A MASTERPIECE OF TERROR AND SUSPENSE FROM #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR KELLEY ARMSTRONG.
Riley Vasquez is haunted by the brutal murder of the couple she was babysitting for.
Max Cross is suffering under the shadow of a life-altering diagnosis he doesn’t dare reveal.
The last thing either of them wants is to spend a weekend away at a therapy camp alongside five other teens with “issues.” But that’s exactly where they are when three masked men burst in to take the group hostage.
The building has no windows. The exits are sealed shut. Their phones are gone. And their captors are on a killing spree.
Riley and Max know that if they can’t get out, they’ll be next—but they’re about to discover that even escape doesn’t equal freedom.
The Masked Truth starts with our heroine Riley Vasquez going to therapy camp to deal with her PTSD, after witnessing a violent murder while babysitting. There she meets a variety of teens whom, like her, have mental health issues. During one of their sessions, they’re taken hostage, along with their therapists, by three masked men. After a series of tragic and fast paced events, Riley gets away from her captors along with Max. Max is British, sarcastic, strange and a bit enamored with Riley.
Now both of them are playing a deadly version of cat and mouse with their captors in a maze-like building, while simultaneously dealing with their mental issues and surviving an impossible situation.
The Masked Truth is kind of The Breakfast Club meets Saw. Riley and Max are running around a building with a lot of hallways trying to find a way out or supplies to help them get out, not knowing whether any of the other teenagers or their therapists are alive. I personally thought Kelley Armstrong did an awesome job writing these scenes. A couple of kids running around a building should get repetitive and boring after a while, but Armstrong’s execution was brilliant and kept me on the edge of my seat. Also, another brilliant move was continuing the story after the hostage situation-with the characters left alive. During the hostage situation the book was in a thriller stage. But after while the thrilling aspects still remain, the book veers into a mystery genre kind of direction, which I absolutely loved. I didn’t expect this book to have so much directions, with it being a standalone. But it has a lot of different aspects that all mesh into one wonderful book.
The books pacing is actually the only issue I had with the book. The beginning was terribly slow, in my opinion. But then when the action started and the pace picked up I couldn’t put this book down. Towards the end during certain scenes it did slow down again, I guess it was appropriate, a kind of chill in between all the excitement, but then it picked right back up until the very end.
Riley Vasquez is one of those relatable characters, not in the sense of what happened to her, but personality-wise. She isn’t in your face strong and crass, neither is she awkward or meek. She’s just normal, save for her PTSD. And even with her mental illness she doesn’t constantly moan about it or bring it up every chance she gets. That’s not to say that she’s written with PTSD without showing any signs of it. It’s there, but most of her turmoil is inside her head, and of course it does bleed out into her actions but not in an overly obvious way. She could keep a cool head and think rationally during stressful situations,and I admired that. Her characterization was done right and she became one of my favorite characters in no time.
Max Cross might seem like your average British bad boy at first, but throughout the book the stereotype is completely shattered and we get to see why he acts a certain way. And funnily enough, while getting to know more about him, he gradually seems less and less intimidating and more like an actual scared teenager. I’ve read a lot of reviews where people criticized the long inner monologues where Max’s point of view is concerned, and I can see why they might get annoyed. But to me, the more I read the more interested I got in knowing how his mind worked, especially since we don’t get the full picture on his mental illness until a little later in the book.
There are also a lot of other characters in this book, but I won’t get into detail with them because of spoilers, but I will say this: I love how Kelley Armstrong didn’t write them as one dimensional stereotypes. Every character had more than one side, and their actions weren’t all black and white.
The romance in this book was beautifully portrayed. While Max had a harmless little crush on Riley since before the book, Riley was more or less oblivious since they haven’t interacted that much before they were sent to the same therapy camp. But being on the run with someone has a funny way of bringing people closer together, and that’s what happened to Max and Riley. Since they were thrown together by fate or circumstance, they developed a sort of dependency or rather a bond between them. That bond grew and turned into genuine affection and care, because even though they haven’t interacted much before, they’re bound to get to know each other going to the same groups for a few months.
The Mental Illnesses
One of the greatest things about this book was the portrayal of mental illnesses. As I mentioned before, the characters weren’t one dimensional and black and white-neither were their illnesses. We’ve all read about characters with anxiety who suffer from panic attacks every five minutes or depression who won’t get close to people, but ultimately get better when their friends and love interest saves them. This-thankfully-isn’t one of those books. While Riley and Max aren’t elated about their mental conditions, they are however accepting of them. They know it’s no use living in denial, so they try to deal. Also, their budding friendships and romance doesn’t ultimately cure them. They acknowledge several times in the book that there isn’t a cure, that they can’t save each other, but that there are things to do for the other person that can help make things easier in that moment
In conclusion, The Masked Truth is a thrilling mystery by the talented Kelley Armstrong. Fans of Ellie Marney’s Every series and Sarah Alderson’s Conspiracy Girl will love this book.