Plot: Tully’s story centers on a slow-burning mystery that takes many pages to really get going and ultimately involves more lengthy monologues about adult disappointment, infidelity, and local history than readers might expect from a YA novel. But the book’s heart is in the tangled relationship between its three point-of-view characters, Zoe, Parker, and Ethan, which proves so arresting from the start that, by the time the dead body turns up, readers might have forgotten the book is a mystery at all. Tully is adept at playing her POVs against each other, structuring the chapters in interesting ways. The mystery plot is engaging, but most of its significant action occurs in the past – Tully’s leads get told what happened. Instead, what’s most compelling here are those leads’ hearts and secrets, which we discover along with them, as they observe (sometimes spy on!) and get to know each other.
Prose/Style: Tully tells her story with clarity and confidence. The descriptions are quick and precise; her dialogue is memorable; and her characters’ observations about class and their milieu feel both insightful but also true to their youthful ages. Zoe’s perspective starts as the novel’s most interesting, especially as she rages against her mother, faces small humiliations at a new job, and seems to have no idea how much attention she’s paid by the men and boys around her.
Originality: Tully’s milieu, characters, and twists are singular. The motives behind the mystery are less fresh, as is a late-book twist right out of Dickens’ work, but overall The Lake Never Tells stands out in the field of YA novels. The pleasure in Tully's story comes from meeting her tender, damaged, funny trio of young heroes as they solve a summer mystery and discover each other's hearts.
Character Development: Tully’s three point-of-view characters are each unique, convincing, compelling creations, and they’re more fascinating, in the end, than the mystery in which they get embroiled. Each is a logical product of their upbringing, and each is capable of surprising themselves – and readers. If the adults around them seem less well rounded, well, isn’t that what the world feels like for young people?
Date Submitted: May 27, 2020