Diana Urban’s ‘All Your Twisted Secrets’ expertly combines suspense, soapy teen drama

Jan. 12, 2021, 8:59 p.m.

A lot can happen in an hour, and perhaps no novel knows that better than Diana Urban’s “All Your Twisted Secrets.” Released in 2020, the YA psychological thriller follows six high school seniors, each of whom represents a different stereotype: the queen bee, popular athlete, stoner, loner, valedictorian and music geek. Under the false impression that they were all invited to a scholarship dinner, the students suddenly find themselves locked in a room that contains a bomb, syringe filled with poison and note revealing that they have one hour to choose someone to kill, or else they will all die. 

Even though “All Your Twisted Secrets” includes some noticeable parallels to cinematic and literary classics, such as John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” and Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” Urban’s writing style still manages to evoke mystery and suspense. 

The chapters alternate between the past and present, and each one focuses on a particular interaction between certain characters in the time leading up to the present. All of the detailed flashbacks provide subtle clues, helping the reader discern who planned this terrifying incident, as well as their motives behind it. 

While this back-and-forth style serves as an effective storytelling technique, highlighting how even the smallest of actions can have massive repercussions, I found it frustrating that every chapter ends on a cliffhanger, only to then jolt the reader back into the past. 

This abruptness, however, certainly did not dissuade me from reading the novel in a single sitting. Filled with complex characters, all of whom appear guilty at one point or another, and a tight time frame, “All Your Twisted Secrets” remains compelling throughout.

Furthermore, the novel impressively addresses a wide range of topical issues, including social media bullying, suicide and depression. Upon looking back at the hints left along the way, however, I feel slightly surprised that I did not solve the mystery earlier. Luckily, though, the constant guessing and uncertainty made my reading experience highly entertaining, motivating me to finish the novel quickly. 

Despite the fact that I enjoyed the novel immensely, I ultimately found the ending unsatisfying, as the final reveal remains too far-fetched. The fact that the culprit faces little to no consequences in the immediate aftermath of the event only further underscores its implausibility.

In many cases, people utter the phrase, “the book was better,” when describing a book-to-screen adaptation. Several recent series and films, however, subvert this expression, proving the adaptation to be even more entrancing than the novel itself. It is my hope that “All Your Twisted Secrets” will soon fall into this category. According to Urban’s acknowledgements, the film and TV studio Awesomeness is set to adapt “All Your Twisted Secrets” into a series or feature film. 

Perhaps the creative team behind the project can take a cue from a handful of recent, exquisite adaptations, such as “Normal People,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” staying true to the original source material, while amplifying its characters and their stories. 

Although “All Your Twisted Secrets” does not belong to the same genre as any of the aforementioned shows, it shares the potential to transform into an even more gripping story as a film or series. I, for one, am very much looking forward to seeing “All Your Twisted Secrets” on screen and will be one of the first viewers, as soon as it is released. 

Contact Alexandra Chang at abc2022 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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