character who meets her comeuppance.View Spoiler »It ends with Esme ‘holding the gun’ that was used to kill several other teens, which on the surface looks bad. Preston seems to be suggesting that Esme has been successfully framed. But Esme won’t have any gunpowder residue on her. Sure, Esme was dumb enough to pick up said gun (which defies the constant characterisation of her always being right), but the cops will find a second set of prints on the gun that aren’t hers. Preston’s trying to hint that Lillian won, that Esme lost, and she’s going to go to jail for something she didn’t even do. But Lillian isn’t that smart, either. Lillian used her real name and left evidence of her existence in the real world outside of the summer camp. She attended a support group. She lived locally. The cops could easily find her. There are other witnesses at camp, like Andy, who can vouch for Esme. Esme makes a huge deal out of her own father being a professional lie detector. Why can’t we see Esme being acquitted of murder charges because there’s no evidence she shot anyone? Was the real ending too hard for Preston to write? So instead, we got this ending that doesn’t feel like the end of a story. Esme is framed, that’s where we’ll end it. « Hide Spoiler
Unfortunately I just wasn’t feeling this book and apart from Silence, which I believe may be Preston’s first book and I already own, I don’t think I’ll be reading any more from Preston.