I had to write about this horrendous teen mystery mini-series I've spent that last week or so slogging through, because it was just so mind-boggingly awful that it needs to be recorded for posterity.
"The Secret Diaries" by Janice Harrell would appear to be the teen version of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History". Do a little research on the Internet and check up on the similarities. The story involves dumb, over-emotional Joanna Rigsby, a teenager who decides that the only thing that would make life bearable is to date cool, calm Penn Parrish and be a part of his cool, calm clique. Said clique includes Casey MacNamara, a computer genius, and joined-at-the-hip couple, Tessa West and Stephen Garner. As it turns out, Joanna must be some sort of foxy knock-out, because Penn decides to start dating her. Joanna becomes part of his group, but senses that they're hiding something from her. What could be their secret?
The trilogy is broken down as:
Part 1: Temptation. As Joanna gets closer to Penn and his friends, she learns about Laurie Jenkins, another girl who used to be part of the group. She has gone missing. Due to the group's strange behaviour, Joanna suspects they know more about her disappearance than they're letting on. And she's right. Casey, the computer genius, changed one of Stephen's grades, and also helped one of Penn's speeding fines disappear. Laurie knew and was going to tell the truth. Stephen, with the group, confronted her - conveniently close to a clifftop, no less - and Laurie wound up falling off said cliff. The group then helped cover up Laurie's death. Ooh.
Part 2: Betrayal. Joanna gets drawn in deeper when she helps Penn destroy the typewriter used to write a fake note from Laurie. The group lives in fear of being found out by the police. This is made worse by Casey, who is slowly losing his grip, and shamelessly blackmailing them all. They all wish Casey would just die (they're nice kids, aren't they?) and then they'd all be safe. The group eventually go to confront him, and Stephen winds up shooting Casey dead. See a pattern here? Joanna and Penn realise Stephen is a murderer and they're not safe at all. (Did they see him push Laurie off a cliff or not? Why does Penn only now think that pushing a girl off a cliff might be a bit murderish?)
Part 3: Escape. Despite previously not being overly concerned about Penn and Joanna dobbing him in, Stephen decides now that they could be a threat and starts stalking them. He burns down Penn's precious cabin and shoots at Joanna's car. Penn and Joanna learn about Martha Landen, the teacher who gave Stephen a "C" in year nine (that Casey later changed); she has realised something is up after learning about Stephen's scholarship - there's no way he could have got that scholarship with a "C" in his past. (Really? A low mark from 3 years ago?). Penn and Joanna realise she will be Stephen's next victim, and plan to protect her and put an end to the drama once and for all. However, after his botched murder attempt on Mrs. Landen, Stephen dies in a motorcycle accident, leaving Penn and Joanna free to live forever in teen-romance peace.
Yes, that's right. After 3 books and nearly 900 pages, it's all resolved because STEPHEN DIES IN A FUCKING MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT. To be fair, it was only the final insult in a trilogy that had been insulting my intelligence every chapter since I began reading it. Let's go through what was wrong with it:
The characters. Joanna has a low intelligence (she never has anything interesting to say, or comes up with any good ideas), is over-emotional (her dialogue is characterised by cries, shrieks, yells and screams), and defines her entire personality and world through her relationship to a boy. Throughout all three books, he is the only thing that matters, and she constantly tells us that her life would be unlivable without him. She would appear to have zero external interests or influences outside of her relationship to Penn.
We only see the rest of the characters through Joanna's eyes, but I didn't like any of them. Laurie was supposedly one of their close friends, but you would never guess it by the way they act. They show zero remorse over her death or the fact that they covered it up. They're simply pissed off that they can't live their lives free of guilt and fear in case her body turns up. And when it does turn up, they whinge some more about how terrible it would be if they got caught, rather than show any sort of guilt over their actions. Harrell gets some more anti-feminism in later when Tessa threatens to kill Joanna if she dobs Stephen in. Obviously, having and keeping a boyfriend is more important than the fact said boyfriend is a murderer.
Plot inconsistencies. The group were all together when Stephen and Laurie argued and Laurie fell off the cliff. It was an accident, so they covered it up. Except in part 2, Penn decides that Stephen actually pushed Laurie. Either you see someone push another person off a cliff or you don't. There aren't any grey areas! The group do nothing about Casey's blackmail - but he was there and would go down with them if he told! Stephen's murder attempts make little sense. If Penn and Joanna died, he'd be under even more suspicion. There's more, but my brain is beginning to hurt.
I have done my civic duty as a human being to warn people away from this dreck. It really, truly stinks. What reviews I could find out there all seem to worship it, enjoying the romance and suspense. If only my standards were that low....