"The Masked Truth" by Kelley Armstrong

Review by Cat Gerson

High-schooler Riley Vasquez is haunted by two big tragedies that have impacted her life: the death of her father eighteen months ago, and then a babysitting gig gone wrong where the parents were murdered by an intruder before they left the house.

Months later, she’s still struggling with the feelings of guilt and shame (she feels like she was a coward for hiding under the bed with the child, despite the fact that that action saved both their lives).  Her mother signs her up for a weekend at a therapy camp for troubled teens.

Riley and five other teens start their weekend off with group discussions and it becomes apparent that another teen, Max Cross, is the group’s smart-alec. Little does Riley know, but Max is there because he was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The action in the book starts off right in Chapter 2, when a bunch of men in masks show up and tell them it’s a hostage situation. One of the teens comes from a very wealthy family, and the hostage takers inform them that they are after his father’s money. But...is that the truth?

At one point the kidnappers lose control of the situation, and everyone scatters throughout the building. Riley and Max end up working together to survive, and soon there are clues that there is something else going on, and the kidnappers have a much different agenda. What is really going on? 

Throughout Riley and Max’s struggle to survive while they are hunted by the bad guys, the chapters alternate between their point of views. During Max’ chapters, the reader gets a poignant look into the doubt, confusion and fear that has taken over his mind since being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Is what he’s experiencing really happening, or did his meds stop working again? Is he really seeing that, hearing that, or is his mind playing tricks on him again?

And then there’s Riley- who can’t get over the survivor's guilt that has invaded her mind since the death of the Porters. Her grades are falling, and she has to push herself to get through each and every day.

However, when the bullets start flying and Riley and Max end up working together, it’s the best mix. They both have the courage that the other one needs, and together they figure out that it is not a hostage situation at all, but that the kidnappers are there for someone else. And they are no longer interested in keeping people alive.

Thirty-six hours into the nightmare, Riley and Max manage to get out of the building and find help. Riley wakes up in the hospital to learn that everyone thinks that Max staged the whole thing and he’s about to be charged with murder.  But when they set out to prove Max’ innocence, they discover with horror that the kidnappers aren’t done with them yet.

This book is action packed and also a bit of a love story. Kelley Armstrong does a fantastic job interpreting survivor's guilt and schizophrenia, through a teenager’s eye.  Riley Vasquez and Max Cross are strong, well-rounded characters that you will root for from the beginning. 

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