Book Review: A Fatal Family Secret (The Files, Book #1) by Samantha Marks

A Fatal Family Secret (The Files, Book #1) by Samantha Marks is currently free on Kindle. (affiliate link)

I don’t read many books in the Young Adult Fantasy genre, but something about the cover of this eBook drew me in. I was not disappointed. The diverse and enjoyable ensemble cast of characters and the plot – a mix of Irish mythology with up to the minute teen-focused consumer technology – came together to make a page-turner of a novel.

Robert Heinlein, who wrote a number of short stories and novels for the young adult market during his early years as a writer, explained his approach to writing for the juvenile (as it was termed at the time) market. Aside from the age of the protagonist, he treated the stories as thoroughly as he treated adult novels. He treated his juvenile characters with respect, and he equally respected his audience and didn’t write down to them.

That’s what I look for when I read YA fiction. I want to see the readers treated with respect in terms of complexity of plot and in terms of the book’s reading level.

For the most part, I feel that Samantha Marks does this very well. Some of the high school student characters could have been more multi-dimensional, particularly the young girl-geek who jumped to the ready any time some elite hacking was needed. One of the male character’s rai·son d’ê·tre seemed to be only to make the gender numbers of the group equal. And the story’s mean girl villain was particularly one-dimensional. It would have been nice to see her motivations for harassing the main character, and to see some signs of growth as the story progressed. Maybe that will happen in one of the sequels! The main character, Kaleigh, was complex, conflicted, and wounded by her mother’s abduction at the start of the tale. The coming of age aspects of this story made her a believable, relatable and likable protagonist. Her best friend, Bridget, added complexity and conflict to the story. She was beautifully drawn from the outside, inviting the reader to imagine her motivations as the story progressed.

The settings were described in loving detail which drew me into the tale and made it easy to build a mental picture of the homes, school, and town. And Marks had a deft approach to the pacing. The wealth of detail about her characters’ setting never slowed down the more fast paced scenes.

I enjoyed the story, and will be on the lookout for the sequels.

photo credit: time to sleep via photopin (license)

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