ARC Review: All the Secrets of the World

Can you spot the escorpion?

All the Secrets of the World by Steve Almond

⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Pub Date: 19 April 2022

Description

“The scorpion hunts while the rest of us dream. That’s why he knows all the secrets of the world.”

It’s 1981 in Sacramento and 13-year-old Lorena Saenz has just been paired with Jenny Stallworth for the science fair by a well-meaning teacher hoping to unite two girls from starkly different worlds. The unlikely friendship they form will draw their families into a web of secrets and lies, one that sends Lorena on an unforgiving odyssey through the desert, past the gates of a religious cult in Mexico, and into the dark heart of America’s criminal justice system.

A sweeping social novel, All the Secrets of the World introduces readers to a cast of indelible characters while illuminating the moment in our national history when the call for law and order became the dominant force within our public life. For fans of both Little Fires Everywhere and Breaking Bad, Steve Almond’s long-awaited debut novel is a propulsive tour de force—the sheer scope, moral complexities, and piercing insights mark a writer at the height of his powers.

Review

All the Secrets of the World sucked me in like a Hoover! It was complex, riddled me with anxiety, and had me staying up all hours of the night dying to know what happens next. It begins like an unraveling teen girl drama: we see the world through Lorena’s eyes as she visits the sprawling Stallworth home, admires the family dynamics so unlike her own, and develops a dynamic love/hate friendship with Jenny (but also Mr.Stallworth). That teen drama seamlessly switches to detective tale as we follow Pablo Guerrero through his investigation, and this is where all the anxiety began to kick in.

Reading through the Hispanic lens is something I love to see out of a book because there are so many different experiences in any given ethnicity. Plus, we love to root for our gente! So this book tore at me when Lorena and Guerrero sat on opposite sides of the law. I wanted to root for Guerrero but I couldn’t help but feel like he was in the wrong, making horrible decisions that had me freaking out a bit. Not to mention the crooked cops that controlled him and their motives as well. To be honest though, that made the book so much more exciting because it had me questioning what was real and what wasn’t. So anxious to know what the outcome was going to be. And still, rooting endlessly.

My only issue with the book was that I felt it did a bit of telling instead of showing, especially regarding characters’ thoughts and feelings. Telling us nuances that could be picked up or inferred through their behavior instead of outright saying why they did what they did. Sometimes it’s fun to draw those conclusions on your own as a reader and it felt the book did all the thinking for me.

But that’s very minor in the grand scheme of an exciting story. This book was unafraid, fun, and frustrating, but man was it a damn good read. I highly recommend to anyone who loves adventure, deserts, and complex human experiences.

Thank you to the publisher Zando Projects for providing an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Find All The Secrets of the World on Bookshop.org!

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