Kelley Armstrong is not hesitating to go straight for the real stuff with The Masked Truth. Although there is more representation of mental health in literature lately, there is still not nearly enough, especially in teen fiction, and this book is a valuable addition.
Teens at a group therapy session are taken hostage by masked killers, seemingly for the purpose of ransom – one of the participants comes from a very rich family. The truth of the situation is far less straightforward, and a lot of secrets are going to come out before it’s all over.
Spoiler alert: if you don’t want to know anything more, stop reading.
I want to stand up and applaud Armstrong for her main characters. The protagonist is struggling with PTSD, and the love interest has schizophrenia. Armstrong shoots straight for the heart with the turmoil and fear they feel, and the struggles they endure, with so much compassion for the characters. You don’t love Riley and Max despite their mental health – it is included in who they are, and are that much braver because of it. There is great diversity among the characters too, on many different levels, and it makes the story feel much richer than most YA. Even the villains aren’t one-dimensional. I would call this YA literature.
There is some very on-point dealing with stigmatization and misunderstandings – survivor’s guilt, PTSD, schizophrenia, homosexuality, racism. There’s corruption, ashamed parents, estranged friends. Well done, Ms. Armstrong – this is a book that a kid dealing with one of these things will read and think “Maybe being different isn’t bad. Maybe it means you are that much tougher. That much stronger. That you are a hero for living every day with something not many other people understand. And maybe out there, I will find someone who does.”
Bit too neat of an ending, but otherwise great. Highly, highly recommend it.